Today we retraced Jesus' triumphal entry into the capitol city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem on the Roman road from Jericho they came to Bethany, the village of Jesus' close friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Jesus had arranged to pick up a donkey outside of Jerusalem so he could fulfill the prophecy of the Messiah entering the city over the Mount of Olives on a young donkey. As Jesus crested the Mount of Olives riding the donkey, the crowds of pilgrims heading up to Jerusalem began to shout out in the words of the psalmist, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
We visited the town of Bethany, which today is named after Lazarus and lies less than two miles east of Jerusalem on the other side of the Mount of Olives. However, the dividing wall which the Israeli government has built between the West Bank and Israel now separates Bethany from Jerusalem, so we had to drive many miles around the wall into order to get to nearby Bethany. After eating a delicious lunch there, we visited the traditional tomb of Lazarus and spent some time reflecting on Jesus' connection with the extended family of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary in this place. Mike Breen reminded us that Martha served Jesus and Mary listened to Jesus and we need learn from them how to do both.
Next we went to the top of the Mount of Olives and took in the spectacular view of the city from there, imagining how the disciples and crowds must have felt finally seeing the magnificent Temple standing before them after their long pilgrimage to the Holy City. There we spent some time reflecting on how Jesus wept over this complex and divided city, foretelling its coming destruction at the hands of the Romans. Jerusalem, which means "City of Peace," continues to belie it's name as three religions wrestle with one another and a violent struggle between Palestinians and Israelis continues to divide this land. Recognizing Jesus as our true King of the one Kingdom that lasts forever is the only way to find lasting peace in this constantly divided world.
When Jesus entered the city on Palm Sunday he and the disciples immediately visited the massive Temple Mount, the dominant architectural feature of this unique city. We had the opportunity to visit the extensive archaeological excavations surrounding the southern end of the massive platform that Herod the Great built to expand and glorify the Temple. First we watched a special presentation on the first century Temple Mount, using an amazing computer animated reconstruction of the Temple Mount put together by a team from UCLA.
Then we got to actually walk through the massive excavations, walking on the first century streets and steps that Jesus and the disciples walked on as they went up to the Temple! Mark tells us that as the disciples were exiting the Temple Mount they pointed out the massive stones and buildings to Jesus and we totally understood their amazement. We also saw the effects of the Roman destruction of the Temple complex in AD 70, fulfilling Jesus' prophetic reply to the awestruck disciples when he told them "Not one stone will be left upon another."
In the evening Pam, Luke, Taylor and I had the opportunity to meet our long-time friends the Katanasho family for dinner at Versavee, the elegant restaurant which their relatives own and run here in the Old City (4.5 stars on TripAdvisor). It was so wonderful to catch up with my dear friend Yousef who I have known for 27 years here in Jerusalem. It was also fascinating to watch how they function naturally as part of an extended family who share a common sense of vocation.
The restaurant is run by Gabi, the brother of Yousef's wife Rula, but the entire extended family help run it, even if they have other jobs. Yousef's brother Tony is married to Rula's sister and he is the cook. Rula's sister and brother help wait the tables. Yousef's and Tony's sons and daughter help out in the restaurant after school, learning from their aunts and uncles. It was a modern living example of what we have been learning about the way Jesus functioned with his disciples as an extended family on mission together. We are praying that we can learn how to build spiritual extended families who share together our Father's family business, the mission of the Kingdom.