A couple of years ago on my birthday, I visited Israel and it really gave me a lot to think about. The following is a blog I posted two years ago on Tumblr but I thought I would repost it here for your thoughts.
I just wanted to take a minute and talk about something that has nothing to do with my trip.
Some of you may know that today is a pretty big day for several reasons. Like, for example, 561 years ago today was the day the first book, the Bible, was printed by Johann Guttenberg.
Or that 226 years ago was the first U.S. voyage around the world.
Or that 145 years ago, the terrible invention of styrofoam that pollutes our air every day was first used and will undoubtedly be here until Jesus comes back because it will certainly take some divine hell, fire, and brimstone to get rid of the darn stuff.
Or that 77 years ago, Babe Ruth played his last game as a Yankee and went 3-0.
But, aside from all of these random facts, it was two decades ago that I was born. And throughout the day, I have sat back and taken a look at my life, as I do on all of my birthdays and I remember some great memories along with some very tragic times. But, I never deny the fact that is even greater than all of these; I am a very blessed individual.
In my two decades here on Earth, I have learned a many things. I’ve seen the face of happiness, I’ve felt the warmth of love, and I’ve heard the kindness of peace. But I’ve also felt the sting of death, seen the faces of loved one’s come and gone whom I have let down and have let me down, and heard your typical run-of-the-mill insults.
Now, I’m not being a negative Nathan (no offense intended to any Nathans, I’m sure you’re an optimistic group of people). In fact, to say I have been blessed is an understatement. I’m sitting in Glyfada, Attica, Greece sipping on a caramel freduccino typing on my Macbook Pro and listening to music on my iPhone. I have more than enough physical materials for me to be comfortable, and I have more personal relationships with people that I don’t even deserve to be on the same playing field with. But I guess it’s time for me to stop babbling and start getting to the point. Despite the fact that this is my birthday, I’d like to draw attention away from that and to something much more important; the reason I’m able to sit and type all of this out.
This past week, the study abroad group and I had the amazing privilege to spend four days in Jerusalem, Israel. In that time we saw several overwhelming and powerful Biblically historical sites. We saw the ruins of the Temple of David, we sailed across the Sea of Galilee, we prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, we saw both of the suspected sites of Golgotha. But, I want to focus on one that doesn’t get much attention, Caiphas’ house.
Caiphas’ house is where Jesus would have spent His last night on Earth. There’s a small cave with a hole at the top, very similar to a dungeon, where He would be let down and brought back up by a rope. Don’t forget the scenario He was in either. One of His best friends had betrayed Him, 10 others ran and hid, and another of His best friends had denied Him. Three times! Have you ever known something terrible was going to happen, but yet there was still nothing you could do about it? Jesus knew that feeling, except He could have done something about it. Jesus felt the pain of abandonment. He knew Judas would betray Him; He knew Peter would deny Him, He knew the 10 others would run and flee. We often read through those passages without really focusing on the context. We think that Jesus felt no pain, no abandonment, no sorrow, but He did. He even said to Peter:
“Do you not think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53)?”
He had the power. He had the ability. He had the reason. Who are we to deserve such a generous gift? Who are we to receive such wonderful grace? It’s ours to accept, but yet we still take up our torches and swords, along with that angry mob that set out to deliver our Lord to his death. But yet, He’s standing there. Stretching out a hand to us to pull us back over to him.
So, Jesus is sitting in this dungeon, knowing what is to come. Knowing the pain, agony, and embarrassment that would come from this terrible way of death on a cross, and He stays there. I’m not sure what all He was doing in that dungeon that night 2,000 years ago, but I know one thing he made the decision to do. Give me a chance.
Despite all of my heartache, all of my hardships, despite all of my flaws, insecurities, and failures, He still sits on that dungeon floor, waiting for a rope to come down from the roof and deliver Him into the hands of those who only seek to destroy Him. Today, I encourage you to step back, take a deep breath, and think about your situation and your own birthday. You were given the very same chance I was given. We’re all faced with a choice each and every day. Jesus had that same choice, and He had a reason to choose one that didn’t end in our favor, but He chose to give me the opportunity to make my own decision.
What will your answer be?