Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Jesus has Risen and is Alive!
Today is our last day touring this beautiful land that God loves so much. It is Friday. Friday, the day blood was shed for humanity’s sins. We start our day on top of the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is east of and adjacent to the Old City of Jerusalem. This place, a place where our LORD prior to His passion, had fellowship with His disciples, is breathtaking, as you attempt to absorb the view overlooking the Kidron and Himnon Valleys’.
At one point in time, we learn this place would have been exploding with pilgrims as they were reading the texts of the great and coming day of the LORD. We read from Zechariah 14:3-11. The people, expecting a mighty and powerful ruler to come and rescue them, freeing them from their oppressors forever, weren’t aware the kingdom of God was already upon them. Yes, Jesus’s Kingdom looked radically different than what the people were expecting. His triumph would be cruciform, and His Kingdom would have no end.
We traveled slowly down the steep hill, stopping to soak in the significance of this place, before making our way down into the eastern side of the city. It is warm and sunny today, a welcome from the dreary rainy days we had earlier in our week, and we are thankful.
As we walk, we briefly stop at some graves. They are covered in stones because it is illegal to bring and place flowers here. Orthodox Jews still place their deceased loved ones in the graves below the Mount of Olives, believing those here will be the first to rise when their awaited Messiah comes from the east. But, He has already arrived.
We go further on, coming to the Roman Catholic Church, Dominus Flavit. This place, where crowds gathered and shouted in praise as Jesus entered in, unaware of their destruction to come, is the place where Jesus wept for Jerusalem and her people. (Luke 13:34) The Church is in the shape of a teardrop and commemorates Jesus’s longing for His people to know Him; to know the heart of God.
As we make our way through the route from the Mount of Olives to the Temple, we stop in the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations. I am reminded of the words from a Kari Jobe worship song, “Gethsemane, where Heaven met me”. The trees in the garden are like none other. The are old and folded into themselves, reminding us all of antiquity, inviting us into the wonder of this place. This garden, marks the spot where Jesus spent His last night on earth with His disciples, praying in agony as His disciples slept, and forever changing the course of human history. He would be betrayed here. He would be handed over to sinners here. He would pray so hard for us that He would sweat blood here. This is the place where He would bow to the enemy. This is the place where the Father’s will was chosen over His own.
Before going further on, we take time to reflect here. Jennifer shares with us and reminds us of the story and the Psalms (Psalms 113-118). She reminds us that as the people were preparing for the Passover, Jesus was also preparing for His slaughter as the lamb. The same people that shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13), and waved their palm branches as Jesus rode in on a donkey, would soon shout for Him to be crucified. The thought of it grieves my heart as I reminded of the demanding price of our sins. Thank you Jesus for choosing to lay down your life so that we could have ours. May we also be reminded to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).
We continue our journey over to the St. Anne’s Church near the Pool of Bethesda. It is located just inside the Lions’ Gate, also known as St. Stephen’s Gate. The Lion’s Gate area is known for the possible site where Stephen was stoned to death. Traditionally, the Church marks the home of Jesus’ maternal grandparents and also the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. It is the best-preserved Church from the time of the Crusaders. And it also where we all had the privilege of singing “Amazing Grace” to our God! The natural acoustics in this church is none like you will ever hear anywhere else! We all sang and sounded like a Gospel choir. What an AMAZING experience!
Just to the left of the Church is the Pool of Bethesda. Here, Jesus performed the miracle of healing the paralyzed man. For 38 years this man waited to be healed by this pool (John 5:2-18). And on the very day He met Jesus, He stood up, walked, and testified to the healing power of our LORD! Oh, the power of His mercy and forgiveness. Oh, the power of our LORD Jesus Christ!
Beyond the pool is the Sheep Gate. This could be known as the gate where the sacrificial sheep entered through to be slaughtered after being washed in the pool. The Sheep Gate comes before the Lion’s Gate. Very interesting is the names and significance indeed!
Our final stop of the day is The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the holiest of all the places in Jerusalem. It is the site of both the crucifixion and the burial place of Jesus. As soon as you walk in this place, you recognize and can feel a shift in the atmosphere. People come from all over the world to “touch” the stone upon which Christ poured out His blood to save us, and to kneel in the burial place of our King. In this place, however grieved our hearts are because of the sacrifice made, we are reminded to also rejoice!, for the story does not end here. Rejoice we say, Rejoice! For our King has been raised to life again! The stone was rolled away! The tomb is empty, and His body will not be found! For He is RISEN! Hallelujah, Jesus is ALIVE!
We end our day with free time and celebrating what our God has done! Our hearts are full. We will never read our Bibles the same again. Thank you all for your love, support, prayers, and for following along on our journey into this Holy Land. Although we will begin our long trek home tomorrow, we leave carrying forever in our hearts and minds, the beautiful, chosen, and beloved land and people of Israel.