Monday, June 21, 2010

06/11/10 Third Day - Jerusalem....

Today we start with a tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of 2 places that claim to be the site of Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus. It was built in the 3rd century and is managed by the Roman Catholics, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox churches.

This is years and years of "graffiti" - mostly crosses carved into the pillars of the church.

From the outside it looks a little bit plain but once you enter through the huge doors.....

there are decorations everywhere. Gold, lamps, colors, paintings,

and unbelievable mosaic murals. This may look like a painting but it is thousands and thousands of pieces of tiles. And this is just one of many murals.

This is the Holy Sepulchre, where some believe is the tomb of Jesus.

We left this church to head across the border into Palestine behind the West Bank wall to visit Bethlehem, the place of Jesus' birth. We had to go through a border/security crossing.

Bethlehem was a little different than Jerusalem. Many buildings were boarded up and closed. It felt a little deserted. There was graffiti everywhere, alot of it written in English. I thought this image was interesting.

We went to the Church of the Nativity, which is the site of Jesus' birth. We entered the church through this very small door symbolizing humility by having to bow down to enter.

The priests at this site decided that the guys in our group had shorts on that were too short to enter into this holy place. So our guide had to go and buy shawls for them to wear around their legs.

This church was also very ornate and crowded. We met a group from Russia while we were there. To see the place of Jesus' birth, you must walk down steps into an underground room built over the place where the stable was.

The star marks the spot of his birth.

Next - to the Sheperd's Field where the birth of Jesus was announced to the shepherds.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:8-12

Then a traditional Israeli lunch of a falafel and a diet coke. The ice was a real special treat!!

After shopping in Bethlehem we headed back to Jerusalem. On the way our guide stopped and showed us one of his archaeological work sites. Here were the remains of a very old church and under the dirt they found the beautiful mosaic floor still intact.

Next is a visit to the Garden Tomb. It is the second place where some believe was the place where Christ was crucified and laid in the tomb.
This hill was called Skull Hill. The word Golgotha means place of the Skull. This hill really looks like the face of a skull. Some Bible scholars believe that Jesus was crucified in front of this hill, outside of the city walls, beside a main road.
"They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull)." Matthew 27:33

And here is a tomb carved into the side of the hill believed to have been Joseph's of Arimathea.
"Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. " Luke 23:50-54

We had a very special time here as a group. We worshiped, singing along with other groups from all over the world, and taking communion. It felt to me so much more like "the place" where Jesus was crucified than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But it really doesn't matter the exact location because He's not in the tomb.....He is Risen!!
"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. Mark 16:6

Tonight at sundown started the Sabbath and we had a very nice dinner.
These young Jewish men were in our hotel also having Sabbath dinner. It was a little hard getting used to seeing the soldiers (even on vacation) carrying their M16's wherever they went.

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