Shalom! Sorry we didn’t get a chance to update last night. It’s getting increasingly harder to update, as our days are extremely rigorous and computers are still hard to come by.
Yesterday we started at the Mount of Olives, and walked where Jesus would have walked on Palm Sunday on his way to the Old City. Then we spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane before heading into Bethlehem- where we saw The Church of the Nativity.
My highlight (again, picking one among many) was the Palm Sunday walk. We had a short opportunity to worship at the bottom of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the old gate that Jesus would have walked through not only on Palm Sunday, but when he was arrested as well. It was hard not to be emotional staring at the very gates that sealed His fate. After we sang our last song, the whole group fell silent. There was nothing more to say. After a few minutes had passed, Pastor Don stood in front of the group and asked us what we were thinking. It was quiet, until and older gentleman spoke through tears saying only three words.
“It’s all true.”
There is absolutely nothing to compare with standing among a grove of olive trees that is the Garden of Gethsemane. Some of what we’ve seen is a bit “hopeful” (Here, on this metal star in the floor, is the spot where Jesus was born. This rock is where the disciples fell asleep. Etc.)
But to speak to what Allison wrote above, sitting in a bedroom in Dallas reading the Bible it’s hard to imagine how much is historically provable and how much isn’t. Standing in the grove of olive trees where Christ prayed, the same olive grove (no not the same trees, but those trees’ offspring) that hasn’t been moved or had a church built on it in 2000 years looking up at the wall of the Temple Mount (you can see it from the garden where he prayed the night before the crucifixion) that hasn’t moved in 2000 years.
It’s all true.
Today we started in Bethany, and then headed off to Masada and the Dead Sea.
While we were in Bethany, we got to see the place of Mary and Martha’s house. That was my highlight by far. It was particularly touching to me, because I so closely identify to the story of Mary and Martha, when Jesus came to visit. I am often, very often, reminded of this story in my everyday life. I giggle every time I think about Martha…. standing in the doorway to the kitchen (or so in my imagination) crossing her arms, tapping her foot, and giving “that look” to Mary. I think it was Beth Moore who said, if only we could all have a Mary heart in our Martha world. And I agree. * If you don’t know the story I am referring to- it’s in Luke 10: 38-42. Read it now, you’ll be glad you did.
To elaborate, Bethany and Bethpage are the East side of the Mount of Olives. This is where Jesus stopped and got the donkey for the ride on Palm Sunday. Also where the tomb of Lazarus is. Ride up westward maybe 100 yards and you’re at the top of the Mount of Olives. Ride down 300 yards and you’re in the Garden of Gethsemane. Ride down another 100 yards and you’re in the valley of Kidron -the meeting gully, no larger than a two lane road, between the Mount of Olives and the actual Temple Mount (the eastern wall, not the famous Wailing Wall). Ride up 300 yards and you’re at the so-called Eastern gate of the temple.
Here’s where I get chills. The Eastern Gate, visible from the Garden of Gethsemane, is bricked up. Why? In about 700 AD the Muslims (who had the Holy Land then) heard that the Messiah would come through that gate into Jerusalem.
A tad late.
So that’s my geography lesson.
The most fun we had today was swimming in the Dead Sea. Considerably warmer than the River Jordan – actually quite comfortable. And you really do float. In a weird way. You can walk “out to sea” and as your feet begin to barely scratch the mud sea bed beneath you just keep right on walking…into nothingness. And you can keep right on bicycling straight across the sea. To the other side if you wanted to, I suppose.
Allison and I watched the sunset on our backs just floating on our imaginary pool rafts. Then we got out and washed our swimsuits until they didn’t stand up on their own anymore.
Hey, by the way, if you want to know more details about the trip and see videos that we are in (look for us in the River Jordan), go to http://www.cornerstoneworship.org/ and on the right hand side click on The Holy Land blog link. It captures a lot of Allison and my feelings about places we’ve visited but haven’t had time to share. Especially Bethlehem.