Israel-in-Depth with Rod VanSolkema

Jun 28 - Jul 10, 2019

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Our Final Day

Wow what an amazing conclusion to a wonderful but challenging trip. No day encapsulated this more than our final day in the land. There are no words that can describe what our experience has been like over the last week and a half but there are words that can paint images that might just help us get a glimpse.

Laughter from the courtyard is the sound to start the day, coffee in hands, and sunglasses on, as the tribe of 50 strangers turned friends wait for breakfast to begin at the Knights Palace Hotel near Jaffa Gate in Old Jerusalem. This quaint boutique hotel has turned into home for the last three nights of our stay. Now it is our launching pad into the final week of Jesus’ life. After breakfast we walk swiftly through the Armenian quarter of the old city, past the Western Wall and on up to the Mount of Olives.

Once we reach the top, we sit as the morning sun dashes over the Jerusalem cityscape as we reflect on the stage that was set for the biggest moment in world history. A King that entered Jerusalem 2000 years ago to accomplish the ultimate mission. This king enters the city triumphantly but not in an ordinary way, he walks 60 miles, fetches for an unbroken colt, and proceeds humbly. This will be most emphatic statement that will be made that he is not only a King but the Messiah and he doesn’t even have to say a word. The crowds begin to chant as they lay down their cloaks in front of him in total allegiance and the palms begin to wave. “Hoshenah! Hoshenah! Hoshenah!” the crowds roar.

Mount of Olives

Separated from the Eastern Hill (the Temple Mount and the City of David) by the Kidron Valley, the Mt. of Olives has always been an important feature in Jerusalem’s landscape. From the 3rd millennium B.C. until the present, this 2900-foot hill has served as one of the main burial grounds for the city. The two-mile long ridge has three summits each of which has a tower built on it.

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But then a tear, followed by a whimper culminating into a sob. Why is this King crying? He weeps over Jerusalem, but not just the city but for the people. He looks into their eyes and he realizes what they think they are getting in him is not what he has come to do. He has come to save them no doubt… but the salvation he will produce will require the cross. Jesus will win by losing, he will conquer by being conquered. It is not the lion that is coming but the lamb.

We move on as thoughts, reflections, and tears flow between the group making our way down the mount into the Garden of Gethsemane. Here our King begins to feel the weight of the mission, as we learn of the cup that he is about to drink on our behalf. This cup represents the four dimensions of God’s salvation that mirror the promise of God to the Israelites in Exodus chapter six, “I will bring you out, I will deliver you, I will redeem you, and I will take you as my people.” But wait, there is a fifth cup and this cup is the cup of God’s wrath prophesied by Jeremiah, he will drink this one too, and it will crush him. So God takes Jesus in his most vulnerable state and asks, “Son, will you drink this?”… and for the joy set before him He will.

In light of Jesus drinking that cup we had the privilege to drinking another as we all filed down to partake in the Lord’s Supper. This meal that is extended to all who accept their brokenness and need for a Savior. This week has been a long list of reminders that each one of us fall into that category. A mixture of joy and sorrow fills the air as we remember Jesus’ last night with his disciples. A song rings out, and arms fling high as we begin to worship what He has done.

We proceed to the Via Delarosa, where Jesus, after being tortured, will carry his cross to its final destination named Golgotha. Here we enter the church of the Holy Sepulchre as our teammates from all around the world congregate to remember this fateful day that changed the world. What sounded like the end to a horrible tragedy will be the fertile soil of blooming hope: a resurrection.

Worn out and weary from a morning of walking and remembering we sat down for our final lunch of Shawarma provided by our amazing Israeli guides Yigal and Nadav. We thank them and send them on their way as we head to our final destination. We sit on the steps leading up to the temple mount as our Coach for the week Rod gives us our final instructions before heading back out onto the field. This field is the field of our workplaces, families, churches, and homes. And what does our coach say to get the team fired up? He tells us a story… a story of a God who on the day of Pentecost switches home addresses from a singular building to the human heart. He tells us of a story of a place where people came seeking to meet heaven turning into a people that would bring heaven to seeking people. Where once there was a professional class of priests, God would choose to make all those who call on his name the priests; and now as those priests, we have the opportunity to represent God to our neighbors and to the nations… The baton is in our hand! But the glory is that the game has already been played, and our team is has already won, and not because we are great but because He is great!

-Signing off from Jerusalem Tryg and Mallory Veker

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