|What I Learnt on the Israel Tour|
by Peter Tyrrell
“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:29-30 NIV
It’s quite a strange way to begin a review of the recent Israel tour by quoting a verse that says we don’t have to see to believe. In this exchange with Thomas not long after His resurrection, Jesus chastises the apostle for requiring physical evidence before he’d accept it was actually Jesus, the risen Lord. Most would say, and I agree, you don’t need to go to Israel to find Jesus. He came that we might have access to Him even as gentiles, and regardless of our physical, earthly location.
While going to Israel doesn’t guarantee you will be any closer to Christ than those who stay at home, it is people’s spiritual preparedness to understand Scripture in new ways that opens new doors, and initiates them into a new or revitalized journey with the Lord. This was evident on our recent 25th Anniversary tour.
The group of 56 that journeyed from Australia came from an assortment of cultures, faith traditions and socio-economic demographics. We were the metaphorical fruit salad, with a common desire to gain new insights into the culture and traditions that are the bedrock of both Old and New Testaments.
During our time we were blessed to listen to Chuck preach on many occasions, the most moving being on the Sea of Galilee in a tethered flotilla of six craft, brimming with over 600 people. And while we walked the ancient street of the Via Dolorosa where Christ took his final journey to the cross, and climbed to the cave of En Gedi where David hid from Saul, nothing we saw was as important as how the people on our tour were spiritually and personally impacted.
For those of you who followed our video blog (which is still available on our website) you will have seen the baptisms Dr. Tom Golding and myself performed on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Just on sunset, 15 from the Australian group confirmed or renewed their love for the Lord and their desire to follow Him as a disciple. While the water was quite chilly on this spring evening, each person went in with a determination to declare their faith, and came out radiating, as a renewed child of God.
I love baptisms because of everything they represent and I’ll always have a close affinity to those Tom and I lowered into the Sea of Galilee that day. But on this occasion there was something very special; a family that had travelled from the four corners of the globe to take part in this important moment. Mum and Dad, a.k.a. Wendy and Denis, arranged for their young adult children from Canada, the UK and Australia to join them on a visit to the Holy Land. This family is very close; evident in everything they do, including their commitment to meet up in Israel.
From the outset of the tour, the three ‘kids’ wanted to be baptized together, but what they didn’t know was that their dad was also considering it. On the day of the baptisms Denis asked if he could be included, and only informed his ‘kids’ hours beforehand.
Tom and I baptized the two boys first, and then dad and daughter.
In the minutes afterwards you couldn’t help but join in the celebratory tears of joy streaming down the faces of all those present. Seeing the look of motherly pride on their mum, Wendy, was a sight worth travelling the thousands of kilometres for.
When you gather a group of assorted people together you quickly learn that each is on a journey. Some like the family mentioned above grew closer both spiritually and physically. Others were dealing with relationship issues and a couple of people were battling cancer and other health problems. It wasn’t just a group of people who had life all sorted out . . . neat and cozy. They were an eclectic group of people who love the Lord, Jesus Christ, regardless of their circumstances.
No doubt many who read this are also on a journey of sorts. Life is a journey; eternity with God is the destination. Keep at it, as there is an eternal reward for your perseverance. And should you need help along the way, let the Bible be your guide, and Jesus be the driver of your coach.
Peter Tyrrell is the Executive Director of Insight for Living Australia based in Melbourne and host of Chuck Swindoll’s radio programs.