The wake-up call came bright and early this morning at 5:45 as we had a full day ahead of us. It began going through security to reach the temple mount. We enjoyed seeing the famous sights here and marveling at the fact that we were walking in the courtyard of the temple that Jesus would have as well. Although nothing is left of the second temple itself the massive retaining walls that surrounded the temple complex are still intact. These Herodian stones, know by their inset borders, are huge and obviously durable since they have lasted 2000 years. (see the picture of me beside one to get the idea of how large they were)
After exiting the temple mount we went to the pool of Bethesda, where the lame man was healed (John 5:1-9) and sang in an 800 year old church on the site. It has arguably the best acoustics in the world and we were privileged to sing as a group there. It was incredible to have other groups touring from all over the world join with us in praise to God with songs like How Great Thou Art, Great is the Faithfulness and It is Well with my Soul. This was a highlight for everyone in the group and an experience that we will not soon forget. Our day continued with an ascent up the Mount of Olives to see Jerusalem in all of its glory. Then we walked down the path that Jesus would have taken on palm Sunday as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Along the way we stopped at the church commemorating his weeping over the city that rejected him. (Luke 19:35-44)
Our descent ended in the Garden of Gethsemane where we walked among the olive trees and into the Church of All Nations built at the site. Of course this is the place of Jesus’ agony before being arrested and taken to be put on trial and then crucified. (Matthew 26:36-46)
After some shopping and lunch we enjoyed sitting on the ancient steps that led to the southern entrance of the second temple and then praying at the Western Wall. This is the site where the Jews come to pray as it is the closest that they have to a connection to their temple.
We moved from there to the excavation of David’s city seeing his palace and then walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel. This was the tunnel built to divert the Gihon spring to the pool of Siloam where it would be safe inside the city walls. There were two options for the group, one was to go through the dry Canaanite tunnel and the other was to walk through the wet Hezekiah tunnel. Amazingly water still flows through its carved out walls and ends at the same pool where Jesus healed the blind man. (John 9:6-7) I took the adventurous wet route which was narrow and low but I survived as did others!
Our day ended with a trip to the church built on the site where Caiaphas’ house would have been. This is where Jesus would have been taken to be put on trail after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is also the sight of Peter’s denial of Jesus 3 times. The original cell where tradition says Jesus would have been placed is here and we were able to sing “He was Wounded for our Transgressions” in it. It is difficult to describe the experience of being where Jesus began to have His body broken for us. It will no doubt be enhanced tomorrow as we go to the crucifixion and Resurrection site. What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus our Lord!
Well it is another busy day of touring tomorrow so I will sign off for now. I would like to say we have heard over here of Tim and Laura’s difficulties and are praying for them. Please shower them with love, care and support as we wish we could be there to do more. Shalom from Jerusalem.