Somewhere near the very spot (pre powerlines, of course) where I took the picture below was where Jesus, nearing the time of His crucifixion spoke the following words:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . .lift up your voice and sing . . .hosanna in the highest . . .hosanna to the King.” This song played in my mind as we walked through the narrow, stone streets of this ancient city on Monday. You can almost hear the people shouting these words as Jesus came in the city riding on the back of a donkey.
The city was in a cold snap at the time. We haven’t experienced any rain at all during this trip but it has been on the cool side–around 44 degrees for a high on the day we were in the city.
All the sharp contrasts present in this beautiful country are concentrated in a vibrant, yet divided, city. The ancient is living in fragile peace alongside the new! Mosques, Cathedrals, and Temples all sharing the same crowded space.
The picture above is of the narrow streets of the old city. Although some of the things sold here are updated now, this is very similar to the way the streets would have looked in Jesus day. These pathways are much more narrow than I expected. It made it easier to picture Jesus trying to walk down them with the people pressing in . . .
Today was visual, olfactory, and auditory overload. There were groups of striking Israeli service men & women. And Judaism as diverse as its outward display, garbed in clothing as traditional as the law it symbolizes. Muslim men persistently trying to sell you their 5 for $10 “Jerusalem bags,” olive branches, scarves and post cards. Interestingly enough some were hawking “genuine” pieces of wood from the cross of Christ (yes, some of these vendors were Muslim). One would think that if all of these pieces of wood were “genuine” the supply would be exhausted at some point (anything to make a buck, as they say). Muslim women covered hair, face, body to ankle, but with designer shoes sticking out from under their burkas. The wailing wall full of the sounds of sincerely devoted worshippers competing with the Muslim call to prayer going out 5 times a day over the loud speakers all over town.
This image is of the famous wailing wall (women’s side) where the sign reads: . . .”where the divine presence constantly abides.” Of course, we know the truth–that the Holy Spirit constantly abides in the life of every believer.
Most of all, this day was filled with spiritual highs experienced on a very personal level. Most disappointing was Jesus birthplace in Bethlehem. It is a bit garish with an altar built right over it but it was still moving in its own way. And there were so very many other spiritual high points that this one pales in comparison.
The Garden of Gethsemane was overwhelmingly emotional to me. Even though it isn’t much of a garden now (just 10 or so very old Olive Trees), it is the exact spot that Jesus had personal devotions with God every morning and evening and, of course, where He would have been found bloodied by the intensity of His love for man when Judas led the Jews to Him on the night of his betrayal. I was emotionally overcome by what God’s perfect sacrifice experienced and awed by the fact that He took MY place! I thought about Jesus praying; the thought that He who was prayed to in Heaven had now become the pray-er. I contemplated how He prayed and who He prayed for. It was very convicting thinking of Jesus in heart-rending conversation within the Godhead.
With new freshness I experienced the true cost of God’s grace (it wasn’t cheap), the weight of my own responsibility for His death and the victory of life eternal! I pondered the depravity of men who would spit upon the face that had showed them the first true love they’d received. The Pharisee/Sadducees . . .I understood why they wanted Jesus humiliated and killed. Their life, status, wealth and influence was threatened. I don’t justify it in any way, I just understand their evil mindset. What I sometimes find more difficult to understand is why women just like me returned such hatred to someone who had healed their children, restored their loved ones to life, and forgiven them when everyone else condemned them. No doubt sadly I recognized my face in the crowd!
This is the path that Jesus was taken by the Jews on the night He was arrested. Many of these stones experienced the very footprints of God.
Mounted police in Jerusalem. The horses wouldn’t stop so I could picture them that’s why I ended up getting more of the back end of one and the front end of the another. Everywhere you look is a photo opportunity!
And, of course, the garden tomb was an unbelievably moving experience. There is concrete evidence to believe that this is the tomb they laid Jesus in. Our group had communion together, a brief but wonderful sermon preached by Phil Hopper and spontaneous testimonies. I was awed to think that my Lord’s lifeless body was carried in that very hole in the stone and laid on the stone slap I saw. And the thought that this is where He conquered death through His resurrection, where the angels appeared to Mary & Martha and where John and Peter ran to confirm that this momentous thing had happened was beyond description.
Hosanna in the Highest to the same Jesus, transcendent, sinless Son of God who is on His throne today, many sins later, loving me still!
Shalom in Him,