Picking the Right Place

“Skull Hill” as it looks today

Visiting Israel is a sacred, life-changing experience. Like parenthood, nothing can quite prepare you for what it feels like to put your own feet on the exact same places where Jesus put his.

That is, if you can figure out which places those actually were.

What you discover upon alighting in Jerusalem is that there is significant disagreement about exactly WHERE certain biblical events happened. For example, there are two different places that local “experts” will swear to you are the actual spots where Jesus was born.  

Similarly, there are at least two spots that supposedly mark the exact place where Christ was crucified. One of those places has since been surrounded by an ornate cathedral, full of tour guides, candles, incense, icons, statues, and huge crowds of pilgrims. 

The other site is much plainer. Make no mistake, it is still highly developed and commercialized, complete with local guides and a gift shop. But it is located outdoors on top of a hill that bears a striking resemblance to a human skull. 

I prefer this spot over the other one.

My favorite part of this location, however, is NOT its shape or location. What I like best is its proximity to the Jerusalem city bus barn. Here, one can sit in prayer and contemplation, pondering the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice and your own unworthiness of this extravagant love, all while listening to the engines and air brakes of Jerusalem’s city busses. 

Call me weird, but somehow this bizarre juxtapositioning makes a kind of cosmic sense to me. 

Allow me to explain. As a lifelong, practicing Christian, I carry in my bones a deep reverence for everything that today – Good Friday – represents. I understand it as a defining moment of God’s whole incarnation enterprise. For me, Christ’s crucifixion is both the pinnacle expression of self-sacrificial love and the Divine Battering Ram that forever smashed the barrier between heaven and earth, between God and us, between life and death, and between one human and another.

Second only to Easter in significance, Good Friday and the crucifixion event is the inflection point on which human history forever pivoted.

But for me – and again, maybe ONLY for me – that place belongs smack dab in the MIDDLE of the mundane, quotidian movements of life… not set aside in some gilded display case. Somehow, I feel more connected when I reflect on the meaning of atonement, salvation, sacrifice, and eternal destiny smelling the scent of diesel fumes instead of incense.  

Ultimately, of course, the setting of these contemplations is immaterial. Go where you will to pause and reflect. Sip coffee in a crowded café, walk by a serene lake, pedal a bicycle, or sit on a plane.

But whatever you do, wherever you go, don’t miss the opportunity to spend time alone with your thoughts today… reflecting on the price that was paid to set you free.

Abundant blessings;

5 Responses to “Picking the Right Place”

  1. April 15, 2022 at 9:48 pm

    Russell, visiting Jerusalem is at the TOP of my wish list. I totally understand your juxtaposition explanation. I have a tiny bluff, my Bible, and my deep thinking brain and heart to try and soak in the place, the time, the moment…the curtain completely torn from the top down! Blessings to you and Joan this Resurrection Weekend. Thank you for always enlightening my enthusiasm and helping me “see” in new and good ways!! By the way, I had zero luck on the PC trying to figure out comment issue; however, you’re not the only one if that makes you 3 feel any better! Oh my! On your handheld device you might see if you are actually following me on Reader as it seems e-mail subscriptions, at least 3 of you in the past, is not allowing comments? I’m so sorry!

    • April 17, 2022 at 6:11 pm

      Blessings to you as well, Karla. I think it is a little unsettled at the moment in Israel (see last week’s news), but the group we went with – called Educational Opportunities – has a full staff on the ground in Jerusalem and keeps a constant eagle eye on the security situation. When your time comes (and it will), I would highly recommend this group to tour with. They are top notch.
      A blessed Easter to you and yours also.

  2. May 17, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    Visiting Israel must be such a wonderful experience! Its ancient history, its spiritual aura, the struggles the Israelis go through on a daily basis, and the influence of Jesus – it must bring everything in the Bible alive!

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