Everybody's Church and Friends Israel Pilgrimage
Follow our group as the travel to Israel and Jordan. Below is the trip book which will let you know where the group is each day, scriptures associated with those locations and a daily devotional. The downloadable file has maps and pictures from the locations the group will visit.
Israel Fast Facts
(from the CIA Handbook)
Area: 20,770 sq km (about the size of New Jersey)
Population: 8,299,706 (July 2016 est, includes Golan Heights and East Jerusalem)
Median age: 29.7
Capital: Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital in 1950 (many international embassies are in Tel Aviv)
Ethnic Groups: Jewish 74.8%, non-Jewish 25.2% (mostly Arab) (2015 est.)
Religion: Jewish 74.8%, Muslim 17.6%, Christian 2%, Druze 1.6%, other 4% (2015 est.)
GDP (purchasing power parity): $300.6 billion (2016 est.)
GDP per capita: $35,200 (2016 est.)
Unemployment: 5% (2016 est.)
May 1: Depart Detroit
Daily Devotional (Read Genesis 12:1-4)
Pilgrims. Normally when we think of Pilgrims we think of Thanksgiving, turkey and people in strange costumes. Long before those pilgrims however, there were other pilgrims; men and women who would travel from across the world to experience a holy place, where they might deepen their faith. Every major faith has their own pilgrimage sites visited by millions of people each year in search of a transforming experience. We are on just such a pilgrimage. We are traveling to the Land that God promised to Abram and Sarai. We are traveling to the Land of judges, kings, prophets and people of God. We are traveling to the places where Jesus, Peter, Paul and disciples walked. We are traveling to the place where Jesus was crucified, buried and raised. We are on pilgrimage, so…
What does it mean for you to be a pilgrim?
What is a holy place for you and why?
May 2: Arrive in Tel Aviv
Daily Devotional (read Genesis 12:5-6)
Land. In Texas one of the great truisms is that the only real wealth is the land. Everything else will fade away but the land will remain. The same could be said as we touch down in Tel Aviv. I say this because we are entering a land that was promised to Abraham, but was settled and fought over by Hittites, Jebusites, Canaanites, Hebrews, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Christians, Arabs, Ottomans, French, British, Christian and Muslim Palestinians, and once again Jews (among others). This reality, of the land claimed by many, is what makes seeking peace so difficult. Each side feels a holy connection to it, and sharing such a holy place is hard. As we begin our journey…
What importance does “land” have for you?
What does the Land of Promise mean to you?
Tel Aviv is a second largest city in Israel and sits on the Mediterranean coastline. Founded in 1909 by Jewish settlers, it suffered a setback when the Ottomans expelled 16,000 Jews from Tel Aviv and Palestine in 1917. The Jews were only able to return after the British victory in World War I. The name Tel Aviv comes from the Hebrew title of Theodor Herzl's Altneuland ("Old New Land"), translated from German by Nahum Sokolow. Sokolow adopted the name of a Mesopotamian site near the city of Babylon mentioned in Ezekiel: "Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel Aviv, that lived by the river Chebar, and to where they lived; and I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.” The name was chosen in 1910 from several suggestions, including "Herzliya". It was found fitting as it embraced the idea of a renaissance in the ancient Jewish homeland. Aviv is Hebrew for "spring", symbolizing renewal, and tel is a man-made mound accumulating layers of civilization built one over the other and symbolizing the ancient. The city is home to most foreign embassies even though Israel claims Jerusalem as their capitol. Tel Aviv’s “White City” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it has the world’s largest concentration of International style buildings (Bauhaus and other modernist architectural styles)
Daily Devotional (Read Acts 10:44-48)
Inclusion. Inclusion is one of the three watchwords for our church. We strive to be a church family that lives with arms wide-open, welcoming all who desire to be spiritually fed and transformed. This was not always the case for God’s people, for ever since the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity (597 – 937 BCE) to the Land of Promise they had come to believe that the only way to be faithful to God and to maintain their religious and cultural identity was to separate themselves from the people around them; meaning to be separate from the Gentiles (you and me). Thus, when Peter proclaimed that Gentiles could be included in God’s family of blessing through Jesus, it changed the entire trajectory of the Jesus movement. Today we will visit the place where the church went from being an exclusive community to a radically inclusive movement; a movement that we are carrying on, in and through Everybody’s Church, so…
How does Peter’s vision help you understand the nature of inclusion?
What does it mean to you to be part of an inclusive community?
Places: Today we will visit Joppa, Caesarea Maritima, Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery (Haifa), Nazareth with the Church of St Joseph, the Church of the Annunciation and Mary’s Well, Cana and Tiberias.
Yaffo (Joppa) is an ancient port whose “tell” (hill) rises in elevation about 130 ft. This meant that it could be easily defended and thus it was of strategic importance for millennia. Archeologists have determined that it has been inhabited since around 7500 BCE. It is mentioned in literature as early as 1440 BCE. Mythology associates it with one of Noah’s sons who built it after the flood. The city has been held at one time or another by Canaanites, Egyptians, Judeans, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Greeks, the Byzantine Empire, Arab Muslims, Crusaders (under Richard the Lionheart), the Ottoman Empire, the French (under Napoleon), the British and Israelis. Prior to 1948 there were approximately 54,000 Muslims living in the city. After the 1948 war there were fewer than 4,000 because most of the Muslim inhabitants were forced to leave the city. Since that time, the Israeli government has begun to restore both Arab and Islamic landmarks.
Passages for Joppa
2 Chronicles 2:16 – Joppa becomes the port through which the cedars of Lebanon are brought to Israel to build the first Temple in the reign of Solomon. (832 BCE)
Jonah 1 – in this story note that Jonah runs “down” to Joppa. The image of going “down” is the theme of the first part of the story. Jonah goes down to the coast, down into the fold of the ship, down into the water and then down into the belly of the fish. The second half of the story is Jonah coming up to do what God desires of him, to be the agent of salvation for Nineveh (the capital of the Assyrian Kingdom which is in present day Iraq outside of Mosul).
Acts 9:36-42 – This story describes Peter raising the disciple Tabitha from the dead. Tabitha was a compassionate and caring woman known for her acts of charity.
Caesarea was built by Herod the Great between 25-13 BCE and was named Caesarea Maritima. It was the center of administration for the province of Judaea under the Romans, and was the capital of Palaestina Prima under the Byzantine Empire. It was the last city to fall to the Muslim invaders (ca. 600 CE). It was returned to Christianity following the crusades but was ultimately abandoned after the Mamluk (ca. 1250 CE) conquest. It was resettled by Muslims from Bosnia in 1884 who were ultimately driven out of their homes in 1948 by Israeli paramilitary units. The city then became a Jewish settlement and a national park.
