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One of the highlights of my ministry has been to go to the Holy Land. I’ve gone twice now either with the encouragement of the church, or this last time, with 20 people from my previous church and community.
Each trip has been holy and have included some breathtaking moments. They have included teaching adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, preaching sermons in Israel, and offering communion to pilgrims in Jerusalem. They have also included some hilarity in what I call my classic “Clark Griswald” moments. I had a stress fracture during my first trip for stepping off the bus wrong. In February, I spent the entire trip with both food poisoning and asthma issues.
And I want to go back. I want to go back, because every time I have gone it has opened my eyes more to the life within Scripture. The pages are no longer just words, but are lived out places of life, hope, and struggle. My preaching is better because of my experiences in Israel.
Our passage today, from Luke 10:25-37, is among those that I have a different appreciation for after visiting the Holy Land. The story takes place somewhere between Jerusalem and Jericho. This is same area Jesus would travel throughout the majority of Luke’s gospel on his way to the passion. These two historic cities are separated by almost 20 miles and a vast arid desert.
That desert includes the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The same valley cemented in our minds through the words of Psalm 23. It is a rocky and desolate place, but also features several meandering roads. Those roads were regularly traversed by people wanting to go between Jerusalem and Jericho. It was a dangerous road, because robbers and bandits would hide in between the valley’s ridges waiting to attack unsuspecting travelers. It would not be uncommon to see someone lying on the road left for dead.
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