Saturday, October 16, 2010
Suffering, Compassion and Triumph...
Since the city in Herod's time was many meters below the present day street, we did not actually plant our feet where He walked on His journey to the cross, but we did visit locations that commemorated it. In two places, we walked below the surface on the original stones laid before Jesus' time in Jerusalem.
The original Upper Room (pictured at left) was still there as in Jesus' day, and was the place where the disciples and Mary met after the crucifixion (according to tradition) Later, the Holy Spirit came with tongues of fire on those gathered so that the Gospel could be preached in every language. Believers would then have the wisdom of God in their hearts as the Holy Spirit taught them.
The pool of Bethesda, which means, "House of Mercy/Compassion," was next. Here Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, which caused a tremendous uproar with the Pharisees. We found quite a bit of the pool and its stone structure still standing. We were told in some places, the water would have been 40 feet or more. A beautiful herb garden was at one end. I'd like to imagine that while people were waiting for the stirring of the waters so they could be healed, many took advantage of these health giving herbs. Rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender were growing, including a small fig tree, and of course, an olive tree. Just as maple and oak trees grow in Chicago, olive trees are abundant. On many occasions, we saw women picking the olives and placing them in a large plastic sheet to be transported to market.
The Garden Tomb is cared for and run by a group from the UK, and our guide at the site was very definitely a born again Christian. Many times he said, "But we know of course, that He is in the grave no longer...amen? We have that hope!". He was a testimony to every group that came through...
We saw the hill called Gologtha, which looked like a skull carved from its face. Since most crucified bodies were left on the cross to rot, many skulls have been found near the top during excavations. Another reason that makes this site probable, is its location outside the city wall. It is also near a gate (Damascus), and also close to a crossroad which was called "the Jericho Road." These three points are mentioned in Scripture.
The tomb was just below the hill, and was in a beautiful garden...even more beautiful than Gethsemane. There was a small cave hewn in the rock, and inside were four small carved sections in the floor enough for three bodies, which makes it a family tomb. Scripture points out that Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, had it prepared for his family, but was unused at the time of Jesus' death, and so offered to bury there. Above, and to the right of the door, on the face of the tomb, was a tiny opening for light. I just had to ask our guide which direction was east. Sure enough, on that very early Easter morning, when the two Marys visited the tomb, the sun's rays would have shone directly through that window, and onto the empty grave clothes, proving that Christ was no longer in the tomb. He is risen!
We enjoyed a sumptuous farewell dinner, after sharing our thoughts about the trip. Mine centered on the observation that God is protecting and blessing Israel with safety and an abundance of children...they are everywhere. And of course, we all mentioned how the Bible will now come alive as never before.