On my recent trip to Israel, my very first trip to the Holy Land, I was uncertain about what I would see and how I would feel about the experience. My desire was to see the Holy Land as it was when Jesus walked the dusty roads. I was not interested in sacred sites that now serve as tourist attractions.
I traveled with a group of pastors, a seasoned Methodist minister as mentor, and a Palestinian Christian guide who had a passion for his country and his faith. Early in our journey we were told that we would never be able to read scripture without thinking of the places that we visited.
A visit to the Holy Land is sometimes referred to as the fifth gospel, bringing a different understanding to the stories we hold so dear. This was true for me. And so as I enter Holy Week in the year 2017, I find my mind traveling back to my first day in Jerusalem.
Because of possible thunderstorms, our itinerary was changed, and we began our trip at the end of the story of Jesus’ life. Rather than visiting Bethlehem, our journey started on Palm Sunday, following in the steps of Jesus on a path that would lead him through the week we now call Holy. Our first stop was a chapel overlooking the Kidron Valley where Jesus was arrested. In the distance we could see Jerusalem.
Someone read a passage from Luke 13 that set the scene as Jesus wept over Jerusalem: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
For some reason this image of a mother hen stayed with me throughout the week and lingers still. The realization that Jesus wept for us, his children, even as he faced the cross, is a powerful one. Somehow it increases my understanding of his sacrifice and his love for us.
In our faith tradition we use language that can at times be confusing. We speak of sacrifice and love in the same breath, and yet we can’t quite wrap our minds around what that means. The image of Jesus as a mother hen, stopping at nothing to gather us and protect us in the trials and tribulations of our own lives, helps me understand sacrificial love.
As we move toward Holy Week, I hope that you will find time to ponder this image, remembering that God sent Jesus that we might have life. It is through the Love of Christ that the world will be saved. In the Resurrection we know that this is possible!
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!