Monday, January 24, 2011

Dead or Alive

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you…” Luke 24:5-6

        Today I adventured into the Old City of Jerusalem. It was absolutely incredible. It was so ancient, and foreign languages, from Greek, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, and Spanish, constantly surrounded me. The alleys were crooked and had tiny doors that veiled women peered out from, while young Palestinian boys guarded hidden communities of apartments (timeless but for the satellite dishes).
         First, I went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the “popular” place where Jesus was supposed to have been crucified and buried, though historians completely disagree. It was crowded, filled with tourists and pilgrims. Many rubbed cloths and rosaries on the stone where Jesus’ body was thought to have been anointed with perfume before burial, hoping to “bless” the objects. Others went to the “Foot of the Cross”, where Jesus was thought to have been crucified. As I waited in the pushing and shoving crowd for my turn to be ushered in to kneel at the gold altar, I couldn’t help but feel I was distant from God. Well, not necessarily distant—but not close. I had felt much closer to him during the normal church worship that same morning than I did now, despite being in these ancient and beautiful surroundings.
The "foot of the cross" where Jesus was supposedly crucified in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
        Later, as I stepped out of the dimly lit church back into the streets of Old Jerusalem, I felt a mismatch. Where could the devout pilgrims find God now that they had stepped back out into the crooked streets filled with shops selling overpriced falafels and gold crosses? Was a trip to the holy sites just a spiritual “high” meant to satiate the faithful so that they could go back to their normal, aspiritual lives? Did it have no lasting significance for the average person?
          These thoughts grew as we visited the Western (or Wailing) Wall. I stood there with a complimentary yarmulke on my head and looked at the large white stones that stood in front of me—all that remained of the Jewish Second Temple, destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. I reached out and touched one, thinking of the significance of the Temple to both the Jewish faith and my own Christian walk. But I felt nothing. These were just stones. Cold and uncaring. Pieces of paper with scrawled prayers were jammed into crevices, but who knew if they were ever answered?
The Western ("Wailing") Wall
          It was perhaps at this moment that a verse came to mind: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen!” (Luke 24:5). If God truly had risen from the dead, then these ancient structures, churches, and Sepulchers were merely whitewashed tombs: beautiful to look at, but containing nothing of value. Certainly nothing to command my eternal and unequivocal allegiance.
          But anyway, I wrote a prayer on a piece of paper from my journal, something short but to the effect of asking God to pour out His Holy Spirit overflowing into my life and telling Him that I was wholly His. Once I placed it into the wall, I saw a little brown speck fall in front of me. Confused, I looked up. Little plants were growing from the 2000-year old spaces between the stones, proving that life could indeed survive in the most hostile of conditions. Another brown bit fell, and I saw that the cause was a tiny bird was pecking at the plant and causing pieces of it to fall gently to the ground.
          The image is inscribed into my memory. Directly above me was the Wall, then the scraggly bush, then the bird, and then nothing but a blue sky speckled with clouds. It was an incredible vantage point. The massive stones in front of me seemed no longer to matter; I was watching life happen—spontaneous and beautiful, from out of the cracks of civilization.
          The bird pecked once more. I reached out my hand and caught the bit of plant, but instead of the normal dead pieces, I found that I had received a piece of a green leaf. Surprised, I looked up, and saw that there was no bird to be found.
          I completely believe this was a message from God. I had asked for a pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and immediately after, from above from this bird, had come life. However, for me to receive this life, it required the pecking away of dry pieces. I know that even as I have grown immensely, there are still parts that God needs to prune for me to be fruitful (John ch. 15). It was an incredible encouragement that God is indeed pouring out his Spirit and new Life into me, as well as eliminating the dead parts of me.
         God is alive and near to each one of us. We don’t have to go to a certain place in order to find him. Doing so would just show that we think He is still dead, His power still somehow stuck in some crypt or church. But He isn’t dead. He is risen! And He moves in mysterious ways, ways that will speak to us in a language we can understand. We just have to reach out, take His hand, and walk with Him.


  1. The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

  2. Very insightful, brother. Thanks for sharing your experience. God is to be found in Jerusalem but not in the places people think. We are His Temple now. May the Lord bless you and protect you while you are away from us but near to Him.
    - Pastor Ryan

  3. Imagine my surprise to find I'd already commented, but didn't remember yet having read this post! This is actually Katherine, now. :) Great post, Andrew! It IS so true--- we want in our search for the Lord to find Him, physically- right here, someWHERE! But, He is found in the Spirit, not in the flesh (for now). May His Spirit guide you and open your eyes to find Truths that are perhaps not evident just by looking at the remains of structures- but that can be brought to life by the One who walked in and among them. Praying for your safety and amazing growth in faith,