Reflecting on the Resurrection
This morning we made our way from the quiet Jewish community on Shabbat (the Sabbath) to the craziness of the Mount of Olives. This is the most popular Jewish cemetery in all of the world and tourist from all over were there. Why is this the most popular? Because it’s many people’s desire to be in Jerusalem at the resurrection. In fact, Jewish people in other lands are buried with their feet towards Jerusalem. Many Biblical events occurred here. This is where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, began His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, gave The Olivet Discourse, ascended to heaven after His resurrection and this is the place where He will return.
Continuing down the hill of the Mount of Olives, we were able to spend some time in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here after the Passover meal that Jesus went to pray. Think of how we feel after a big thanksgiving meal—we’re very full and tired and looking for a place to relax and catch a nice nap. I’m sure that is how the disciples felt after the Passover meal but Jesus knew that He was about to be arrested and separated from the Father for the first time in all of eternity. The anguish He must have felt—the few disciples that went with him couldn’t stay awake, they had not grasped what was about happen. The purpose of Jesus, His entire mission was about to come to fruition. I know I often read these passages and quickly focus on the events after the resurrection—the part where Jesus died for my sins. But this morning I was able to take time to stop and reflect on what Jesus went through and that He did it for us.
Leaving Gethsemane we walked up to the eastern wall through the only gate on this side, the Lion Gate. We visited the site of the Pool of Bethesda where in John 5, Jesus healed the paralytic man on the Sabbath.
At the same site is St. Anne’s church, where Catholic tradition sites this as the place of the birth of Mary. I must confess, I didn’t have much interest in this church but our group entered and spent about 10 minutes singing. The acoustics here were amazing and I am not a singer. Whatever the lowest musical gift is, mine is even lower. But even though I can’t carry a tune, I really enjoyed singing here.
While we are all still very much enjoying the sites we are seeing and the history we are learning, I’m sensing we are getting slightly tired and I just can’t image why! We’ve walked more than 20 to 25 miles in the last few days. I laughed thinking about sitting at my desk 6 to 7 hours a day. This is much different than my normal routine.
I know I’ve mentioned the challenge I’ve had trying to grasp the lay of the land here in Jerusalem. At the Shrine of the Book there was the most welcoming sight—a huge replica of Jerusalem! This model was built as a memorial by a man whose son died in the War of Independence. It was also given as a model to teach the lay of the land to people like us. Because Jerusalem changed over the years the model was based upon Jerusalem around 66 AD, when it was at its peak architecturally. Also here at the museum is a display of the Dead Sea scrolls and other artifacts found in the Qumran caves. The museum has an amazing design to resemble the jars the scrolls were discovered in.
This is the first time in almost 20 years that our Up to Jerusalem tour was able to visit Bethlehem. Since 1995, Bethlehem has been considered part of the West Bank under Palestinian control. With a population of 200,000, 90% are Sunni Muslim and the other 10% are made up of 8 Christian groups.
We were able to walk inside a cave and there we read the passage in Luke 2 regarding the birth of Jesus. Pastor Rich Schmidt reminded us of the importance of verse 2, a sign will be given and we understand the significance of that sign by looking back that it was in these fields where Micah prophesied of the first coming of the King (Micah 4:8 & 5:2). The shepherds in this field were the priestly shepherds who prepared the lambs that would be used in the temple sacrifices. The lambs were born and inspected to be sure they were without blemish and then wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in mangers. When the shepherds were told of the sign to look for in Luke 2, the sight of Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger would have been a sign of just who this newborn Baby was. Amazing!
Links where we visited today:
Mount of Olives & Garden of Gethsemane: https://www.bibleplaces.com/mtolives/
St. Anne’s Church: http://www.seetheholyland.net/church-of-st-anne/
Shrine of the Book: http://www.seetheholyland.net/shrine-of-the-book/