WALKING WHERE JESUS WALKED by Modena and John Jardina - January 2019
As the plane prepared to touch down in the ‘Promised Land’, John and I were overwhelmed with the Presence of God. We talked of how Abraham must have felt when he received the promise from the LORD of a homeland for his descendants never realizing that land would be a land bridge to Europe, Asia and Africa for sharing the gospel of God’s perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world. We talked of his descendants who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they crossed the Jordan River under the leadership of Joshua. John and I waited two years to arrive in Israel and we were overwhelmed. I can only imagine how the Israelites must have felt after waiting 40 years to enter this place that was their promised home.
Israel is a revered location for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In many ways the land of Israel is very sad to me – so many souls walking on these ancient stones yet missing the truth that Jesus, is the cornerstone – the only sure foundation on which to build true faith.
Read Matthew 21:42 (ESV) 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
The land of the Bible is often called the Holy Land where God the Father revealed Himself in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. It is also where Jesus will one day rule and reign. Does a person need to travel to the Holy Land to feel the Presence of God? Of course not!
Read Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV) 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
We do not need to ‘go anywhere’ to find God. He is always with His children and He is always available to those seek Him. We have all seen the pictures of people standing before the Wailing or Western Wall praying. This wall is the only fragment of the great temple built by Herod to survive the Roman destruction. Its ancient stones stand in testimony to a glorious Jewish past. The Holy of Holies was the innermost sanctuary of the Jewish Temple. Separated from the other parts of the Temple by a thick curtain, the Holy of Holies was associated with the presence of God among His people. However at the death of Jesus that curtain separating people from the Presence of God was torn in two. And through the torn curtain of Jesus’ body, we can now come boldly to the throne of grace. There is no need to go to the western wall to discover the Presence of God. When we accept God’s Son His Presence comes to dwell within us. My heart went out to those souls standing and sitting there nodding toward a stone wall instead of looking up to the Savior.
Read Psalm 24:7 (ESV) 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
David was living in the wilderness of Judea, away from the sanctuary of the LORD when he wrote these words, but he was still able to enter into the Presence of his God and fellowship with Him. David already understood the concept of what we day call ‘abiding in Christ. John 15:1-8
I do not want to take away from the fact that the remains of the Western Wall is a special place. All of us love to visit places that we know that our ancestors have touched. I always enjoy a drive to McRae, Arkansas, to see the house that my father built for his parents during the depression era. To the Jews this Western Wall symbolizes their Father’s house.
The Muslim Dome of the Rock now sits on the area where the temple once stood. It is on the site known as Mt. Moriah. We first heard of Mt. Moriah when Abraham went there willing to offer his son Isaac on the altar to the LORD.
Read Genesis 22:10-14 (ESV) 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
All of the land of Israel is under layer upon layer of history. We do not today walk on the specific streets and stones that Jesus walked upon. However, archeologists have dug down below the visible Western Wall to a depth where the stone of Mt. Moriah has been unearthed. Does touching the ancient stone of Mt. Moriah make me or you any closer to the Presence of God? No. However, the existence of the stone serves to remind us – Jehovah Jireh – The Lord Will Provide as Abraham proclaimed there. King David later would purchase Mt. Moriah from Araunah and eventually the temple was constructed on this site. It was destroyed 70 years after the time of Christ just as He prophesied would happen. Read Matthew 24:1-2 (ESV) 1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
About 1300 years ago, a Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, was built on Mt. Moriah. And their control of this 37 acre tract of land fulfills biblical prophecy concerning the Jewish people.
Read Luke 21:24 (ESV) 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
It is interesting that the Muslims who do not accept Jesus as the Messiah have made provisions and continue to maintain those provisions for denial of Jesus’ entrance onto the Temple Mount by the ‘Eastern Gate’ as if that could ever happen! The Eastern Gate of the Temple Mount today is not the same gate that Jesus rode through in His triumphal entry on what we call Palm Sunday. The modern Eastern Gate was not constructed until centuries after the time of Christ. However, the Eastern Gate was sealed shut around AD 1540 by order of Suleiman the Magnificent, a sultan of the Ottoman Empire. It’s believed that the reason for the closing of the Eastern Gate was to prevent the Jewish Messiah from gaining entrance to the Temple Mount. Jewish tradition states that the Messiah will pass through the Eastern Gate when He comes to rule. The sultan was attempting to thwart the Messiah’s plans with sixteen feet of cement. The Eastern Gate has remained sealed for the past 500 years. And by the way, there are graves there as well to further prevent the Messiah’s entrance. When I look at the Eastern Gate, I do not visualize Christ’s return there. I am not sure how everything will transpire but this I know: He will come in clouds and in great glory! Matthew 24:27 (ESV) 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Mount Magazine in Arkansas is 2,753 feet high. The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is 2,710 feet high. This comparison gives you an idea of the height of this mountain.
In the Old Testament, the Mount of Olives is mentioned once in relation to King David. When David’s son Absalom took control of Jerusalem, David and his loyal followers fled the city via an eastern route:
Read 2 Samuel 15:30 (ESV) 30 But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went.
Later King Solomon used the Mount of Olives for idol worship:
Read 1 Kings 11:7 (ESV) 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.
The Mount of Olives is east of Jerusalem.
Jesus visited the Mount of Olives. He gave what is known as His Olivet Discourse from there speaking of end time events. We most remember the mount as being the place of Jesus’ agony the night He was arrested. But, the prophecy of the Mount of Olives is yet to be fulfilled. Let’s read what Zechariah prophesied.
ReadZechariah 14:4 (ESV) 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.
Toward the end of our time in Israel we went to where a convent is built over the pavement area of the Fortress of Antonio – the site of Pilate’s courtyard. It was at this point in our journey that the punishment and mocking laid upon Jesus became extremely real. On the paved squares, the soldiers marked stones to play their games. We saw one stone highlighted under a light box showing the game of Basilicus, a game identified as the King’s Game, which soldiers played with dice. This game was most likely played as they mocked Jesus.
Read Matthew 27:27-30 (ESV) 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.
It matters not what game was played. It matters not if this was the exact spot where Jesus was mocked and beaten even though I believe that it was. What matters is this: Isaiah 53:5 (ESV) 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. The Via Delarosa – the way of the cross leads to Calvary and the Garden Tomb. This site fulfills all of the biblical requirements as to the validity of the place where Jesus suffered, died, was buried and arose again. We know that the Romans crucified at major intersections and on ground level not on a hill as the old hymn says. Jesus was lifted up on a cross – not a mountaintop. When Jesus spoke of his death, He only mentioned being lifted up not being high and lifted up. Read John 12:32 (ESV) 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
When we consider Jesus being ‘high and lifted up’, that is a reminder of His place in heaven such as Isaiah saw. Read Isaiah 6:1 (ESV) 1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
The Bible describes the location of the crucifixion of Jesus.
Read John 19:17 (ESV) 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
The Latin equivalent for skull is Calvaria – hence our use of the word Calvary. We saw a hill with a rock formation resembling a skull. Time and weather has somewhat deteriorated the formation on the hillside but even today if you look closely you will see an impression of a skull. This Place of a Skull was located on a busy highway at the time Jesus was crucified. Crucifixions were at major intersections to put fear into the people. In 1956, the Arabs built a bus station at the base of Golgotha. The place where Jesus was crucified is the back wall of a bus station today. Sacrilegious? I don’t think so. Jesus never has been about appearances. He is about people. Those buses going who knows where are a reminder that people need the Lord and our commission is to go and tell. Mark 16:15 (ESV) 15 And he [meaning Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.