Jerusalem: Days 1 & 2
June 2, 2022
The first day in Jerusalem started with a short van ride over to Bethany. As the Bible tells us, it is about two miles from Jerusalem, yet it took 45 minutes due to traffic and having to go into Palestine and around the old city.
It was in Bethany that Jesus stayed with his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. On one visit, Mary was listening to Jesus’ teaching while Martha was busy. There we learn to take time with the Lord. On another time, Jesus was anointed by another Mary. It is here also that Jesus came four days late and told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He then raised Lazarus from the dead.
We were able to go down into Lazarus’ tomb as well as the church built next to it where their house was located. Again, part of how they know this is the probably the place is a 4th century church was built over it. When Constantine became a Christian, he had the holy sites of Jesus traced and built a church over it. And, Bethany was a very small town at the time of Christ. Even though I have seen a few 1st century tombs by now, it is powerful to stand in the spot where Jesus wept and brought Lazarus back to life.
From there, it was a van ride back into Israel and the Mount of Olives. This is just across the Kidron Valley form Jerusalem. Here we pondered the words of Jesus lament over Jerusalem. How God would gather her as a mother hen if she would return to God. Yet, he knew he was coming to be rejected. We stopped by the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man who had waited 38 years to try and get in the stirring waters.
Day two in Jerusalem was spent around the Temple Mount. We started with prayers at the Western wall, tucking prayers from Eric’s church into the walls. This is an important place for Jews, as it is the closest place that remains to the temple that was destroyed in AD 70. Herod had expanded the Temple Mount just before Jesus. We measured some of the cornerstones. They were 30’ by 8’. The Temple Mount is 1,000’ by 1,500’. The original temple was on the spot that is now the Dome of the Rock. This is the place where Abraham was to slay Isaac. Where David bought the threshing floor. The stone that is the “Rock” is the spot of the Holy of Holies, where the ark of the covenant was kept. It is also the site where Mohammad had a vision of riding a horse to heaven. So, it is the focal point of Jews, Muslims and Christians.
We also spent some time seeing the ruins around the temple. Two I especially liked were the mikvehs and Hezekiah’s tunnel. Mikvehs are the ritual baths Jews perform for purification. When pilgrims came to Jerusalem, they would take these baths before entering the temple mound. It was only a short way away that marks the Upper Room. So, here is the place where Jesus would have come and bathed whenever he came up to Jerusalem. It is also the place where Peter gave his Pentecost sermon in Acts 2. After his sermon, 3,000 were added to the church. These baths would have been used for those baptisms.
The second is Hezekiah’s tunnel. This is just outside of David’s city of Jerusalem, the oldest part of the city. In the 8th century BC, the Assyrian army was trying to capture Jerusalem. King Hezekiah had two groups, one on the outside of the city, and one inside, dig a 1,750-foot tunnel through the bedrock to bring water into the city from the spring of Gihon. So, when Jerusalem was under siege, they still have fresh water. It is in the pool of Gihon, that David was anointed as king. We then walked 1/3 of a mile through a tunnel with water near or knees into the city of David. In the pitch darkness, I pause to remember that Jesus is the light of the world and has overcome all darkness. Jesus also said, “I am the living water. He who comes to me will never thirst.” When we feel like we are in darkness, Jesus is there. When we feel overwhelmed and attacked, Jesus offers us living waters to quinch our thirst.