Friday, March 20, 2015

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked - Part 10

Tuesday, March 3rd, dawned cool but sunny. Our last day in Israel was going to be just as full as the rest of them. We had attended a meeting after dinner the evening before to discuss what we were going to do as far as transportation to the airport. Our tour was going to end early today - around 3pm - so we could return to the hotel and prepare for our trip home. The bus would leave the hotel at 7pm and our 12 hour flight was scheduled to leave at 11:30pm.

We climbed on the bus after breakfast (I still didn't eat the fish) and headed for the Southern wall of the old city. Near the Southeast corner lies the ruins of the ancient City of David, which is considered to be the origin of Jerusalem. It is being excavated slowly, hampered somewhat by the fact that the population of the area is mostly Arab.

As we neared the place we were to depart the bus we passed some excavation being done on the outside of the Southern wall.

We got off the bus a block or two up the street and headed on foot down a side street, arriving at the portion of the excavation that is now open to the public.

Inside were the ever-present olive trees.

The view of the Mount of Olives was impressive, as was the view of the housing area just on the other side of the Kidron valley.

But the secrets of the City of David were underground - or used to be.

The sign explains how the archaeologists dated the site from official document seals found during the excavation.

We headed down some steps to the bottom of the excavation. From here we could see how the homes were built into the hillside. Some of the foundations are original.

The City of David once looked like this (from the model of the old city in Part 9).

We headed back up to the top to watch a short video about the history of the city and the temple. On the outside of the wall was an almond tree. Arden had told me that in her Bible study class she had learned about the almond tree in Israel and how in the springtime it's the only tree that bears seeds (nuts), flowers and leaves all at the same time. Sure enough, it was as she said.

As we walked back up to the bus Arden wanted a picture of our guide and driver. David, our driver is on the left and Yair on the right. The Mount of Olives is in the background. There are not a lot of olives up there anymore.

Next we were headed back up Mount Zion to the church that is built on the very spot where Caiaphas lived. It is a Roman Catholic church called the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu and it is there where Christians and Biblical scholars believe Peter denied knowing Jesus.

We got on the bus and David navigated us through those narrow, crowded streets as he had been doing successfully for the last 7 days. We arrived safely at the church, located on the Eastern slope of Mount Zion.

The front door to the Church in Gallicantu (meaning rooster crows) was ornately carved and painted to depict the scene of Peter denying Christ.

The church itself is simple inside. It doesn't have all the ornate decorations like some of the other churches we had visited. There were murals on the walls, inside and out, depicting various scenes of Christ and/or Peter.

(On the outside wall)

There is a beautiful stained glass cross at the top of the dome ceiling. This picture doesn't do it justice.

The alter is simple yet elegant.

As you move down to the second level of the church you enter another small chapel that is built into the hillside.

Like everything else in Jerusalem, the house of Caiaphas was destroyed and built upon time and time again over the centuries. The old walls and many old rooms, some actual holding cells in the days of Caiaphas, have been uncovered. It is believed that Jesus himself may have been held here and scourged.

(The walls in this room have mounts believed to have been used for restraint)

Various signs throughout the church told us what things were and what had been discovered in the area by archaeologists. (Archaeology is a hard word to type.)

A sculpture of Peter in denial stands in a courtyard off the second level.

(Note the Dome of the Rock in the background)

My favorite thing about the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu wasn't inside. My favorite part was outside. There is an original stone stairway next to the church that was the original pathway from that area, very near to where the Upper Room was, down to the Garden of Gethsemane. These stone stairs, preserved and now protected, would have been the very stairs that Jesus traversed to and from the garden. There are two large wall plaques that depict Jesus going down to the garden and being brought back up to Caiaphas after His arrest.

These stairs were a highlight for me. Once again I literally walked where Jesus walked.

At the top, above the gate in the picture, are six steps that have not been enclosed. I knelt there and put my hand on one of the steps, literally touching a place where our Lord Himself had been.

The group gathered in a courtyard and Dr. Marr read the Biblical passage about Peter denying Christ.

Luke 22:54-62

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

And here I was in the very place where it happened, on the very stairs that our Lord and His disciples had walked. That knowledge was overwhelming.

It was time to move on. We had one more stop to make - one more sight to see. 

There is a small garden just outside the city wall to the North that many believe is the actual place where Jesus was crucified and buried. It is appropriately named "The Garden Tomb."

