Holy city fires passions to walk where Jesus walkedcomment (0)
January 31, 2008
By Bob Terry
Jerusalem. The name is almost magical. For centuries, it has fired the passions of worshipers — Christian, Jew and Muslim alike. And it still does.
For the Christian, there are few experiences like walking where Jesus walked.
Two thousand years later, there are few places where one can actually walk the streets where Jesus walked. But one such place is Jerusalem Archaeological Park along the southern wall of the Temple Mount.
Archaeologists dug through layers of time to uncover the large staircase that provided the primary entrance onto the Temple Mount.
In Jesus’ day, there were three gates on the east side of the southern wall that provided entrance to the Temple Mount and three gates along the west side of the southern wall for exiting.
Those entrances and exits were blocked up centuries ago, but one can stand on the grand staircase and still see the outline of the gates.
Along the western wall of the Temple Mount, near the corner with the southern wall, one walks along an old limestone street.
On one side are ruins of shops where worshipers bought sacrifices for the temple. There are baptismal pools where worshipers purified themselves prior to appearing before God. These remains go back to Jesus’ day.
At the end of this street is a pile of huge boulders. The boulders are part of the walls along the Temple Mount torn down by Roman soldiers when they destroyed the city in A.D. 70. Archaeologists chose to leave the stones lying where they landed to visualize the destruction suffered by the holy city.
The Temple Mount is another place Jesus walked. There are no remains of the temple. On the most commonly accepted site of the temple now stands the Muslim Dome of the Rock.
Inside is a large stone running north and south. On that stone, Jews believe Abraham bound his son Isaac. Muslims believe it was Ishmael who was bound.
Only Muslims are allowed inside the Dome of the Rock now, so Christian pilgrims can no longer see the stone over which many believe the altar of sacrifice was built in the temple.
The Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a man crippled for 38 years (John 5), is another place where Jesus walked.
The ruins of the pool reflect their history. One can see signs of the first century as well as signs of the crusader era.
Although the site lies within the walls of the Old City, it was outside the walls in Jesus’ day. The present-day walls were constructed by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.
Site of death, burial
The difference between the walls of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day and the walls of Jerusalem today has created confusion around some important Christian sites. One such place is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Some Christians have argued that because the church is inside Jerusalem’s walls, it cannot be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, because the Bible says the execution took place outside the city walls.
In Jesus’ day, however, the site lay outside the city walls. Archaeologists have also demonstrated it is located in an area commonly used for burials.
Still the Garden Tomb provides a better example of what the burial place of Jesus would have been like in Jesus’ day. In the Garden Tomb, one sees a tomb carved out of the rock and the channel in which the stone was rolled, and the setting is a picturesque garden. It is far different than the seven churches controlled by seven different Christian denominations, which make up the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The Garden Tomb was probably the site of a small chapel during the crusader period, the guide explained to the nine state Baptist paper editors during our visit. But it was not believed to be the crucifixion or burial site at the time. That idea did not surface until the 1800s.
One can stand on the Mount of Olives and walk a winding path believed to be similar to the route Jesus took when He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. One sees the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane — though Roman Catholic Christians and Russian Orthodox Christians disagree on the exact location. Each group has a church on the site it believes to be correct.
Way of the Cross
One can even walk the Way of the Cross, the traditional route that would have taken Jesus from the Antonia Citadel, where Pilate condemned Him to death, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Of course, the changes in the walls, the gates and the streets make it impossible to know the exact route Jesus walked.
There are many other sites in and around Old Jerusalem. It can be confusing. That is why I find two museums most helpful. The Museum of the History of Jerusalem, located in the Tower of David near the Jaffa Gate, offers displays of the city before the destruction by the Babylonians, the wall rebuilt by Nehemiah and the city as it was at the time of Christ. These are small-scale models but helpful to see the changes in Jerusalem across the centuries.
The Israel Museum provides a large model of Jerusalem at the time of destruction by the Romans. Jews call this the end of the Second Temple period. The display also shows the walls at the time of Jesus. It is a fascinating display and helpful to the visitor to see Jerusalem as Jesus knew it.
One sees the market area, the old City of David, the Temple Mount, where Caiaphas lived, the Mount of Olives, the roads Jesus traveled and much more. The visual provides additional clarity not possible by just visiting the various sites.
Jerusalem is a special place. To me, visiting it is a worthwhile investment for every Christian.