With so many promotions going on about trip to the Holy Land by various churches and the Bible Society, one day, I just decided to go to Israel. As a pastor, it is “strange” that I did not choose to join the pastors’ group organized by the Bible Society. I chose to join the “public group” and persuaded a friend to join me. The trip to Israel was made not for a holiday but a spiritual pilgrimage.
Experiences in Israel were eventful. I spent 12 days with a group of 18 Singaporean Christians and a Messianic Jew (our local tour guide) whom we fondly identified ourselves as “Family”. The warmth of the Christian fellowship was sweet and endearing. I will call it “Oneness” in Christ. The other significant experience was the deep emotions I felt towards Christ when we visited the holy sites that Christ walked through in Jerusalem. Although Via Dolorosa (“Way of Sorrows”) was filled with tourists, the route Jesus purportedly followed through the Old City of Jerusalem on His way to the cross made me realize deeply how “much” in distance my Lord had walked carrying the cross and the shame on our behalf. It is one thing to read from the text, but quite another to walk solemnly on the road that Jesus had walked. Another unforgettable experience was the personal time each of the pilgrims had at the Garden of Gethsemane (“oil press”). The tranquility at this garden gave me the inner peace that surpasses all understanding. At this garden, Jesus learned the frailty of human friendship. His disciples could not keep Him company in prayer. He suffered alone. But Jesus overcame the work of the flesh and obeyed God to die on the cross. The half hour of silent meditation at this garden brought peace into my heart.
In Israel, I “saw” the riches of God. The landscape and the natural produce speak of His wisdom and power. I enjoyed the sights of the mountains. The rocks remind me of what it means to say, “Jesus is the rock of my salvation.” The Mediterranean diet made me realize that God provide good things to His people. God’s blessings upon this tiny land has made the world pay attention to Israel. As an Asian Christian, going to the Holy Land made me know more about the God of the Bible. It has also developed within me an interest for the Jews. Such an exposure has led me to pray for the Jews and their salvation in Christ.
The Bible truly came alive to me after my visit to Israel. Since then, the picture of Jerusalem is vivid. I would not dare to say every Christian “must” go to Israel as our faith does not operate by law. But, I would say that those who go there for a spiritual pilgrimage would benefit spiritually. After my first trip to Israel, I desired to lead my own church to Israel. Having experienced a unique journey to Israel, I hope to help the “pilgrims” to see the Bible alive in Israel.