This evening was an evening with a lot of mixed emotion for me. Every Friday at sun down the Jewish people welcome in the sabbath with prayer, singing, and dancing at the Western Wall of the old temple in Jerusalem and tonight, we joined them! Culturally I enjoyed the experience very very much. I mean there were literally thousands of people there celebrating and praying. It was like a massive pep rally for people celebrating God and waiting on the Messiah. It was fascinating watching people of all ages and from all over the world bring in the sabbath. The part that broke my heart was how they were longing for their Messiah, not recognizing that He already had come. I just kept praying, “Lord, open the eyes of their hearts to see that their Messiah (savior/rescuer) has already came!” The One they so badly are longing for, has come and they missed Him. He fulfilled every single prophecy in the Old Testament and they missed Him. Oh, how my heart breaks for my Jewish brothers and sisters tonight! Thinking of Romans 11. Thankful that I know the Messiah and He has radically impacted my life now and forever!!!
Wow…this may have been the most powerful experience of the entire trip for me. We got to spend about 45 minutes in a quiet, private area of the Garden of Gethsemane just praying and listening to God by ourselves. As I read back through the gospel accounts of The Garden of Gethsemane, I just kept looking around going, “I can not believe that I am sitting right here under one of these olive trees. Many of the trees in Gethsemane are over 2000 years old, which means they would have been there the night Jesus prayed, struggled, and sweat blood as Judas betrayed him and He was arrested.
Those 45 minutes went by way too fast and it was such a thin place for me, where I sensed the presence of God and heard as He spoke to my heart. I don’t think I will ever forget my time with The Lord in that garden! I did not want to leave!
After the Garden Tomb we went up to the Mount of Olives. About a week before his death and resurrection, Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey to crowds chanting “Hosanna,” which is a special word of praise for the Messiah (Savior). It’s what we call the Triumphal Entry. Read Luke 19 to see what happened next.
“When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:37-44 NIV)
These pictures are the view that Jesus would have had of Jerusalem. Except the camel, of course, which is for Ruthie, Canaan, and Lily…look guys I found Humphrey in Jerusalem!
This morning we started off the morning visiting “The Garden Tomb.”. The Garden Tomb is a recent discovery in the 1800’s. It feels weird saying something that happened in the 1800’s is recent but for Israel standards, it is. There was an empty tomb that was unearthed in the 1800’s in a private garden area, some speculate that it could be the tomb of Jesus because it sits about 100 yards from this hill that looks like a skull, which is what the word Golgotha actually means. It’s likely that its not the place (the traditional and highly likely place we are visiting tomorrow). None the less it gave us a great picture of what Jesus’ tomb was like and who knows it justify be THE empty tomb! Also, I had the privilege of leading our team in our morning prayer and reading time this morning at the garden. We read most all of Matthew 26, 27, and 28 to prepare us as we spend the next 2 days following in the footsteps of Jesus during his last week. We ended our time praying Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,” (Ephesians 1:17-20 NIV)
I learned a few things about the Dead Sea.
#1 it’s salt content is so high that you literally float. It was on of the craziest things that I’ve ever experienced in water! Lol
#2 as soon as you get in the water, you immediately know where every little scratch or wound on your body is because it burns like crazy.
#3 never shave the morning that your going to swim in the Dead Sea.
#4 the mud from the Dead Sea makes your skin soft and you have to flex for a picture, because it makes any little muscle you have visible. Lol
After seeing Masada, we journeyed in our air conditioned bus 🙂 to Kumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. If you are not familiar with the Dead Sea Scrolls, you should definitely google and read up on them…fascinating! One of the cool things we got to see on the way there were the caves of En Gedi where David hid from King Saul!
We visited 3 places yesterday: Masada, Kumran, and the Dead Sea. Each one was a unique and great experience. We started at Masada which is an amazing mountain in the desert where King Herod built a massive palace and small city. About half our team decided to climb the mountain and the other half took a cable car lift to the top. It was an incredible challenge. Climbing a steep mountain, in the desert, with the sun beating down, while its 103 degrees (in the shade) may not have been the wisest thing to do…there were a couple of times when I thought someone might die of heat stroke or heart attack doing this, especially the older guys.
Incredible day…got to go to the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem! Wish Ruthie could have been here w me. I thought about her all day, because this is her favorite story in the Bible. Her favorite movie is the nativity.
When we arrived in Bethlehem we went to a shop that made carvings from olive wood. The olive wood has to sit and dry out for 5 years, then it is hand carved. Pretty awesome process…the finished one in the picture is the one I wanted but could not afford it! 🙂 Dang they’re expensive! Lol
After the factory we headed to the Church of the Nativity, where they are almost certain that Jesus would have been born in one of the stables (caves) below the church. It was an incredible experience going down in the cave and singing “Away in the Manger” with the brothers. The piece of concrete in one of the pics below is what a manger looked like back then, it’s a concrete horse trough for food essentially. This is similar to the one Mary would have laid baby Jesus in.
Mount Tabor is where many scholars believe the Transfiguration of Jesus took place. It was a difficult, yet amazing hike to the top! When we got to the top, we totally felt like little kids on an epic adventure. We were the only ones up there and we stumbled upon the ruins of what we believe to be an ancient crusader fort/church! We were climbing around on it and exploring, it was so much fun and I felt so alive on the top of that mountain! I will likely not forget that as long as I live.