Monday, February 13, 2012

Jesus, born in a cave?

Saturday: Field study to Bethlehem, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Herodian.  
Sunday: Hiking in En Gedi. (Near the Dead Sea)
Monday: Field Study at the Inn of the Good Samaritan 

Whoa! I am overwhelmed. These past few days have been packed! It has been a challenge to process all the new information. I am struggling to do more than just memorize facts. I feel as though my mind is a filing cabinet, when instead I want depth. I want to apply what I am learning. I want it to impact the way I live. Please pray I would be able to take time to truly understand everything new.

I  traveled the surrounding areas of Jerusalem on Friday. I am continuing to learn more about the Psalms and am realizing the Psalms are not just figurative. They have definite literal meanings. Psalm 23:4 reads “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (NIV).” Whenever I have sung this phrase in worship I assumed it was symbolic, and had never thought about a literal meaning! I was amazed to learn that when David wrote this he was thinking about the difficult life of shepherding in the dry wilderness. I can’t imagine how unpredictable a life like that would be. 

We also took a hike up the mountain Herod built. Herod took the top of a nearby mountain and put it on another mountain! Not only did Herod build a mountain and a palace on the mountain, he also extremely expanded the Second Temple. My mind cannot grasp how Herod did all of these amazing things, especially over two thousand years ago! The story of Herod wanting to kill Jesus becomes even more powerful after learning what he was capable of. 

I have heard the story of Jesus’ birth my entire life; “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12 NIV). I am not sure why we translate the place as a "manger," or "stable," when Jesus was likely born in a cave. At the time of his birth, people used caves as shelter. When I first heard this I was blown away. My picture of the Christmas story turned upside down. 

I wonder about this image we have. I question why American’s have this ideal, beautiful picture of a clean, lovely manger, as the setting of the Messiah’s birth. The more I think about it, the more emotion I feel towards the whole idea. Part of me wants to laugh, but these comical emotions are overcome by a hunger for people to distinguish the reality of the story. It is not just that we have messed up the setting. It is that we have messed up the message. Jesus was not about the perfect scene that Americans idealize. The theme throughout scripture proves His use of the weak to overcome the strong. I want this point to become real. I want us to really understand what this means. 

Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene 
(Near the Garden of Gethsemane)
In the winter David would take his flock of sheep into the wilderness
(the mountains in the distance)
Herod's foot washing station in the remains of his palace.
The Church of the Nativity (565 AD)
The doorway of the Church of the Nativity
(place of Jesus' birth). The door was shortened because people
were steeling gold and gems from the church decorations. 
Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity
The star marks the (supposed) place of Jesus' birth
Memorial over the star. 
For all you coffee lovers!
Hiking along the wadi (river bed)



THE DEAD SEA!!




The Mountain we hiked up (the taller one)! 
We hiked along the Wadi, then cut across to the mountain, 
hiked along the top, and then down the other side. 
*I will put up pictures from the field study on the Good Samaritan soon! 

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