Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 23, 2009

Jerusalem | Day 1

Mount of Olives | On the afternoon of March 15, we left Bethlehem and headed to the Mount of Olives, located east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. The Mount of Olives is approximately 325 feet higher than the Temple area and offers a panoramic view of Jerusalem. So, this was the perfect place to get oriented and from which to begin our walking tour of Jerusalem. The western slope of the ridge is a cemetery now completely covered with tombs. It is likely that this same area was covered with olive trees in the first century. From our high vantage point we walked to the nearby walled road that tradition holds is the route of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Sanctuary of Dominus Flevit (Latin for “the Lord wept”) is a small tear-shaped church located half way down the slopes of the Mount of Olives. It commemorates the place where Jesus stopped and wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).

My Prayer | Lord, I am sorry that I don’t weep for my community the way Jesus wept for Jerusalem. Please give me greater perspective and help me to see clearly the people among whom I live. Help me to understand where and to whom they are looking for answers to life’s deeper questions and to be prepared to give an answer concerning the hope that is within me.

Olive Tree at Gethsemane

Olive Tree at Gethsemane

Gethsemane | Before entering the city, we stopped at the traditional location of Gethsemane. This is where Jesus went after the Last Supper and where He asked His disciples to “keep watch” as He prayed (Matt. 26:38). As we sat among the gnarled, ancient olive trees, it was not hard to imagine what that night must have been like as Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48) and Peter cut off the right ear of Malchus, the slave of the high priest (John 18:10).

The name Gethsemane is derived from the Hebrew words “gat” (a place for pressing) and “shemanim” (oils). The Greek word “thlipsis” means great pressure and describes the point where crushed olives were placed on a press under heavy stone slabs. This intense pressure squeezed the olive oil out of the pulp. Jesus was under such intense pressure at Gethsemane that “His sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). Soon He would feel the full weight of the sins of the world as He hung on the cross.

My Prayer | Lord, help me to not complain when I find myself under great pressure — at the place where thlipsis happens, between a rock and a hard place. Help me to understand how you use thlipsis to bring out qualities in my life that otherwise would remain hidden. Thank you for your commitment to conform me into the image of your Son (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 1:6) and for using thlipsis to make it happen (Rom. 5:3).

Praying at Bethesda

Praying at Bethesda

Pool of Bethesda | The Pool of Bethesda was unearthed by archaeologists in 1956. This pool is located near the Sheep Gate and the Temple Mount. It was also known as the Sheep Pool because the water from this pool was used to wash sheep, which were sacrificed in the Temple. Archaeologists have also found evidence of a nearby temple to Asclepius, the Roman god of medicine. In Jesus’ day, “those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered” (John 5:3) gathered at this place, attracted by the hope of being healed when “an angel of the Lord … stirred up the water” (John 5:4).

When Jesus visited the Pool of Bethesda, He saw a disabled man who had suffered for thirty-eight years (John 5:5). This man was within sight of the healing waters but had no one to help him into the pool (John 5:7). Of all the sick and disabled people gathered around the pool, Jesus found the one person who could not help himself and then helped him. Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath. The most meaningful part of our visit to the Pool of Bethesda was spending time in prayer there. Each of us prayed for people we know who are trapped in infirmities, dealing with desperate needs, and struggling to keep hardships from prying hope from their hands.

My Prayer | Lord, give me your eyes to help me see those around me who live each day in debilitating pain — both physical and emotional. Help me to remember that “even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief” (Prov. 14:13). Please use me to offer the balm of encouragement to others and to guide the hurting to you.

sign-via-dolorosa1Via Dolorosa | The Pool of Bethesda is near the beginning of the Via Dolorosa, a Latin term that means “Way of Suffering.” The Via Dolorosa is a street in the old city of Jerusalem that tradition holds was the path Jesus walked on His way to the crucifixion. Today, this path is lined with vendors and choked with a torrent of humanity. As we navigated our way through the crowds, I tried to imagine what it must have been like for those who watched Jesus walk and stumble along this path — with every painful step taking Him closer to an excruciating death for the sins of mankind.

My Prayer | Lord, thank you for walking the Via Dolorosa because of me and for me.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre | The Via Dolorosa ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church is built on the rock of Golgotha. In Jesus’ day, this place was located outside the city walls. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built over both Golgotha, or Calvary, and the tomb where He was buried. While we were taught in Sunday School that Jesus was crucified on top of Golgotha, it is more likely that He was crucified at street level because the Romans wanted for passersby to see their victims at eye level so that they might serve as examples.

As we walked through the massive Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I was reminded of a poem written by George MacLeod that helps put the cross into perspective:

  I simply argue that the cross be raised again
  at the center of the market place
  as well as on the steeple of the church,
  I am recovering the claim that
  Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral
  between two candles:
  But on a cross between two thieves;
  on a town garbage heap;
  At a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan
  that they had to write His title
  in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek…
  At the kind of place where cynics talk smut,
  and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.
  Because that is where He died,
  and that is what He died about.
  And that is where Christ’s men ought to be,
  and what church people ought to shout.

My Prayer | Lord, thank you for paying the penalty for my sin and for your gift of eternal life. Thank you for those who shared the story of your love with me. Please help me to faithfully share your story with others.


Responses

  1. Thank you very much, for the histories of Jerusalem | Day 1. I am keep learning from your post & I am looking those verses- from my bengali bible!

    Luke 19:41-44
    Matt. 26:38
    Luke 22:47-48
    John 18:10
    Luke 22:44
    Rom 8:29
    Phil. 1: 6
    Rom: 5:3
    John 5:3-7
    Prov. 14: 13

    Thanks once again.
    Mortuza
    Bangladesh


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