Though the locals call it the City of David, this ancient
neighborhood long predates the era of King David. Said to be the oldest part of
Jerusalem, the City of David’s walls date back to the ninth century before
Christ. Jerusalem’s first permanent residents fortified their city in a way
that ensured an ample supply of clean water and that offered them protection
against northern invaders. Solomon expanded Jerusalem’s walls, as did the
Romans, the Ottomans, and the Crusaders. We studied city walls in Capernaum and
Megiddo, and two different sets of them in Bethsaida.
The trouble with most of these walls is that we could
visit only their ruins. Ancient wisdom held that the cities with the strongest walls
would endure the longest. Perhaps they did, but they did not endure forever.
All of their walls were ultimately toppled.
The arc of history is long, and very little is truly
permanent. What has endured are not the fortifications of powerful men, but the
teachings of a man who had almost no earthly strength, a man who told his
followers to turn the other cheek and put away their swords. Jesus sought not
to fortify lands, but to soften hearts, and his example has long outlived him.
Most of the buildings that Jesus inhabited have been
lost, and most of the open spaces he knew have been filled in, but his message
is just as relevant today as it has ever been. We seem to spend so much time
building walls, of both the literal and metaphorical varieties, while our
history shows that they will all someday be toppled. Perhaps the Prophet Isaiah
puts it best, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God
will stand forever.”
Cindy Straton pointed out how beautiful it was for us to
leave Jerusalem under the cover of darkness and to see the sun rise over
Manhattan while we waited on our connecting flight in Newark. One day had
ended, and another had begun. Our time away was over, and the often challenging
work of coming down the mountain, of returning home as transfigured people, was
only just beginning.
Every dawn heralds a new day and an infinite supply of
new possibilities, but this morning’s sunrise especially so. My prayer is that our
time away will inspire us to be heart-softeners rather than wall-builders, and
that our example will inspire others to do the same.