Passages for Caesarea
Acts 10 – in this story you will read about Peter’s transformational vision in which he is told to eat things that are unclean. He is not clear about the meaning of this vision until he visits the Centurion Cornelius, who is a Gentile. Peter understand that Jewish dietary laws no longer apply to God’s people and that people don’t have to become Jews before becoming members of the Jesus community. This issue of conversion/no conversion will continue to be debated until the Apostolic Council around 50 CE. As noted above you will read about the baptism of Cornelius and his family which marks their entry into the Jesus community. A note on baptism. While Jews ritually bathed before entering the synagogue or Temple, the Jesus community altered this practice to be a one time “washing” as the mark of entry into the church.
Haifa is the third largest city in Israel. It is built on the slopes of Mt. Carmel and has been occupied for more than 3,000 years. Haifa has been under the rule of the Phoenicians, Persians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, British and Israelis. It continues to be a major seaport and is a city in which Arabs and Israelis coexist in relative peace.
Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) Carmelite Monastery is located on the slopes of Mt. Carmel. Its origins can be found in the 12th century when Christian hermits began to live in the caves in the area in imitation of the prophet Elijah. By the 13th century they had organized into a community which came to be known as the “Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel”, or Carmelites. Though they left the Holy Land and spread throughout Europe, the Carmelites returned in 1631. They were ordered to move in 1761, and in so doing moved to their present site, directly above the cave where tradition locates the cave of Elijah. The building which now stands was constructed in 1836 following the initial destruction of the previous building by Napoleon in 1799 and its complete demolition by Abdullah Pasha of Acre in 1821.
Passages for Stella Maris
1 Kings 19 – this is the story of Elijah the Prophet (9th century BCE). Elijah was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel (as opposed to the southern Kingdom of Judah…the kingdoms having divided in 930 BCE) which was continually struggling with the worship of Baal, the god of the Canaanites. The background for Elijah coming to the cave is that he had led people to slaughter the priests of Baal (who were supported by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel) and then fled for his life. Chapter 19 tells the story of what happens next.
Baha’i Gardens and Golden Dome are the second most sacred site of the Baha’i faith. The Garden and Dome complex are the burial site for the Báb who was the founder of the Baha’i faith. Baha’i was an outgrowth of Bábism which was established by the Bahá'u'lláh who was born in Persia in 1817. In 1863 he proclaimed himself to be the prophet expected by Christianity and Islam. The Báb became one of his followers and after the execution of the Bahá'u'lláh, declared himself to be a prophet and founded the Baha’i faith. Baha’i is monotheistic and believes in the unity of all faiths and that God appears in periodic manifestations such as Jesus, Muhammad and the Buddha.
Nazareth is known as the Arab Capital of Israel. The majority of its citizens are Arab citizens of Israel, of whom 70% are Muslims and 30% are Christian. There is also a Jewish community that is a separate political entity. The area around Nazareth has been occupied off and on for close to 9,000 years, though it was unoccupied for a considerable period of time following its destruction by the Assyrians around 720 BCE. It is known in the Bible for being the home of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. One of the reasons Nazareth continues to have as many Arabs and Christians as it does today, is that following its surrender in the 1948 war, the local Jewish commander refused to expel all the Arabs from the town as he was commanded to do (he had signed surrender papers promising not to remove the population). Even though he was relieved of his command for refusing to remove the population, the Israelis decided not to depopulate the town because of the negative press that would result from expelling so many Christians.
The Church of St. Joseph is a Franciscan Roman Catholic Church built in 1914. Underneath it are the remains of many older churches. These include churches mentioned as early as 670 CE, and then again during the Crusades and the 17th century. It is built in a Romanesque Revival style.
The Church of the Annunciation is a Greek Orthodox church originally built in the Byzantine era by Constantine I, and then rebuilt by the Crusaders and again in the 18th century. Tradition has it that Mary was drawing water when the Angel Gabriel appeared and told her that she would be the mother of the messiah. The well (Mary’s Well) from which she was supposedly drawing is located beneath the church. The importance of the annunciation can be seen in that there are seventeen other churches of the annunciation in Nazareth.
Passages for Nazareth
Luke 1:26 - 2:1-4 – These are the stories of the annunciation (the revelation of the angel to Mary), Mary’s response (which is the basis of the Magnificat) and the opening of what we know as the Christmas story. They remind us that Joseph and Mary were originally from Nazareth and would return there to raise Jesus.
Cana holds a significant place in the New Testament as the location of Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John, but its actual location is not known. There are at least five locations that are possible sites for the city. These include Qana, Lebanon; Kafr Kanna, Khribet Kana, Karm er-Rasm and Ain Qana all in Israel.
At Cana we will hold a short communion service.
Passages for Cana
John 2:1-11 – Here we read of Mary telling Jesus he needs to do something about the wine shortage at the wedding they were both attending. John refers to this as the first “sign” that Jesus does. In the Gospel of John, “signs” are actions intended to demonstrate who Jesus is.
Tiberius is a city founded on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in 20 CE and named for the Roman Emperor Tiberius. It is considered one of the four holiest cities in Judaism. Jews believe that it was built on the site of Rakkath which is mentioned in Joshua 19:35 as land given to the tribe of Naphtali when the Promised Land was divided between the 12 tribes. Tiberius is also mention in John 6:23 as a place close to where Jesus had fed the 5,000, and from which boats could be launched into the Sea. The current city has been almost exclusively Jewish since the 1948 war.
Daily Devotional (Read Matthew 5:9)
Peace. Peace is something that most human beings long for. They desire to live without fear of war, hatred or violence. Unfortunately, peace is hard to find; especially in this place of pilgrimage. It is hard to find Peace because this strip of land between the mountains and the sea has been fought over for almost ten-thousand years. It has been fought over because of its fertility and its location along routes of trade. Yet, peace is still the goal of God for this place and for the world…and we are supposed to be those who help create it. We know this because Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount states that “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Peacemakers are God’s children, because they reflect the very nature of God, who desires everlasting peace in which people live without fear and experience the fullness of life. They reflect the very nature of what Jesus did on the cross when he made peace between all human beings (Ephesians 2:14). Today we will visit the site of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. As we do so I hope you will consider…
What does being a peacemaker look like to you?
How have you acted as a peacemaker?
Places we will visit today: Today we will begin at the Sea of Galilee, then on to the Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Peter’s Primacy, Magdala, and finish at Capernaum.
The Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Kinneret, Lake Gennesaret, Lake Tiberius and the Sea of Minya) is about 33 miles in circumference, 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. Its maximum depth is about 140 ft. It is the lowest (+/- 700 ft. below sea-level) freshwater lake in the world. (The Dead sea is the lowest lake in the world.) It is fed by both underground springs and the Jordan River. Its shores have been inhabited since prior to the Neolithic revolution (cs. 12,000 BCE) with one settlement considered to have some of the oldest buildings in the world. The Sea lies on the Via Maris which connected Egypt with northern kingdoms. The Greeks, Hasmoneans (Jewish leaders who ruled between the Greeks and Romans) and Romans founded active fishing villages along its banks, with as many as 230 boats in operation at one time. The first kibbutz on its banks was established in 1909. Following the 1948 war, the western bank of the Sea belonged to Israel and the north- eastern shore to Syria. The entire Sea came to Israel in the 1967 War.
