I’m still processing my pilgrimmage to Israel. In fact, I’m sure I will still be processing for weeks and months to come. But, here are some lessons I’ve learned so far . . .
1. I cannot fully understand the teachings of Jesus without knowledge of the geography of Israel.
For example–when Jesus (in the Sermon on the Mount) told his hearers that they must “love their enemies,” he was speaking from a hillside that would have directly overlooked the city of Tiberias less than three miles away. Tiberias was a Roman city. A city which housed the Roman military. The Roman military that was oppressing the Jewish people. The Roman military that was the bitter enemy of the Jew. When Jesus said, “You must love your enemy,” it was nothing short of revolutionary with the enemy in sight.
2. I cannot fully understand the teachings of Jesus without understanding the Jewish religious system.
For example–Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi . . . a highly esteemed position of learning. For Jesus to undercut (undercut is too gentle a term). For Jesus to provoke, attack, dismantle the religious leaders of his day was to sign his own death warrant. A fact I am sure of which he was aware.
3. I cannot fully understand the teachings of Jesus without understanding the culture of the Jewish people.
For example–When Jesus spoke of a sheep knowing the voice of its shepherd, he knew the culture and responsibilities of a shepherd. If a sheep was prone to wander away from the flock the shepherd would break one of the sheep’s legs. The shepherd would then carry the sheep over his own shoulders for the next six weeks until the leg was healed. At the end of the six weeks there would be a deep bond between the shepherd and the sheep which had been carried. The sheep would know the voice of the shepherd. Most often, the sheep would never wander again.
Jesus was Jewish . . .