I have mixed emotions about some of the famous spots we have seen in Israel. We have visited such places as Masada, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the famed Via Delarosa, the City of David, the Sea of Galilee and the ancient city of Caesarea, just to name a few. I have stood in awe and wonder at the sheer genius, beauty and magnitude of these structures, built thousands of years ago. It's hard not to consider the weight of what took place across this area known as the Holy Land. The history of this place is fascinating and the spiritual implications are serious to many. At the same time, a part of me is skeptical and a little disappointed by what I see. Some of these "holy" sites have become touristy and commercial. And then it hit me... just as we were walking out of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I realized why I feel these mixed emotions.
This church is truly a breathtaking place to behold. It is built over what is considered the place Jesus was Crucified. As with most of the sites in the Holy Land, there is some debate of the actual location, but this place is celebrated and generally accepted to be Calvary, Golgotha, that "hill far away" where Jesus died. Instead of viewing a hilltop out in the open, this church was erected around this stone hill. For 2000 years people have come here to worship, give thanks and pray. This place has changed names as often as it has changed hands as many have sought to retain ownership of such an important spot in history. Deeply rooted traditions have been established as to how people are to approach this place. It's a far cry from what I viewed in my mind's eye. There are countless artifacts, tapestries, icons, sculptures, paintings, chandeliers and candles, all meant to help people give honor, glory and attention to Jesus.
I truly appreciate the effort so many people put forth to preserve and protect the place where Jesus died. I know their intent was to help people for all generations never forget the great sacrifice of our Lord. Yet, the overwhelming feeling I had was all the effort and fanfare still seemed to fall far short of what our Savior accomplished on the cross. There is simply no way to do justice to what Jesus has done thus in my mind, cheapening the very work of Christ it is meant to honor.
I want to be very clear that I am not trying to be a harsh judge of history. I'm absolutely sure every generation or individual that attempts to celebrate and preserve the story of Jesus does so imperfectly (including myself). However, there is a lesson for us here. The purpose of sharing this post is to remind us that Jesus' life, death and resurrection is greater than anything we can do to celebrate it. No location, no building, no tradition, no practice, no nationality and no person can ever truly match who Jesus is or what Jesus has done. He alone is the object of our worship and we ought to take great care that we never confuse where we place our "mind's attention and heart's affection."