Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Disapointment of Golgotha (Holy Land #8 of 14)

While in Israel we walked what is called in the Catholic faith “The 14 Stages of the Cross.” Some of these stages have a Biblical basis but many of them are solely tradition. Even though we are not catholic, we stood in the area where Jesus would have been presented to Pilate and ultimately sentenced to death. We saw the stone floor where Roman Guards would throw pieces of bone to mockingly choose a prisoner to be “king for the day.” Jesus received this same treatment including the placing of a crown of thorns on his brow. Perhaps Jesus was taunted by these guards in this very spot.

As you walked through the streets you could see it just as you imagined it would have looked in Bible times. Just seeing these narrow streets and imagining the crowds that would be around Jesus everywhere He went in His ministry was amazing. No wonder when the woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus in Capernaum and He stopped and said, “Who touched me,” His disciples responded with a, “What do you mean who touched you? There are hundreds of people around you! Everyone is touching you!” But Jesus knew that somebody had touched him with a touch of faith. He had felt the power go out of His body. The Bible definitely makes more sense after being here.

We walked what is called the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering in Jerusalem, where Jesus carried His cross through the windy streets and then outside the city gate. These streets are very narrow. It is estimated that up to a million people may have filled Jerusalem for feasts like the Passover. It would have been throngs and throngs of people watching…many of them yelling at Him, spitting on Him and mocking Him.

We then ended up at Golgotha. I have to be honest. For me this was a downer. I wanted to see a hill and to be able to picture Jesus hanging on a cross for my sin. Instead, we were inside churches. You had no idea that you were even on a hill. There were two churches within 10 feet of each other who both claim to be the place where the cross stood. One of them had a hole in the ground that you could stick your hand in and feel what might have been the very bedrock where the cross was placed. I thought that Golgotha would be an emotional place for me but frankly I could not get beyond the gaudy religious shrines that are in this holy location. Though it was not what I expected, I am just glad that I know for a fact that Jesus died on Golgotha for my sins!

From there we walked a little further and saw what is believed to be the stone where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial and then we went inside the church of the holy sepulcher. Again, it is gaudy…not at all what you would imagine the tomb to look like. However, our guide believes it is 99% likely that this was the location of the actual tomb where Jesus was laid. I was able to push aside the externals around me as I walked in and looked at what could have been the area where Jesus body was buried and where He was raised. I commented as I stood there that everything our faith rests on is right there in front of me…the empty tomb. I guess we cannot know for sure if this is the actual tomb or if it was another, but we can be sure of something far more important…Jesus rose from teh dead and He is alive!

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