Showing posts from March, 2012

John the Garden Tomb Guide

The Garden Tomb was discovered 150 years ago by the British Major-General Charles George Gordon, who was visiting Horatio Spafford (author of 'It is well with my soul") when he looked out the window at what he thought was Golgotha.The traditional location was The church of the Holy Seculpchre, found by Constantine's mother Helen in the mid fourth century. What drew Gordon's attention was a quarry facing the street that looked like a skull. He decided it was time to reconsider the location of Calvary (which means head in Latin). 

Scripture says Golgotha is outside the city near a quarry, a garden, in a public place as a deterrent for the passerby and that Joseph of Arimathea gave Jesus a tomb that had never been used. They investigated and found there was a sistern, third largest in Jerusalem, which could have made this a garden as it says in scripture. They also found a first century wine press, so perhaps this was a vineyard. They found a tomb--two rooms, one for prep…

Jerusalem: Death and Resurrection

Friday is our last day in Jerusalem. It’s a significant day to gather our thoughts. What stories will we tell? How will we answer the question, “How was it?” I asked a few people today. Their responses were “Beyond expectations,” “I can’t reduce it to one thing,” “Just being here.” 
As if we couldn’t learn anymore or see anymore, we ended our journey with a visit to the Holocaust Memorial and then the Garden Tomb--an odd combination, but very powerful. The Yad Vashem Memorial is a moving tribute to the 6 million jews who died in Europe, including the 1.5 million children. A Cantor sang three songs beginning with Psalm 23, then two prayers the Jews would have sang as they walked to their death. I saw a little boy dressed for Sabbath. The next generation of Jews who will tell the stories of their grandparents and great grandparents. We found the tree planted for Corrie Ten Boom and her family in a grove of trees dedicated to Dutch "righteous" who were gentiles that gave refuge t…

Jerusalem: City of David

Just to the south of the Old City wall built by Turks is the City of David. Solomon built the temple, but David never built within the walls of the current Old City. It's a great descent from Mount Zion to the Pools of Siloam and along the way great history and biblical events. 
Our first stop was the Upper Room--outside we read a portion of John 17 where Jesus prays for us, our unity and our communion with Jesus and the Father. We were inspired by the six churches that cannot agree at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre--why can't we get the one thing Jesus prayed for us right? This is also the location of Pentecost for the disciples--recieving the Holy Spirit to empower them to live out what Jesus had called them to.
We entered David's Tomb where men entered to the right and women to the left, and watched men rock and pray, fervently crying out to God.
We walked Hezekiah's tunnel which was built from two ends and met up in the same location. So much has been excavated of…

Jerusalem: Jesus Lamb of God

The view and descent from the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane and across the Kidron Valley is a highlight. The Dome of the Rock over the foundation of the Temple, the wall and iits gates. We stopped to sing The Lord’s Prayer in the Pater Noster church and in a cave where it’s believed Jesus met with the disciples to teach and rest when they were on the Mount of Olives. The Jewish cemeteries on one side and the Muslim cemetery on either sides of the valley, with limestone coffin like structures over the burial—nothing inside because the bodies are in the ground, just a monument for loved ones to come and place a rock or two in memory. But the tombs created a sense that this valley is a valley of death. It’s steep, many battles were fought to enter and then sack Jerusalem, and of course this is the place, below both cemeteries and olive groves and churches, where Jesus was arrested while praying with Peter, James and John.  Gethsemane means “olive press” and named such because there used …


We got an earlier wake up call at 6am and left the hotel at 7:15am to get across the checkpoint before 8am. We were early and got into the Church of the Nativity before other tour groups arrived. No wait, no lines, we just walked up to the front of the church, walked down into the manger and then stood in the Nave all alone looking at the original Byzantine mosaic floors. 

The church is run by three denominations (which is a theme around some of the churches): Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic. The icons, candles, incense and procession all add to the mystery of what happened here 2000 years ago. Someone said, "Something special happened here..." 

The natural light streaming into the church created a "star of Bethlehem " effect from two different angles. Awesome! The embossing over the door to the manger is the tree of life. 

To enter the church there is a short door. Everyone entering must "humble themselves" by stooping down. It's a …

Galilee to Jerusalem

We began our day in Nazareth, at Mount Precipice, where the people of Nazareth tried to kill Jesus. In Luke 4 he opens the scroll from Isaiah and declared the scripture was being fulfilled in his reading. At first those in the synagogue were proud of him as the hometown boy. But they turned on him when he reminded them they would say "physician heal thyself." They were not so excited about Jesus being the prophet like Elijah. They view of the Jezreel Valley below was beautiful.
We visited the Church of the Annunciation, the largest church in the Middle East. The church next door dedicated to Joseph is much smaller, more humble. We read the story of the annunciation and talked about the qualities Mary possessed that made her a great woman to be the mother of Jesus.Walking down through Nazareth and then up to the Nazareth Villagse at the YMCA was our first foray into a busy street with restaurants, shops, and all the smells, sights and sounds. The Nazareth Village is a recrea…

Galilee: Day Three

The day began with a climb up Mount Tabor in mini van taxis to the Crusader Church of the Transfiguration. Below it was raining and on top the mountain was shrouded in clouds. As we had experienced each day in Galilee, it rained when we had shelter, and it cleared up as we were out in the open. So the clouds and the storm blew by and we were left with a magnificent view of the Jezreel Valley below. The Mount of Transfiguration was transfigured before us.  It was awesome. The crusader church is beautiful with light streaming in through the upper windows, a mass being held while we were visiting, and Paula led a devotion on the transfiguration, which took place before Jesus began to announce his death and it must have bolstered the disciples for the days ahead leading to Jerusalem.
Beth Shean is one of the Decapolis, the ten cities from which people came to follow Jesus. This is a magnificent Roman city with bathhouse, theater and public latrine.
I was reminded that day of Luke 10:
Was t…

Galilee: Day Two

The sunrise was beautiful Saturday morning. We began our day in Akko, (also called Acre or in the first century, Ptolemais), which was the Crusader capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. We toured some magnificent Crusader buildings, all discovered in the last few decades under sand. A meeting hall, church, secret tunnel all underground and built in medieval times out of stone by Crusaders from different parts of Europe. // We didn’t visit Akko on our trip two years ago, but it’s rich with Crusader history and is mentioned in Acts 21 by it’s former name, Ptolemais. Paul left the Ephesians in with tears and made his way back to Jerusalem. He stopped in Ptolemais and Tyre where the Christians warned him not to go to Jerusalem. In the following chapters of Acts Paul is arrested and held in Herod’s palace Caesarea Maritime (where we will visit on Monday) and then made his final voyage across the same sea to his death in Rome. It’s a short passage, but it reminds us that Paul not only used R…

Galilee: Sunrise to Sunset

We arrived Thursday afternoon to cold and rain. It’s been raining since Tuesday. There is snow on the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon to the north and there was snow in Jerusalem. It rained all through the night and a storm was forecasted for today. We rearranged our itinerary today to avoid the rain, and except for some morning showers we had clouds but no rain. It made for a beautiful day for Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes, River Jordan, Caesarea Philippi and boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. //  A few hightlights: Amy and I walked/ran down to the town of Tiberias and the promendade. It was a brisk morning with a beautiful sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. I'm impressed again this year by the natural beauty of this lake and the sunrise that Jesus and the disciples would have seen 2000 years ago. It's a great way to start the day. // After breakfast we began with a stop at the Church of Multiplication in Tagba, which commemorates the loaves and fishes in a church with an origina…