Saturday, June 16
Scripture Reading: Luke 19: 28-48
It’s difficult to believe, but each day of this pilgrimage gets better and more emotional. Today was especially touching as we saw what Jesus really went through in His “suffering” for us even before going to the cross.
Our first stop was the Mount of Olives from which Jesus ascended into heaven. More importantly this is where Revelation says He will return. Below is the Kidron Valley. Jesus traveled through this valley many times on His way from Jerusalem to Bethany. We walked down the steep path which would have been the trail Jesus rode the donkey into the city on Palm Sunday. King David also fled from his son Absalom through the Kidron Valley. It is prophesied this will be the Valley of Judgment when Jesus returns and will run deep with blood.
The Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer) is one of my favorites of the trip so far. Mosaics from 168 languages represent the Lord’s Prayer in the major languages of the world. It reminds me that God will be praised by every tongue and every nation and makes me long for that day and His kingdom to come. It is built around a cave where it is said Jesus taught His disciples to pray.
The Garden of Gethsemane is a beautiful, peaceful place filled with olive trees and flowers. It’s easy to understand why Jesus came here to pray before His trial began. The Lord Wept Chapel here is designed in the shape of a teardrop. There are four vases in the corners representing catch basins for tears which have dried leaving salt behind in the vessel.
The name “Gethsemane” means olive press. This is appropriate not only for the olive trees in the garden but also because Jesus was under such intense stress He experienced a medical phenomenon called hematohidrosis–sweating blood. The Rock of Agony where it is said Jesus prayed is now in the Church of All Nations. There is one tree in the garden that is estimated to be between 2200 to 2800 years old which would have been when Jesus was here.
Judas Iscariot was paid thirty silver coins to betray Jesus–the amount paid for a slave.
Our next stop was The Upper Room. This isn’t the real place of the Last Supper but a room similar to where it would have taken place. Jesus and the disciples would have been seated in a U shape with Jesus as the host seated on the left side second from the end. The place to Jesus right is the place of the protector–John. The seat to the left of Jesus was where the guest of honor would sit. This would have been Judas.
Four cups of wine would be served representing sanctification and judgment served before the meal, the third cup of salvation would be given after the meal. The fourth cup is the cup of praise which believers will drink in heaven. Likewise the bread would be stacked three on top of each other–the top represents God the creator, the middle is the high priest–Jesus to us, and the bottom is humanity.
There is a beautiful bronze sculpture in this room that was a gift from Pope John Paul II. It is an olive tree with three trunks twined together representing the holy trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are thirty-three branches which are cut off short meaning the thirty-three years of Jesus earthly life that were cut short. Stalks of grain and grapevines wind up around the tree representing the bread and wine.
Below this room is a memorial for the tomb of David–again not the authentic tomb. Our guide, Johnny told us a story about King David having a secret room in the palace where he would go once every month. No one knew what was in the room. After he died when the room was opened there was a bag containing his clothes he wore as a shepherd. Legend says he humbled himself every month by removing all of his kingly robes and putting on the shepherd’s clothing to remind himself of God’s goodness to him.
We traveled on to the home of the high priest Caiaphas. The beautiful carved door leading in was carved by Jews, Muslims and Christians. Oh that we could all live together cooperatively like this work was done. Notice the rooster representing Jesus prophesy that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed.
There was no death penalty in Israel during Jesus’ time nor is there today. This is why Jesus had to be tried and convicted by Pilate under Roman law.
Under this church were caves and dungeon-like rooms. Jesus was bound and taken down to this area. His clothes were stripped. His arms and legs were tied apart. A whip, probably a cat of nine tails, with shards of glass tied into the ropes would be used for the blows–twelve on each shoulder, twelve on the back of the neck and three on the chest. To increase the torment, when the whip was snapped onto the skin it was then dragged downwards tearing the flesh from the body.
The full understanding of Jesus’ suffering became vivid in this place. It’s easy to become complacent about what our Savior did for us. We repeat the words in the Apostles Creed every Sunday–He suffered under Pontius Pilate. Being in this place, realizing the pain and torment anyone would suffer was hard enough. To know that Jesus was totally and completely innocent without any sin but did this out of love for me was almost too much to take in.
We went into a pit further underground where Jesus would have been sent after the beating. Pastor Brian read the prophetic Psalm 88 (ESV). “I am counted among those who go down into the pit, I am like one without strength.” It was a solemn and powerful moment.
Coming outside we saw steps which are the original which Jesus would have walked up to Golgotha where He would suffer more and be crucified.
We left Jerusalem and journeyed back to Bethlehem to the Shepherd’s field. During the days of Jesus, the shepherds lived in caves in the winter and tents in the summer. Before going to the temple for holy days, these shepherds would leave their sheep for four weeks to purify themselves. Some shepherds only required two weeks but these would have been tending the sacrificial lambs so the highest care was taken for purity. In the cave where the shepherds stayed is a simple altar. This field was the same one which Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, gleaned and Boaz owned.
We were treated to lunch in a tent over looking the field.
After lunch we journeyed to the small village of Bethany where Jesus often visited the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. There is a small chapel, the Sanctuary of Bethany which commemorates the friendship between Jesus and Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
We saw a culture dichotomy in Bethany. The area of the chapel is quiet and peaceful. As we walked back to the bus, children were playing on the sidewalk with toy guns and tanks that looked very realistic. Our tour guide explained that this is what they have grown up around and they don’t know any different.
It was a good day, but emotionally draining.
Lord Jesus–words cannot begin to express the overwhelming gratitude for your sacrifice through, not just your death, but unbelievable suffering you endured, all out of love for me. Help me, Lord, every day to remember that love and to be reminded that every person I meet is someone you died to save. Give me boldness, Lord, and fill me with your Holy Spirit to share your grace and love with others. In your precious name I pray. Amen.