It was late May in Jerusalem and it was hot, especially where we were standing at 4:00 p.m. on old Mount Zion. The streets were ﬁlled with people, both inside the walls of the old city and outside the walls in the new city, and bustling with tour buses and Palestinian and Israeli families heading home for the evening.
Earlier that day, we had gathered in the garden of Gethsemane to read the story of Jesus and his last night with the disciples before he was arrested, tried, and cruciﬁed. In the garden, the olive trees are the great-grandchildren of the very olive trees Jesus would have knelt and prayed under two thousand years earlier, descendants from the “olive shoots” that grow from the base of old olive tree matriarchs, mother trees that have given birth to countless thousands of olives throughout the centuries.
That morning we stood where Jesus asked his Father to take away the cup of suffering that awaited him on the cross, and we laid our hands on members of our team who were sick, asking our Father to let the cup of sickness pass by them. The presence of the Spirit was tangible.
Now, nearly eight hours later, on the western side of the Kidron Valley, my friend David Lewkowicz and I stood on a hot sidewalk that felt like an oven baking cookies, looking across to the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane below. In Gethsemane, Jesus chose to go through with his mission. All the way to the cross.
As my friend David and l waited for our bus to pick us up, along with seventy other sweaty American pilgrims, l remembered that ﬁfty yards from where we stood, on the same road, was the grave of Oskar Schindler. As a member of the Nazi party in Germany leading up to WWII, Schindler saved more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by hiring them to work in his factories under the guise of building munitions for Hitler’s army.
I mentioned this to David, assuming he’d seen the movie Schindler’s List. He said, “Are you serious? You know Schindler saved three of my Jewish relatives from the gas chambers, right?’
No. As a matter of fact, I did not know that.
A pastor of an evangelical church in North Carolina, David had wanted to visit the land of his ancestors, and as a Jewish person who believes Jesus is the Messiah, he wanted to walk where Jesus walked. We’ve been friends for years, but it was in this moment, standing on that hot sidewalk with the old city above us and Gethsemane across from us, that I realized just how practically powerful salvation is.
David was standing less than a football ﬁeld away from the grave of the man who’d saved his ancestors from certain death in I944. He’d had no idea he was so close to the source of his family’s salvation.
In that moment salvation felt more real, more meaningful than it had before. As a pastor, I talk about salvation all the time. It’s my job and my calling. And yet, standing there, I felt the weight of salvation in a new way. It was the difference between life and death for David’s family. It was the difference between freedom and a concentration camp.
While we’re not in danger of being loaded onto a train by Nazis and sent to our death, we're all in danger of being ruined by some sin that seeks to control us. The problems we face are just as deadly and just as eternal.
There is an enemy that seeks to break us and destroy our lives.
The solution is encountering Jesus.
In John 10:10, Jesus clearly states his sole purpose in coming to earth: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That’s what this is about.
The next day we visited two places in Jerusalem where tradition tells us Jesus’s tomb is located: the Garden Tomb and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Though history and tradition favor the Holy Sepulcher as the most likely location of the empty tomb, the only thing that makes the tomb of Jesus important is that it’s empty.
Actually, the only thing that makes Jesus important, if you really want to get down to business, is that his grave has been vacated. The death of Jesus on the cross secures the forgiveness we need for the sins we have committed. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead opens up for us a new beginning, another chance at ﬁfe.
The chance to be reborn.
Clayton King appears this Monday on LIFE TODAY. This is an excerpt from Reborn: How Encountering Jesus Changes Everything by Clayton King. Copyright ©2020 by Clayton King. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.