Our Biblical history professor, Dr. Tolar, says that all archaeological evidence indicates that the site of Jesus' crucifixion was where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher stands today. And that may very well be. But the people at the Garden Tomb make a pretty good case for it being the site instead.

The place of Jesus' crucifixion was called Golgotha, which means The Place of the Skull." To the East of the Garden Tomb, outside the city wall, is a cliff that is at the very end of Mount Moria. In the face of that cliff is an interesting formation of caves and ridges.

Do you see it? 

This picture is from Google. Perhaps it will give you a better mental image:

From a distance, with some imagination, it looks like a skull. Could this be the hill atop which Jesus was crucified? 

In the garden itself is a tomb that many believe is the actual tomb that was used. It is cut into a hillside and would have been created by a wealthy man, such as Joseph of Arimathea. 

On the wall outside the tomb is a cross that was etched in long ago. You can barely see it today because of erosion but it is there.

Inside the tomb is a picture on the wall of what the cross actually looked like.

In front of the tomb is a trough that would have held the stone. The doorway into the tomb is larger than it would have been but chisel marks on the doorway itself indicate that it was enlarged after the fact. 

Inside the tomb were two slabs where bodies would have been laid. In Biblical times a dead body was placed into a tomb until it completely decomposed (I believe it was for three years) then the bones were collected and either buried or, if it was a family tomb, placed in a specific part of the tomb so the slab could be used again. 

The very significance of Jesus being placed in the tomb was that on Sunday morning the stone was rolled back and the tomb was empty. 

The Bible says when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrived at the tomb an angel was sitting on the stone which had been rolled away from the opening. It was at that moment that the prophecy was completely fulfilled.

"He is not here whom you seek, but go quickly tell His disciples and Peter that Jesus has risen," the angel said to them. "Come and see the place where the Lord had been laid."

The empty tomb is what ensured that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Had He still been in the tomb he would have been just a man. His resurrection is what made Him the Savior of the world.

The garden itself was beautiful and there were many things to see. 

(This tree was cut in the shape of a cross)

Various Bible verses were printed on tiles and scattered throughout the garden.

(A fountain in the rock)

(An ancient wine press)

(And a prayer for peace)
(Keith - our official photographer)

Doctor Marr had arranged with the tour company for a private communion service here in the garden. It was the thing that affected me the most during the entire tour.

Sitting in this place, knowing whether our Lord was crucified and buried here or at the other place He did it for me; reminiscing about everything we had done and seen over the last 8 days; walking in the very places where Jesus Himself walked... was overwhelming to the point of tears. I couldn't stop them. I can't write it now without the emotion returning.

I sat quietly with tears streaming down my face as Dr. Marr distributed the bread and the cup(s). I have participated in numerous communion services in my lifetime but never one as meaningful as this one. I don't know if that's good or bad. I suppose they should all be that emotional considering what it means. But there was something special about this one. Something reached deep into my heart and held it....

When we were done we sang a hymn and Dr. Marr invited us to sit and ponder what it meant to us. I was way ahead of him on that one.

Eventually we headed back toward the bus (by way of the gift shop. Did I tell you there was always a gift shop?) Just outside the gift shop on the wall of the building I took a picture of another relic. It didn't date back to Biblical days but it was an antique, nevertheless.

With that it was time to return to the hotel to pack and prepare for our trip home. Dr. Marr decided he might like to drive the bus. Fortunately for us - he was persuaded not to do it...

We arrived at the hotel and stuffed all of our things, including purchases, into our luggage and our bags were picked up by the hotel bellboys at 6pm. We would catch up with them in front of the hotel before they were loaded on the bus.

The dining room allowed us to eat early that night, at 6pm, so we could be on the bus for the airport at 7pm. Our last meal in Israel. The good thing - there was no line. The bad thing - it was our last meal in Israel. 

I ate some hummus. I like hummus anyway but it was served with every meal. But I ate it anyway. (I have been home now for 16 days and haven't had any...) I can't remember anything else that I ate that evening but I did eat hummus.

It was time to leave. Dr. Marr, his wife Tanya, Julie, his secretary, and our photographer, Keith, stayed behind. Dr. Marr wanted to get pictures and video of various things to use in some upcoming sermons. I offered to stay and carry his bags but he said Tanya was responsible for that.

We hugged them all and thanked Dr. Marr for an incredible experience. We waved good-bye and our last bus ride began....

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