I was recently visiting a friend at a hospital in an ancient city in the Galilee called Tzfat. We decided to take a walk outside the hospital grounds, and I remarked that I thought that Tzfat had a “strange feel” every time I drove into it. As soon as I was getting ready to say my next sentence, a young Jewish Israeli woman who was walking with us exclaimed, “I agree, it ‘feels’ just like Jerusalem—heavy.”
Similarly, when we take Christian friends of ours to visit Jerusalem, they will nearly always tell us that the city has a very different “feel” than much of the rest of Israel. Unsettled, tense, etc. Absolutely, we tell them—there is a definite difference in the “atmospheres” of different locations across the land of Israel. Now, I’ve heard many Christians talk about the tense and uneasy atmosphere in Jerusalem, but I was surprised to hear a non-believer say the same thing. What is it about Jerusalem that makes people feel the way they do when visiting?
The Bible tells us that, as we draw nearer to the Day of the LORD, Jerusalem will become “a cup of staggering” and that He will make “Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves.” Nonetheless, Zechariah continues, “And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.” No wonder people describe what they feel there as “tense.”
This reminds me about an inscription on top of the Temple Mount.
I’ve never understood why people take photos of the Dome of the Rock and then blow them up to hang on a wall at home. Sure, it’s an interesting—maybe even considered by some, to be a nice looking—building, in an oriental sense. But I wonder, would they still be so interested if they knew what was inside the building?
The Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were located. It was completed in 692 AD and happens to be one of the oldest Islamic buildings in the world. One might think that a building like this would focus on one thing—Islam and its false prophet. You would be half-correct. Because, written inside the dome itself are inscriptions directed at refuting an historic event that occured at a place just a few miles from our home. Before we get to the inscriptions, let’s first get our bearings.
For those of you who read our newsletters, you already know that we live about a ten minute drive from Banias, the Arabic name for ancient Caesarea Philippi. It was in our “backyard,” at the base of Mt. Hermon, roughly 660 years before the Dome of the Rock was completed, that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
They answered by saying that some people thought that Jesus was John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. But Jesus wasn’t primarily interested in what others were saying; he wanted to know what his disciples thought. Unsurprisingly, Peter was the one who answered first, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
That simple statement, announced near the gates of hell, contains one of the greatest definitions of the Gospel message: God has deigned to enter the world in the form of a man, who is both the long-awaited Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. This simple statement contained so much explosive truth and was so profound that Jesus “strictly charged the disciples to tell no one.”
For these disciples—who knew their scriptures very well (and trust me, they weren’t the illiterate dolts I’ve heard so many make them out to be)—this meant that he, Jesus, was the one who would finally defeat Israel’s enemies and bring peace to the nations! They were right about what he was going to do; they were just wrong about the timing.
To be continued…