As I mentioned before, this is one of my favorite weeks in the church year. There's just so much going on. And I think this year will be even more meaningful because I have fresh memories of the Holy Land and what I saw and experienced there. It helps to bring it to life, and make the reality of the events of Easter real.
I walked the dusty hills of Jerusalem. Today it is full of gasoline fumes, of building projects, of archeological digs. But the hills are still there. I walked the way from the Garden of Gethsemane to the high priest's house. Jerusalem is on a mountain, and as a mountain it has steep hills. It was easy to see Jesus trudging up the hill, handcuffed. It was easy to hear the heavy breathing of Peter as he fearfully trailed behind the crowd, just keeping them in sight. Unwilling to be arrested, but keeping close enough to see what would happen next. And then to picture Jesus attempting to carry His cross up those hills, after losing so much blood and being whipped- it brought tears to my eyes.
One beautiful thing about the Jewish faith is that they preserve the traditions. Especially in Jerusalem. So many of the foods eaten, and sights to see, prayers you hear and other things harken back to an ancient time. Of course, with the temple being destroyed, Jews have changed how they worship, but I could still get an idea and imagine what it might have been like.
We visited the temple site. There are blocks of stone still laying where the Romans left them when they destroyed the temple in 70 AD. Archeologists have dug down to the level Jesus would have walked on at the temple. You can still see stalls and mikvahs. Places to buy the birds and sheep for sacrifices, places to wash before you go to the temple. Even today the streets are crowded with people buying and selling. There are so many languages to hear, jostling as people move up and down the streets. That translates easily to the Passover crowds of Jesus' day. Passover was one of the biggest feasts of the year that everyone went to Jerusalem to celebrate.
The streets of old Jerusalem are all stone paved. Many places were paved by King Herod. They are very narrow with many stalls or stores that generations of families own. There are many wares hung out for display, many people trying to bargain. They offer a whiff of what they have, or give you "hospitality" in the form of mint tea or fresh squeezed orange juice as they try to talk you into buying. The colors are vivid, the people anxious to please, the smells many and varied. Add the crowds from everywhere there for Passover and you have quite a picture.
I hope that by bringing the story to life, by thinking of the every day things present like the tastes, smells, sounds and sights, I might more readily remember Jesus' sacrifice as He died on the cross. It really happened. It's not just a story in a book, or a myth or fable. Jesus - God's Son in human form- really lived. And he really died.
And he really was restored and resurrected.
A miracle that is reality.