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Tour Journal For Israel Study Tour with Teri Gabbert & Marty O'Connor October 22-November 2, 2013

Day 6 – Zealots for Love

Day 6 – Zealots for Love

Our spiritual adventure in the land of Jesus and his disciples began anew this morning at 7:10 a.m. with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Looking out over the beautiful waters that were, at this moment, calm and soothing, it was hard to imagine the kind of storm that caused the fearful disciples to cry out for Jesus to save them from being flung far beneath the waves. Jesus’ response to his band of men then is the same he gives us today when we, too, are confronted by our own storms: “What are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

As Teri explains, the disciples were well aware the water represented an abyss, a place of terrifying destruction, the home of the keeper of the deep—the ancient Near East cult god named Ba’al. It is understandable that they would want to avoid being sacrificed to this dark lord. Yet, the Master of the wind and the waves was right there with them and had promised to never forsake them.  Marty’s oft repeated reminder to us this week has called our own occasional doubts into question in light of Malachi 3:6 resounding with the declaration of our Lord’s character: “I the Lord do not change!” Just as he calmed the raging sea so long ago, he will calm our tempests today when we draw near to him. Like the little boy in the parking lot was overheard to cry out to his father this week, “Abba, Abba,” we only need call out for our heavenly Father to rescue us.

The lesson on the boat was only the first of many to follow as we traveled to the Masada of the north—an ancient city known as “Gamla” located in the lower Golan. Strung along a steep ridge, its closely built houses appear as terraced humps along the camel’s back giving the mountain its name. Stepping down from the security of our bus we descend the path from the parking lot to ruins that seem to hang in thin air. More than just a picture postcard image of the Great Jewish Revolt by the zealots against the Romans in 66 CE, the once-fortified Gamla is a stark reminder of the zealots’ choice between bowing to the god of their age, Caesar, or serving the one, true God. Surely taking one’s life was as abhorrent to the zealots as it is to us today, but there was no debate for those who threw themselves off the mountain rather than compromise their faith by worshiping such a false idol.

Without question the zealots of Gamla had a passion for the text so great they didn’t hesitate to defend it with their swords. That was then and this is now, or so we thought until Marty asked the searing question: “Where are today’s zealots for love?” He was referring to a love so great that we, too, would choose to devote and even give up our lives in the defense of the faith. Where are those with such a fierce, all-consuming passion? Why aren’t we following the great command of Matthew 28:19-20 to go and make disciples of all nations teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded no matter what the cost? Time and time again Marty challenges us by asking, “Who do ‘you’ say Jesus is? and “Why are ‘you’ here?”  How we answer these seminal questions, he teaches, is in direct proportion to the effectiveness of our ministry. Don’t settle for doing only what you know you can do—those things that can be explained. Rather, do what cannot be explained, for in this way, God receives all the glory!

Just who are the people of all nations we are commanded to seek out? They are our neighbors—the very ones we may not like—the very ones who may seem as abhorrent to us as those we later learn about at Caesarea Philippi. As inconceivable and disgusting as it is to us this day, we cannot avoid envisioning what the Temple of Pan built by Herod Philip, the son of Herod the Great, must have been like centuries ago. Passing the grotto of the abyss at the entrance to where the half man, half goat god welcomed his worshippers, the temple ruins reveal the niches of the cultic gods of sexual depravity. We learn that unspeakable acts were committed here in the practice of sympathetic religion—the deplorable acting out of the favors the people wanted to gods to bestow on them.  As unthinkable as it must have been, it is here in the filth of human degradation that Jesus brings his young disciples to show them where to build his Church. Here in the midst of sin and evil they are told to proclaim the good news to the pagans and teach them all that Christ had commanded. Today Jesus is still looking for those who will wade into the worst of humanity to rescue those who are dying without hope.

—Francine Thomas, Trip Participant

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