we spend our life trying to become, but the beauty is in the unbecoming

October 22, 2017

Who Do You Say I Am? (March 2017, Israel)

Thanks to all who followed along on my journey to Israel, which feels much more like a beginning than an end. While on our trip, we made a stop at Caesarea Philippi, which our tour guide equated to a modern day Las Vegas–a real “sin city.” It was at that place that Jesus famously inquires to the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” 
That is a darn good question, Jesus. Who have I said that you are? Many times, I have felt close to God and the Holy Spirit, but not Jesus. I don’t think you are supposed to have favorite parts of the Trinity, but I’m just being honest. My range of Jesus love has gone from sporting neon WWJD bracelets as an early teen, to embracing the term “Christ Follower” instead of Christian during my more evangelical college years, to working at a place with a statue of Jesus out front named after the big JC. Despite these run-ins with Jesus, I found him confusing, and I didn’t really agree with most things his modern followers do “in his name.” (See my church post.) Even though he said smart things, I did not really understand why he had to die in order for me to love God. So, there you have it, doubting Thomasette over here, wondering what the heck to make of Jesus.
And then I got to Israel. Many holy spots, especially in Jerusalem, are guesstimations for where stuff happened. Examples include the location of the crucifixion, the last supper, and his tomb. Scholars have done the best they can with ancient accounts of Jesus’ life to pick realistic spots. Constantine’s mom, Helena, also picked some holy spots; but TBH, I don’t really trust her judgement.
Despite the rough approximation of where actual events happened, this is what I can tell you after spending the last two weeks in the green hills surrounding Galilee, traveling down through the Jordan Valley, and moving up to Jerusalem.
1. Jesus was a pacifist. The Jews were waiting for a military leader to free them from oppression. Can we blame them?! They are an oppressed people, even today. So when Jesus came and said stuff like “love your enemies as yourself” and “turn the other cheek,” this was not the military leader the Jews were waiting for.
2. Jesus and his followers protested. To the Jewish people, palms were a holy symbol of their religion. When they carried and waved palms on Palm Sunday to greet Jesus, it was like an old school protest against the Romans.
3. Jesus valued down time. See my post regarding the importance of “soul care.”
4. Jesus put others before himself. He healed, helped, listened, taught, cooked, cleaned (mostly feet), among other activities of daily living. These are tangible things we can still do today. 
Picturing the gentle yet bold humanity of Jesus in Israel has made me so intrigued and captivated by his spirit. And that spirit is the Holy Spirit, which is God in us. And these examples don’t even touch the whole dying so I might live deal.
I will always struggle with the idea of Jesus being the “path” to God. This question has plagued me since I was young, and I don’t think it will be answered for me anytime soon. (Sorry people who think I’m going to hell for saying this. Pray for my soul.) 
What I can tell you is that Jesus is the path to God I choose. It’s a path that is treacherous AF (life sucks sometimes), but it’s lined with a whole bunch of grace, love, and other people helping each other up along the way. It’s a path that is forgiving and takes everyone from the slave, to the prostitute, to the betrayer, to the poor man, to the crippled. He loves people regardless of their skin color, political affiliation, socioeconomic status, ethnic background, gender, and sexual orientation. That is a whole lot of love, and I am grateful for His example.
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