This is the continuation of a series that I wrote while in Israel.
This morning I had the privilege of waking for the first time in the city that God chose. My hotel was about a 20 minute walk away from the sites of the most important historical events of all time. Abraham on Mount Moriah – where God commanded him to offer up his one and only promised son. Solomon building the Temple as a place of sacrifice for sins and worship of God. Finally, the fulfillment of it all: Jesus Christ being offered up as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the whole world.” Let me show you just a little of what we were able to see. I will be dividing our days in Jerusalem into parts because there was so much to take in and I could write for days on this city.
Church of the Holy Sepulcre – We started the day by visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcre. This location is the sight of an amazing church controlled by six different groups, but primarily the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox. The very interesting thing is that two Muslim families are the “keeper of the keys” and they open the church every morning at 4:30 am and close it at 7 pm.
This church was built in the 4th Century when Constantine’s mother Helena traveled to Jerusalem after Constantine had declared Christianity a legal religion in the Roman empire. When she arrived in Jerusalem she asked where Jesus was crucified and buried. Many in Jerusalem apparently pointed her to this particular site where a temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite had been built in the 2nd Century by Hadrian, the Roman Emperor. After destroying the temple, Helena supposedly found 3 crosses in a pile of trash, many feet down. While I’m not sure that this particular piece of information proves this to be the location of the crucifixion of Christ, I do believe that the testimony of many pointing to this location serves us well.
Today, the Church of the Holy Sepulcre is two churches connected together housing what is believed to be the sight of crucifixion and the burial/resurrection of Christ. For this reason the church is also called the Church of the Anastasis (resurrection). Side note: this is why I’ve named my daughter Anastacia – in reference to my hope being in the resurrection!
Hezekiah’s Tunnel – Hezekiah was a great king and greatly used by God. The writer of 2 Kings says this about him:
Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. – 2 Kings 18:5
I want to encourage you to take the time to read in 2 Kings 18 and 19 about Hezekiah and his faith combined with wisdom. These chapters account for us the attacks that Sennacherib, the King of Assyria carried out against Judah and specifically Jerusalem. Sennacherib and his men directly attack God and his ability to defend His people and Hezekiah stood strong by trusting God and acting with wisdom. Hezekiah did two amazing things: He built a wall 23 feet thick and it was used to finish enclosing the Old City in order to defend them from attack. Hezekiah is also known for his wisdom in defending the city by enclosing their water supply and digging a tunnel nearly 1/4 of a mile through rock so that the city would not run out of water under siege. This is the tunnel that we were able to walk through, and today it still runs with water all the way down to the pool of Siloam. Hezekiah’s men used chisels and hammers and worked from both ends. Tradition tells us that when they finally met in the middle two chisels hit each other! This tunnel stretches 1720 feet long and even today it is an amazing feat of architecture.
By the way, in the end God completely delivered Hezekiah and Jerusalem. In 2 Kings 19:35-36 we read this:
That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
Hezekiah’s life is an incredible reminder that trusting God is imperative but wisdom is absolutely important in the midst of trusting God. We trust and act with wisdom.
In the coming days I will share more of our 6th day in Jerusalem. The following will contain information and pictures from Caiaphas’ house (the High Priest during Jesus’ trial), Gethsemane and even details from the Fortress Antonia – which is today know as the sight of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. I can’t wait to share.