Day 07 - Jerusalem: Hezekiah's Tunnel, Southern Steps, Western Wall, Gethsemane
Today’s blog is a special blog. Instead of it being written by one person it is written by everyone on this trip. The thirty-one people are divided into five different family groups. Each group is writing on one particular stop that we had today. Therefore, it is the opinion of this writer, that today's blog is better than all the rest. Here are their stories for the day.
We opened the day with a visit to the place where Hezekiah dug a tunnel under Jerusalem to ensure fresh water supply for his people ahead of the impending invasion by the Assyrians. It was an engineering marvel spanning 1,750 feet under the city. Now, we had a chance to walk this tunnel with the spring water running through it; there was no light supplied beyond our flashlights.
For some, walking this tunnel took a great deal of courage and dependence upon God. Like the tunnel, life is full of ups and downs and twists and turns that we must navigate. Phil. 4:6 calls us not to be anxious and we rely upon that truth. During the walk we helped each other and offered guidance as small obstacles appeared along the way through that long tunnel.
We made it! Sunshine greeted us as we all emerged from the tunnel. It also terminated at the Pool of Siloam. Pastor Marshall led us in a study of John 9:1-11 where Jesus healed the blind man and then had him walk all the way down to Siloam from the temple to wash the mud from his eyes. Why? Because Jesus, not the Pool of Bethesda, was going to serve as the healer of this man's blindness. Also, Jesus wanted the man ceremonially clean as well, which sent a message to all about Jesus' restoration of this man's site and spiritual condition. The man's blindness, his healing, his ceremonial cleansing all served to glorify our Father in heaven.
The Southern Steps
The Southern Steps of The Temple Mount have significant importance for a multitude of reasons, dating as far back as Mary and Joseph carrying Jesus as an infant for worship in the temple, all the way through Jesus’ multitude of teachings on the steps. For this reason, these historic steps are known as the “Teaching Steps.”
The steps were intentionally laid with varied sizes, depths, and heights, which required worshipers to proceed slowly and respectfully into God’s House.
This likely was the place where the people gathered to celebrate Shavuot (the Jewish Feast of the Harvest; also known as Pentecost) and in God’s perfect timing, 3,000 people were filled with the Holy Spirit, being baptized in the >48 mikvehs present at the temple. For this reason, the Southern Steps are considered the “Birthplace of the Church!”
Western (Wailing) Wall
The wailing wall is the western wall of the Temple Mount. Traditional Jews come to the wall to offer prayers. Men pray in an area, separate from where the women are to pray. We saw many men, women, and families praying, reading the Torah, and a Bar Mitzvah. Many would come with written prayers to insert into the wall. We were reminded how thankful we are that we can go directly to our God with our prayers. We know he hears our prayers from wherever we are. This made us ask ourselves "where is our Wailing Wall where we go to offer our prayers to God?"
Garden of Gethsemane
Carbon dating confirms we saw olive trees 40 times older than we are, could well be the same trees from Jesus’ time on earth.
Sobering to be at the Rock of Agony. Jesus asked his disciples to pray for Him, though ultimately, they couldn’t stay awake. While we may be tempted to look down on the disciples for this, doesn’t it give us hope in those moments when our own fatigue or weakness fails to be present for Jesus? He didn’t abandon his disciples in this moment, and He won’t abandon us either. Judas comes to betray Him with a kiss. Armed soldiers fell to the ground by the authority of His voice. Gethsemane literally means "olive press"…oh what pressing to bear the weight of all past, present, and future sins. “Not my will but the Yours be done.” is our continuing prayer.
After a long frigid day, we made our way back to our beautiful hotel after Eli – the greatest bus driver in all the land – navigated the busy, overcrowded streets. Horns honked, motorcycles cut traffic, and Eli was able to fit through the side parked cars with the width of a pinky to spare. The traffic was similar to the Dominican Republic if you have ever been there. All we can say is wow! Jerusalem is much bigger ---- or shall we say it is more populated than one might think. There is stone everywhere – Fred Flintstone would even agree. There may not be any dinosaurs, but there is certainly a lot construction all around. We headed back to the amazing hotel that we are privileged to stay in and had yet another wonderful dinner. We miss you all back home. Until next time – Shalom.