Passages for the Sea of Galilee
Matthew 4:18; The Sea of Galilee is at the heart of Jesus ministry. He calls his first disciples there. He teaches, preaches and heals there. He walks across it.
Mount of Beatitudes (Mt. Eremos) Though no one knows exactly where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount, tradition locates it on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Gennesaret. During the 4th century a Byzantine church was erected there and used for almost 300 years. The current church on the site was built in 1937-1938.
Passages for the Mount of the Beatitudes
Matthew 5-7 – This is the only account of the Sermon on the Mount. Luke has a sermon on the plain and a different way of offering the Beatitudes. Matthew has it as a mountain top sermon because in Matthew, Jesus is the new Moses bringing the Law down from Sinai.
Tabgha is the traditional site of the feeding of the 5,000 and the fourth resurrection appearance of Jesus. The city was known for its springs and wells. It was mainly populated by Arab Muslims until the 1948 War when they were all driven from the area during Operation Broom.
The Church of the Primacy of Peter was built on the site where tradition locates Jesus’ fourth resurrection appearance. Roman Catholicism teaches that during this appearance, Jesus made Peter the head of the Christian community, or church. This is referred to as the Primacy of Peter. Thus, the name for the church. The current building was erected in 1933 and incorporates portions of a 4th century church.
Passages for Tabgha, Peter’s Primacy and the Church of the Multiplication
Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15 - The feeding of the 5,000 is the only Jesus story found in all four Gospels. While the stories are similar (five loaves of bread, two fish and twelve left over baskets of scraps), one difference is who has the bread and fish. In Matthew, Mark and Luke the disciples have them. In John a boy has them.
John 21:1-24 This is the location where Peter recognizes Jesus after the resurrection and is offered an opportunity for repentance.
Magdala is a name given to two locations. One was in the eastern portion of the country and the other is located near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This location was the site of an Arab village, Al-Majdal, which was depopulated prior to the 1948 war. The modern Jewish settlement of Migdal, which was settled in 1910 slowly incorporated the older community. Legend has it that this was the birth place of Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala). There is, however, no Biblical reference to her place of birth.
Passages for Magdala
Luke 8:1-3 This is the one mention of Mary Magdalen outside of the crucifixion and resurrection accounts in all four gospels. The tradition that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute was one that was created by Roman church but had no basis in the text.
Matt. 15:9 This is the one reference to the city of Magdala…though some translations call it Magadan.
Capernaum was a fishing village that was founded during the Hasmonean period (140-63 BCE). It was a small village of about 1,500 people that was continually occupied until the 11th century CE, when it was abandoned. Two ancient synagogues have been found there, one built over the other. There is also a church from the Byzantine era that is said to have been built over the home of Peter.
Passages for Capernaum
Matthew 4:13, 8:5, 11:23, 17:24, Mark 1:21, 2:1, 9:33, Luke 4:23, 31,7:1, 10:15, John 2:12, 4:46, 6:17, 24,59 Jesus centers his ministry here and heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever in the city as well.
Daily Devotional (Read Mark 1:12-13)
Temptation. Temptation is something that we face every day. Sometimes we have small temptations. Do I have another piece of chocolate cake? Sometimes we have larger ones. Do I claim deductions I am not allowed on my income tax return? As the scriptures show us, temptation is nothing new. We can see this in Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness; a temptation that closely links the Old Testament to the New. The wilderness is the interim location of the Israelites when they left Egypt and were on their way to the Holy Land. The temptations for the Israelites were to either go back to Egypt (better to be slaves than starve to death) or to remain in the wilderness (better to eat manna and quail forever than face the giants in the new land) rather than risk everything in a new place to be God’s agents of world-wide blessing. Jesus faced the same temptation. He could go back to being a carpenter or accept momentary rewards rather than risk everything to bless the world. As we visit the mount of Temptation today, I hope that you will consider the following questions…
Where is one place you have been tempted in your journey of faith?
What risks have you taken for God?
Places we will be visiting: Mt Tabor (Transfiguration), Jericho, Yardenit (Jordan) and then on to Jerusalem. At Yardenit we will have a baptismal renewal service, though we will not be re-baptizing since as Presbyterians we believe that one baptism is sufficient.
Mt. Tabor, located in the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, is first mentioned in the Bible in Joshua 19:22 where it is used as a designated point in the division of the lands between several of the tribes. It is also mentioned as the site of a battle described in Judges: 4-5 between Barak and the Israelites led by Deborah. During the Second Temple Period, it was a place on which beacons were lit to signal Jewish holy days, and was the site of a fortress (built by Antiochus the Great in 219 BCE) used in the Jewish war of rebellion in 66 CE. Mt Tabor is also one of two mountains that have been linked to the Transfiguration. The other is Mt. Hermon.
Passages for Mt. Tabor
Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36 The Transfiguration was the moment when Jesus, Peter, James and John go up on a mountain (it is not named) where they encounter Moses and Elijah. In essence this is the affirmation by the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) that Jesus is the one who was to come and save the people. The earliest reference to Mt. Tabor as the Mount of Transfiguration comes from Bishop Origen (184-253 BCE).
Jericho has been settled and occupied on and off for at least 11,000 years. During this period of time there were at least 20 successive settlements dating back to 9,000 BCE. People were drawn to this area because of an abundance of springs. In terms of the Biblical Battle of Jericho, there is little if any evidence of the destruction of the city during the time period mentioned. A walled city in that location was destroyed around 1,500 BCE during a well-recorded Egyptian invasion and was not rebuilt as a walled city until sometime in the 9th/10th centuries BCE.
Passages for Jericho
Mark 10:46, Luke 18:35, Matthew 20:29 Jesus makes his way through Jericho and heals either one or two blind men. In Luke 19:1-10, we read of Jesus encountering Zacchaeus and calling him to be a follower. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho is also the setting for the story of the Good Samaritan. In the Old Testament, Jericho is only mentioned at the end of Numbers and at the beginning of Joshua (chapters 2-6). The Joshua story contains the famous “walls come tumbling down” event as well as the story of the prostitute Rahab, who saves the Hebrew spies and for this work is mentioned in James and Hebrews as being among the faithful servants of God. There is also a Rahab in the genealogy of Jesus, though there is debate over whether it is the same person.
Mt. of Temptation According to Matthew, Jesus was tempted on a high mountain, which is generally identified with Mount Quarantania, Arabic name: Jabal al-Qarantal
Passages for the Mount of Temptation
Mark 1:12-13, Matt 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13 In the Synoptic Gospels one of the opening stories of Jesus’ ministry, is that after his baptism by John, he is tempted in the wilderness, where he fasts for forty days. Only after the temptation does Jesus begin his ministry in Galilee. Mark merely notes that Jesus was tempted and in Matthew and Luke, the three temptations are offered to Jesus in different orders. The three temptations are to turn stone to bread, to leap from a pinnacle so that angels could catch him and to worship the devil in return for power over the kingdoms of the world.
