Holy Land Pilgrimage Remembrance
If you tuned into Palm Sunday worship, you heard me tell the children about an incredible experience I was able to have seven years ago! Read a few of my reflections on Jerusalem here. Enjoy the photos showing the sites.
As you reflect upon the events we remember and rehearse this week, may you experience a deeper connection to the God of Easter – the God of Life!
Friday, March 14, 2014: Jerusalem Journal Entry.
Wow! Friday, our first day in Jerusalem, was exhausting! Lots of walking for our pilgrimage sites, followed by heading back out for the Wailing Wall at sundown to begin Sabbath in Jerusalem. I LOVED being on the Mount of Olives. We were taking the walk down the Palm Sunday Road into Gethsemane.
Of course, we know that’s not entirely how it happened – Jesus didn’t go down from the Mount of Olives right into the fateful night in Gethsemane. Even if the story was being experienced a bit out of order, I could imagine his followers super excited. Making a big deal out of his entry into Jerusalem! Maybe lots of them thought he’d come out of it all triumphant. That he’d already over-turned all of Judaism and Rome before he even entered the city. Certainly his closest friends knew otherwise: Peter, James, John, his mother, Mary Magdalene. I’m not sure they would have been all that excited about his entry into Jerusalem the week of the Passover Festival.
The streets of old Jerusalem were busy. The Via Dolorosa was so moving – more than I ever could have imagined! Before we got there, we took in the rock of agony in Gethsemane. What a beautiful sanctuary over it called the Church of All Nations! And in it: what an immense rock said to be the place Jesus threw himself for prayer as he tried to come to terms with the road ahead!
I’m sure it was a struggle because he certainly knew Rome’s power. He knew how upset the other Jewish teachers were becoming with him. (You can feel it when the pressure’s building and folks are ready to pounce.) And yet, he knelt on that rock . . . I like that it was a rock: the foundation. The solid base upon which we can stand. He was able to get up from that spot trusting God would get him up from another rock just a few days thereafter.
From that rock of agony, Jesus was taken to a place we saw on Saturday in Jerusalem. To the house of Caiaphas, the Chief Priest. We saw the stairs. The Golden Stairs they are called, which are believed to be the stairs Jesus walked down in order to get from the Upper Room of Maundy Thursday, through the Kidron Valley, to the garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus was snatched out of the garden that night, he was led bound back up those stairs. Then down them again in the morning as they tossed him between Pilate and Herod in the city. By that point of his last day, he’d been in a pit – another rock. A pit in a massive rock where they would have lowered him for the duration of that one last night after binding him in the garden.
The way the archaeology tells the story there, the free-Spirit of God-in-flesh was tied up. Locked down and lowered into the earth to await all that would happen. Our pilgrimage leader read Psalm 88 while we all were standing in that pit. When Jesus was waiting there, I can imagine him wondering if Peter was out in the courtyard. In those very moments, three times denying him. Three times saying he never knew him. As I sat in both places today – the courtyard and the pit – I felt sympathy for Peter. At least he had the courage to follow his bound Lord there. Even if he said NO when asked his allegiance to him.
And in that pit. I can imagine it dark. Cold. Terrifying as he waited for it all to unfold. Pain in his body. Trouble in his soul. I hope that rock reminded him of all the other rocks. The place on which his soul was strengthened just a few minutes prior in Gethsemane. The rocks all over Galilee upon which he promised Peter he’d build his church. The rocks and falling waters of Caesarea Philippi: the site of the Source to which Jesus went before his trek to Jerusalem. (Perhaps to draw strength?) In those moments in the pit of the earth under Caiaphas’ house, I hope Jesus trusted that the rock of the tomb upon which his broken, life-less body would be placed, would NOT be his end! I hope he was able to lay aside any of his fear to hope and trust and be assured of the miracle that lie ahead!
From the pit in Caiaphas’ house, Jesus was dragged to the site of his conviction and flagellation under Pontius Pilate. BTW: We couldn’t go into that first site on the Via Dolorosa.
But how I wish we could have! To see and feel it for a moment: the passive work of our Lord – letting it all happen to him. His ego was a true, whole self. For he was willing to let it all come. No stopping it. And each of those spots along that road; until, at last, the Skull.
It ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – though I find The Garden Tomb and Place of the Skull behind the old religious stoning site just outside the Damascus Gate the much more probable spot of the end/new beginning.
The Garden Tomb is the kind of holy place for which I long: a simple, yet abundant garden! How biblical! Jesus was killed, not for religious reasons, but politically motivated – at least according to the Jewish law we were reminded of while visiting Caiaphas’ house. According to our pilgrimage guide, execution for religious reasons in those days required four things: no arrest at night, 24 hours held in prison, witness before the entire Sanhedrin (of 71), and no religious execution on a Holy Day. The empire did the dirty work.
Whatever the scheme, as the statute of The Servant of the LORD in Caiaphas’ house read: “He surrendered himself to death . . .” (Is. 53:12b). Down deep in that pit on the grounds of Caiaphas’ house there no longer was anyway out. Now that’s commitment. A total surrender of self that somehow would change all the world.
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