On the day before flying back to Missouri, I barreled through the sites around the Galilee because after somehow managing to catch the flu in the middle of the trip, all I desperately wanted was to be home to recover in the comfort of my own bed. For three days I was achy, suffering from a major sore throat, and had thrown up on two different occasions. Despite being incredibly sleep deprived, it was useless to try to sleep since I was a blatant mess for a reason other than being sick. It hit me all at once as I laid on the hotel bed at midnight that we were leaving Israel the next day. The trip was the most breathtaking adventure I had ever encountered, and as much as I loved it, I hadn’t appreciated the impact until that moment. My emotions couldn’t get a grip on the humiliation I felt.
Throughout the trip, everyone in my group had no issue thinking of things to journal after a sermon or visiting a site, but I was always speechless. Sometimes I felt indifferent. Sometimes I felt guilt, shame or anger at myself for not understanding the connection that our tour guide, Efrat, mentioned would become evident. While my roommate slept peacefully in her bed, I cried from feeling ashamed about being so ignorant. Not connecting the past with the present meant I was ignorant of what it meant to be a born-again believer. The greatest thing I would take away from this trip would be from the conviction over a question asked of us on the first day: do you really know Jesus if you do not understand his Jewishness?
My honest answer was no. My faith was not rooted. Prior to our arrival in Israel, we heard multiple times how the trip would show us the roots of our Biblical faith. Honestly, I just assumed that to be in reference to being in the land where Jesus walked with no regard to the Jews who came before him. When you truly think about the question regarding Jesus’s roots in Judaism, you realize the number of people who do not actually know Jesus. Many people believe this notion that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament without even realizing it. Many Christians forget that the coming Messiah God promised was promised to Abraham and beyond. This certainly does not have the same meaning to them as it does the Jews.
It should. The Jews came before Jesus, so why do we forget about them? God used the Jews to bring us Jesus as the Messiah, so why do we disregard their importance? If Jesus was a fulfillment of the law and prophecy, why do we not take the time to study them just as much as the Gospel? Our faith would not be able to bring us into the lineage of God if it were not for Jesus, and Jesus would have never been able to be the savior of the world if it were not for the Jews to bring him into the world.
I continued to silently cry as the night went on and everyone else in the hotel slept. The pressing question had been answered as well as another lesson taught. If God had revealed anything about the Jews to me during those 9 days, it was that their faith puts so many of us to shame.
Not one single part of their daily life was unaffected by it. Their relationships, diet, language, work ethic, and ideology were all rooted in scripture. Nothing was considered over-the-top; not even having Shabbat elevators! The confidence they carried when they walked was proof of their faith in God’s protection, so kite bombs flying into their communities meant they had no reason to fear. They had been the most persecuted people group from the dawn of time, dispersed throughout the world, lost millions during the Holocaust, and God still returned them home even after 2,000 years. All one had to do to understand just how powerful the Jewish faith really is would be to overlook their hope, Jerusalem, at Yad Vashem.
Meanwhile, I complained about minimal things there: occasionally the food, no cell service, the flu. It’s so easy for us to live out our faith back home, so we easily lose the appreciation for it and eventually our fear of the Lord. Until we see hardship, we will not fear God because we rely on ourselves for knowledge. If we are to take up our cross and follow Christ, we have to understand that enduring faith has to prioritize acquiring the knowledge of God. Ignorance, whether that be our understanding or comfort, is not bliss in the eyes of God; rather it is a sign of a hardened heart. There is no faith without fear of the Lord just as there is no wisdom without fear of the Lord.
The next morning, as we drove away from the Galilee, I still had the flu, but I felt relief. It was like the wisdom God showed me that night had finally removed the scales from my eyes just as he did for Paul, and I finally understood what I had witnessed during those 10 days. Seeing the wonder of the Jewish life that Jesus came from had caused me to fall in love with the gospel all over again. The Jews were no longer simply the people who rejected Jesus but rather my foundation. Jesus would not have been who he was without them. My ignorant faith no longer recognized the bliss in my understanding but knew that the past connects to the present. The wisdom from fearing the Lord not only demonstrated to me what it meant to be a born-again believer, but that fearing the Lord is the only true bliss.