The Sycamore Tree Some people have claimed that the Jericho tree is the oldest existing sycamore, and possibly even the one that Zacchaeus climbed. This type of sycamore tree is unique to Israel, growing only in the Jordan Valley and along the Mediterranean coast. It has low branches, which can easily be climbed. It belongs to the nettle family and bears fruit that is not suitable for eating.
Passages for The Sycamore Tree
Luke 19:1-10 is the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus, who is a tax collector who is hated by the Jewish population because they see him as a traitor. In addition, he is ritually unclean because he deals with Gentiles. When Zacchaeus hears that Jesus is coming to town, Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree to watch Jesus pass by. Jesus surprises everyone by asking Zacchaeus to host him (Jesus) at his home.
Yardenit According to Christian tradition, the baptism of Jesus (Matthew, 3: 13-17) took place in Qasr el Yahud, north of the Dead Sea and east of Jericho. For centuries, Qasr el Yahud was the most important baptism site for pilgrims. Monasteries and guest houses were established near it. Al-Maghtas in Jordan shows the earliest religious structures connected with baptism or religious baths on the Eastern part of the Jordan, but reverence shifted to the West bank after the Muslim Conquest. After the Six-Day War Qasr el Yahud fell under Israeli occupation. Due to military activity and excavations, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism established Yardenit in 1981 as an alternative pilgrimage site. Yardenit became the first regulated baptism site on the Israeli side of the river. Qasr el Yahud reopened in 2011.
Passages for Yardenit
If you read the baptism stories in the scriptures you will see that each tells the story a little differently. In Mark 1:9-11, we see a very simple story. John baptizes Jesus, the Spirit descends as a dove, and God speaks. In Matthew 3:13-17, John tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized by him, but Jesus insists in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Then we have the dove and the voice of God. In Luke 3:21-23, we find John already in prison, then Jesus is baptized. No mention is made of who does the baptizing. Then, again, we have the dove and God’s voice. In John 1:29-33, there is no mention of Jesus being baptized, only that John the Baptist sees the Spirit descend on Jesus.
Daily Devotional (Read Jeremiah 7:3-5 and Mark 11:17)
Safety. A safe place was what I was looking for. My mother told my brothers and I not to play at the house under construction next door. Nonetheless we chose to go next door and throw rocks on the roof. One of my missiles missed and went through a window. I immediately rushed home, hid under my bed and hoped that my mother would save me. She did save me from the builder, but I soon discovered that there were consequences to my actions. The Jews in both Jeremiah’s and Jesus’ day believed that God’s presence in the Temple meant they could ignore God’s commands and do whatever they wanted to do, and they would be safe; that there would be no consequences. Jeremiah and Jesus both tried to make clear that there were limits to God’s protection; that God would eventually let the people suffer the consequences of their actions. When they did not listen the Temple fell, first in 586 BCE and then in 70 CE. As you observe the model of the Temple today consider the two questions below.
How could the church be viewed as a “safe place”; both positively and negatively?
How do you avoid the temptation to replace right living with religious ritual?
Places we will visit today: Model of the Second Temple, Ein Karem, the Church of the Visitation, Bethlehem and Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity.
Passages for Temple Model in Jerusalem
1 Kings 6-8 The First Temple was built by Solomon around 957 BCE to replace the Tabernacle, a tent that housed the ark of the covenant and was the place where God met God’s people. The First Temple was sacked by the Egyptians soon after its construction, then in 700 by the Assyrians, but was not destroyed until the Babylonians razed it in 586.
Ezra-Nehemiah Following the return of many Jews to the land in 538 (under Cyrus of Persia) the construction of the Second Temple began. It was completed 23 years later. The Second Temple was greatly expanded by Herod the Great (74-4 BCE). This expanded temple was the one that Jesus knew during his lifetime. It is said that it was the largest and grandest building in the Roman Empire. This Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The Dome of the Rock has been present over the Temple’s ruins since 691 CE.
Ein Karem is an ancient village located in southwest Jerusalem. It is mentioned in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 6:1 and Nehemiah 3:1. In Luke 1:39 we read that Mary went to visit Elizabeth in the hill country around Jerusalem. This led to the Christian tradition that John the Baptist was born in Ein Karem, because it is about five miles from Bethlehem. Over the years many churches and monasteries were established nearby.
Church of the Visitation commemorates Mary’s pronouncement of the Magnificat, as well as the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth. The current church built in 1937 is over the ruins of many previous churches dating back to the time of Constantine I (272-337 CE).
Bethlehem is one of the ancient cities of Israel. Its earliest mention comes from the Amarna Correspondence (1350-1330 BCE) when it was occupied by the Canaanites. Biblically it is also known as Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2). Its name means house of bread. It was destroyed during the Bar Kokhba Revolt in (136-138 CE) and then rebuilt in 327. The city is now majority Muslim with an ever-shrinking number of Christians. The city also contains Rachael’s Tomb (Genesis 35:16-20) which is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The Church of the Nativity is a basilica on the site of a church commissioned by Constantine the Great in 327 CE. The church was built over what was considered to be the birthplace of Jesus. It replaced a Roman Temple constructed by Emperor Hadrian around 136 CE, in an attempt to stamp out all Christian holy sites. The church was completed in 339 CE but was destroyed by fire in the 6th century. Justinian rebuilt it in 565 CE. The church as we see it has been expanded on several occasions but the Justinian structure is still present. The tradition that Jesus was born in the grotto located beneath the church began very early in the life of the church (2nd century).
Passages for Bethlehem
Ruth: In the book of Ruth Bethlehem is the hometown of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, and the place to which they return after their husbands have died. Once Ruth marries Boaz they settle there and become the ancestors of King David. Bethlehem is also the site where David is anointed by the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 16:4-13).
Matthew 2:1-8; Luke 2:4-15; John 7:14 It is these connections that set Bethlehem as the place where Jesus must be born.
Daily Devotional (Read John 11:23-27)
Resurrection. Resurrection is something that we talk about at every memorial service. It was also the subject of John’s story about Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus (which took place in Bethany which we will visit today). At first glance, it’s a rather strange tale. Lazarus is ill. Jesus receives a request to come and heal him, but delays his visit. Lazarus dies. Jesus arrives in Bethany. He has a conversation with Martha about the resurrection and only then raises Lazarus from the dead. While the story may seem strange, it has a purpose. The purpose is to point to Jesus as the one who will establish the Kingdom of God through the resurrection of the dead. Most pious Jews in this period believed that at the end of this age, all persons would be resurrected for judgment. By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus not only foreshadowed his own resurrection, but the resurrection of all who followed him. This was a message of hope for them and for us, so…
Why do you suppose Jesus used Lazarus as a “show and tell” about the resurrection?
What role does the resurrection play in your faith?
Places we are visiting today: We will visit the Shrine of the Book, the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, Qumran, the Judean Desert, Bethany and a kibbutz.
