Today was a very packed day. Actually this week has been really packed. Today we did many things, we went to the Mount of Olives, the Garden or rather Gardens of Gethsemane, Grotto (where Judas betrayed Jesus), and Caiaphas’s house where Jesus was beaten, slapped, and spit upon. This day has been the most powerful day so far on this trip.
At the Mount of Olives we got to see the thousands and thousands of Jewish Graves. There are many important differences to note about Jewish tradition verses American tradition with death and burial. There are two I would like to explain. Jewish people do not celebrate the birthday of a person once they are dead, rather they celebrate the death day. The reasoning for this is that a person has done nothing with their life on the day they are born, it is only in death that what they have done can be seen. Therefore the Jewish people celebrate the death day instead of the birthday so that they can celebrate the life and accomplishments of the dead relative. Unlike Americans, Jewish people to not place flowers on the graves of their close ones. They will find the ugliest looking rock around and place that on the grave. They see death as a tragedy and instead of celebrating it, they mourn it.
This is a good example of the many graves that rest on the Mount of Olives. There are approximately 150,000 Jewish Graves on this site. This is a very important site to be buried for eschatological reasons. Many people are dying to get in there. (humor intended).
Our next stop was the Gethsemane Gardens. This is the famous location of where Jesus prayed to God before his crucifixtion. Jesus brings the disciples to the Garden and tells them to pray. Jesus then goes off to pray on his own and says to God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” After he prays for the first time he returns to his disciples to find them asleep. Jesus looks and says to them, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” He continues and says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” This cycle repeats itself. Jesus prays the same prayer then returns to the disciples once again sleeping. This time he did not reprimand them but returned to pray a third time, praying the same thing. I believe this shows something about the Character of God. God will not force you to do anything but gives you the choice and doesn’t nag you.
Now begins the end of the human life of Jesus. Matthew 26:45 says,
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Every Christian knows what happens next. Judas comes to Jesus and betrays him by kissing him on the check. Jesus is then taken to Caiaphas, the High Priests house. Jesus was mocked and beaten at this house. Today I had the opportunity to visit this house and to go inside the pit where Jesus was dropped into.
This is a picture of the entrance to the pit that Jesus was dropped into when he was being held as Caiaphas’s house after Judas betrayed him. This pit is actually the Cistern to Caiaphas’s house.
This is a look at the hole from inside the cistern. Jesus was most likely lowered by a rope into it. What all happened to Jesus in this cistern is uncertain but assumptions can be made about what happened to Jesus before being dropped inside and after. In Luke 22:54-63 the setting of where Jesus was is explained and the setting does not change until he is taken before Pilate and Herod.
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.
This is when Peters denial of Jesus begins. Unlike what most Christians perceive as Peter denying Jesus while he is carrying his cross, scripture tends to suggest that Peter denied Jesus as Jesus was inside the house of Caiaphas. Once the scriptures finish describing Peters three denials of Jesus it switches to Jesus and how the Guards are treating him.
The men who were gaurding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you!?” And they said many other insulting things to him.
This awful scripture may have happened right before Jesus was dropped into this cistern or pit. The probability of this is very high. Try picturing the Son of God lowered down by a rope into this pit. Before he hits the bottom of the cistern the guards drop the rope and he slams into the rock underneath. All this happens right after they mocked him by slapping him while he was blindfolded and yelled at him to tell them which guard hit him. I can almost guarantee you that they spit on him. Spitting on people here in Israel seems to be a common thing.
This is a picture of the inside of the cistern. All of us crammed in it. Many of us cried when we stood in the place where Jesus went through so much pain. We read scripture and sat as silently as possible but our cries interrupted the silence. Someone randomly began singing, “Jesus Paid it All” and everyone joined in.
This song was played at Passion Conference in 2006. I went to Passion this year, 2012. 45,000 college students gathered together to worship God and grow in their relationship with him.
Today I stood in the place where Jesus began his journey to death, where he began his journey towards crucifixion, where he began his journey towards our redemption, and where he began his journey for our salvation.