“The stones aren’t holy. What’s happened here is holy.” – Jerusalem Tour guide
Day One – A Tour of the Temple Grounds
Today, we started our journey into the Holy Land in what I now know as the most important archeological site in the world- The Holy Temple. Our Jewish tour guide was overflowing with information regarding the history and tradition surrounding this site. I wish I had the time to write all I learned. But, for this post, I’ll keep it to a few highlights.
As we drove this morning toward the southern side of the temple, the Mount of Olives was on our left. I always pictured the Mount of Olives farther away from the temple, but it was literally across the street. It was surreal thinking this was the area Jesus not only preached to His disciples, but where He also ascended to Heaven. (Acts 1:7-12)
We began our morning at the “Southern Steps” – a place where all Jews (including Jesus) were required to walk up three times a year to the Temple for Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles as instructed in the law given to Moses. The steps are also believed to be where Peter preached after the anointing of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
As a side note: The steps were uneven and had different landing spaces. Our tour guide said the reasoning for the steps being this way was so the Jewish people wouldn’t rush into God’s presence. They were forced to take their time. This resonated with me and my routine on Sunday mornings – do I rush into God’s presence or prepare my heart as I attend worship?
We were at the steps around 9am, precisely when Peter would have preached. Amazingly, the steps were empty and quiet, and we had an amazing sermon given by a pastor here. He spoke of the church being birthed through Peter’s speech as 3000 Jews accepted Jesus as Messiah that day. I could imagine the thousands of Jews listening to Peter, this uneducated fisherman who denied even knowing Jesus just 50 days earlier, boldly speaking of God’s Kingdom.
As I reflected, I sat in gratitude toward Peter and those followers who joined him in passionately spreading the good news of Jesus so 2000 years later I could hear about Jesus and be saved. None of it could have been possible without the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was right when He told them before He died that it was better He go away (John 16:7).
Here are a couple of pictures of the steps:
From the steps, we headed toward the Western Wall or the “Wailing Wall.” This Wall, which was one of the supporting walls of the Temple Mount, is the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people today as it is the only remnants of the Second Temple built since Rome destroyed the Temple In 70 A.D. The Wall was much more magnificent than I imagined – huge with massive stones rising over 130 feet from the ground where we stood.
It was a holy moment as we were able to place prayers in the cracks of the wall – and place our hands on the wall and pray. I imagined thousands of years ago, the Holy of Holies (the inner sanctuary of the Temple where God’s presence appeared and only accessible by the high priest once a year) just being beyond this Western Wall. It was overwhelming.
Side note: to make more room for the prayers, every 2 years Rabbis collect the prayers and bury them in the Mount of Olives.
Pictures of the wall below:
Next, we were able to walk through the tunnels of the Western Wall which stand 2-3 stories below ground level. We learned much history from King David to King Herod to Suleiman the Magnificent. Again, it was amazing to walk on roads built over 2000 years ago which are now well below ground.
As the afternoon approached we walked (in reverse) the Via Dolorosa – “The Way of the Cross.” While our guide repeatedly told us this might not be the exact route, he emphasized the importance of focusing on the proximity to the original events and reflect upon those.
We started at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where in 335 A.D. Constantine, the Roman emperor who made Christianity the national religion of Rome, erected a church to encompass Golgotha (where Jesus died) and the tomb where He was buried.
The following picture, though dark, is the shrine built over the rock of Golgotha (you can see people in line to touch the rock)
The next picture is the tomb of Christ. Traditionally, this was built around the site of where Christ was buried. In the picture, people are standing in line to touch the marble slab Jesus could have laid.
The next picture posted is a cave nearby Jesus’ tomb that was excavated recently. The finding of this cave brought more hope that the tomb built around The burial of Jesus could be accurate.
I learned so much history today, but more than that, my faith and my belief in God’s Word and its amazing accuracy was strengthened and secured. The Bible isn’t legend, or folklore, or mere tradition – IT. IS. REAL.
The books in the Bible happened. The history is there, and from what we saw today, the archeological findings continue to confirm the Bible as truth.
I don’t know where you stand today in your faith, but let me encourage you – we serve a God who is real. A God who came in the form of a man to shed His blood for our sins so we can be reconciled to Him when we die.
Jerusalem is the epicenter of our faith. One day we will all worship together here, and we will understand our God who cannot be completely understood while we are here. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’
He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.‘” Revelation 21:1-7