Would You Recognize His Voice?
Today was the first day that I had that feeling that the trip was nearing its end. And while there are very full days ahead of us before we go, it still gave me that extra push to hold onto every moment left here.
We started on quiet streets, absent of cars and people. Shabbat in Israel means everything stops. No work, no commute, no switching on of lights or starting a fire. From sunset to sunset, the Jewish communities of Israel shut down, a welcome change for us as tourists, quiet drives to our locations and less honking of horns.
Our day started with a quick stop to visit the Knesset Menorah Memorial. A bronze menorah that stands 15 feet high and is packed with designs that represent Jewish history sits prominently on display across from the Knesset gates. The menorah was chosen as the official symbol of the State of Israel when it became a state. Our Israeli tour guides explained the many scenes from the Bible and history represented in the etchings on this display, including Aaron and Hur holding Moses’ arms up, the Holocaust, the birth of Israel, the promise of redemption, David and Goliath, and many more. It was a very nice, meaningful stop to honor the Jewish history.
The Israel Museum
Our next stop was to the Israel Museum where we were awe-struck by the incredible display of the model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period. As though you are looking upon Jerusalem, this lifelike model gives great perspective to what we’ve seen throughout our visit here.
We then walked through the gorgeous design and architecture of The Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, though the original scrolls were out for the next few weeks for restoration repairs. The large, black basalt wall standing prominently across from it is said to reflect the sons of darkness with the sons of light.
The Garden of Gethsemane
For many of us, our next stop was one that was anticipated with somber curiosity. As we’ve read for our entire Christian lives, it was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Christ cried out to his Father to take what was to come away from Him—where he sweated blood, where we for the first time really “see” Christ’s humanity.
We walked alongside the garden to the church that has been built around the rock where it’s said He may have sweated drops of blood, but it was in the quiet moments we had to reflect on Christ in the garden that we were truly touched by the experience.
Gethsemane means “olive press.” As we’ve made our way through the Up to Jerusalem tour, every day has prepared us to understand better and better what was meant when we heard the phrase, “olive press.” It’s the crushing of the olives that ultimately creates the oils. It was in this garden where we sat alone with our thoughts, prayers, and Scripture that, for many of us, we realized the crushing that was happening to our Christ.
It was a beautiful, meaningful time to reflect on what Christ knew he had to endure to make a way for us to come into a relationship with God.
With tear-stained cheeks, we made our way to the bus which carried us to Bethlehem. Modern-day Bethlehem is located in the West Bank. We drove through Arab neighborhoods to a Christian-owned shop that had beautiful displays of jewelry, glass, and olive wood products. We enjoyed some time there shopping and thinking of our friends and family back home (for gifts!).
We stopped in the fields of Bethlehem where the shepherds were likely to be before Christ’s birth. And while with every stop, we never are there to worship the site, we are there to worship the story of our Savior! And what better place to sing a song of praise than in Bethlehem. We listened to beautiful devotionals from Luke 2 and pondered why God chose shepherds to visit His newborn son. Why not dignitaries or VIPs? While it’s something to ponder, I think it’s been proven time and time again that God’s ways are higher than our own. In God’s economy, the first shall be last, the shepherd’s are the VIPs, and He uses the least of these to take down giants.
Luke 2:8–12 says,
“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And so the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.”
In Bethlehem, we sang songs that we normally only sing at Christmas time, but it felt very right to sing them today, in this blessed place where Christ our Savior was born.
Our day ended with a quick stop to see the U.S. Embassy from the outside and then an incredible view of Jerusalem. For as many different angles as we have seen this holy place, it never gets old to stare at it and reflect on the life of Christ and all He accomplished here.
To close, I can’t help but mention that when we were given time alone to reflect in the Garden of Gethsemane, I was reading the account of Christ in the garden, when a nearby cat stuck her head out from the grasses and made a louder sound that caught my attention. Within seconds, her baby kittens came from all out of nowhere and ran to her. It was a very short and sweet moment, but of course it got me thinking.
What sounded like some kind of “cat noise” to me, was the sound of safety, security, and home-base for her kittens. Just as they came running, it made me think of Christ and his voice and calling on our lives.
Would you recognize it if He was calling you to come to Him? Do you know Christ’s voice? Would you recognize it amidst all the noise that our lives offer us?
Christ’s time in the garden should remind us that He is a Savior that pursues His people. He didn’t ask us to sacrifice our lives for Him, instead He sacrificed His life for us. And while He does ask us to lay down our lives to follow Him, it’s certainly harder to do that if we don’t recognize His voice.
My prayer is that tonight you will take a moment to read of Christ’s time in the garden in any of the four Gospels (Matthew 26:36–56; Mark 14:32–50; Luke 22:39–53, John 18:1–12) and rest in the fact that when He calls you to Himself, He’s a Savior worth running toward.
Until tomorrow. Good night from the City of David.
Blog author: Karen Katulka
Director of Marketing & Communication
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry
Photos: Dan Price
Assistant Director of International Ministries
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry