Today was all about the walking tour as we set out to travel the old city of Jerusalem. We began at the site believed to be the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Kidron Valley. Yes, there is a church built on the site but as in many places it is where you choose to focus. I looked beyond the church to the garden behind it and for me this was the first station to the cross. For it was here Jesus poured out his heart to the Father alone and there in His Spirit said, 'not my will, but thine, be done.'
We stood at the Lion's Gate which was the beginning of our journey into the old city of Jerusalem. From here we went to look at the pool of Bethesda (Bethsaida) and were reminded of the miracle of healing to the blind man Jesus performed here.
In the Via Dolorosa, (the walk to the cross) the 1st station is the place where Jesus is condemned to death and there is a church situated there along with a church for the second station where it is believed the place where he received the cross piece on his shoulders. From here we continued to walk on the Via Dolorosa taking time to reflect at each station. At one point, we looked up to an archway very similar to one where Pilate would have appealed to the people for their wishes.
This street, turned into a marketplace, comes to a point where you arrive at the church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is a place where you really can't be prepared for what you see. Inside here is nothing like it that I have seen on the tour. With this being the place that the Catholics, Armenians and Greek Orthodox believe that Jesus was crucified, his body anointed and his burial site, it is the shrine of all shrines! First, there are many rituals performed by a series of priests who wave incense and sing at each point. There is a place to bow under an altar at the foot of the cross on the upper level and on the lower level at the place of anointing there is a smooth surface where people kiss and rub oil on and take what they hope is the presence of Jesus back to their countries.
In one way it shows how desirous they are of Christ, but for me it felt so desperate, so superstious, so empty to think that this is how I receive more of Jesus in my life. At the place of his resurrection, once again there is another shrine which the line was too long to walk in, but I could see in where people could ‘pay their honor’ so to speak. Many candles are lit here as a symbol of hope.
After this we stopped for lunch and ate chicken shwarmas at the Fountain Grill and then it was time for us to walk the road to Mount Zion. It is a walk filled with so much history as we learned about the history of the Muslim conquest here after the time of the Crusaders and how the Church of the Dome was built on the Temple Mount basically as a constant reminder of who is in charge here and whose religion is on the top as it obviously stands out with its gold dome above all others.
Upon arriving at the gate to Mount Zion, once again you look history in the eyes as you see the holes in the wall from the war in ’67 when the Israelis took control of this area. We saw a beautiful bronze statue dedicated to King David. We walked up the stairs here where it is believed that this is the site of the Upper Room.
We then walked from here to the most moving part of our tour, The Western (Wailing) Wall. We had to go through a security check point and then we had the opportunity to pray here. The men and women are separated on the wall and as you stand there at the wall, you come face to face with another tradition, the placing of prayers into the cracks of this wall which is the retaining wall of the 2nd temple at the time of Jesus.
As I stood there I placed my hands on the rocks, looking at all the paper bits and brought to a place of prayer myself. The prayer that hit me the most was to bring their strong and ardent desire before God and their longing for Him to answer their prayers. The hope that I prayed into this wall was that those who seek the Lord with all their heart will find Him and that they would find that true rest and their eyes opened to our Messiah, Jesus. After I walked into an enclosed area in the wall where the boys and young men are being taught by their rabbis and where there is a library of many books. In one place, I noticed a large group of them all gathered around a scroll to read.
I thought of the verses that I read this morning as I observed,
Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
so that I may honor you.
With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
I will give glory to your name forever,
The ultimate glory is discovering that we are Christ’s glory as Jesus prays for us in His high priestly prayer.
This evening Mom and I finished our day by walking to the Damascus Gate and saw the market in action.
Tomorrow we are off to float in the Dead Sea!