In Jerusalem our feet find paths that will be remembered forever. Over the course of a few days, we journeyed the paths that Jesus took on the last week of his life.
We began our day on the Mount of Olives. The Mt. of Olives is on the other side of the Kidron Valley from the city of Jerusalem. Keep in mind, this isn’t a large distance. From the top of the Mt. of Olives you can see the the Eastern Gate of the City.
From our place on the Mount of Olives, we began The Palm Sunday Path. This is the path Jesus would have taken as he entered Jerusalem.
The crowds gathered as Jesus approached the road down the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, and towards the East Gate of Jerusalem. Jewish tradition held that the Messiah would enter the city from the East Gate. This gate stood in line with the gates of the Temple and the Holy of Holies (the central, most holy section).
There at the beginning of the path, the crowds threw their cloaks on the ground before him shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:37-39).
Along the modern-day path is the Church of Dominus Flavit, the church that commemorates he place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Luke 19.
Dominus Flavit is built in the shape of a tear drop in memory of Jesus’ tears. While most churches in the area face to the east, this church faces west so Jerusalem, particularly the East Gate, can be seen by the congregation behind the altar. There are two significant reasons.
First, tradition held that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem from the East Gate. This is likely the gate from which Jesus entered Jerusalem and the reason why the crowds were celebrating as he journeyed towards the city from the Mt. of Olives. Second, is a modern reason. Standing prominently above the East Gate is the Dome of the Rock, a significant Muslim holy place that dominates the Jerusalem skyline. While sitting in the congregation of Dominos Flavit, the cross and the Eucharist on the altar stand in front of the Dome of the Rock.
We can see one of the reasons he wept when we look out at Jerusalem. The Temple Mount had been heavily built up by Herod the Great. It sounds like a great gift to the Jewish people, but it came with a cost.
Adjoining the Temple, Herod built the Antonia Fortress in order to monitor Temple activities. It was an architectural sign of the conflict of culture, religion, and power. Jesus looks out over Jerusalem, the Roman occupation, the religious corruption, and more and he weeps.
From here, we traveled to The Garden of Gethsemane. On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus walked this path from Bethany, where he was staying for the week, and asked his disciples to go ahead of him to make preparations for the Passover meal, which would be his last supper. This passover took place within the walls of the city, just a 15 minute walk from the Garden of Gethsemane. The current Davidson Center is the place where this supper is commemorated. The Davidson Center is also the location of the Tomb of King David. It is believed that the Last Supper took place in an upper room over the tomb of David.
I had the opportunity to give a devotion before we entered the Garden of Gethsemane. I’ll share that devotion in a subsequent post.
Gethsemane translates to “olive press.” The garden is a grove of olive trees that were cultivated and pressed on site. Today, the garden still hosts olive trees, many of them very old. One in particular may date back to hundreds of years.
Gethsemane sits on the side of the Mt. of Olives. As such, it is a rocky garden. I had never really thought of it this way—I normally think of gardens as flat, cultivated places. Yet the geography of the garden is quite rocky. The Church of All Nations sits on the site of the garden.
The inside of the church is breathtaking. The church’s altar is built over the rock which is believed to be the place where Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
Pastor Mike reminded us that, just as olives were pressed 4 times to produce different grades of oil, at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was pressed for the first time and sweat drops of blood.
As Jesus was in the garden, Judas led the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the Jewish elders to arrest him. They took him to the House of Ciaphas, the high priest.
The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantus stands over the site of Ciaphas’s house. “Gallicantu” is Latin for “cocks crow.” You may remember that it was outside of the house of Ciaphas that Peter disowned Jesus 3 times (Luke 22:54ff). This is the location of the first part of Jesus’ trial. Remember, he was tried by the Jewish priests, then taken to Pontius Pilate—the Roman prefect over Judea, and then to Herod Antipas—the tetrarch of Galillee who was in town for the Passover, before finally being sentenced by Pilate.
Luke 23 tells us that Jesus didn’t begin his official trial until daybreak the next day (Luke 22:66). This means that Jesus was imprisoned for the night (at least a portion of it, depending on how long Jesus prayed in the garden). Where was he imprisoned?
The traditional answer to this question, defended by archaeology, is haunting. In the stone floor of the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu is a hole that peers deep into an small underground cave. At various places around the church, we see mosaics of Jesus shackled with ropes tied around his torso. Tradition holds that these ropes were used to lower Jesus deep into the cave below which acted as a maximum security hold for the temple guard. As the council of priests questioned Jesus and deliberated before and during the trial, they would raise and lower Jesus into this cell. This deep, dark, isolated cell is the place where Jesus spent his last night.
We went down, many flights of stairs, to access the cell. It barely held all of us and, looking up, high in the ceiling, is the hole in the floor of the church, just large enough for the frame of a small man. Inside this dark cavern, we read the words of Psalm 88:
“O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit…. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am convinced and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.”
And, just yards away, Peter sat before a fire saying, “I do not know him.”
A rooster crowed.
And Peter went outside and wept bitterly.