We started Day 6 (Saturday, June 15th) of our “pilgrimage” at the top of the Mount of Olives From this vantage point we got a panoramic view of the Kidron Valley, with its generations of tombs directly in front of us with, above that the Dome of the Rock and the city.
From here I well understood Jesus viewing the city on His ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and weeping over the city and its fate (Luke 19:41-44).
A photographer was all set up to take group photos, so we posed for him before carrying on.
Then we walked downhill, along the Palm Sunday route to the Garden of Gethsemane.
At the Gethsemane site, we visited the Church of All Nations.
At a quiet park along the way, we had a time of group devotions and reflection. I wrote in the journal I carry with me as I thought of what we had seen and would see today:
“Heaviness—the sight of Jerusalem and His (Jesus’) love for it, He, knowing its destiny, weeping. Juxtaposed against this the sounds of dailiness—for us sirens, horns honking, traffic—beggars begging, birds singing.
“Time marching on and He, realizing that the cloud that has hung over Him His whole life is lowering, getting very close, is engulfed with the immensity of it, the dreadfulness of it, the loneliness of it. He casts Himself on the Father.
“The ripples of His obedience now lapping every continent to millions of believers over the centuries, as seen in all the holy memorial places built. I love being part of something so vast and eternal.
We walked along the Via Dolorosa, which took us to the Pools of Bethesda. Though the site is a puzzle of archeological ruins, our guide pointed out the spot thought to be the pools where Jesus healed a man (John 5:1-15).
The church on that site, St. Anne’s, is known for its acoustics. We sang “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” as a group inside, and enjoyed the beautiful sound.
Continuing on the Via Dolorosa, along narrow streets, walkways and busy Arab market stalls, we came at last to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—the traditional site of Jesus’ death and burial.
The plaza was crowded with people and our guide cautioned us not to get stuck in any long lineups
Once inside, though, the mass of people made it difficult to even move. I made it up some stairs but quickly realized that this press of people was not for me, though I did manage to snap one photo. I soon found a fellow tour-mate and together we managed to make as quick an exit as possible, alas without encountering the historic things people came to see and venerate.
We continued walking through the Old City alleyways till we came to Jaffa Gate where we caught the bus.
It took us to the grounds of the Israel Museum. There we bought lunch, ate it in a shady alcove on the grounds, then joined our guide as he explained the city of Jerusalem, a miniature Second Temple Period city on display (from the time of Herod’s Temple and Jesus).
From there we boarded the bus again for a trip outside the city walls to the Garden Tomb and Gordon’s Calvary. This alternate site suggested for Jesus’ death and burial does have a “skull hill” and an ancient tomb, making it a good candidate.
Finally, we drove into the city again to visit the site thought to be the Upper Room, where Jesus and His disciples ate the Last Supper and the early Christians gathered on the Day of Pentecost. A church building occupies that space now.
Altogether, this day was beautifully designed to help us visualize and understand Jesus’ final days, death and resurrection.