Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Bible and the Land of the Book

I recently returned from a 10 day tour of Israel and Palestine. It was one of those "package" tours where everyone moves around in a tour bus in lock step with some internal and occasionally external schedule. We did not walk where Jesus walked -- we ran. The tour was my 5th (87, 92, 99, 07 and 13) of the Holy Land. I have found, through these many journeys, that understanding the language and structure of the Bible is dependent on understanding the lay out and land scape of the place where the biblical stories and events occurred. It helps to know that the only way to Jerusalem from any other part of the country is "up". Hence the psalms the pilgrims sang were called "songs of ascents" because they were going "up to the house of the Lord". It helps to see why Jesus seems to be passing through Jericho nearly every time he is "going up" to Jerusalem.

I get to see different things and here different perspectives on these journeys. This particular trip I was able to visit the "traditional site" where Jesus was baptized. The exact location is unknown but this location has been the "traditional" site since the early second century, it is in the right place where John was working and is near the Dead Sea. Needless to say I had to plunge into the water there and was blessed to know that, even if I was not standing where Jesus stood, I was pretty darn close.

I am not sure what the fascination is with "standing where Jesus stood" or "walking where Jesus walked" but I get certain chills down my spine when I think I am close or could actually be standing where my Lord and Savior stood so long ago. I don't want to venerate the land, nor do I feel a need to build a chapel there. I think, for me, it has more to do with an historical connection. Just to know and be reminded that Jesus is not some made up character made up out of someone's head -- but that he walked in real time, in a real place with real people.

I suspect, in the final analysis, that is what incarnation amounts to -- God walking with us in our own real time and place.

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