Crosses from Bethlehem

Olive wood crosses, Bethlehem

Just as I Am was a common invitational hymn used in the church where I grew up. It was sung frequently. I used to know the words by heart. It’s a rich song, not like some of the modern choruses (there are exceptions) we hear and sing today. This song centers upon the cross and God’s invitation to come to the cross just as I am.

Each time I walk the land of the Bible, I contemplate upon the life and ministry of Jesus. In the north (Galilee), we cover a lot of area where Jesus must have been. For instance, we dedicate one full day around the Sea of Galilee. We hike up Mt. Arbel, a mountain on the NW corner of the lake below. We visit the 1st century synagogue at Magdala where Jesus must have taught. We walk on the shoreline of Capernaum where Jesus called His first disciples. We take a boat ride on the lake, recalling the storm narratives of Mark 4 and Matthew 14. We usually end the day sitting on the Mt. of Beatitudes listening to the words of Matthew 5. Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount here. It was probably His “go-to” message because the message displays the purpose of His coming … to bring forth the kingdom of God (malchut Shamyim in Hebrew).

Nazareth crossesThe beauty of Jesus’ ministry is that He called everyone to follow Him. He invited people to come just as they were and take hold of the grace and forgiveness offered freely by Jesus. To come to Him just as we are a central theme of the Gospel. We don’t need to “clean up our lives” first before coming to God. We simply take the step to reach out to Him and receive Him as our Savior. As we grow in our new walk with God, our faith and desire to follow Him is what refines our lives unto Christ-likeness. It is a life-time pursuit.

Jesus would visit and take His ministry to those in Jerusalem on occasion as well. It would be hear where Jesus would heal the lame man (John 5) and the blind man (John 9). It would be here within the Temple Courts where Jesus would say, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink… (John 7).” It would be on the east side of the Mt. of Olives (in Bethany) where Jesus would raise to life Lazarus (John 11).

Of course at the end of His ministry it would also be here where Jesus would be heralded “King” (Luke 19). A few days later on the same slopes of the western side of the Mt. of Olives Jesus would be betrayed (Luke 22), turned over to the High Priest, and ultimately sentenced to die on a cross. He would be crucified. He would die. Three day later, He would rise again and appear to the women, His disciples, the men walking to Emmaus, as well as others.

To be in Jerusalem and retracing the last 24 hours of Jesus life is powerful. It is powerful not only because of knowing who Jesus was, but it is life-changing to think that the very Son of God is the very One who still accepts us just as we are!

This Easter weekend, enjoy this song by one of my favorite artist, Fernando Ortega. It is a slight re-make of the old hymn. As you listen, celebrate God’s grace. Come to the cross just as you are and accept Christ’s forgiveness and love for you this Easter Season!  Jesus has come to be your Shepherd.

 

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