The days are starting to all meld together. I feel like this has been one long continuous day actually and I cannot remember where one day ended and the next began so I will just carry on with some more of what I have seen, learned and experienced. This may therefore be in no particular order of when it happened during the trip.
…Sea of Galilee…we arrived here this afternoon
As I described in the prior post, we visited the Garden Tomb where I became convinced of where Jesus’ body was laid to rest. There was something else particularly striking about this place. When you enter the garden, you feel like you are being teleported out of a bustling city with noise and people and traffic, and into a quiet oasis of paradise where you are surrounded by lush fresh blooming flowers with the coolness of shade misting over you like a spa treatment, and you are lulled in by birds singing. Sounds surreal — it was surreal. Plus we were super hot from just walking 3 miles through the old City of Jerusalem from one side to the other, which is the very definition of chaos and busy city life. We were hot and thirsty. Our legs and feet ached. And it was hot. And it was very hot outside. Humid hot.
…the picture above is a glimpse of the House of the High Priest where Jesus would have been imprisoned on the night he was arrested…
Arriving in the garden, we toured around the perimeter of the garden before seeing the actual tomb and as we walked up the far wall of the garden, suddenly we are standing next to Golgotha. Golgotha is the very place where Jesus could have been – and many believe he was here when he was – crucified.
This is in fact exactly what it looks like as I stood on the sidewalk to take a picture:
…the hillside of Golgotha ….
This is not “up on a hill” and by no means is the raised up mountain that I had pictured from how I had always heard from the story, or had seen in the movies. In fact, I am going to go way out on a limb here and say that most of you have it pictured wrong too, if you envisioned three crosses perched up on a hilltop where passers by would have had to strain to look up to the criminals being crucified. No, we have it imaged all wrong in our minds. And google images has it wrong too. If you google “Golgotha,” you will see many of the stereotypical image I describe.
…..a glimpse of the markets inside the old city walls of Jerusalem….
What in fact the ancient Romans would have done is quite a different scene. The cross used in crucifixion by the Romans would have been more eye level with people walking by to get into the city gate – which in the case of Golgotha is literally adjacent to the city gate where, for example, pilgrims would have been traveling into the city to celebrate Passover. In typical Roman fashion, anyone who was crucified was placed – nailed or roped – on the cross with absolutely no clothing to add to the humiliation. Beaten and terribly injured to the brink of death, men were placed on the cross facing forward (and thereby allowing passers by to abuse the so convicted criminals), whereas women were hung on the cross with their backside facing the crowds…again, unclothed.
Why does this strike me as being so remarkable? Remember this! The suffering Jesus endured was on our behalf – He suffered FOR US. Our sin has consequence and we would have been eternally separate from God if our sin had not been reconciled. Jesus is our reconciliation. Even the description and remembrance of His suffering we have in many cultures tried to water down, to make it less offensive somehow. The humiliation and shaming that the guards placed on Jesus as He hung on the cross to atone for our sins is even heavier than what I had imaged and especially now that I have stood in the place which is very likely where he was crucified. I have seen the crowds walking into the city gates. I have felt the tension of chaos. I can picture the brutality of a harsh governing body like the ancient forceful Roman Empire.
Furthermore, the distance and space from the crucifixion to the burial site was in such close proximity, walking the distance made the reality of the whole thing literally take my breath away.
In other words, the experience of Jesus’ passion – His passion that is the reason we are saved because He took the wrath of the world on His shoulders – this passion became palpable in this garden when we walked late in the afternoon. The place is not a mystery to me any longer – it is not a place that exists only in the movies or on TV. Those images are not even really accurate anyway. The place is a real place with real people and a physical reality is that you can touch and walk through and breathe in. It happened in this place. The miracle of it all is more than I can comprehend!
Put all the pieces together today…and we are so fortunate that we live in the days that so much of the puzzle has been put into place for us…. and we have no excuse but to believe! God made the promise to Abraham (Gen 12)….Abraham was faithful and served the Lord. Jesus came as a descendant from Abraham and of David as the Son of God (Matthew 1) and He died on that cross – put to death at the hands of the Romans and by the Jewish leaders. He hung on the cross and suffered torture and humiliation, and was certainly dead when he was placed in the tomb given to him by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23)….He was raised from the dead after three days, just as he foretold (Mark 8-10, Matthew 16, Luke 18), and as is accounted in the gospels by four different authors. This is also a fact which was predicted by prophets greater than 400 years prior to his birth (Isaiah 53) and was witnessed by hundreds of people in the days after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6).
The complexity of it all still blows my mind. The history weaved into the faith, weaved into the geography, and the archeology is far too complicated that any single person or group of people could have fabricated the whole thing.
And there is more! The Dead Sea scrolls, documenting the ancient Old Testament books, written in first century and locked away in caves, hidden — possibly never be discovered again…were unconvered centuries later and provided exactly the same scriptures that had been passed on through verbal and written tradition through scribes for generations and were virtually identical. Oh I could write pages and pages on the small amount of time we spent examining the significance of the Dead Sea scrolls today! Fascinating.
God is dramatic. He is our awesome creator, more attentive to detail and intricate complexity of life than any human could ever be. He is our author of life and He is jealous for each and every one of us. He came here in human flesh so that we could know him and so that we could each have a personal experience of relationship with Him. Which is why each and every one of us should be reading every day His word – learning all that He has given to us for our knowledge and understanding of how He loves us.
Oh how He loves us.