While on and around the Sea of Galilee, everything felt, well, “Holy Land-ish,” if you know what I mean. I mentioned a day or two ago that places don’t make something holy; God’s Presence makes a place sacred, holy. Well, this part of our trip is a test to see how much I truly believe what I wrote.
Today we crossed over into Jordan. This is sorta the Unholy Land. I’m having difficulty putting into words what it is exactly, but I feel a heavy, oppressive darkness. Even on a day with clear blue skies there is a thick and threatening cloud hanging low and heavy. This “cloud” doesn’t promise rain, but rather a continuation of a cruel reign. Five times a day the city loud speakers blare Islamic music as a sort of alarm clock set to remind everyone to pray. My goal is to redeem this ritual by pausing to pray at each of those five times, but of course I’ll be praying to my God – the One who goes by Abba, like the dad’s in the Tel Aviv airport.
As we walked through more ancient ruins and little markets, again I found myself looking more at the people than the ancient relics. Sadly, there is a look of desperation in the faces and voices of the Jordanians. The market salesmen – and many very young sales boys – go beyond being pushy with their goods, making urgent pleas and looking very forlorn.
In my hometown, I’ve unfortunately grown somewhat numb to the countless homeless men and women at nearly every corner. But here it is not men and women – they are little boys and girls (the same ages as my two children) disheveled and dirty, begging for money. Beth and I walked hand in hand, often in stunned silence. It is so very sad.
When I left Tampa on Sunday, I had in mind a pilgrimage. But now I wonder how at least the next two days spent in Jordan could be missional. These people so desperately need Jesus – His love, His healing, His hope.
The uncovered ruins of civilizations and cities in both Israel and Jordan share two prominent characteristics: walls, and a city gate. Our Israel guide described the gate into a city as “an obstacle (the wall) with a hole in it (the gate).” Kingdoms were marked very clearly by walls and boundaries. Access restricted and tightly guarded.
Some things haven’t changed in the past 2000 years. It took us about 2 hours of answering questions and flashing passports to finally get across the border from Israel to Jordan. Fencing, barricades, barbwire, and “kids” holding automatic weapons were the “obstacles,” and the “hole in the wall” was a little lady with a passport stamp.
We don’t use the word “kingdom” much in the U.S., but it was a popular term in that First Century; the bigger the kingdom, the taller the walls and the thicker the gates.
That strong visual helps me understand, again, how radical and subversive Jesus’ teachings were to the people of that day. Ya see, Jesus was always preaching about the “Kingdom of God.” What was so crazy about His Kingdom was that it was accessible to everyone, and there were no walls or obstacles.
The people of this country need a new kingdom – the Kingdom Jesus’ proclaimed. And, according to Jesus, it is very near. The evil and oppression I feel in this area does not alter the truth that Jesus’ Kingdom is at hand, even available within them as it is within me.