According to a sign outside of the western wall in Jerusalem, Israel, the wall “has been the focus of the prayer for Jews from all around the world” signifying “their faith in the rebuilding of the Temple.” On the recent ten day vacation I took to Athens, Greece and Tiberius/Jerusalem, Israel, the western wall was probably the highest speculated tour stop on our itinerary. After going through security and accidently taking a site curator for a peddler of scarves (women must cover their shoulders and my flutter sleeves weren’t sufficient), I approached the site where hundreds and thousands of Jewish people have made pilgrimages, ready to be mystified.
It is a common practice for those who visit the western (aka wailing) wall, to write a prayer on a piece of paper and insert it into the wall. As I approached the wall, I couldn’t do it. As I snapped some pictures and took a look around, I felt somewhat empty – definitely not mystified. I turned around to leave (another no-no as visitors tend to back away from the wall) feeling a bit off. As I exited the women’s praying area, I realized I wasn’t numb. I was saddened by the wall, the wailing, and the 30 or so meters of room allotted to the people of the world who come to visit.
I want to heavily disclaim that I am not an expert in Israeli/Hebrew/Jewish culture/art/history/economics/religion. My closest experience to someone who is a practicing Jew is a sorority sister in college (my second closest connection is Charlotte from Sex and the City). I never took the time to ask the sorority sister much about her faith so I sadly threw away that experience to learn something new. If there is one thing I do know, however, it’s that the Jewish faith holds that the messiah will not arrive until the temple is rebuilt. Referring back to the sign quoted above, the temple was “razed by the Roman legions over 1900 years ago” and hasn’t been restored.
The temple can’t be built just anywhere. God gave King David specific instructions as to where and to what specifics it should be built. These haven’t changed despite the fact that control over the site has hot-potatoed between different groups over the course of its history. Currently, a mosque and Muslim monument known as the Dome of the Rock stand over the temple mount. When I considered this, I could empathize with the wailers. If one truly believed (even erroneously) that the arrival of the messiah seemed so out of reach, it would be easy to be disheartened. As I mulled over my observations with some travel mates over iced coffee, I found myself saying the harshest criticism of my trip (even surpassing my customer complaint to the transatlantic air carrier just days before): “If all they’re waiting for is the temple to be rebuilt, then what’s the hold up?”
Yikes. After He resurrected from the dead, Jesus Christ, commanded the disciples to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” [Matthew 28: 19-20] To Christians (those who believe that Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophesy of the Old Testament and is the Messiah) this command holds just as much significance as the reconstruction of the temple to the Jewish faith.
So… why do I (a Christian) get all puffed up over the barista getting my drink order wrong or the traffic on 520? Although Israel is covered with several sites which have significance to the Christian faith, there is not one holy site on which my faith hangs. When I professed my faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit took residence in my heart. As such, I walk around daily with the equivalent of the wailing wall in my inner being!
I could be mundane and even superficial by saying that this realization (or gift really) was refreshing and was the climax of my trip. It was much more than that. The gift to participate to in the ministry of Jesus Christ is not something to suppress or minimize. It should be the momentum behind each step, the source of each breath, and pang of each heart’s desire. Yikes. This is just scratching at the surface…
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.