Feb 19, 2012

Day 5 in Israel

Today was the day of all days for pilgrimages. We started the day in Bethlehem with the birth of Jesus Christ, and finished the day by walking the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified, buried, and where he rose again from the dead.

The Church of the Nativity
The LCOP crew started with worship this morning while we were heading out to Bethlehem, joining with the brothers and sisters from all over the world in worship. It was quite something to be singing hymns and listening to the word of God as we were traveling through Jerusalem.

Once we made it through security and entered the West Bank into Bethlehem, we made our way to the Church of the Nativity. If the Church of the Nativity looks more like a crusader castle rather than a church, it's because it is. When the crusaders retook the Holy Land from the Muslims, they fortified this particular church.

You can see where the original doors used
to be and where the new door is.
At one time the church had a large entry way, but that didn't make for very good defense. So they modified the door and the church so that it could be more defensible.

One of the interesting features about this remodel of the church by the crusaders was that they made the entry so low that no one is able to enter into the church without bowing low. While the crusaders did it for defense purposes, there is an important spiritual truth here as well. The only way that we can enter into the presence of God is to humbly bow before him.

The church was built on top of the place where the ancient Christians believed Jesus was born.

Even with the remodel of the church, the Muslims would one day push out the crusaders for good and this land would be in the control of the Muslims and Turks for centuries to come.

The modern day church is "owned" by both the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian Church.
The Church of the Nativity. The structure with the flag were the living quarters for the crusaders
The Greek Orthodox altar of the Church of the Nativity.

Columns inside the narthex of the Church of the Nativity

The place in the grotto where people believe Jesus was born
The place where tradition says the manger was
This is the Catholic sanctuary at the Church of the Nativity that is attached to the church owned by the original church. This is the sanctuary from which the Christmas Eve Mass is broadcast all over the world
One of the unfortunate realities of the political volatility of this region is the wall that now separates the people of Bethlehem and the West Bank from people in Jerusalem.
The Wall put up by the Israelis that separate Israel from the West Bank
The pathway Jesus most likely took while
entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey
on Palm Sunday
Once we passed through security at The Wall, we proceeded to the most likely place where Jesus would have started his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding on a donkey. While no one can be sure, but the likelihood is that Jesus took the path on the photo because that was the main passageway that went from East to West into the main gate in Jerusalem.

The next stop on our walk was the Pool of Bethesda recorded in John 5. You can still see the columns from the five porticos that John talks about. The modern day pool represents only a portion of what they were able to expose. The pool is larger, but it would require taking down the ruins that have been built on top of the pool.

The pool is quite far down the current level of Jerusalem, but the street level of Jerusalem that Jesus would have been around is considerably lower.

As you can see, cultures just built on top of existing structures.

One of the coolest parts of the day occurred while sitting in the sanctuary located by this pool. We read the text aloud and then began singing some hymns. As we were singing, we were joined by a group of French pilgrims who just joined in in our song and started singing with us. The acoustics in this building is phenomenal and it was awesome to sing with our French brothers and sisters.
The sanctuary located by the Pool of Bethesda
We then started tracing the stations of the cross/last steps of Jesus - Via Dolorosa. While we were leaving one of the stations of the cross, we saw a group who were tracing the stations of the cross carrying a wooden cross.

A moving painting about Jesus' persecution

Church located at one of the stations of the cross
A view of the Via Dolorosa
While tracing the footsteps of Jesus, we stopped by an Austrian hostel located in Jerusalem. On top of this youth hostel is one of the best views of the Dome of the Rock.

View of Jerusalem

The last stations are located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The place where many believe Jesus was buried
The stone which many believe the body of Jesus was prepared for burial


teacher_deb said...

James I love your travel/Photo/Blog. I was thinking as I looked at your photos and read the story of the French folks singing with you..isn't it funny how when we get out in the world the whole demoninations thing sort of receeds and you are left with "brothers and sister in Christ". It seems to bring us closer to the meaning of the idea of Walking with Jesus.

James Kim said...

Deb, next time I hope you and Alan can be here to witness for yourself the glory of Israel.