Saturday, May 25, 2013

holy land tour, day seven : jerusalem


Today was a little slim in the photography aspect, but not at all lacking in moments of total awe. We spent the day in Jerusalem, exploring the Mount of Olives, the Gethsemane area, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. These pictures are all from the top of the Mount of Olives; our other locations were primarily inside churches and buildings where photography opportunities were either few or none, so I apologize in advance!


Two places in particular really hit me today. The first was St. Peter in Gallicantu, the church that centers its artwork on Peter’s denials of Jesus. Or, as Pastor Randy put it, the church that’s all about failures. It’s built over the possible site of the high priest’s house at the time of Jesus, where Jesus would have been held overnight before His crucifixion. Even though we were inside a newer church building, we could see the bedrock of the original site inside and imagine the scene that transpired as Peter entered and proceeded to deny His Lord three separate times.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be Peter that night. To be zealous enough to harm the high priest’s slave in the garden, and yet to follow that act with three blatant denials in order to protect yourself—it’s one of my nightmares. When I feel intimate with Jesus, every challenge in this fleshly world seems less intimidating, and I’m willing to fight for what I believe in. But when the “spiritual high” has come down and Jesus seems far away, will I allow fear to rule my decision-making as Peter did? More specifically, when I’m no longer surrounded by a group of GCBI students who study the Word diligently alongside me, will I still be zealous about doing it on my own and living by it in a world that scoffs at the truth?

The other place that I found most impactful was, of course, Yad Vashem. This is the second Holocaust memorial that I’ve been to—I visited the one in Washington, D.C. five years ago. I can remember exactly how it felt to walk through it half a decade ago because the same feeling returned to me at Yad Vashem today. A feeling of heaviness, of darkness, of weight on my heart that turned into a strange physical exhaustion as I contemplated and questioned the horror that happened to the Jewish people less than a century ago.

This time, one specific question surfaced—one we have addressed time and again in my GCBI classes this year. Pastor Randy has told us that it’s the biggest question we will be required to answer in our lives: “Is God really good?” It has always been easy for me to answer “Yes.” I’ve been so blessed—I have a loving family, I come from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and I’ve had opportunities that have been exceedingly abundantly above all that I could have asked or thought. Yet as I walked through the museum here in Jerusalem and saw image after image, testimony after testimony, of the hateful crimes committed against God’s people, I wondered anew: How could a good God allow six million of His chosen people to die brutal deaths at the hands of the Nazis? How could He turn a blind eye to the babies and toddlers that were ripped away from their mothers and murdered? How could He have allowed an entire generation to grow up in the next decades without parents and grandparents?

But a year in the the Bible did not return void. I remembered that God is telling a story through His Creation. I remembered that the Jewish people are playing a lead role, and He knows exactly where He wants them on the stage. I remembered that there is a very real enemy who wants to take the reins and change the story’s final act—and I remembered that God has promised that the enemy will not succeed. I remembered that I am one small person in the history of eternity, and that I am incapable of knowing how God works; I am asked only to trust Him.

As I walked out of the dark interior of Yad Vashem to the overlook of the sunlit wooded valley below, I realized that yes, the Jews were attacked, but they were not destroyed. As small and hated as the Jewish people are in relation to the rest of the world, by all odds they should have been wiped out ages ago. But because God is good, and because God keeps His promises, He has laid a hand of protection on them, and they live on.

1 comment:

  1. I love your pictures and your story. I can't remember the Holocaust museum that well, and I don't think it impacted me as much as it did you. Maybe it was because I was younger. Anyway.... The pictures of Jerusalem with all their sandy tree-y-ness makes my eyes boggled.



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