Journey to Iraq through Israel & Holy Week: How to Avoid The Worst Fool’s Joke Ever

It wasn’t like the whole thing was some elaborate April’s Fool’s Day joke  —

or, you know, just a backdrop to a bunch of hopping bunnies, pastel bows tied suspiciously around their necks.

Go to Israel in the weeks before Easter.

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Go to Israel and stand in Capernaum, what was called Jesus “hometown” (Mt 9:1; Mk 2:1), and it’s not like some ridiculous prank of history where the smirking young tour guide walks around and jauntily tries to pull it off dead pan this pulling your leg:

“Yeah, our Homeboy Jesus, He walked right across the waves right here and, if you look over there, that’s where He raised a girl from the dead and cast out a demon or two.”

It’s not like the whole town of Capernaum is some manufactured theme park taking your tickets or that this whole story of Jesus is just a preface to the real event of a good old-fashioned Easter Egg hunt, a big hunk of milk chocolate and some new Easter dresses.

I’d stood like a fool for a long time in the synagogue at Capernaum, trying to compute —

It’s all real.

This is a visited planet for crying out loud.

The King of the Universe stood right here in this synagogue and said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who believes in me hungers no more and thirsts no more — ever.(Jn 6:35)

Why in the world not believe?

No joke — “God with us,” Emmanuel, He came to live in a house in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, and more brazen miracles were performed here than on any other place on the planet.

The Maker of Heaven and Earth showed up here looking like the guy next door, and just, oh, you know — resurrected Jairus’s daughter from the catatonic dead and healed the nobleman’s son, the demoniac, Peter’s mother-in-law, the woman with the hemorrhage, the two blind men, the centurion’s servant, the dumb demoniac, and the paralytic who was lowered through the roof by his friends.

Every day we get to make it our holy work to hold the corner of a mat and move someone into the presence of God.

He’s here. And God-wearing-this-coat-of-skin, turns on the street corner and looked into the eyes of Capernaum: “If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matt. 11:23-24).

Turns out? Apathy is far more foolish than even immorality. Sodom may have been immoral — but Capernaum was indifferent.
Cold-heartedness is a greater foolishness than evil-heartedness.
Our greatest foolishness, and God’s greatest injury — is that we ignore God in God’s world.

You can feel it, right? There are miracles happening.

The robins have come back and they remember how to sing.

There’s light caught in the curtains by the sink.

We keep finding each other and holding on to each other and believing we belong to each other, no matter what the headlines say. We are reaching out and touching each other. We are filling the expanse of our lungs even right now.

We are breathing in amazing grace and it’s not of this earth. I’m standing where God preached sermons and all I want to do is write it on my flimsy hands: Don’t miss these miracles.

Don’t live in your Capernaum and not notice. Don’t be a foolish Capernaumite.

Don’t ever be fooled: No immorality injures God or your soul like everyday indifference does.

Somebody told me that looking back, theirs wasn’t really the sin of discriminating against freedoms or indiscriminate freedom — but simply of indifference. They’d just always passed down the other side of the street and left God and all His faces waiting in the rain.

Somebody told me that Capernaum means Village of Comfort. Of course —  it was Jesus’ hometown.  There’s comfort wherever we look for God where we doubt He is. 

Somebody told me that these were the foundations of all the houses in Capernaum and right there, that was Peter’s house right over there.

I stood there thinking how God-with-skin-on kept knocking on all these doors, suffering fools gladly.

And all the latches of all our doors are on the inside — we control the opening.

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When we get to the Mount of Beatitudes, we sit with that overlooking the water:

When God-with-skin-on came down, He was the fool who not only humbled Himself & became one of us

He humbled Himself by coming down to literally the lowest place on earth, to the Sea of Galilee, below sea level, to the Rift Valley, to the depths of the earth, a break right into the very earth.

Then we sat there and read His Go-Lower words, right on the very hill were God spoke them:

Blessed are the meek… Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who are persecuted… .

and we stood there like fools and prayed to always Go Lower...

That those words of His would get right into the very broken depths of us.

Because as clear as you know your name, you could feel it up there on the Mount of Beatitudes — you could feel the Wild, Foolhardy Revolution of it all: 

It’s a circle, this cycle: We begin Broken — we begin with our hands reaching up for Him: the poor in spirit and mourning and meek and the hungry starved for even just a bit of goodness and righteousness.

And it’s right in our brokenness, that He meets us and so overwhelmingly blesses us with Belovedness — that we break our blessings like bread and reach out and give them to more of the broken: mercy, pure hearts, peace making.

And exactly in that place of being the Broken Givers — that we are hurt and wounded and persecuted and find ourselves back to reaching back up for Him

This is this foolish cycle of the Beatitudes, the Cycle of Blessings — the Broken reaching up to Him for Blessings —  who are picked up and Blessed and sent out to break and giving their blessings, reaching out to more of the Broken who need to be picked up — and then the Broken Givers find themselves wounded and hurt and reaching back up to the Beloved to be picked up and blessed again.

It looks foolish… it looks stark mad and ravingly foolish but….  this is the cycle of the Beatitudes, where we begin Broken,
meet the Beloved,
we break and give away and share the blessings of Belovedness,
and find ourselves back aching and in great hungering, broken need for even more of the Beloved. 

This cycle of brave brokenness is known by another, lesser known name:

The Revolution of Breaking Free. 

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When we came down from the Mount of Beatitudes and put our bare feet right into the Sea of Galilee —  you could feel the cool relief that it’s about high time and not a day too late for your life to get out of this indifference boat.

God stepped right over the walls of this little busted-up world and He startled us stark-awake out of our drowsy indifference with a thousand little miracles of His presence because now is the time for the Kingdom to Come and there to be this cycle of Blessings, this Revolution of Breaking Free.

Cause we’re not playing here — we’re not fooling, we’re not joking, and for God’s literal sake, we’re not making this all only about bunny rabbits and flowery eggs and pretty pastels and the best price for some chocolate-shaped duck. 

The Maker and King and God of the Universe showed up. 

God is here. 

The cosmic tables are turned, the planet’s been visited and God has moved in and all the sad things are becoming undone, and the joke is on the naysayers, the cynics, the indifferents, and all the bloody dark.

Because we can stand here in the middle of Holy Week, in the middle of April’s Fools Day, in the middle of a planet that feels more and more like it’s going painfully mad — and it’s real and it happened and it’s no joke: 

God is more than theology — He stepped into literal geography to have literal personal intimacy.

When God-with-skin-on spoke those words on the Mount of Beatitude, when He heaved that Cross onto His back in Jerusalem and walked the Via Dolorosa,  what He wanted was this:  Jesus wants the closeness of His intimacy to touch us — and our intimacy with Him touch the lives of every person we touched.

Before I’d left that edge, I’d stood on the shore and threw a stone out into the waters of the Sea of Galilee —

and you could see it —

the rings widening further and further out like the rippling of a revolution.

 

Related: A Journey to Iraq through Israel & Holy Week: 5 Ways to Make Every Conflict Bear Fruit instead of Grudges
Journey through Israel to Iraq: How There Can Be Hope in Our Hidden Hells

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