Sunday, March 25, 2007

Where Jesus Walked

Have you ever looked at your life and thought that it was exceedingly common and boring? I know I have often enough, especially when I’m sitting home with nothing to do except everything I don’t want to do (like laundry and grading). If I’m honest, though, my life has hardly been boring. I’ve known many wonderful and interesting people, I have books and music and 100 plus anything-but-boring young people in my life, I have things to do, places to go, and so much more to learn. No, my life is hardly boring. Perhaps the thing that has been the most exciting in my life is all the traveling I’ve been able to do, often with young people. I've been clear around the world, in fact, and have seen many of the wonders of that world.

I've walked across Tienaman Square in Beijing, Red Square in Moscow (twice!), and climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris (three times!). I've seen the church door in Witten­berg where Luther nailed his 95 theses, and the prison in Rome where Paul and Silas sang. I've been in the homes of Mozart in Vienna, and Shakespeare in Stratford-on-the-Avon, of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court and Queen Isabelle in Madrid.

I've been in a coal mine in Germany, and a gold mine in South Africa. I've seen Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii; I've seen the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and the Yangtze River in China. I've ridden in a Gondola in Venice and on a camel in Cairo. I've seen the great pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt and the Forbidden City in China. I've skied on the Matterhorn, scuba dived off Maui, and swum in the Sea of Galilee. I've crossed the River Jordan, climbed the Great Wall of China, and waded in the Dead Sea.

I've seen Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Michaelangelo's David and his Sistine Chapel ceiling. I've seen Rembrandt's Nightwatch, Picasso's Guernica and Monet’s Water Lilies—before they came to Boston. I've stood in Anne Frank's room in the Secret Annex and in the barracks of Dachau's concentration camp. I've seen where Hitler was born, and where Napoleon died. I've gone through Checkpoint Charlie in the Berlin Wall, and the Catacombs under Rome. I've explored Petra and Jerash in Jordan, the Roman Coliseum in Italy and the Loire Valley in France.

I've walked the streets of London and Paris, Madrid and Peking; Hong Kong and Singapore, Florence and Edinborough; Rome and Vienna, Milan and Alexandria; Cairo and Amsterdam, Berlin and Bangkok, Moscow and Nhizni Novgorod. I’ve wandered the jungles and the barrios of Mexico and helped to build a church in Peru.

I've been amazed and amused, inspired and enthralled. I've been lucky. And I've been blessed.

But of all the places I've been to, of all the things I've seen and done around the world, nothing reached my heart and soul the way one day in Jerusalem did several summers ago. I learned something important that day, that seems especially relevant this week in light of several news stories about Jesus life on earth. As you might imagine, Jerusalem is crammed full of places connected with Christ—His birth, his ministry, His death. Touring all those sites, I was sometimes awed, but more times appalled at the commercialism of the places. Vendors and hawkers of relics were constantly besieging my friends and me, hoping to swindle us out of the money they're certain all Americans have.

I got discouraged after awhile, because none of those places really gave me a sense of Jesus in the same way I've sensed, say Emily Dickinson in her home in Amherst, MA. Then, just before noon, we found ourselves at the Garden of Joseph of Aramathea. Our tour guide took us through, pointing out various things until he brought us to a clearing in front of a cave-like opening. “This,” he said pointing to the opening, “is the Garden Tomb where Jesus lay for three days.” He didn't have to tell us the story, so he told us, instead, why he was nearly 100% certain that this was the spot. By the time he was done, we were convinced as well. But before he let us go inside and look at the place where Jesus had lain, he said he wanted to share one more thing with us—something he hadn't told any other group.

He told us that he imagined we had probably been to a lot of places in the last few days where Jesus had walked and talked. Places like the hillside where Jesus had delivered the Sermon on the Mount and where he had multiplied the loaves and fishes. We had. Places like the field where the angels sang to the shepherds and the Mount of Olives where Jesus had prayed before He was taken away. And we had.

He said we were probably like a lot of other Christians coming there to find something of Jesus. And, in varying amounts we all were. He said he had done that too, and that he had been frustrated because he hadn't found what he was expecting. It wasn't until he had stood in front of that Garden Tomb a few times that he realized a most wonderful thing—a thing which made all the difference in the world to him. And he hoped it would to us, too.

“Do you remember what the angel told the disciples when they came early to the tomb?” he asked. “He is not here. He is risen and is walking among us again—even now.”

That man was so right! We don't have to go 1/2 way around the world to find some piece of Jesus. We don't have to stand in the grotto marking His birthplace to feel His presence in our lives. He is not there in the hill of Judea. He is not there in Bethlehem. He is not there in Jerusalem. Not anymore. He is wherever we are, He goes wherever we go. He was at our birthplace, and will be at our resting place. He is here in this place, too. He is with us, beside us right now—offering to lead us, guide us, and love us so completely. How can we turn Him down?

I’ve been lucky. I've walked where Jesus walked in Jerusalem. But more importantly, He has walked—and is walking—where you and I walk. Right here. Right now.


Linda said...

Hallelujah! He is with me in CA, you in MA, my daughter on the mission field, my grandchildren on the east coast, my friend in South Africa. Right now. 24/7/365 What assurance and peace it gives to know that. We have a great God! Grace and blessing to you! Linda

Rondi said...

Linda--isn't that the truth! This assurance gets me through all my days. Thanks for writing!

Heidi said...

What a moving essay. Perhaps you should publish this...