The Shrine of the Book is a wing of the Israel Museum which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. The shrine is built as a white dome, covering a structure placed two-thirds below the ground. Across from the white dome is a black basalt wall. According to one interpretation, the colors and shapes of the building are based on the imagery of the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness; the white dome symbolizes the Sons of Light and the black wall symbolizes the Sons of Darkness. As the fragility of the scrolls makes it impossible to display all on a continuous basis, a system of rotation is used. After a scroll has been exhibited for 3–6 months, it is removed from its showcase and placed temporarily in a special storeroom, where it "rests" from exposure. The shrine houses the Isaiah scroll, dating from the second century BCE, the most intact of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Aleppo Codex dating from the 10th century CE, the oldest existing Hebrew Bible.
The Jordan Valley is in many ways the heart of Israel. It extends from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, with the Jordan River running in-between. It is one of the most fertile portions of the land of Israel. For this reason, it was constantly fought over both in ancient and modern times. In ancient times, when the Hebrews “conquered” the land, they had great difficulty staying in the valley because they were under almost constant attack from the Canaanites. In modern times, portions of the valley have been a source of friction between Israel and the rest of the world ever since they were captured by Israel in the 1967 War. This is especially true of the West Bank where Israel continues to build settlements which are in violation of United Nations resolutions.
Passages for the Jordan Valley
Judges 7 This is the story of Gideon leading the Israelites down from the Hill Country into the valley in order to defeat the Canaanites.
The Dead Sea is located at the lowest land elevation on the planet (-1,412 ft.). It is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean, and for this reason plants and animals cannot flourish in it, hence its name. Herod the Great used it as a health resort and it has provided resources for everything from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to minerals for cosmetics. Unfortunately, the Sea is shrinking, but Jordan and Israel are working on a project to reverse this. The Dead sea is mentioned in Ezekiel 47:8-10 as an example of the promise of God making everything teem with life.
Qumran was constructed during the reign of John Hyrcanus, 134–104 BCE or somewhat later, and was occupied most of the time until it was destroyed by the Romans in 68 CE or shortly after. There are a wide variety of views as to its purpose. It has been proposed that it was a fort, a villa for a wealthy family, a pottery factory or housing for a religious community. While some claim that the Essenes lived here, there are those who claim that a more Sadducean-oriented community lived there. This is also the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and discovered.
Passages for Judean Desert
Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13 These are the temptation stories. As you read them, notice the differences in the telling.
Bethany has traditionally been identified with the present-day West Bank city of al-Eizariya, site of the reputed Tomb of Lazarus, located about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the east of Jerusalem on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. The oldest house in present-day al-Eizariya, a 2,000-year-old dwelling reputed to have been (or which at least serves as a reminder of) the House of Martha and Mary, is also a popular pilgrimage site. The tomb in al-Eizariya has been identified as the tomb of the gospel account since at least the 4th century AD when it is mentioned by the historian Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 330).
Passages for Bethany
John 11 tells the story of Mary and Martha and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This story is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own resurrection. Jesus waits four days to arrive because Jewish tradition was that the souls hung around the body for three days and so it would have been easy to raise someone from the dead. It truly becomes a miracle because of the timing.
Mark 11 and 14 give us a glimpse of Jesus moving in and out of Bethany. Bethany was also the location of the anointing of Jesus by the woman with the jar of costly ointment.
Daily Devotional (Read Matthew 26:3-5)
Fame. It has been said that everyone has their two minutes of fame. While that may or may not be true, what is certainly true is that fame is fleeting. Caiaphas, whose house we will visit today, was once a famous man. As High Priest, he had control of the Temple, its treasury, rights, rituals and priests. One would think that his fame would have stood the test of time. Yet he is only remembered as a bit player in history. Instead, it is Jesus of Nazareth (who was a virtual unknown in his day), who is now remembered and revered by billions of people. At the time of his arrest, trial and crucifixion, Jesus was no more than a bit player in the great political maneuverings of Judean and Roman politics. My guess is that the only people who paid attention to what was happening to him were his followers, especially the women. For those getting ready to have him executed he was simply an irritant; someone who might upset the people and then the Romans. So, he had to go. As history has shown us however, it is Jesus, the itinerant teacher from Nazareth, who is remembered. Who was raised from the dead. Who changed the world.
How has Jesus changed your life?
What are some ways you are helping to change the world in Jesus’ name?
Places we will visit today include the Mount of Olives, the Pater Noster Shrine, the Dominus Flevit, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of all Nations, the Western Wall, the house of Caiaphas, Peter in Gallicantu, Mt. Zion, the Upper Room (which commemorates the Last Supper site), King David burial Site and the Benedictine Church of the Dormition.
The Mount of Olives
Passages for The Mount of Olives
In 2 Samuel 15 we read about King David fleeing Jerusalem (his son Absalom was trying to kill him and claim the kingship) and walking barefoot while weeping as he went up the Mt. of Olives. The Mt. also appears in Zechariah 14:3-5 as part of an apocalyptic, end of the age vision. As Zechariah tells us, the Mountain will be split in two (very much like the Red Sea was split in two as the Israelites left Egypt) and the people will escape through the newly created valley. Then God and God’s holy ones will arrive to save the people. Thus, even before Jesus stays and prays there, the Mt. of Olives held special, messianic significance. This end of the age messianic connection gives more power to the story in Matthew 24:1ff, during which, sitting on the Mt., Jesus discusses the signs of the coming of the Son of Man (vs. 30) who will send his angels to gather the elect. We also see Jesus’ connection to the Mountain in Luke 21, 22 and John 8:1.
Pater Noster Shrine/Church was built next to the remains of a Basilica built by Constantine I to commemorate the ascension of Jesus. This basilica was destroyed by the Persians but the associated grotto became linked to Jesus’ teaching of the Lord’s Prayer during the crusades. This church has been partially rebuilt. Its dimensions are the same as the original. The next church was destroyed in 1187 and was finally rebuilt in 1915.
Passages for The Pater Noster Shrine
Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-14 There are two versions of the Lord’s prayer; the longer in Matthew and the shorter in Luke. What we should note about this prayer is that it is a very Jewish prayer. Each portion of the prayer would sound familiar to Jesus’ Jewish followers because it is similar to the Jewish prayer called the Kaddish which magnifies and sanctifies God’s name. There has been a long debate within evangelical Christianity about whether Christians ought to pray the Lord’s Prayer. The argument is that Jesus never intended his followers to have a rote prayer, but instead to merely use it as a model. This argument falls apart in the face of Jewish traditions of rote prayers being recited on a regular basis.
Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) is a Roman Catholic church on the Mount of Olives, opposite the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The church was designed and constructed between 1953 and 1955 by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi and is held in trust by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. During construction of the sanctuary, archaeologists uncovered artifacts dating back to the Canaanite period, as well as tombs from the Second Temple and Byzantine eras. Several churches previously existed on this site.
