Last night we set our faces toward Jerusalem and returned to our cozy rooms at the Lutheran Guesthouse in the Old City. I woke up this morning to the sunrise on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Redeemer ....
This morning we headed out to Bethany, home to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Jesus' closest friends in Jerusalem. We used to walk over the Mount of Olives to this little village, but now the Israeli Separation Wall makes that impossible and we have to drive for miles to get around the wall. Sadly, this means the people of Bethany are even more impoverished than before because hardly any visitors make the effort to get there. We visited the lovely modern church that is built over the ruins of two ancient churches which commemorate the things Jesus did in this village. On each of the four apses there is a beautiful mosaic depicting Mary sitting at Jesus feet while Martha worries, Mary anointing Jesus with expensive perfume, Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave, and Jesus telling Martha he is the resurrection and the life. We sang a couple of songs in this acoustically live church, followed by reading, reflecting, and praying as we do at most sites.
No trip to Bethany is complete without climbing down into the tomb of Lazarus and calling each other to "Come out" of the tomb! We don't know for sure if this is the actual tomb, but we do know this is the cemetery where he was buried. It is amazing to realize Jesus' authority and power over death has been given to us as well!
After departing Bethany we drove back around the wall to the top of the Mount of Olives to remember Jesus' dramatic entry into Jerusalem with his disciples. He seemed to intentionally set it up so he could fulfill the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah King to Jerusalem as a public announcement of his true identity. Of course Jesus' Kingship was radically different from the people who were shouting "Hosanna" which is why Malcolm explained we should call it Jesus' "Ironic Entry" rather than his "Triumphal Entry"!
After visiting the remains of the Constantinian church on the Mount of Olives and enjoying a time of worship and teaching, we escaped the heat with a lovely lunch at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Holy City. Everyone seems to enjoy the variety of traditional Middle Eastern food as well as the more familiar fare we have been eating ....
We decided it was time to record the "beautiful feet" that have been walking in the Footsteps of Jesus! Everyone has been amazing with all the walking and climbing of stairs and hills we have been doing.
After lunch we went to explore the site of the Pools of Bethesda. These twin huge water storage pools built by Herod the Great were fed by a long-distance aqueduct and supplied water for the Temple rituals. It had become a pagan healing shrine at the time of Jesus which explains why so many sick and lame people were gathered there looking for healing as recorded in John 5. Jesus went there and showed amazing mercy to a paralyzed man who couldn't even say what he wanted. We reflected on God's unconditional grace to meet us where we are.
On our way back to the Guesthouse we threaded our way through the crowded market street (Suq) of the Old City and stopped to by some traditional Middle Eastern sweets for our late afternoon wine party. It's not all hard work on this pilgrimage!