I have been to Israel 45 times, and every time my spiritual life has been enriched. I recently took a video cameraman with me and had him shoot on the fly as I led a pilgrimage group through the land. We began in Tel Aviv, and went from there to Tiberias in the north, and then back to Jerusalem.
I’ll continue to share some of the sermons I presented from that trip with you. As I do so, I think you’ll come to understand why a person once wrote, “A pilgrimage to the Holy Land converts the Bible from black and white into Technicolor.”
My next message was presented at the Herzl Cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. There we’ll hear a story from the Old West that points to the saving work of Jesus Christ.
Many of the most important people in the modern day history of Israel are buried at the Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem. But, the most important grave site in all the land and, in fact, the most important grave site in all of the world is not located in the Mount Herzl Cemetery. It is located a few blocks north of the Damascus Gate on the north side of the Old City of Jerusalem. It’s called the Garden Tomb. This is the traditional Protestant site of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I would like to share with you a brief story I once presented at the Garden Tomb to illustrate the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.
Each morning when I’m home, my wife and I have a devotional time together. We get a cup of coffee and we sit down and I read from the Old Testament and she reads from the New Testament. Then we make out a prayer list and we pray for Israel, for America, for our church, for Lamb & Lion Ministries, and for sick friends. We always have a long prayer list for family members. Then we read a devotional and we use different devotional books.
About 12 years ago we were using some devotional guide, which I can’t recall the name, but it impacted me so greatly that I made a vow right there. I said, “Lord, I’m going to share this with as many people as I can until you call me home.” I’d like to share it with you right now.
It was the greatest illustration I’ve ever heard of what happened to Jesus on the cross. Back in the 1840’s when gold was found in California, 300,000 Americans made the trip their. Some 300,000 people moved from the East all the way across America to the West. Many went by ship around the tip of South America, but most went by wagon trains across three different trails in the United States. These people were city slickers, so they didn’t know how to live in the wilderness. Their lives were in the hands of the wagon masters. The fascinating thing is you can go online and you can find the day-by-day logs of these wagon masters that they kept.
The wagon masters were very crafty and good at surviving, and they knew that there were a lot of dangers as they went across the country. One fear was coming up on water holes that they knew existed, but finding them dried up or polluted. There were also Indian attacks and natural disasters like tornadoes and thunder storms. The worst of all that destroyed a number of wagon trains completely were blizzards. One of the most mysterious disasters would be the plagues that would seem to come out of nowhere and within a few days wipe out an entire wagon train. Everybody there died of the plague.
One of the most horrendous terrors of traveling across the Plains was when the wagon train would be traveling in the plains of Kansas. There the grass was so high and very dry. The travelers would look across the horizon and see smoke, maybe from a lightning strike or some other cause. The wagon masters knew from experience that those prairie fires could travel 50-60 miles an hour depending on how strong the winds were, so they only had minutes to protect the wagon train. And yet, there was never a record of a wagon train being lost to these fires.
The wagon masters had a special way of protecting the wagon train. If the fire was coming towards them, they’d light the grass in a big circle and let it burn away. When the grass had burned away sufficiently, the travelers would pull their wagons into the burned out area and take down the cloth tops and wait for the fire to come. The fire would just burn around their already burned out spot and go on.
That’s what happened to Jesus on the cross. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, every sin that you or I have ever committed was placed upon Him. The wrath of God that you and I deserve was poured out upon Him. The fire fell on Him. And, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we step into the area where the fire has already fallen and we become immune to the wrath of God.
What a glorious Savior! Praise God for Him!