Sunday, September 30, 2012

Home Again

Two days ago I stood in the wilderness of Elijah and John the Baptist in Jordan, and this morning I stood in America with my church community and sang, "These are the days of Elijah..." What a thrill to connect the two.

In the photo above, I'm standing where Herod Antipas's other-side-of-the-Jordan palace once stood--Mukawir. (That's the local name for the fortress Machaerus.) Herod deposed his queen, whose father ruled Petra and surrounding areas, in order to marry his brother's wife, and John spoke up. So while Herod enjoyed the view behind me of the Dead Sea, John probably sat in the cave beneath Herod's mountain and dealt with darkness, snakes, and bats. Probably hunger and thirst and bugs, too. Maybe even a broken arm from getting thrown down into the hole. I peered down into it; it looked quite unpleasant. All that was before they chopped off his head.

I can only imagine the agony. At one point John even sent word to his cousin, Jesus, to verify whether our Lord was "the one" or if they should look for someone else. Where was the prince of peace on whose shoulders the government would rest? While Herod enjoyed the mountaintop, John suffered in the depths.

Later at Jesus' baptismal site, I saw where the Son of Man began his ministry at earth's lowest point, unlike the ruler of Masada and Mukawir. Even in Sheol, God is there. I would add especially in Sheol, God is present. The high point of Herod's life was spent in a castle. The high point of our Lord's earthly sojourn happened in a tomb.

But tombs and caves are not where the story ends.

Who is a god like our God? Who humbles Himself? Who sacrifices His Son for the people instead of demanding that the people sacrifice their children? Who made heaven and earth? He is not a god created by human hands. He is God alone.

Disclosure: The Jordan Tourism Board covered most of the expenses for this trip, though it exercised no control over what we said or wrote about it.

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