Every morning of this journey, the daily schedule of Timothy Team Israel Tour has begun with a gathering for coffee and a time of reading the Bible together. We have been working through the Gospel of Matthew. This account of Yeshua’s life was written to Jewish people who had knowledge of the prophecies related to the coming Messiah, the Son of David from the Hebrew Scriptures. Matthew used more Old Testament scripture than any other Gospel writer. He built an iron-clad case for the fact that Jesus is who He says He is, did the things the Bible said He would, and that He is not finished yet.
Today, on foot once again, we traced the last hours of Jesus’s life from the Last Passover to the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed and was arrested. The dungeons at Caiaphas House were a sober reminder of that what had to be done to defeat Satan forever. Following an illegal night time trial, Yeshua was taken to Pilate, Herod and then back to Pilate where He was handed over to the soldiers to be led in shame to Golgotha. There He was crucified as a criminal, between criminals. It might just as well have been you and me. Six hours later the King of Glory was laid in a rich man’s tomb. It could have been on the site of the Holy Sepulcher or the Garden Tomb. Maybe even someplace else. It really doesn’t matter where. We saw it all today.
Timothy Team Israel Tour Day 13
Upper Room Daniel 9 provides a prophetic timeline that identified the exact day Yeshua had to enter the City of the Great King in order to be crucified at the designated time in His Father’s plan for all of history. Let me be even more pointed. Yeshua was violently “cut off” on the exact day the angel Gabriel told Daniel (See Daniel 9:24-27) that Messiah the Prince would die. For four days, the Lamb of God was inspected by all of the various parties to confirm that there was no flaw to be found in Him. He then retreated to an Upper Room that had been prepared for Jesus along withHis family and friends to share the Last Passover.
Most churches observe the Last Supper as a sacramental observance of Yeshua’s sacrifice of Himself for the sin of all mankind. It has been named as such by those unfamiliar with the rich tradition of the Passover observance of the Jewish people. Christians often miss the very pointed imagery of the Passover Seder, annual event in Jewish life that has been celebrated every year for thousands of years. The Seder itself speaks of what happened on this night, the following day, and three days later.
The room we visited is an Upper Room located on what is now known as Mount Zion. As with the other places we visited today, the exact location of what happened here is unknown. I personally think this is the way God planned it. We don’t need to know exactly where where these events happened. But, it was a powerful moment knowing that somewhere close by, Jesus shared a final meal with His friends as He gave them His final instructions for the ministry to come. Read John 14-17.
Garden of Gethsemane Leaving the Upper Room, Yeshua and His closest friends crossed the Kidron Valley to a garden that housed an olive press. Gethsemane means “olive press.” When olives are harvested, they are places in a circular stone trough. A millstone is rolled over them to break them down, to make them ready to have intense pressure applied to them. Taken out of the “yom” the broken olives are places in round bags that were be placed beneath the stone press. As pressure is applied the olive oil is released and caught in a receptacle.
This is exactly what would happen to Yeshua the next morning. He would be beaten, broken, and crucified. Why? To bear the weight of your sin and mine. There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, looking ahead at what was to come, Yeshua sweat blood as a prophetic picture of the hours ahead.
It has been debated what Yeshua was actually thinking when He asked if it was possible for the cup awaiting Him to pass away. What is known is this. Yeshua was born to die. He left His Father’s side for this express purpose. He would not be deterred. He came to “crush the head of the Serpent.” It was here in this garden that Judas betrayed Jesus. It is likely that hundreds of people were with Judas when he came to identify Jesus to those who had paid him.
From the beautiful garden with the olive press, the Lamb of God crossed the Kidron Valley once again. He was taken to the house of the High Priest, Caiaphas.
Caiaphas House On the slope of Jerusalem’s 1st Century upper city, the aristocrats owned wealthy homes There, they could look down on lesser mortals, the have nots. No one thought more of themselves than the Sanhedrin, the seventy member body of Sadducees and Pharisees who ruled over the religious affairs of Judea on behalf of Rome. The High Priest was the 71st member of the Sanhedrin, the body’s leader. It was to his home Jesus was taken in chains.
