Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
Days such as this one need to be set aside for future discussion, prayer and revisits.
We spent the day in the Old City of Jerusalem, whose wall is right outside the front door of our hotel. We walked in through the Damascus Gate. Through the narrow and ancient walkways that featured merchants of every type trying to sell their wares.
We had to go through two security checkpoints to get to a ramp that took us up to the historic Temple Mount, perhaps the holiest religious site in the Old City. It is a site that has fed much of the Arab-Israeli strife and is currently under the authority of the Kingdom of Jordan. Solomon’s Temple was built there and it’s the site where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, by binding him to an altar. An angel from God interceded.
Muslims believe it is the site where Muhammad was transported faster than lightning from Mecca. The site includes the golden-domed Dome of the Rock as well as the al-Aqsa Mosque, both open only to Muslims due to violence by Jewish ultra orthodox extremists. In fact, there is resentment whenever Jews come to the Temple Mount, as we witnessed when a group of about 15 Jews – under police guard – appeared and Muslims chanted loudly in opposition. There was no confrontation however.
Father Kamall told us that during Ramadan, more than 600,000 Muslims gather at the Temple Mount.
We were surprised to hear a familiar name over and over again. While we were at this 3rd most holy site for people of the Islamic faith, we kept hearing the name of Jesus. Yes, Jesus, the Christ. We saw a special palm tree, planted in Jesus’ name. We walked by The Dome of Judgement, where, according to the Muslim faith, Jesus will and judge the world on the last day. We also saw the Dome of the Prophets, where all the prophets of Islam are in constant conversation and dialogue about what the Holy Scriptures say. And the primary prophet, in the Islamic faith, the one who explains the Holy Scriptures to all the other protests, including the Prophet Mohammed . . . is Jesus.
We left the Temple Mount and walked down to St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church, built in the 12th Century. Immediately outside the church is the site of the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the blind man who had been there for 38 years, displaying to all that the outcast and the excluded are invited in and included in God’s Kingdom. The church is known for its amazing acoustics, so our group gathered in the center and sang the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” We sounded pretty good.
If you’d like to hear the acoustics from St. Anne . . . please watch the video below
From there, we went to the courtyard that leads to the Western Wall, known also as the Wailing Wall. This is all that remains from the 2nd Temple, and it is only the largest stones near the bottom that actually date back to the time of Herod the Great. There is a place on the right where women are welcome to go but the rest of the wall is for men only. We were able to walk down to the wall, and some of us approached the wall to pray. Part of the wall is inside a tunnel area and many Jews were in there reading and praying. Many others were outside at the wall.
It was time for lunch and we ate at a restaurant that served us falafel in pita bread. It contained, lettuce, onions, potato, and who knows what else. It was tasty.
This set us up for the day’s highlight. We walked up a long series of steps to the courtyard outside the Church of the Resurrection, built in the 12th Century on the site where Jesus was crucified, anointed, buried in a crypt, and risen to life again.
Inside the front door is a large stone of anointment to represent where Jesus was prepared for burial. Father Kamall told us it wasn’t the original though. But he pointed to a spot one level up that was Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified.
He then took us to the area that led to the tomb, although the actual tomb is eight meters below that site. This large memorial tomb was built in the early 1800’s when an earthquake damaged the one dating from the time of the crusaders.
He then led us to an open area that was once the garden where Mary Magdalene first encountered the risen Jesus, whom she at first mistook for a gardener. Today it is a stone floor with stone walls around it.
We also went to the area where Jesus’ cross was found but it eventually was lost when the church was destroyed in 1009 A.D.
The only thing left to see was the crucifixion site. We walked us a short flight of stairs where the site is located, brightly lit. It is a surreal experience to sit on the floor in front of the site and comprehend what you are seeing and experiencing.
It was a time of prayer. And please, in your prayers, continue to
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6