The Dominus Flevit
Luke 19:41-42 Jesus’ weeping has to do with his sense of what is ahead for Jerusalem. As the people refused to listen to his message of peace, they were instead preparing for a rebellion against Rome and their minions in power in Jerusalem. Jesus knew that this would lead to the city’s destruction just as it had under the Babylonians. So, Jesus weeps for the pain that lies ahead.
The Garden of Gethsemane is an urban garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion; i.e. the site recorded as where the agony in the garden took place.
The Church of All Nations is a Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest. The current church rests on the foundations of two earlier ones, that of a small 12th century Crusader chapel abandoned in 1345, and a 4th-century Byzantine basilica, destroyed by an earthquake in 746. In 1920, during work on the foundations, a column was found two meters beneath the floor of the medieval crusader chapel. Fragments of a magnificent mosaic were also found. Following this discovery, the architect immediately removed the new foundations and began excavations of the earlier church. After the remains of the Byzantine era church were fully excavated plans for the new church were altered and work continued on the current basilica from April 19, 1922 until June 1924 when it was consecrated.
Passages for Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations
Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46, John 18:1-14 Once again we see a single story being told in different ways. Matthew and Mark are the only two Gospels that name Gethsemane. Luke refers to the Mt. of Olives and John simply refers to a garden in the Kidron Valley. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, we have Jesus struggling with his choice of going to the cross and his followers not being able to stay awake. We also have a follower of Jesus cutting off the ear of a slave that had come with those who were to arrest Jesus. Only in Luke does Jesus heal the slave. In Mark, we also have the wonderful story of the boy follower of Jesus who flees away naked. In John, there is no inner struggle for Jesus. He accepts that the cross is his way and as such remains calm and in control of all that happens in the garden.
The Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE). This was the first of three Jewish-Roman Wars. The second took place in 115-117 and was called the Kitos War, which was mainly fought away from Judea. The last was the Bar Kokhba’s revolt of 132-136 CE, fought mainly in Judea. The First Jewish War began as an anti-tax revolt and a response to the Romans looting the Temple and arresting various Jewish leaders. Jewish rebels easily overran the Romans in Jerusalem and then saw initial victories that led to the slaughter of thousands of Roman and Syrian soldiers. The conflict soon became an inter-Jewish fight in which zealots fought troops backed by the Sadducees. Eventually the Romans took Jerusalem and slaughtered and crucified thousands of Jews. The war ended with the taking of Masada. The result was that the Temple was destroyed, the Sadducee movement ended and the era of rabbinic Judaism began.
Passages for the Western Wall
Luke 21:5 – 24 In this passage, Jesus predicts the fall of the Temple. He can sense the growing hatred of the Romans which will lead to the destruction of the city and the Temple
St. Peter in Gallicantu
Gallicantu is Latin for cock’s crow. A Byzantine shrine was erected here in 457 CE but was destroyed by Muslim invaders in 1010. Crusaders rebuilt the church in 1102 and it was restored in 1931. It was erected to commemorate Peter’s repentance.
Passages for St. Peter in Gallicantu
Matthew 26:3, 57; John 18:13-28 We know very little about Caiaphas. Other than the New Testament references to his involvement in Jesus’ interrogation, our only references come from Josephus. Josephus tells us that Caiaphas was high priest from 18-36 CE. He was the second of the five sons of the High Priest Annas, to become high priest after their father was deposed. Caiaphas’ long tenure (longer than any of his brothers or his father, all of whom held the position of High Priest at one time or another) implies that he had excellent relationships with the Romans and probably the Sadducee party.
Matthew 26:33-35, Mark 14:29-31, Luke 22:33-34, John 13:36-38 Once again we have the same story told by all four Gospels. This is a reminder of how central the story of Peter’s denial is to the overall narrative of Jesus being completely deserted by his disciples, and especially by his closest and most ardent followers.
John 21:15-17 This passage shows Peter’s rehabilitation when he reaffirms his love for Jesus three times; one for each denial. This rehabilitation takes place by the sea of Galilee, but is commemorated by the church which stands on what is considered to be the location of the High Priest Caiaphas’ palace where Peter denied Jesus.
Mt. Zion is first mentioned in scripture in 2 Samuel 5:7 where it is named as the Jebusite city conquered by King David and made into David’s city and capital. What is interesting about Jerusalem is that it did not belong to any of the twelve tribes but was the king’s city, very much like Washington DC does not belong to a state. There are a variety of theories as to the origin of the name Zion such as “castle”, “dry land”, “citadel”, or even “top of the mountain”. Mt Zion has been located in three different places. The first was the lower eastern hill where David built his palace. The second is the upper eastern hill where the First Temple (957 BCE – 586 BCE) was erected. The third and current location is the western hill, which seemed to first century Jews a more fitting location for King David’s long-lost palace.
Passages for Mt. Zion
Psalm 48 In this Psalm we can see how Zion became more than a geographical location but a spiritual one as well. It represents both the physical strength of the fortress, and the power of God to defend God’s people.
Isaiah 1:1-9 In these opening words of Isaiah’s prophecies we see how in verse 8, Zion has been transformed into a metaphor for the entire nation of Israel and especially for the corrupt nature of Israel (Isaiah 3:17, 4:4). But, in the end, God will save Zion because it is God’s holy place (Isaiah 8:8, 10:12). We see the concept of Zion as a people continued in the minor prophets (Joel 2, Micah 1:13). Zion also plays a role in Revelation (Rev. 14:1) where we see the Lamb standing on Mt. Zion preparing to defeat the powers of evil that corrupt the creation.
The Abbey of the Dormition is an abbey and the name of a Benedictine community. It is on the site, purchased in 1898 by Kaiser Wilhelm II, where tradition holds that Mary, the mother of Jesus died. In Catholic and Orthodox theology, when Mary died, her body and soul were taken into heaven. This is referred to as the “Assumption” or “Dormition”. This church has been targeted by extremist Jewish youth who have marked it with anti-Christian graffiti.
The Upper Room is also known as the “Cenacle” which is derived from the Latin for dining room. It is located in a room in what is known as the David’s Tomb Compound. Christian Pilgrims have been coming to this site since Christianity was legalized in the early 300’s CE. The Tomb compound, which was formerly a mosque, was converted into a synagogue following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. From 1948 until the Six-Day War in 1967, it was considered the holiest Jewish site in Israel. Because this building is revered by both Jews and Christians, there is often tension between the two faiths at this site.
Passages for the Dormition Abbey, the King David Burial Site and the Last Supper Room
1Kings 2:10-11 This is the very brief mention of the death and burial of David.
Mark 14:12-25, Matthew 26:17-29, Luke 22-38, John 13-17 The upper room is where Jesus and his disciples had their last meal before his crucifixion. For the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) this meal is a Passover meal. Jesus is represented as the sacrifice whose blood will save the people. John is the outlier when it comes to the last meal. For John, this is not a Passover meal but a meal of preparation. John also does not include the words of institution but has Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and giving the new commandment to love one another. The words of institution can also be found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, which means that those words were one of the earliest liturgies of the church.
