|Our first stop today was the Temple Mount. We passed through a security checkpoint where they do not allow you to carry a Bible. There was a stack of Bibles in different languages that were confiscated. The situation on the Mount is preserved by a “status-quo” agreement between the Muslims who control the site and the Israelis who have autonomy in Jerusalem. The Muslims control who has access to the site but the Israelis provide security and enforce the Muslims’ decision. The area under the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock is off limits to us but the rock under it is very important to the Muslim, Christian and Jewish worlds. The rock is the traditional site where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice to God but was stopped at the last moment.
We next toured the excavations around the southern portion of the Temple mount. Several of the large stones that Herod the Great used to build the Temple retaining wall are still visible. Also visible are the stones that the Romans pulled down in 70 A.D. There are steps visible that date back over 2000 years to the Temple that Jesus knew. The steps lead to the main entrance to the Temple and though the Bible does not tell us which entrance Jesus used, it is very likely that He used the one we were at today. I can’t tell you the chills you will get when you realize that your feet are standing on the same stones as Jesus’ once did.
We watched a wonderful video that illustrates very well the paths that a pilgrim might take in order to visit the Temple of Jesus’ day.
Caiaphas’ house. There are stone steps that lead down into the Kidron Valley where the Garden of Gethsemane is located. The steps are 2000 years old and they are likely the steps where Jesus was brought bound to the High Priest on the night of His betrayal. We climbed down into the cistern where it is very likely that Jesus was held overnight.
We traveled through the Christian quarter of the city. There are more Arab Christians than any other nationality in Jerusalem. It’s an odd thing for an old McMinnville boy to see so many people whom I would assume are Islamic but speak of Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I wish I had taken a picture of the market bazaar that we walked through tonight. There are shop vendors on each side of you and just enough room to walk between them. If you so much as make eye contact with an item they are selling, they start pushing it on you, and they start coming down off the price.
We stopped briefly by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where six different religious sects claim autonomy and control over the site. To be honest, it made me a little sick to be in there. There was a strong smell of incense and so many people were packed in to see what little could be seen. We stayed for five minutes and then continued on to the Garden Tomb.
The Garden Tomb was designed to be the climax of our spiritual pilgrimage. The moment I saw the “skull” of Golgotha, I knew I was looking at the spot they crucified my Jesus. The site is right next to a Palestinian bus depot and the constant honking and shouting sort of ruins the experience. Very close to the “skull” is the tomb where Jesus was laid. There is very convincing evidence that Jesus was buried and rose here. We stepped inside and saw the “bed” and the “pillow” where they laid Him.