Shalom! Our seventh and final day was just as eventful and moving as the first six. Yesterday we followed Jesus through his final days but we didn’t cover Jesus’ arduous walk (with his cross) to Golgotha.
But before we get to the stations in Old Jerusalem, let’s go back to today’s beginning–well, last night actually. Some of our brave travelers ventured out to Old Jerusalem and had dinner at an Armenian restaurant. And, a few other travelers found a familiar store in a foreign place!
To get to Old Jerusalem, you must walk through one of many gates that surround the city and were rebuilt by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. The gate on the top left was St. Stephen’s Gate also called the Sheep’s Gate. We went to the Pool of Bethesda (pictured right). This spot marks the spot of one of Jesus’ healing moments–the story of the paralyzed man who had waited for 38 years for someone to help him into the pool (John 5:2-18).
The church of Santa Anne is one of the best preserved Crusader churches in Jerusalem and is more than 1,000 years old. The acoustics in the church are excellent for singing and speaking–a mere whisper can be heard inside!
The Antonia Fortress was built by King Herod and today we journeyed back to 35 BCE as we walked through two of the water cisterns that supplied water to Herod’s vast army as well as the city of Jerusalem. (Image top left.)
In the bowels of the Antonia Fortress, Jesus was condemned to die and tortured by Roman soldiers. He was also given his cross, which is why the landmark is known as the first and second station of the cross. (There are 14 total stations located along Via Dolorosa.)
Today, Via Dolorosa is a busy, bustling street with hundreds of tourists and countless vendors. Midst the commercialism, you will find all 14 stations including the three times Jesus falls. Station 6 (top right) is quoted in Numbers 6:25 when Veronica wiped the spit from the Lord’s face.
The Holy Sepulchre Basilica built by Helena (Constantine the Great’s mother) in the fourth century serves as four stations: (10) Jesus was stripped of his garments; (11) He was nailed to the cross; (12) He died on the cross; (13) He was taken down from the cross; (14) He was laid in the tomb. The two photos on the top (above) show the ornate detail of the Orthodox Basilica in its hand-lain mosaics. The table (middle right) is where Jesus was anointed with oils (station 13).
After reflection, we changed gears a bit and visited the Wailing Wall where Jews visit three times a day to pray because it is the closest location to where the Holy of the Holies stood. The Holy of the Holies is the most sacred site in Judaism and Jews believe God’s presence appeared there. The structure was destroyed twice and the Jews still “wail” there for their lost tabernacle.
At Jesus teaching steps, we paused for a devotion and reflected on all we had seen this week. It’s easy to lose Jesus in the bustle of our daily lives. But it’s up to all of us to remember our steps–our literal steps–and remember that we are never alone.
We said goodbye to Saeed and Elias with heavy hearts: they were so knowledgeable and made learning fun. We will miss them!
God Be With You,