Again, forgive the spelling/grammar – had to do this in a hurry. Also sorry for the late post, we didn’t have Internet access last night. It’s intermittent so i will post when I can.
Day 3 (Lots of Pictures, Coming soon! I ran out of time)
Beth Shan, Jerico, The Temple Mount, Church of all nations.
As you will read below this day was amazing. One place I had never heard of blew me away, and one place we unexpectedly visited had me weeping with Jesus.
As we traveled to Beth Shan on our way out of the Galilee region towards Jerusalem, the seas on the lake were quite choppy.
We traveled across the Jordon river at the baptismal sight, and headed towards an ancient city that is mentioned in the bible, but one I had never heard of. Beth Shan was a significant outpost just to the west of Gilboa, and was the place where the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were hung unceremoniously after their death in those mountains.
“O How The Mighty have Fallen” 2 Samuel 1
The excavated city is perfectly preserved because of an earthquake in the 700’s and a flood, which together protected the entire area from the elements for thousands of years. The lower city (down below the tell) is stereotypically roman. An Amphitheater has holes for humans and animals, and was the place of the gladiator contests, A theater seats 7,000 and is amazingly in tact today. Up on the tell was a glimpse into the period of the Kings. Boulders and foundation remained from the fortress that would have existed during the time of the Saul, David, and Solomon. An Egyptian temple and governors house from 1500 B.C. is immaculately preserved. Its hard to describe just how amazing this place is. The city would later become Christian, and there are mosaics and shops, and everything you would imagine from city life.
Trip down to Jerico
The trip through the Judaean desert was dramatic. The land went from Lush Vegetation – to spartan desolation in just an hour trip south along the Jordan river. For part of the trip we followed the old Jerico road – of Good Samaritan fame. Across the river was the country of Jordan, and we could see the patrols on both sides. We traversed the checkpoint at Jerico and headed into the West Bank. We raced around the city (Our Guide Hillel had to get off because Jews aren’t really allowed in the city). We were a bit like sheep without a shepherd though our driver was great and moved us around to the various places. From our bus we stopped and looked out at the mount of temptation. A huge monastery sits where the traditional spot of Jesus desert temptation occurred. We know it happened somewhere in these spartan hills. We stopped in the city itself at the Zacchias tree. This is the traditional spot from which Jesus called the tax collector down and demanded that he go with him to eat at his house. Yes the wee little man! It may or may not be THE tree but it is AN example of the kind of tree. We sort of blitzed passed the old tell, which was sad. It is an 8,000 year old city – and the oldest city continuously existing. Our new “Guide” was more interested in getting us to his shop. We ate swarmy’s ?sp? and I had my first diet coke since arriving. The Palestinians here are very poor, and they swarm around you like flies trying to sell you everything from postcards, to necklaces, to olive branches that you could just go pick yourself. We ate near a University and were seeing the young men and women come in and out, some dressed traditionally, others in jeans and “American” dress. It was quite fascinating. As we left, we went back through the checkpoint, soldiers from Israel standing post with huge guns signaled that we were leaving the occupied territories. Oh as a post note, i saw a Peace Kiss between two Arab men, and several political posters – one with Palestinian leaders and Che Guevara!!
Up to Jerusalem
As we travel Ascending to Jerusalem i was struck by how steep the climb was. Up Up Up, our bus struggled a bit even though its brand new and a Mercedes. I could only imagine Mary and Joseph, or Jesus, or the Good Samaritan traversing these dangerous paths. What a climb after having spent days in the desert wilderness. I cant imagine how a pregnant woman, on a donkey, ever did this. We passed by several Bedouin camps – these folks have changed little since Jesus time. Living in very crude huts, they graze sheep on the nearby hills. The sheep leave lines around the mountains as they graze. We also passed by “The Inn of the Good Samaritan” which is on the traditional spot of an inn on the Jerico road. As we moved upward we were reading anew the psalms of ascent….which are about going up to Jerusalem. “I lift my eyes to the hills, etc…”
As we crested the driver turned on a song about Jerusalem, and the city began to come into view. First Bethany/bethpage where Jesus disciples found the donkey for his triumphal entry. Then we made our way to the mount of olives. As we did the Temple mount came into view and it was breathtaking. The most holy place in the world lay before us, it was hard to take in without being overwhelmed. This is the place Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, where Solomon built the first temple, and Herod the second. It was the place Jesus would teach, and expel the money changers. It was the place from which his death would be plotted. The Dome of the Rock which is what you see on the temple mount, is apparently much smaller than the temple would have been. Almost 1 and 1.5 times higher the temple would have risen into the sky. Amazing!.
Mount of Olives. Top
The mount of olives was basically the place Jesus camped and hung out with the disciples during his time in Jerusalem. It is also the place he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the one with all the palm branches and stuff. Today the mount is still filled with olive trees, some as old as Jesus probably, but its also a HUGE Jewish cemetery with all of the above ground tombs facing the temple…pretty striking.
Mount of Olives: Jesus Wept Church
We walked down the traditional descent path of Jesus down the Mt of Olives for the triumphal entry. We sang songs as we walked, it was pretty powerful and I became emotional as I looked out over the city. It was overwhelming. I didn’t recall that this was the place with the famous “Jesus Wept” passage, so it was appropriate that i was weeping when we came to the church that commemorates the spot where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. I can understand why, coming down the hill its so powerful to see the sight of the Temple. And Jesus, knowing its potential that had gone unrealized must have been doubly effected.
We read the passage from Matthew (I think, cant recall now) where Jesus predicts the fall of the temple (No stone will be left), and that the enemy’s of Israel will surround them on all sides. Almost as if on cue the call to prayer of the Muslim Mosques rang out – literally from every corner of the city. It was surreal. It surrounded us. Truly this prophecy had come true in more ways than one. Nothing of the temple was left, and a Mosque stands where it once was, and the temple is surrounded by the enemy of the Jewish people.
Mount of Olives: Garden of Gethsemany
We continued down the hill to the Garden of Gethsemany, the place where Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from him, but never the less thy will be done…… The this was the place of the olive presses on the mount of olives, appropriate for a man who was about to be pressed for the sins of the world. The Church of All Nations sits with the garden, and is made of alabaster. The effect is a pitch black church – like the night when Jesus prayed. Also there are parts of the bedrock that the disciples may have been sleeping upon in the church. In the Garden itself, there are olive trees that are thousands of years old, perhaps some as old as the Time of Christ himself. Its amazing to realize you are standing in a place Jesus would have seen almost exactly the same way.
IN the garden, we stopped to have some preaching from Jeff – it was tremendous to be here, hearing the word proclaimed with the temple mount in the background. We encountered Nigerians, Koreans, and Japanese Christians, all gathered in the garden in various places singing and worshipping and preaching. It truly had become a place of prayer for all the nations. Jeff preached from the parable of the Wicked tenants, which was delivered probably in the temple itself, or possible here. Its a parable of the rejection of Jesus and the prophets by the religious authorities. It was a bold, and courageous sermon that likely sealed his fate.
Tomorrow (Day 4). Not sure where were headed, schedule is pretty flexible, but maybe the wailing wall and the Temple steps. Depends on what is open for security reasons! They keep us safe here!