Daily Devotional (Read John 5:1-6)
Health. Americans spend roughly $2.5 trillion a year on health care; almost twice as much per person as most other advanced nations. One of the conclusions we can draw from this is that we all want to be healthy. As the story in John reminds us, this desire to be healthy is nothing new. People would gather by the Pool of Bethesda (Which we will visit today) hoping an angel would appear and they would be made well. One day, Jesus goes to the well and sees a man who is crippled, who had never managed to get into the pool soon enough to be healed. Jesus asks him the Captain Obvious question, “Do you want to be healed?” Why would Jesus ask such a question in this place? Though we are not sure, the man’s response speaks clearly to us. He has resigned himself to never being healed. Though he is close to the waters he does not believe that his miracle will ever come. Sometimes it seems as if this is where Jesus does his best work; in those moments when all seems lost. He enters the lives of those who have no hope, who have no one to whom they can turn, and then Jesus acts. He heals, restores and repairs broken lives and broken people. Like the man by the pool he helps people walk again.
Has Jesus ever acted unexpectedly in your life? How did you respond?
Where do you see Jesus bringing healing into the world?
Places we will visit today include St. Anne’s Church, the Bethesda Pool, the Via Dolorosa, Calvary, and the church of the Holy Sepulchre.
St. Anne’s Church This church is located at the start of the Via Dolorosa (see below). The original building on this site was a Roman pagan shrine to the god Serapis. Later a Byzantine Shrine (400s CE) was erected and then destroyed by the Persians in 614 CE. It was later restored and the church itself was erected between 1131 and 1138. It was built over what the Crusaders believed to be the birthplace of Mary. It later became a Madrasa (a Muslim school) and was not converted back to a church until 1856 when it was gifted by the Ottoman Sultan to the French for their assistance in the Crimean War. It belongs to the French government and is run by the Missionaries of Africa, called “The White Fathers” because of the color of their robes.
The Pool of Bethesda (also referred to as Bethsaida and Beth-zatha) was a place where the lame and sick would gather hoping to be healed. Its name in Hebrew and Aramaic carries with it both the sense of “grace” and of “shame.” Shame because there were “unclean” persons there. The sense of “grace” because they could be healed. It was here that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and so set up a confrontation with the religious leaders. The pool dates from around the 8th century BCE. It was originally outside of the city walls but was eventually brought into the city as it expanded under Herod Agrippa. For many years its existence was doubted by scholars. But more recent excavations discovered a pool that matched the Biblical description.
Passages for St. Anne’s Church and the Pool of Bethesda
John 5:1-18 is the story of Jesus healing an invalid who was unable to get into the water at the Pool of Bethesda, where he thought he had an opportunity to be healed. This happened on the Sabbath and thus creates a controversy between Jesus and the religious authorities, which sets the stage for Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
The Via Dolorosa is one of the two remaining east-west routes through Jerusalem. It was first constructed by the emperor Hadrian during the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Jewish rebellion of 70CE. The first pilgrimages were recorded during the Byzantine era (5th century CE) and were a trek on Holy Thursday from the Mt. of Olives, past Gethsemane and then on to Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There were no formal stops along the way. During the Middle Ages, two Roman Catholic groups in Jerusalem fought over the correct route. This argument was not settled until the mid-1300s when the Franciscans were given custody of the route and began to lead official tours. The growth of the devotional nature of the Via Dolorosa was brought about by the growth of devotional materials about the Passion that were developed in Europe. The stops along the way are a combination of Biblical accounts and popular traditions.
Passages for the Via Dolorosa
Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17 Calvary is the name often used to describe the location where Jesus was crucified. In the scriptures, however, it is referred to as Golgotha, or “The Place of the Skull” either because the hill looked like a skull or because in Aramaic Golgotha can mean place of execution. The present site was first identified by Helena, the mother of Constantine I, in 325. She also identified the place of Jesus’ tomb and obtained a piece of the true cross.
Constantine had The Church of the Holy Sepulchre constructed on top of the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb. This tradition dates to the second century when Hadrian built a temple on top of the tomb in order to prevent Christians from worshipping there. The church went through a series of fires and earthquakes, but remained somewhat intact until 1009 when the caliph ordered its destruction, with little of the original church remaining. The rebuilding process began in 1048 following an agreement between the Byzantine Emperor and the new Caliph. Over the years it became a place of pilgrimage for Crusaders and was improved while the Crusaders ruled Jerusalem. It was renovated again in 1555 by the Franciscans, as well as in 1809-1810, 1870, 1947 and 1970-78. Oversight of the church is divided by a complicated formula between the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic churches. In addition, the Coptic Orthodox, Syriacs Orthodox and Ethiopian Tewahdeo churches have access to the site. The church recently underwent major renovation, to bring it back to its full glory.
Daily Devotional (Read Luke 19:41-44)
Power. It is something we desire from our earliest days of life. We want power to have our needs met. We want power to have our own way. We want power to shape the world in the way we think it ought to be shaped. Jesus could see this lusting after power all around him. The Jewish people wanted the power to cast off Roman domination and find freedom. They wanted things to be like they had been when the Kings of Judah ruled. Unfortunately, Jesus could also see the outcome of such lusting after power; the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. Even so, Jesus brought his message of peace. He proclaimed that God was at work creating a kingdom where power was exercised not in military might, but in loving service to others. This kingdom was one of compassion for all. This kingdom was one that did not need political power or armies. Some lessons, however, are never learned. The yearning for political power never ends, and the church continues to fall victim to it. From the Crusades, to the Reformation, to the Social Gospel Movement to the Moral Majority, Christians have believed that if only they had enough power they could make the world better. Unfortunately, the outcomes are often the same; corruption, domination and hate. Perhaps it’s time we remember Jesus’ warning and seek to be those who live with humility and service, Christ-like ingredients for a better world. As you visit Masada today and learn more about the violent end to the Jewish rebellion, consider the following questions…
Why do you think that power is so alluring?
Why is living with humility and love so unappealing?
Today our only visit is to Masada
Masada is one of the greatest archeological sites in Israel (UNESCO World Heritage); located high on a flat plateau above the Dead Sea. The fortress of Masada was built in the year 30 BC by King Herod. At the beginning of the great revolt against Rome in the year 68 CE, the site was conquered by a group of Jewish Sicari (particularly violent nationalists) who not only massacred all the Roman garrison but also 700 women and children in a nearby settlement. Masada became their last stronghold. In the year 73, as told by Josephus, the 960 remaining zealots choose to commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of the Romans alive. This part of the story has been debated by archeologists and historians. Even so, Masada has become a centerpiece in the lore of Israel as a symbol of the bravery of its people.
Daily Devotional (Read Matthew 2:1-12)
Wisdom. Wisdom is not a widely used word in our culture. We speak of people being smart, or of having social intelligence, but we seldom refer to people as being wise. In fact, being a wise-guy carries with it a very different meaning. Scripture however takes a different view of wisdom. it is the virtue to be desired above all else. It is to be so desired because wisdom is the ability to merge experience with knowledge in such a way that one’s life corresponds to God’s will. While wisdom could be found in the scriptures, especially proverbs, it could also be found in the “East.” This is so because the east was closer to Eden, the place where God and humans once found their perfect life. It is little wonder then that the wise men came from the east. Even when no one around Mary and Joseph could see the miracle that was occurring in Bethlehem, those men from the east could. So, as we travel east today, perhaps we could spend a moment thinking about wisdom and how we might gain some along our way.