Over a period of several hours an illegal trial was held in an attempt to convict Jesus of blasphemy, an offense punishable by death. How was the trial illegal, who said it was illegal? The Sanhedrin itself. They had rules for how trials calling for capital punishment were to be conducted. In fact, according to Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, there were twenty one violations of the Sanhedrin’s own rules. Here are just a few of them:
The trial could not occur at night. The trial must be public. The accused cannot be compiled to testify. Unanimous verdicts were rejected and the accused was set free.
Outside, in the courtyard, Peter was identified three times as one of Yeshua’s followers. Each time he denied knowing Him and then the cock crowed, just as Yeshua had told Peter it would.
Antonia Fortress As day broke, Yeshua was taken to the place where a third rate officer of Rome would interview Him and find no fault whatsoever. Some have speculated that the location of what is known as the Antonia Fortress was where this meeting took place. We went to the area of the Antoni next, climbing stairs to what may have at one point been an overlook onto the Temple Mount. We arrived shortly after the morning prayers of the Muslims were came to a close. It was eerie observing what was happening there, knowing that just a little while earlier the entire platform was covered by Islamic adherents bowing towards Mecca.
While we were not able to visit the Muslim platform itself, we were able to get a sense of the fortress as it once existed, how it could provide easy access to Roman soldiers if trouble erupted there during the three mandatory feasts of the Mosaic Covenant.
Via Dolorosa This name means “way of sorrow.” In the earliest days of the Byzantine Empire, after Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome, there was a commemorative route to Golgotha that originated at the Mount of Olives. It ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher The Decumanus ran at a ninety-degree angle to the Cardo thus creating the quarters typical of a Roman city, including the city of Jerusalem after it was leveled by Hadrian in 135 AD and renamed Aelia Capitolina. The Via Dolorosa loosely follows the route of the Decumanus.
Originally, the fourteen Stations of the Cross were not identified along the route of the Via Dolorosa. Over time, these stops along the route leading to where Jesus may have been crucified, buried and rose from the dead came to be associated with events both biblical and unbiblical.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher The tradition identifying the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as the place where Jesus was crucified and buried is an ancient one, dating back to the 4th Century. Constantine the Great commissioned his mother to go to the Holy Land to identify the locations of three important events in the life of Messiah Jesus. The Church of the Nativity commemorates the birth of Yeshua in Bethlehem.The Holy Sepulcher is a possible location of His death and resurrection from the tomb close by. Finally, the Church of the Ascension identifies that point on the Mount of Olives from which Messiah is reported to have ascended back to His Father’s side, promising one day to return exactly as He left.
Garden Tomb Just outside the Damascus Gate is what is known as the Garden Tomb, also known as Gordon’s Calvary. We bring our groups to both locations traditionally identified as the site of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. Certainly, for this group, the Garden Tomb feels better than the “smells and bells” of the Holy Sepulcher.
In 1883, General Charles Gordon identified a rock outcropping that somewhat looked like the face of a skull. Nearby were the remains of an ancient garden and winepress. There was also a tomb carved in the face of a cliff with a rolling stone enclosure. Because of its location and also based on a Protestant supposition that the Holy Sepulcher was not the real location of the events it commemorated, the Garden Tomb has become a favorite stop for many groups. It was certainly a favorite of our group.
Following a brief explanation of the site and a chance to enter the tomb, we shared communion in a small chapel prior to making our final stop of the day.
Shabbat at the Kotel Friday night in Jerusalem provides a rare opportunity. At sunset, the Shabbat (Sabbath) begins. The Kotel, also known as the Western / Wailing Wall, comes alive as people from all over the world come to celebrate God’s own provision of rest.
At about the time that the Shabbat began, the Muslim call to prayer rang out from the minarets of the city. As this was happening, yeshiva (Jewish religious schools) students were making their way to the Kotel. They were singing and clapping all the way with the calls to prayer in the background.
Make no mistake. This is a clash of deep religious belief and culture. What we observed was both sides saying, “We are not going anywhere?” It was both exciting and sad to be there and witness this.
Big Idea Religion is mankind’s attempt to reach out to God with a satisfactory solution to its own sin problem. During this incredible journey, we have observed buildings, monuments and the practices of very religious people. What is necessary to actually deal with the sin problem everyone has, is a personal relationship with the Son of God. It is only possible for this to happen through own individual belief in what Yeshua has done on their behalf on the cross, in the grave, and now in the skies.
Yeshua did for me what I could never do for myself. What about you?
P.S. – This group has been fantastic. Today we walked over 8 miles! Here is the team report from Mariah.