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.
Panoramic view of the city from he Mount of Olives. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Tombs in the Kidron Valley, with the city of Jerusalem in the background. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
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.
Our group on the Mount of Olives. (Photo © 2019)
Another photo moment for the two of us. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Then we walked downhill, along the Palm Sunday route to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Our walk took us down, past the grave sites in the valley. Our guide told us that visitors leave stones on the graves (instead of the flowers we leave). Thus graves with many stones have received many visitors. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Ancient olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Gethsemane, a peaceful garden in a bustling city. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
At the Gethsemane site, we visited the Church of All Nations.
Church of All Nations façade (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Church of All Nations interior. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
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).
Walking along the streets of Old Jerusalem. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Bethesday site–a puzzle of archeological finds to the untrained eye. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
The area thought to formerly house the Pools of Bethesda. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
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.
St. Anne’s Church facade (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
We sang inside the old St. Anne’s church and enjoyed the excellent acoustics. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
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
Walking along the streets of the Old City. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, courtyard crowded with visitors. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
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.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
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).
Mini display of Jerusalem from the Second Temple period. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
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.
“Skull Hill” at the Garden Tomb site. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Pastor leading us in a communion service in the Garden Tomb. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Scenes from the Garden Tomb. The bottom one is of the tomb thought to be Jesus’ burial spot. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
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.
*The stained-glass window from the Upper Room Church (or Cenacle). (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)
Altogether, this day was beautifully designed to help us visualize and understand Jesus’ final days, death and resurrection.