Today was a very diverse day, a very full day, and a very powerful day.
We began the morning at the Temple Mount. This is the platform built by Herod that housed the 2nd Temple in Jesus’ time, and now is the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the Dome of the Rock shrine and the Southern Mosque). The art in these buildings was amazing and it was a real privilege to be able to even come up to the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Our next stop was Saint Anne’s church. The church itself commentates the birth of Mary the mother of Jesus. It is a beautiful church with amazing acoustics. We sang a couple of hymns together, and even our motley group sounded amazing! The church sits next to another amazing site, the pools of Bethesda, the place Jesus healed the man who was infirm for 38 years.
Our third stop was the Garden Tomb. This is one site that has some evidence that it may be the place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again (though there is also plenty of evidence that this might not be the exact place as well). We toured the garden area, and even had a chance to look in the tomb. What was much more touching to me, however, was the opportunity to gather in worship and communion together in that place. Whether it was that exact location, another we saw the day before, or somewhere else in-between… the fact is we are not looking for a tomb, because Jesus is not there. Jesus is risen, and by celebrating his Holy Communion, we are recognizing and living out that truth. It was a powerful moment together as a group.
Following lunch we headed to the Israeli Museum, where we saw an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a model of the city of Jerusalem in the days of Jesus. It was really helpful to see the model and picture everything we had seen in parts throughout our trip.
Our last stop of the day was the hardest. We went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial here in Jerusalem. It was an incredible place where we saw faces, read names, and heard stories of the over 5,000,000 men, women, and children who were murdered in Europe in the 1940’s. It was reminder to me that though Jesus is indeed alive, and that we serve a powerful God, there is still evil in the world, and as followers of Jesus we have to oppose that evil whenever we encounter it. There is plenty of work to do. And we are called to this important work of peacemaking, reconciliation, and justice all over the world.