You want to walk where Jesus walked. You want to see what Jesus saw. Is it a good use of your time and resources to visit the Holy Land? I was asked the question and took a crack at an answer.
Today I want to take on a question that was sent to me by someone who’s seen one of my videos, and here’s the context. She’s arranging a holy land trip and she was wondering, is it really worth seeing the holy land? Not only that but is it a justifiable expenditure? When there’s so much to do in the world, is that a good way to spend money? She’s concerned as a Christian that it may not be. So, I want to take on both parts of that question, I’ll do that in just a moment.
The question today revolves around visiting the holy land or visiting Israel. I had the opportunity to go there just about a year ago now and rather enjoyed it. I guess there’s a couple of things we need to talk about. The first thing is the actual expense of doing a holiday, doing a vacation like that, going on a trip like that. And I know the person who wrote in to me was concerned, is this a justifiable expenditure? We’re Christians, we’re on a mission in the world, we’ve got so many things we could give money to. Can we possibly justify something that’s just plain fun or something that just is interesting to us? And it will be fairly expensive. I think we can. Now, I don’t think the Bible is extremely detailed on how we’re to spend our money. What is a worthy expenditure and what’s not? It does tell us we need to be generous, it does tell us that we are responsible for every bit of money that’s given to us. Or, money is given us as stewards, not as owners. So we use our money on God’s behalf. Can that include justifiably doing something like going to Israel? I think it can. And I think that’s something each one of us has to answer on our own, according to our own conscience and even just in our own situation. So, yes.
The problem with seeing it the other way is that if we can’t do things that are fun, things that just revolve around an interest, really we can’t do anything because there’s always better ways we could use our money. We could grind down to the tiniest penny. We can’t live like that. So, and I don’t think the Lord calls us to. We are allowed to enjoy His world. We are allowed to enjoy His history.
So, justifiable, yes. Now, in terms of actually visiting Israel, my first thing would be, don’t go and visit the holy land. There is no holy land. We, as Christians, the church, we are God’s holy land, we are God’s holy people. There was a time when God related uniquely to the nation of Israel, a time when God dwelled uniquely there. That’s not the case anymore. God now dwells uniquely in us and through us, His people. So there’s no holy land to visit. But there is a nation that is fascinating, a nation where some key historical events happened. So, absolutely, I think it’s good to visit. Absolutely, I think it’s good to walk where Jesus walked, walk where Abraham walked, right. So much of what we read in the Bible happens right there. The bulk of what we read about in the Bible happens there, centered around Jerusalem, sort of spreading out from there. So I think it can be very moving, very touching, very helpful to see that land.
I would caution though against buying into the superstition. You encounter some odd things as you go there. You hear about people who have decided, I’m going to be baptized again because now I can be baptized in the river Jordan. That’s silly. There’s no reason to be re-baptized. There’s no such thing as re-baptism in that sense. So don’t buy into the superstition, as in, a baptism in Israel, in the Jordan river is somehow more effective than one in a swimming pool in Toronto.
The other thing is, when you visit some of the sites, you’ll see people really behaving superstitiously as if there’s grace to be had simply by being there. Like God is more especially present there. So, I remember outside the garden tomb, there was a man who set up a tripod and mounted a video camera on it. And then he walked in front of the tomb and he knelt down and prayed, and he started glancing up to make sure the camera was capturing him. Come on now, like, we don’t need to be doing stuff like that, right. We can go and we can explore and we can just see this land where so much happened, but we’ve got to be careful that we’re not relating to it as if God is somehow more especially present there, as if there’s grace to be had by being there. So be very careful not to buy into the superstition.
On the other hand, I really do think you feel something there, you just feel like you’re in this land that you’ve read so much about. You’re around this culture, in these key locations that are so important to the history of our faith. So in that way, don’t relate superstitiously, but relate historically, and enjoy a really unique place, a really unique culture. And, a place that is key to the history of Christianity, the key to our self-understanding as Christians.
So, is it worth a trip? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. Hopefully, that helps a little bit. I hope you’re able to go on that trip and enjoy.