Lynn and I have the privilege of helping lead a group of 21 “pilgrims” to the Holy Land. That’s what they call us…pilgrims. All that comes to my mind when someone calls me a pilgrim is John Wayne, which I realize seriously dates me. Though honestly compared to the antiquity of Israel, John Wayne is not really dated.
The age, the antiquity of everything here is quite unique. It can’t help but capture your imagination. We are looking at ruins that date back 3000 plus years. We are driving through cities that were here at the time of Christ. We are walking a path along the sea of Galilee.
Two days ago we were in Nazareth. I half-expected that on the way into town we might see one of those large billboards celebrating their claim to fame. You know… “Nazareth, Boyhood Home of Christ.” Instead the first thing I noticed on the way into town — McDonald’s. Then KFC. Then Dominoos pizza. Nazareth exported Jesus to the world. We have exported fast food. I know, that’s not all we have exported, but we are known for it.
The city of Nazareth is a study in contrasts. Thousands of years old, but McDonald’s has a presence. Boyhood home of Jesus, current home to tens of thousands of Muslims. In fact as we walked to the Church of the Annunciation (traditional spot where Mary was visited by the angel who told her she would give birth to Jesus) you couldn’t miss the evangelism billboards, not for Christianity but for Islam. Perhaps evangelism billboards are another idea we have exported.
At first these contrasts were jarring. I had a particular Nazareth image in mind, an image that I didn’t want to give up. But as I have pondered the Nazareth of now…the contrasts are appropriate. The world that Jesus entered was a world full of contrasts — we could start with the contrast of fully divine with fully human and take off from there. But God keeps reminding me that this Jesus who was…is also the Jesus that is.
He has always and is always entering into a world of contrasts. He came to redeem a world that was full of contrasts…and what he started then…is not finished. He still comes.