We spent Monday in Jerusalem. Here is a brief summary…
This is the Garden of Gethsemane. Perhaps the passage that most clearly communicates Jesus' humanity happens here in this Garden. It is Matthew 24:36-39.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
To stand at the Garden and consider Jesus saying that he was overwhelmed with sorry to the point of death and to know he asked God to take this burden from him – it was overwhelming.
Thank you, God, that He did take that cup of your wrath so I would never have to!
This is the pool of Bethesda (or Bethsaida, depending on your translation). Jesus lived in the Galilee region – which would require travelling several days. He came to Jerusalem three times a year – as all Jews were required to. But he didn't do many miracles in Jerusalem that are recorded in the Bible. Most of his miracles were done in Galilee. But one of the miracles was here – at the pools of Bethesda. If you want, you can read about it in John 5:1-15.
This is an amazing place. It is the steps leading to the south side of the temple, and you can clearly see the south wall of the Temple Mount. When Jesus travelled from Galilee, he seemed to travel by Jericho and enter the city from the southeast side (even though he lived north of Jerusalem by over 100 miles). So these were the steps that Jesus walked many times in his 33 years.
This is at the top of those same steps. It is the best guess of commentators that Acts 2 happened right here. In Acts 2 – Peter preaches a sermon to many people and 3000 believe and are baptized and become part of the church that day. The reason why we believe this is the place is for two reasons:
1) These steps were actually called the "Teaching Steps." It was a place anyone could publicly teach and people coming to the Temple might stop and listen.
2) Acts 2:46 says that following this famous event, they "continued to meet" in the Temple area. That indicates that this meeting was in that Temple area.
3) 3000 were baptized that day. At the bottom of these steps are many "mikvahs" (Jewish ritual baptisteries). How could 3000 people be baptized at one time anywhere else? There may be a couple of others places in Jerusalem were it could happen, but the first two reasons make me believe that one of my favorite chapters in all of the Bible happened here.
We then drove out of Jerusalem and visited the Judean desert – the region Jesus would travel through on his way to Jerusalem. It was beautiful!
Our final visit of the day was to Bethlehem. This is a photo of Bethlehem square. The traditional location of Jesus' birth is disappointing. I hate it when they build churches on top of traditional sites. It ruins it for me. But I loved being in the city that I preached about when I taught in December through Matthew 1-2. They did show us the place where they believe the babies who died in Bethlehem were buried. That was emotional for me to see.