A small sacrifice and a large temple
Shalom! Today was another fun-filled day around the bustling city of Jerusalem. We started the morning on the Temple Mount, where getting through security and modesty checks was not an easy task! I was surprised to find out that only teachings of Islam and Muslims were allowed within the space and NO Christian discussions were allowed. As Americans we are so accustomed to our first amendment right, the freedom of speech, that we take for granted what a privilege it is. This was really eye-opening for me, the small difficulties we as Christians had to face today at the Temple Mount, super modest dress code and cryptically talking about the Bible was a small inconvenience in comparison to the many persecutions Christians have faced.
When we first entered into the Temple Mount, we were kind of griping about the super modest dress code in the heat, but then realized what a small sacrifice we were (unhappily) making in comparison to Abraham’s willing heart to sacrifice his own son for God.
We also spent time at the Western Wall where many come to pray and recite Scripture in hopes of drawing near to God in an encounter. This drew us into some great discussion and Q&A, but our trek through the Rabbinic tunnels provided so much context and richness to the size and scope of this second temple.
From there we moved to the Jewish Quarter and explored the palatial mansions of the Herodian Quarter, wealthy home with substantial evidence that they were priestly, perhaps high priestly homes. It was there we observed a large reception room (almost 700 sq ft), with a courtyard adjacent to it. We read the account of Jesus being taken to Annas and Caiphas, as it is highly likely these homes were theirs. And to imagine the courtyard being where Peter denied Jesus three times, and John had access into the trial. It brings it all closer together.
My favorite site was Hezekiah's tunnel, not only was it a great way to cool down from the heat of the day, trenching through the waters of the underground tunnels. It was another great example of the amazing architecture and craftsmanship of the time. At the end of this site, we discussed John 9, the story of Jesus healing the blind man. From exploring the city first hand, it would have been NO easy task for the blind man to make his way from outside the Temple, 900+ steps down to the pool of Siloam. He was then healed and continually praised the works of Jesus even when the religious leaders cast him out of the city again. What great faith.
A 1750-foot (530m) tunnel carved during the reign of Hezekiah to bring water from one side of the city to the other, Hezekiah’s Tunnel together with the 6th c. tunnel of Euphalios in Greece are considered the greatest works of water engineering technology in the pre-Classical period. Had it followed a straight line, the length would have been 1070 ft (335m) or 40% shorter.
Our final site was the Southern Steps of the temple where millions of pilgrims back in the day would have sung the Songs of Ascent as they went up to worship. Coming across almost 30+ mikvehs, we recounted the story of Acts 2 and learned that it is likely that Pentecost happened there on the Southern Steps. The spark of the gospel beginning there as 3000+ people were baptized.
So many rich sites and lessons throughout our entire tour and one final day to see it all come together.
An enormous flight of steps leads to the Southern Wall from the south. They were excavated after 1967 by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar and are the northernmost extension of the Jerusalem pilgrim road leading from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount via the Double Gate and the Triple Gate, collectively called the Huldah Gates. These are the steps that Jesus of Nazareth and other Jews of his era walked up to approach the Temple, especially on the great pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  The stairs that lead to the double gate are intact and "well-preserved." The steps that lead to the triple gate were mostly destroyed. / The risers are low, a mere 7 to 10 inches high, and each step is 12 to 35 inches deep, forcing the ascending pilgrims to walk with a stately, deliberate tread. The pilgrims entered the temple precincts through the double and triple gates still visible in the Southern Wall. Together, the double and triple gates are known as the Hulda Gates, after the prophetess Huldah.
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Septemer 5-17, 2020
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