Though Israel is the birthplace of the gospel, the Israelis do not recognize Jesus Christ as the Savior for all men. They are awaiting the Messiah's coming. Dr. Jaerock Lee, in order to awaken Israel, started his 777-day Israeli ministry on July 23, 2007 and completed his mission by conducting the 2009 Israel United Crusade in Jerusalem on September 6th and 7th, 2009. In commemoration of the event, we are going to have the pilgrimage of the Holy Land and survey the footsteps of the Lord Jesus at the four issues of Manmin News. We wish anyone who reads this issue will reflect on the love of God who sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, on our behalf.
Bethlehem, the Hometown of King David and the Birthplace of Jesus
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank, approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath, which means "fertile" (Genesis 35:19, 48:7; Micah 5:2). As prophesied in Micah 5:2, "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel," it was exactly fulfilled in Matthew 2:1 and Luke 2:15 through Jesus' being born in Bethlehem. Three magi followed a very bright star and arrived in Bethlehem, and worshiped Jesus the Baby giving Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh as the celebration offering (Matthew 2:9-11). The meaning of Bethlehem is the 'House of Meat' in Hebrew and 'House of Bread' in Greek. Jesus said in John 6:51, "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." About 2,000 years ago, Jesus put on a human form and was born in Bethlehem to become the life-giving bread for mankind.
The Church of the Nativity Marked as the Birthplace of Jesus and the Door of Humility
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is the oldest church still in use in the Holy Land and commemorates the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The first evidence of a cave in Bethlehem being venerated as Christ's birthplace is in the writings of Justin Martyr around 160 AD. The tradition is also attested by Origen and Eusebius in the 3rd century. In 326 AD, Constantine and his mother St. Helena commissioned a church to be built over the cave. This first church, dedicated on May 31, 339, had an octagonal floor plan and was placed directly above the cave. The Constantinian church was destroyed by Justinian in 530 AD, who built the much larger church that remains today. The Door of Humility, a small rectangular entrance to the church, was created in Ottoman times to prevent carts being driven in by looters, and to force even the most important visitor to dismount from his horse as he entered the holy place. The basilica is a rectangle 53.9m long, the nave is 26.2m wide, and the transept is 35.82m. Entering the Church, one can notice 4 rows of pillars, 44 in total, 6 meters high, and made of the white-veined red stone of the country. Stairways on two sides of the basilica lead down to the Grotto and meet at the Altar of the Nativity. The floor beneath the Altar is incased in white marble, where, fitted into the paving, shines a 14-pointed silver star marking the exact spot of Jesus' birth. Of the 15 lamps burning around the recess, six belong to the Greeks, five to the Armenians and four to the Latins.
In the Midst of the Fiercest Conflicts and Spiritual Stagnation
Bethlehem was administered by the British Mandate from 1920 until 1948. In the United Nations General Assembly's 1947 resolution to partition Palestine, Bethlehem was included in the special international enclave of Jerusalem to be administered by the United Nations. Jordan annexed the city during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and retained control of the city until the Six-Day War in 1967. After that Bethlehem was occupied by Israel, along with the rest of the West Bank. On December 21, 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem, and three days later the city came under the complete administration and military control of the Palestinian National Authority in conformance with the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since 1995, Bethlehem has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority. During the Second Palestinian Intifada, which began in 2000-01, Bethlehem's infrastructure and tourism industry were severely damaged. In 2002, it was a primary combat zone in Operation Defensive Shield, a major military offensive by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). For these various reasons, it is not easy for the dwellers in Bethlehem to come out and very strict for visitors to pass the immigration process. It is often said that the population of Palestine including the city of Bethlehem was 100% Christian believers in the early church days. Today, Christians in Palestine comprise less than 5% of Palestinians living within the borders of former Mandate Palestine and an estimate at 40% of all Palestinians worldwide, around 3 million people. In 1947, Palestine's population was approximately 40 percent Christian, one of the largest Christian minorities in the Middle East. In 2005, it was known that Christians make up between 40,000 and 90,000 people, or 2.1 to 3.4% of the population of the Palestinian territories. The number of Muslims in Palestine has continually increased, and Christianity has only the name of 2-3% of the population. That's why many pastors are in doubts and distress and do not have the assurance in doing the ministries in Palestine. One of their problems is that they have severe difficulty finding wedding and burial places because they should petition to Arabian officials who supervise the burial lands but cannot afford to pay for the burial places even after they are allowed for them. Christianity has since declined and the number of Christians has decreased. They also have to suffer from much danger because of frequent persecutions. So, the residents in Palestine do not want to follow Christianity and Christians are leaving there.
The Special 2007 Christmas Celebration Service Offered in Bethlehem by Dr. Jaerock Lee
In July, 2007, Dr. Jaerock Lee initiated his 3-year Israeli ministry in Nazareth. In October that same year he visited Bethlehem and had a fellowship meeting with many pastors. The pastors invited him to lead the 2007 Christmas celebration service in Bethlehem on December 24 and 25. At the service he said, "This third trip was very special. On Christmas Day, Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind was proclaimed once again not only on this earth, but also in the spiritual realm as well. It had a great spiritual meaning. Because it would have to acknowledge its defeat once again, just how much would the enemy devil hate this? It was also an amazing occasion in which the name of God the Father and the name of the Lord received glory in the whole universe." On the 2007 Christmas day, in the city of Bethlehem where Jesus was born, Dr. Lee declared Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind, and gave glory to the name of God once again. The pastors in Bethlehem who attended the worship service confessed Dr. Lee's ministry in Bethlehem was a sign of God revealed by Him for those of them who have been abandoned with nobody's attention. When Dr. Lee testified to the providence of God for Israel and his plan for the Israeli evangelization, those pastors were greatly encouraged and became assured that God has been fulfilling His plan for them, too. They also witnessed many healing works of God and experienced the anointing power of the holiness gospel so that they could possess the confidence in doing the ministry at their churches and harbor the hope for the future. Since then, the churches in Bethlehem have been experiencing revivals and becoming united.