Monday 5th April, 2010
Today started on the Mount of Olives, so named for the many olive trees growing on its slopes. This is where Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19) and where He ascended to heaven after his resurrection (Acts 1). A small church on the Mount marks the place where Jesus wept and has been built in the shape of a teardrop.
At the foot of the Mount is the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus sweated great drops of blood as He faced betrayal and the cross. A larger church, known as the Church of the Agony lies beside the Garden of Gethsemane and contains bedrock believed to be the site where Jesus prayed.
From the Garden of Gethsemane, we crossed the Kidron Valley to the Pool of Bethesda ('House of Mercy') where a large number of people sat by the waters waiting to be healed (John 5). The depths of the pools are incredible and are located in the grounds of the Crusader Church of St. Anne. Designed and built for Gregorian chants, the acoustics are phenomenal and so it was the perfect opportunity for Bob Fitts to lead some worship.
After Bethesda, we followed the 'Via Dolorosa' or 'Way of Suffering' believed to have been the path that Jesus walked on the way to His crucifixion. 14 stations signify different points on the journey, including the 'Ecco Homo Arch' where Pilate is believed to have presented Jesus to the Jews after He was scourged. In modern Jerusalem the 'Way of Suffering' is now the 'Way of Shopping' as tourist and other shops have opened along this major route to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the holy Sepulchre was built to cover the spots where the crucifixion and burial of Jesus took place. Home of Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Syrian, Copt and Catholics, all have their own sections of the Church, and the impression is of 'organised religion' rather than one of Christ - but it is impressive, even if ugly! The pictures in this gallery have been stolen from the internet as this church is so dark and so crowded that it was impossible to take photos inside.
After lunch we went to visit the "Garden Tomb', a possible alternate location for the place of crucifixion and burial. Discovered in 1884, the tomb is near to a prominant rocky crag which looks like a skull and has all the requirements to match the gospel stories concerning the tomb. In complete contrast to the Holy Sepulchre, this site is kept as a quiet garden, without any religious paraphernalia as a place of dedication, where groups are invited to take Holy Communion together.
It is unlikely that there will ever be agreement over which site (if either) is the true site - the debate continues and is well recorded in the book, 'The Weekend that Changed the World' by Peter Walker - highly recommended as a great read to anyone who is interested. I know which site I prefer!
Well, enough for this report - there is still too much to finish the trip here... so another report beckons... more from Jerusalem to follow, and a trip into Palestine to visit Bethlehem too!
Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy xx