Written by David Lamb
Monday, 28 April 2014 00:00
For eleven days in late March and early April 2014, a group of twelve students, two alumni and two professors (Derek Cooper and myself) from BTS traveled to Israel to visit the land of Abraham, David and Jesus, and along the way we visited the three tombs traditionally associated with those individuals.
The itinerary for our first full day in Jerusalem included a walk down the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1; 13:3; 14:26), past the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32), a visit to the Chapel of the Ascension (the supposed site where Jesus ascended to heaven), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the supposed site where Jesus died, was buried and resurrected — I have no doubts about what Jesus did, just about exactly where he did it), the Dome of the Rock (the third most sacred site in Islam; above the group is listening to our Jewish tour guide, Nathan, with the Dome in the background) and finally the Western Wall, sometimes called “The Wailing Wall.”
What is the Western Wall?
The wall dates back to the time of Jesus; it is the only part of Herod’s Temple that has survived 2,000 years. It’s not the wall for the Temple building itself but for the outer enclosure of the Temple courtyard on the western side. For Jews, it is the most sacred spot outside of the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock currently resides.
Some Christians think that since Israel has been reestablished as a nation, the Temple needs to be rebuilt so that Jesus can come back.
There are at least two problems with that idea.
First, the Dome of the Rock is presently on the Temple site, and Muslims are probably not going to agree to desecrate, demolish or destroy their third most sacred site, even if the Jews ask nicely.
Second, I don’t believe Jesus is up there in heaven saying, “I really hope they rebuild the Temple so I can come back. I’m waiting…” The Son of Man is going to come back with the clouds of heaven with great power and glory (Dan. 7:13; Mark 13:26) in his own timing whether there’s a restored Temple or not. My God can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
As we go through security for the Western Wall, we read this sign:
You are approaching the holy site of the Western Wall where the Divine Presence always rests. Please make sure you are appropriately and modestly dressed…
Wow! It’s hard to imagine a similar official sign on a public building in the US essentially declaring that God is present. There’s no separation of church and state in Israel.
As we enter the Western Wall area, the four women in our group go to the right side for females, and the twelve men go to the left side for males. To make sure we are dressed appropriately, the men in our group grab small white skull caps (yarmulkes). Then, as individuals and groups, we walk over to the wall, place our hands up against the wall and pray. In the image below Mike Boccasini, Franco Salvatori and Kris Wint join the throngs of people of faith who’ve prayed at this spot over the past two millennia.
When I was at the wall, I prayed that the walls between Jews and Muslims would come down, and the Prince of Peace would bring Shalom to the Holy Land.
While I valued my time at the Western Wall and will remember it as a crucial moment in my spiritual pilgrimage, I am confident of three things:
- That God was behind the Temple’s destruction in 70 AD (Mark 13:2).
- That the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands as if he needed anything (Acts 17:24—at the end of our trip Derek Cooper and I visited the Areopagus in Athens where Paul gave this speech).
- That not only is the Divine Presence always resting at the Western Wall, but wherever we go in the world to make disciples Jesus has also promised to be with us always to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).
Who wants to join us the next time BTS visits Jerusalem?