alford

Alford

I heard a story not long ago about an entertainer who canceled at the last minute his appearance at a women’s auxiliary meeting. The president of the auxiliary was frantic, wondering how she would find a replacement on such short notice. About that time she glanced out the window and saw a man whirl across a nearby construction site doing a series of double flips and one-handed cartwheels before disappearing into some bushes.

She rushed outside and found the man’s foreman. “That was absolutely incredible,” she said. “Do you think that fellow would be willing to do that again at our women’s meeting? I’ll pay him $100.”

“Hey, Bubba,” the foreman shouted. “This woman says she’ll give you $100 if you’ll smash your thumb with a hammer again.”

I expect it didn’t take Bubba long to turn down that job offer. We’re not eager to repeat some things , like hitting our thumbs with a hammer. Proverbs 22:3 tells us a prudent man keeps an eye out for bad things that can happen and is careful to avoid them.

We certainly do all in our power to avoid pain and suffering. But, you know, Jesus did not. He gladly accepted the pain and suffering that came with being crucified. I was reminded of that on a recent tour of the Holy Land. While there, I visited the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spent time praying before He was arrested by an angry mob.

From Gethsemane, Jesus could watch those angry people walk down the hill from Jerusalem, cross the valley and make their way up to where He waited. It’s a relatively short walk. Jesus didn’t run away. He didn’t hide. He allowed them to take him into custody. He willingly endured the suffering and the shame of the Cross because that was His mission.

I hear from people all the time who say going to the Holy Land and walking where Jesus walked has been one of the greatest blessings of their lives. They say it has given them insights into the Bible that they couldn’t get from reading books or watching documentaries.

I agree.

Looking upon those same mountains that Jesus saw during his earthly ministry is awe-inspiring. So is gazing across the Sea of Galilee, walking the streets of Jerusalem, visiting Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, or stepping into that empty tomb, tears pooling in your eyes as you contemplate afresh and anew that He’s not there, that He arose.

You never read the Bible the same way after visiting the Holy Land. You have geographical and cultural perspectives that you didn’t have before. The Bible comes to life like never before. But more than that, visiting the Holy Land is a deeply moving spiritual experience for everyone who goes.

I’ve heard from several people who say they’d like to make the trip. Drop me a note or call me if you’re interested. I know it would be special if we could all go Land together, and I’d be glad to make the arrangements if enough folks are interested.

Brother Maze Jackson, a Baptist evangelist from yesteryear, was the one who really got me interested in going. He told told about putting stones into his pockets from that storied place where David defeated Goliath. He told about the incredible view from Mount Carmel where Eljjah took down 450 prophets of Baal. He told of the victory he felt standing inside that empty tomb, knowing Jesus left that place on resurrection Sunday. And he told of the tears of gratitude that welled up in his eyes as he walked up Mount Calvary.

Tears aren’t uncommon for visitors to the Holy Land, but not the kind of tears that come from whacking your thumb with a hammer. These are those sweet tears that come from knowing you’re standing on the same ground where Jesus once stood.

Roger Alford is pastor of South Fork Baptist Church. Reach him at P.O. Box 673, Owenton, Ky. 40359 or 502-514-6857.

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