Today was the day we were scheduled to travel out to a few sites with a tour bus, however we learned early this morning that the bus was not able to meet us. So we spent the day wandering the streets of Jerusalem instead. It was a great day but a long one. For those considering coming to Israel be prepared to walk a lot. Here in Jerusalem you get the feeling that everything is uphill as well. Some in our group were really struggling today to keep up and we are all tired after a day in the old city.

Our first stop took us just down a very step hill from our hotel to the Garden of Gethsemane or Mount of Olives where Jesus went to pray on the night he was betrayed. The Mt of Olives gained its name from its extensive olive groves which were renowned in antiquity (Zec 14:4; Mk 11:1). [1] There is good reason to believe this could be the exact place. From this garden you can see the Golden Gate which is sealed and said to only be opened at the return of Christ. You can also see where the Lions gate leads into the city. There are also two extremely large olive trees here. Tradition and science according to some say that at least one of these trees was here the night Jesus prayed. Olive trees are known to live for over 1,000 years in some cases so it is not impossible to think that Jesus would have prayed near or under one of these very trees. Of course there is a church built here and there is a rock exposed in the floor of the church that is called the rock of agony. After we spent some nice time in extended prayer near the garden we headed down the step hill again toward the city.

Large Olive tree in the Mount of Olives

Large Olive tree in the Mount of Olives

Large Olive tree in the Mount of Olives

Large Olive tree in the Mount of Olives

Large Olive tree in the Mount of Olives

Large Olive tree in the Mount of Olives

After reaching the bottom of the valley we got to start walking up hill winding our way toward the Lions Gate. This is a massive and very impressive gate like all the rest. Once inside you are on the Via Dolorosa pathway. Because the Pope was in town the last few days the city was overrun with pilgrims like ourselves so it was very crowded. We did not stop at all of the stations on the path but we did stop at the place where they believe Jesus was beaten. There is an interesting game carved into one of the stones that was a game soldiers played. It is believed that this is the place where the soldiers gambled for the clothes of Christ.

Lions Gate

Lions Gate

Lions Gate

Lions Gate

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Next we continued on to the Western Wall. Once we arrive we prayed and observed others doing the same. I placed a note in the wall for one of my friends who requested I do that and prayed for her. Next I prayed for my own family. Then I prayed for the people of Cowboy Fellowship. I am not sure how long I was there but it was awhile. I pictured the church in front of me as I see them on Sunday morning and worked my way up and down each row praying for each person by name. For those whose names escaped me I prayed for knowing that God knew there names. I guess this is one of the benefits of everyone sitting in the same places each week at church, I found it useful today and will likely pray with this method more often.

My roommate took some pictures of me praying at the wall. In case you are wondering you have to have a hat on to pray at the wall...

My roommate took some pictures of me praying at the wall. In case you are wondering you have to have a hat on to pray at the wall…

My roommate took some pictures of me praying at the wall. In case you are wondering you have to have a hat on to pray at the wall...

My roommate took some pictures of me praying at the wall. In case you are wondering you have to have a hat on to pray at the wall…

After lunch we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the place many believe Jesus was crucified. It was very crowded and cluttered. There was little stillness or peace to be found in this place. The pilgrims were all pushing and fighting for position in line. Tour guides were shouting over the crowd and each other so they could be heard. Orthodox Jews were chanting in one of the adjoining chapels. Greek Orthodox priests where walking through splashing incense smoke on the altar over the place Jesus died along with the pilgrims waiting in line. Then one of the Greek Priest would periodically crawl into the niche under the altar with a bottle of Windex and clean the place covering the hole where the cross was supposed to have been placed. When it was your turn each pilgrim stopped to pray and touch the hole the cross is said to have been in. You have to get on your knees to do that and many would kiss the plate that surrounds the hole. Many put their hands inside the hole as well. After I took my turn (I did not kiss it) I set out in the rest of the church. It is a massive place that has been added onto over the years. It is filled with small chapels and tombs. Many people touch the picture frames and walls along with just about anything else and pray. Honestly this was not a real spiritual event for me. I was saddened by the commercialism that has taken place here, along with all the fighting that happens here everyday among the priests from the seven different traditions who operate the site together, and the pilgrims who push, and fight for position. If I visit again I pray my experience might be different, perhaps today was not the way things normally are here.

We also walked by the Jaffa Gate today. Pilate’s Jerusalem residence, the old royal palace called the Praetorium, was on the western side of the city near the modern Jaffa gate. Jesus was taken to Pilate during his trials This gate is near the tower of David which we also past by and took some photos of. Later in the day we went through the double turn inside the Damascus gate as well.

Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate

We ended the day by going to what is known as “The Garden Tomb.” This is another possible location for the death and burial of Jesus. There was a very nice but short tour through the garden with an explanation as to why this is possibly the place. However after doing some research tonight I feel like this is highly unlikely. I wish it could be the place because it is so nice, peaceful here in comparison to the experience I had at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher earlier in the day. In my opinion this is the way the location of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection should be preserved and experienced, however the evidence overwhelmingly points to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as being the location. This was a marvelous place to visit and very educational I would highly recommend it for anyone who comes to visit Jerusalem. I would suggest you visit this place near the end of the day and enjoy the shade and cool breeze that blows through the garden. There are also many places to sit and rest your feet at the end of a long day.

Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

Inside the garden tomb

Inside the garden tomb

Today was a good day. I am glad I have gotten to see and experience these things however the dead stones I have touched move me very little. It is my living risen savior that has touched me here in this land. Tomorrow I hope the bus will arrive on time and take us out to the Dead Sea and a few other sites I have really been looking forward to visiting.



[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1587.