From HUGer Danielle:
We began our final day in Jerusalem by walking through part of the Garden of Gethsemene on the Mount of Olives. Of the four places in Jerusalem walked by Jesus - those four places being the Herodian Temple, Mount Zion, Via Dolorosa Street, and the Mount of Olives - the Mount of Olives is where Jesus spent the most time according to the gospels. Jesus and his disciples stayed Thursday night of the Holy Week in this garden instead of walking the whole distance to Bethany.
Here Jesus became frustrated with the disciples because they were weak to the flesh and fell asleep instead of remaining in prayer and on watch even though their spirits were willing (Matthew 14:38). I was reminded of how often I am passive in prayer in times when I am tired, so if you are like me, I encourage you to strive also in fervently praying and seeking God as we wait for Jesus to return.
In the Church of Gethsemene, also known as the Church of All Nations and the Church of Agony, we saw an ancient oil press that would be used to produce olive oil, a necessity in the ancient culture.
We also visited the Garden Tomb which brought some interesting heritage of Jerusalem to our attention. When Hadrian was ruling in 153 AD everything in the New Testament was lost, so when Constantine rolled around and allowed Chrisitianity he wanted to find everything that used to be in the Holy Land. So, "everything" was found, meaning biblical sites were marked even if we cannot be sure of the accuracy of those locations.
As Christine talked about in yesterday's email, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre claims to be built above the point of crucifixion, but in 1840 archaeologists began looking around the area of the Garden Tomb site for Golgatha. They found a rock face that did look like a skull and since the tomb of a rich man (such as Joseph of Aramathea was) and a 2000 year old wine press were also found in close proximity, there is evidence to connect Jesus's crucifixion to this area instead. Also, this rich man's tomb is the only uncovered tomb that was designed such that, to see the body from the entrance, one would look to the right, as mentioned in the gospels. Most tombs were built to have the body on the left side. However, they do not claim that this was Jesus's tomb because there is no clear evidence.
Going back to the rock face, before speculation of this site as being Golgatha, a bus station was built below the rock where the crucifixion crosses may have stood. The crosses would have stood at eye level so that people could look upon the suffering criminals and hurl insults upon them as they passed. Just as people were going about their daily lives as Jesus was dying on the cross (for their sake), the bus station is symbolic of how nonchalantly many Insraeli residents carry on without thought to the significance of the land in which they dwell or knowledge of the salvation they can claim through Christ.
The Israeli Museum is home to the Shrine of the Book and holds innumerable artifacts, including the "House of David" inscription found at the Israeli Gate in Dan, the most ancient Biblical scripture from Solomon's Temple (Numbers 6:24-26 "The Lord bless you and protect you. The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you. The Lord bestow his favor upon you and grant you peace."), and the nail driven heel bone that is the only archaeological evidence of crucifixion in the world, just to name a few.
Our last site to visit with our tour guide Yossi was the Emmaus Monastery, which survived the Muslim destruction under Saladin and may have been one of the Emmauses that Jesus visited after his resurrection (Luke 24:13). Yossi pulled out his flute for a final time for our group and played an excerpt from Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion" which was intended to portray the intense suffering and love of Christ. We have walked through many Catholic churches that portray the suffering of Christ, but I never felt the love He has for us in these places. I felt the peace of the Lord in the gardens and open spaces we walked. But where I felt His love most was at the Jerusalem Prayer Center, through the people. Through all this touring and sightseeing I can guarantee that monuments and large buildings are nothing in comparison to the warmth of meeting fellow followers of Christ in the Holy Land. Yossi reminded us to come back and share the love we bring after we sang "We Love You With the Love of the Lord" to him.
We are all worn out from this week but it has been a much appreciated and knowledge filled adventure. We are so blessed by your love for us and your support in sending us here. I hope I can represent the whole group when I say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all the sacrifices you made to help us get to explore Israel and specifically Jerusalem.
Back to Athens tomorrow!