Peace Comes at a Price
Here’s my pic from the alleged Garden of Gethsemane.
True, the olive trees in this garden are hundreds of years old. True, they are at the base of the Mount of Olives. And historically true, Jesus spent some of his last hours within a kilometre or so of here, betrayed, praying, under so much torment blood seeped from his pores.
Maybe not this exact tree, this exact garden, now enclosed by a church of some sort or another.
But it wasn’t hard to imagine a man under this tree in the dead of night, his friends asleep and oblivious nearby.
This is where I think the greatest suffering went down. For this is when he chose to surrender, submit, alone, betrayed, briefly adored then hated, abandoned…all to follow though with his commitment to bring us peace, reconciliation, rest.
All the while knowing for most of humanity, his peace would bring war. But he chose death anyway, to prove his love and pursuit, to embody hope… in case we would choose peace anyway.
Peace always comes at a great price, but in this, at least, the price is not ours.
What word would you put in stone like this in the Garden of Gethsemane and why?
Weep For the City
A few month ago on our anniversary trip my husband and I hiked 8-10 miles around the Old City of Jerusalem, up and down. From the German side down into the Kidron Valley, skirting the edge of Palestine, up around the Mount of Olives, and walking through Arab, Armenian, Christian and Jewish sectors of cultures and beliefs.
It was surreal to say the least.
As we weren’t going there to tour the Holy Land, it wasn’t really until we were walking around that it hit me in the face that I was walking through the history and tension-zone of the world. The dynamic about what happened when, where and why was front and center (which I found fascinating).
One of these debates (although a minor one in my perspective) centers around where Jesus was crucified. Personally, I believe the top of the Mount of Olives is the most likely scenario, where the temple would have been visible (and where the Dome of the Rock now stands). Besides a few churches with green trees clinging to its sides, this mountain it is almost entirely covered in graves, making the area indeed look bare and 💀skull-like. Apparently this area has been covered in graves for millennia.
My skills and my camera aren’t the best and even if they were, there would be no way on earth I could do this view justice. We could see so many details of the Old City and the lighting was Incredible.
One thing I could begin to grasp, though, was what it would be like to weep over your city, from a vantage point like this. . .
“…for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Luke 13:34
Path to Redemption
Let’s just say the Via Dolorosa wasn’t what I expected. First, it is largely in the Muslim Quarter. That surprised me, since the Via Dolorosa is kinda a Christian thing (or version of it). But a lot of things surprised me.
We were passed by Israeli military and turned away from the Dome of the Rock, as we tried to find our way to the Jewish Western Wall. “Visit Palestine” postcards sat dusty on the racks, Israeli flags flew overhead and the Imams’ call to prayer resonated over the pilgrims walking path of Jesus. It only called to attention how melded this region is deep-seated faiths.
For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine the insane amount of people who walk down it, which is what supposedly happens this time of year during Passion Week (minus COVID-19). It was crowded enough for us, during a season when it wasn’t the big thing!
As I am not from a Catholic tradition, and I don’t really believe this is “the way of pain” Jesus walked to his death, it doesn’t have a ton of meaning to me. But to millions, hundreds of millions, maybe over a billion, it does.
But for me, walking a path which carries symbolism and meaning to that many people around the world? That does carry significance to me.
This, being in the epicenter of so much of the world’s faith was an incredible experience.
An ordinary stone walk to some is just a stone walk. But to others, it is a path to redemption…
Death Where is Your Sting?
Ever been in a tomb, stumbling around with a candle by yourself?
One of the cooler experiences I had in Israel a few months ago was exploring the Tomb of the Prophets.
Hiking up the Mount of Olives, we stumbled across this gem. It was just a little sign with no fanfare in what appeared to be someone’s property (old cars, potted plants, wash-out type of place). There was a sketchy staircase going down into what appeared like a well where an old man sat at the bottom.
Of course we went down. Underground the space became a huge cavern with side tunnels. My husband had two shekels on him, which purchased my entrance fee+candle, and I went exploring.
Guess what? It is actually hard to walk through dark tunnels with just a candle. I stumbled once, panicking my flame would go out, but I reassured myself that I had a phone in my pocket and that the tunnels didn’t go deeper than yelling-for-help distance.
There were at least forty graves, and the elderly man explained to me that everyone wanted to be buried on the Mount of Olives. Why? Because that is where God would come from heaven in all His power, to resurrect the dead. This, he explained, was the tradition of all Jews, much further back than Jesus. That is why, he explained, the prophets and their disciples were buried here. To await the coming glory.
Later, I found this on Wikipedia:
The Tomb of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Arabic: قبر النبيا Qubur El Anbiyya, is an ancient burial site. Medieval Jewish tradition (also adopted by Christians) believes the catacombs to be the burial place of the last three Hebrew Bible prophets. But, that tradition is unlikely, as archaeologists have dated the earliest burial chambers to five hundred years or so after the prophets lived.
Carefully navigating the black chambers, I imagined the followers of these prophets weeping as they laid them to rest. One thing that was true of the prophets, wherever they were buried, true of the tens of thousands still entombed on the Mount of Olives, and true of all who have passed on…death is our common denominator. We can only approach it with hope or sorrow.
“O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55
Freedom in the Old City
The Western Wall had far too little security in my opinion. On our hike experience through and around Old Jerusalem, we made it to the last remaining part of the Jewish Temple right at sunset.
We hit the jackpot, for as it was the last day of Hanukkah and we happened to be there at the perfect time for the big menorah lighting. I am assuming the big-wig rabbis led the people, and lo and behold, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke (not that I understood any of it).
I also waltzed into the males only area (in my defense, the sign was very small and blocked by people). Yelled at, I freaked, stubbing my toe as I ran out.
Resigned, I pulled on my head scarf and went to the much smaller women’s section after using the provided fountain and metal pot to ceremonially cleanse my hands. It took some effort to wiggle close enough to where women were packed into the corner, get on my tippy-toes, and reach over praying heads to graze the wall with my fingertips. I attempted to shove a folded scrap of paper into a crack, but it only fell out, as I began to maneuver away (without turning my back to the wall).
It was an honor to partake in this tradition. But never before in my life have I been so grateful and aware of what I believe Jesus’ sacrifice gives us. Namely, that I can come before God, wherever I am in the world, and be part of a living temple. And that I’m accepted just as I am, as both a gentile and as a woman. These promises are overwhelming in the Old Jerusalem, overwrought with division.
Maybe I was only there to discover how free I really am.
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28