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 to be an olive press in this location. This is the place where Jesus, like olives in a press, was crushed for our iniquities and he sweat drops of blood. This begins the ascent to the Sheep’s gate and the Via Dolorosa (way of sorrow or pain), following the stations of the cross from Catholic tradition and scripture. Again there are great contrasts: walking through the Muslim quarter of the Old City, people going about their business, and we’re remembering the Savior’s path for the salvation of the world. I’ll never forget the looks on some of our faces as we turned the corner from the quiet streets we walked from Sheep Gate (or Lion’s Gate) to the marketplace. Eyes like saucers as we took in the sights, smells and sounds of Old Jerusalem. One miracle has taken place for 40 some years in this intersection. For decades Jews have made their way along this road south to the western wall, and Christians have walked this road (especially every Friday for Catholics) to commemorate Jesus’ passion, and Muslims have walked this road on their way to prayer, and there has never been a fight or a bomb or a protest. // And we walked through the Sheep Gate, and although Jesus would have walked through the Golden Gate which was closed to keep the Messiah from returning (…) this is the gate the sheep and lambs would have entered for the sacrifices in the temple.
“Jesus, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.”
We continued to the Pools of Bethseda where Jesus healed the man who couldn’t get down to the waters to be healed. This was an ancient massive healing pool where people came for centuries. No one knows why there were healing powers there, but we know the man had the expectation for healing and Jesus healed him. Right next door is the church of St. Anne, Mary’s mother, and we sang the Doxology. // We ended the Via Dolorosa at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in time for the Franciscan’s processional--the sounds of pilgrimage, pomp and ritual. Six churches fight over control of this church where they believe Jesus died and been buried-- after six years of negotiating a new agreement they reached an agreement of Status Quo. So much for unity in the body of Christ on the most important site of their faith.
Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us.