Back to Jerusalem! Today, we got dropped off in the Old City and basically never left all day. We walked from one side to the other – through all four quarters – Jewish, Christian, Aremian, and Muslim. Really the only way you knew where you were was by the dress of the people and the writing on the signs.
We started at the Western Wall entrance to the tunnels. We didn’t spend much time at the wall, just enough for Mel to get yelled at for trying to walk thru the MEN ONLY entrance, and for me to get a few pics. We will be back at the wall tomorrow for a closer look.
The tunnels, were not actually tunnels, but an underground network of arches built by King Herod when he expanded the Temple Mount area for the second temple. Part of the Western Wall is still in the tunnel and is also where some women come to pray, as it is supposedly closest to where the Holy of Holies was in the temple originally. Read more about all that stuff here.
Next thru the Lions Gate and a visit to the Pool of Bethesda [see John 5], and a walk thru the Via Delarosa, where we had an amazing lunch in the Muslim section. [Falafels and Shawarma and crazy strong Turkish coffee, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli Border Patrol police.]
We then went to the traditional palace of Pilate where Jesus would have been tried, convicted, and beaten. We had a powerful time of reflection in Isaiah 53 and the suffering Servant, thankful for Jesus’ humbling himself to do the Father’s will in redeeming us.
Then thru the Jaffa Gate and into the Old City proper, starting with the market place…never seen so many shops crammed with stuff and people crammed everywhere in one place. Watch your wallets and phones, kids.
We went for a hike/walk along the Ramparts Walk – which was built by Suleiman the Magnificent around 485 years ago, during the Ottoman Empire. That was a good workout, lots of steps and great views of the city below.
We went out the Zion Gate, complete with bullet holes from the Arab-Isreali war in 1948, toward the traditional place of the Upper Room and the Last Supper. Again, one of those spots that they think is close, and has since been re-designed, re-built, including a stint as a mosque – and is now a tourist stop where no worship is allowed.
This was all adjacent to/part of the Tomb of David complex, which again, “traditionally” is King David’s tomb. It is one of the holier sites of Judaism, yet we could enter. Men, with their heads covered and women in their own separate spot. I went up to the prayer room, but saw it crowded with Orthodox Jews deep into it and since I was now in a T-shirt with ink flying everywhere, I decided to leave them alone and not cause a potential offense.
On the roof of the compound, was once the holiest site for Jews, when they couldn’t access the temple mount area, as they could at least see it.
…but now, since they can access the temple mount area…it’s not really that holy anymore. Their justification before God tied to actions and places and rituals.
This is the hopeless way of legalism.
We cannot go to any holy site to make ourselves closer to God. We cannot do anything to atone for our sin. We need someone to atone our sin for us. In all the beauty and history of Jerusalem, it’s sad to see some still chase fruitlessness.
God sent Jesus, to walk the Via Delarosa for us, with the cross beam on his back, bloodied and battered. He was the one foretold, who would come from Israel to be our suffering servant. Through faith in Jesus, he has provided us direct access to God by atoning for our sin – what we can never do – no matter what place we go to, or what ritual we do.
The hopeless route of obeying the rules to make God love us is obliterated in Jesus – who loves us enough to go to the cross and die for us, all in obedience to the Father’s plan of redemption. Through Jesus, we are forgiven, we are healed, we are righteous.
Ryan reminded us well of 1 Peter 2:24, and the centrality of the work of Jesus.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)