Why do you think our society no longer seeks after wisdom?
How might you develop your wisdom not only here in the east, but in your life back home?
The places we will visit today include Jerash and Amman.
Jerash is a city with ancient roots. Excavations have found ruins dating to 7500-5500 BCE. There is also evidence of Bronze age (3200 BCE-1200 BCE) ruins, as well as ruins of a Greco-Roman city called Gerasa. Inscriptions suggest that this city was founded either by Alexander the Great or one of his generals in 331 BCE. It was conquered by the Romans in 63 BCE. It has some of the most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. Its decline began in 614 CE with the Persian invasion. It was revived during the early Muslim period but was devastated by Crusaders in 1121-1122.
Afternoon continue to Amman, State of Jordan capital city since 1921. Panoramic tour of the Old City and check-in at your hotel. Dinner and overnight.
Amman is the largest city in Jordan and considered to be one of the most open and liberal Muslim cities in the Middle East. It is a tourist and economic hub. The origin of the city can be found at a site called ‘Ain Ghazai which dates to 7250 BCE. It later became the home of the Ammonites who worshipped Moloch. The city was on the historic trade route which ran from Egypt to Mesopotamia. Amman was conquered by the Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman and a variety of Muslim Empires. Following World War I, the area around Amman was declared to be the nation of the Transjordan and later Jordan. It became fully independent in 1946 and Amman became its capital.
Daily Devotional (Read Matthew 28:16-20)
Conquest. Conquest seems to be inherent in human nature. Nations seek to conquer other nations. Sports teams seek to conquer their opponents. Businesses do the same. Herod was no exception. He ruled during an incredibly volatile period in this part of the world. To the east of Judea were the Nabataean and Parthian Empires, both competitors in the conquest competition. They each wanted to control the trade routes which ran from Herod’s territory to the east. So, they all conquered when they could. As is often the case however, none of them conquered for long. As we enter this oft conquered land, perhaps we could think about what conquest means in light of Jesus’ command to go, make disciples and teach. Rather than a military or economic conquest, we are to offer a new way of being human; a way of love, respect and compassion. We are to offer the way of serving and sacrificing. As we examine these amazing ancient ruins, consider how much longer Jesus’ way of conquest has lasted and what a greater difference it has made.
What are some ways that you have spread your faith?
What are some ways you might help make disciples of all nations?
The only place we will visit today is Petra
Petra was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were a nomadic-pastoralist people who possibly migrated from what is known today as Yemen. They emerged into recorded history around 312/311 BCE when they defeated an attack by the Greeks who ruled Syria. This invasion led to a compact between the Nabataeans and the Jewish leaders who were working to throw off the Greeks who ruled over them. The Jews however, turned on their allies and conquered several Nabataean towns. In 90 BCE, the Nabataeans ambushed a Jewish army, which for the moment allowed their kingdom to flourish. In an ongoing series of wars, the Nabataeans fought off a Roman invasion, were defeated by Herod the Great (twice) but ultimately became Roman allies, which is when Petra became a flourishing international marketplace. Their control stretched from Syria into Arabia and as far south as Yemen. The Nabataeans were originally Aramaic speakers (which was the language spoken by Jesus) but transitioned to Greek as they were absorbed into the wider Roman world. By the 5th century most Nabataeans were Christian. Over the centuries however, Petra slowly faded into obscurity until it was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812.
Daily Devotional (Read Revelation 3:14-22)
Legacy: Legacy is a word that is used in several ways. One of those ways describes the lasting impact that a person or organization leaves behind them. This passage in Revelation has Jesus asking the church at Laodicea about their legacy; will it be one of faithfulness or indifference? Will it be one of persons allowing Christ in, or keeping him out? We might think about our church’s legacy as we visit St. George’s Church. Like the church at Laodicea it was once a going concern. It was a place where people encountered the living Christ. And even though both churches closed their doors because of changing historical circumstances, they both left a legacy of transformed people. Unfortunately, no church is eternal. All churches will one day close their doors…even if it is with the return of Christ. The question becomes then, what legacy do we leave along the way? Are we leaving a legacy of transformed people; men and women who love God and neighbor? Or are we simply biding our time until we turn out the lights? The choice is ours, just as it was the choice set before the church at Laodicea.
What personal legacy are you leaving behind?
What legacy would you like our church to leave behind?
The places we will visit today include Madaba and Mount Nebo.
Madaba dates from the Middle Bronze Age. It was once a Moabite border city, mentioned in the Bible in Numbers 21:30 and Joshua 13:9. During its rule by the Roman and Byzantine empires from the 2nd to the 7th centuries, the city formed part of the Provincia Arabia set up by the Roman Emperor Trajan to replace the Nabataean kingdom of Petra. The first evidence of a Christian community in the city, with its own bishop, is found in the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The town was resettled in 1880 by 90 Arab Christian families. These families initiated much of the archeological work at the site.
St. George’s Church contains the Madaba Mosaic Map. This is a map of the region dating from the 6th century and preserved in the floor of the church which is sometimes called the "Church of the Map". With two million pieces of colored stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns in Palestine and the Nile Delta. The mosaic contains the earliest extant representation of Byzantine Jerusalem, labeled the "Holy City." The map provides important details about its 6th-century landmarks, with the cardo, or central colonnaded street, and the church of the Holy Sepulchre clearly visible. This map is one key in developing scholarly knowledge about the physical layout of Jerusalem after its destruction and rebuilding in 70 AD.
Mount Nebo is the traditional site from which Moses saw the Land of Promise to which he would not be allowed to enter (Deuteronomy 34:1-18). In addition, 2 Maccabees says that the prophet Jeremiah hid the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant in a cave on Mt. Nebo in order to prevent them falling into the hands of the Babylonians. On the summit, there are the remains of a Byzantine church erected in the mid-300s CE.
May 14: Return Home
Daily Devotional (Read Ezra 2:1-2)
Return. Sooner or later all trips must end and travelers return home. Suitcases will be unpacked. Passports put away. We will return to our daily lives. In the ancient world however, this was not always true. There were those whose journeys were one way only. People left one place and never returned. Sometimes it was voluntary, but many times it was not. Entire people groups were uprooted by force and never allowed to return. The Jewish people were some of the fortunate ones. After only a short time in exile they were allowed to return home. Yet, as they returned they were not the same; they were different people. They brought with them new ideas, new stories and a new way of being God’s people; more dependent on the written word and less dependent on the Temple. Their journey had changed them. As we prepare to leave today perhaps we could consider how our travel has changed us.
How are you different now than before you came to the Land of Promise?
How has this experience enriched your faith?