A Christian Pilgrimage (or Going Home to Israel)
Going home to Israel is like going home to grandmother. She is a grandmother I have never met; yet I know her well. All my life I have heard the stories of her family, and know well the land where she lives—the barren parts and the bountiful parts. I have studied deeply the family tree of ancestors, both good and bad, and their roots are entwined in mine. Their hopes and dreams, covenants and vows, trials and blessings I find fulfilled in my own life, and look forward to going home to where it all began.
My grandmother may not feel the same toward me. You see, my brothers and sisters and I have been adopted into the family by an alien marriage my grandmother cannot fully accept. And how well I can understand if she judges that marriage by the children of it, for I cannot call some sister” and “brother,” though they bear the name of Christian just as I do! For these children of adoption make much of the family tree, quoting often the writings of the family, but at the same time they have a cruelty I cannot understand. They ridicule her ways as old-fashioned and meaningless. At times that cruelty has come out in vicious acts of horror, even to the killing of members of my grandmother’s family. They bear the name of Christian, but in their hearts they have not fully accepted their adoption.
We who truly accept her family as ours rejoice as we see the things of old still in our lives today. It was in her family that the Supper of Passover was first eaten in thanksgiving for freedom from the bondage of Egypt where the family suffered. And in my own Home, the Last Supper is still eaten in thanksgiving of our own freedom from the bondage of sin where we suffered. That precious meal was eaten in remembrance of the life-giving blood that spared from death. There was the wine, and the bread—pure and unleavened, the staff of life—and the bitter herbs and salt for tears. In our meal we still have the cup of wine for the life-giving blood that was shed to spare us from death, and we have the bread which is the pure and unleavened Bread of Life given to us—only the bitter herbs and salt for tears are missing, for our Savior has partaken of them in our stead. She eats the Supper of Passover in hope, and we eat our Supper in fulfillment, but the bond of that Holy Supper is strong. Shall I ever feel myself at enmity with her and her family who were the very basis of this most solemn meal in all of Christianity’s family? For if I deny this meal, then I deny my heritage.
There are those in my family who would try to say our Jesus died because her family killed Him, but in so doing they say He died only for her sins, not for ours.
Those true members of our family know also the writings of our ancestors—of Isaiah in particular, who said our Jesus was killed for “our” sins, If we do not bear the blood of Jesus on the doorposts of our own hearts, a symbol that we also have slain the innocent, then we do not inherit His life-giving grace. Each one of us truly has smitten and stricken Him and turned our backs on Him as surely as those who stood on Calvary’s hill in that moment of His crucifixion, and all the finger-pointing of history cannot for a second hide our guilt.
As our Grandmother Israel has both rejoiced in our Lord and turned her back on Him, forgetting the promises and covenants, so have we also turned our backs on Him, forgetting the promises and blessings. We share a very human tie with our grandmother and her family. Yet it is through this very human tie of the family of Israel that all nations of the earth are blessed with the truth of Messiah.
Perhaps it is this human tie of our heritage that draws me most deeply in my desire to visit my family roots, to see the stark harshness of the wilderness, to sit beside the still waters that can turn to raging waves of challenge in the storms of Galilee, to eat of the fruit of the land earned by the hard labors of her people, to rejoice that the desert does again bloom, and above all, to see the earthly City of Promise set on her hills.
Going home to Israel is like going home to grandmother.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was sent to us by Evelyn Neitzel, a friend of our ministry. In her accompanying letter she wrote: “For over fifty years my Gentile husband and I have not been on speaking terms with a Jew simply because we did not know one…but we have known many Jews of the Bible, we have read Jews for Jesus materials, and we have read Jewish authors from Leon Uris to Herman Wouk; and if we believe Paul, that we have been ‘grafted in’ then we, ourselves, are Jews.…For years we have saved money for a trip to Israel…and as we prepare to leave, we find so many reactions. Again, we feel how little understanding there seems to be between Jew and [Gentile] Christian. Does the Jew know the true Christian feels as deeply about their faith as they perhaps do? Does the Christian know what he owes the Jew by whom God brought about the Messiah? Because of the many reactions we have had about visiting Israel and because of the frustration of trying to explain over and over our deeper feelings, I have written the enclosed article.…” We are pleased to share Mrs. Neitzel’s insightful analogy with our readers.