Day Ten: Via Dolorosa and the Shrine of the Book
Today we walked the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering. Essentially we traced the path Jesus took from the Mount of Olives where he was arrested all the way to the place where he was crucified and buried. We had a couple really awesome teachings from Rich and Jeff as we made made our way through the city. However, the thing that left the biggest impression on me came from an off-hand remark from our Israeli guide Ronen at the Church of the Holy Sepluchre. The church is split between three major denominations—Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic—and three “lesser” denominations—Egyptian Copts, Syriacs and Ethiopians—and they don’t always get along. We went through the church and saw the traditionally believed places where Jesus had been crucified and buried. People from all over the world were there, touching and experiencing all the different holy relics.
After we had a chance to walk through the church, we met in the courtyard to talk about its history. At the end of the talk Ronen pointed at an old wooden ladder that was sitting on a balcony above the church’s main entrance. He explained that one night in 1850 someone had tried to use the ladder to break into the church. However, the intruder was scared off and left the ladder leaning on the balcony. The six different Christian denomonations, who don’t get along very well in the first place, all blamed each other for the break in. They disagreed so intensely about who was responsible and who should move it that the ladder has stayed right where it was left for over 150 years. At first I kind of laughed because it sounded so ridiculous. However after a couple minutes of thinking I began to realize how applicable this lesson is to me as a Joshua student. I have just finished a ten-day tour of the Holy Land and am about to finish a year-long program of intense Biblical study and Christian disicipleship. It will be so easy to become like one of those denomonations, taking what I have learned and experienced and then thinking that I have a monopoly on all truth about God. I think it was fitting that this came at the end of the Via Dolorosa, the journey that is the foundation of my faith. I know about and have now seen with my own eyes the place where Christ’s redemptive work of forgiveness for all mankind took place. I want to be the kind of Christ-follower that lives out of that truth and not the truths that men make up for themselves. I don’t want to let ladders stay on my balcony.
Later in the day, our tour guides led us to the Shrine of the Book, where only several of the hundreds of scrolls, hidden by a community called the Essenes, found in the caves in Qumran. This building was incredible. Constructed in 1965, this unique building looks like a large onion laying next to a large black wall. An interpretation of this symbolizes the scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness, a whole story of two armies going at each other that the Essenes wrote about. This building was designed to look like a cave to represent the caves the scrolls were found in. As we entered, the ground declined and all along the black walls there were artifacts that were excavated around Qumran. As we walked deeper and deeper into the shrine, we learned more and more about the way of life for the Essenes, a small close-knit community that lived together and studied the scripture together. Suddenly the cave opened up into a circular room. Around the perimeter of the room were eight examples of different kinds of writings found. Raised on a platform in the centre of the onion was a larger-than-life wooden scroll and wrapped around it was a replica of the entire book of Isaiah written in the first century. It was very powerful to realize, after our tour guide explained in detail, how big of a deal finding these ancient manuscripts was. It proved the accuracy of biblical transcription and gave even more validity to the writings of the Old Testament. It was awesome to see where they were preserved for 2,000 years at Qumron and then get to see the scrolls themselves in Jerusalem. Ronen impressed on us the value it has for the literate Hebrew as well. It is special for someone who has studied and invested in the Bible and its original language to be able to read it exactly as it was over 1,000 years ago. He half-jokingly, half-seriously said that he would be very proud and happy if we learned the Hebrew language ourselves.
Hey, friends and family!
On behalf of all the Joshua staff, it has been a pleasure touring the Holy Land with your students. Thank you so much for supporting our class throughout the year with prayers and financial support. We are all looking forward to coming home and sharing with you what we have learned. These last ten days have flown by!
Speaking of flying, we will be heading out early tomorrow morning to catch our flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, and then on to LAX. Keep following our progress on Instagram (@joshuawilderness) and Twitter (@joshuahumelake) as well as our blog (gtitours.org).
See you soon!
Kelsey, JWI chef
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• DAY 10 • This was our last day in Israel. We visited the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a blind man, the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed on the hillside in the few days before His crucifixion, we walked through the streets that Jesus walked through as He carried His cross, we also went to the Holy Sepulchre, which is where Jesus was crucified and buried, and the Mount of Olives, where Jesus ascended into heaven and where He will return again. I am overwhelmed by what Christ endured for ME, and for every other human being. I am full of a kind of gratitude that I've never felt before, and I see my bible in a whole new way after what I experienced today. I'm thankful that I can live freely in Christ, because He laid His life down so that I may live. We head back to California on a plane tomorrow, but I will never ever forget what I learned and experienced here in this beautiful and Holy Land. #jwiisrael16
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