June 3, Monday
We are on the roof of the home of Caiaphas, the High priest; his home being the place where Jesus was imprisoned, waiting for the judgement of Pontius Pilate. This roof, called Galicanto, marks the place where three times Peter is asked, do you know Him? It is the place where Peter three times denies knowing his Lord and it is the place the rooster crows times three… right then, Christ knows; His heart breaking one piece more. From Galicanto we look out to the Kidron Valley and beyond to the Garden of Gethsemane, the garden where Jesus begged His friends to stay awake; asking them for prayer…weeping and sweating drops of blood.
Entering in by the Zion Gate, we are in the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem, these large stone walls of the gate are pockmarked with bullet holes; it is here where we find King David’s Tomb, marking the place of his burial. Holy, blue, tasseled fabrics lain over the cabinets, one marking the burial place and the other marking the place of the Scrolls of Moses; the word of God with us. Filing in, one at a time, men on one side, women on the other, we witness this place of prayer…Holy.
Nearby is the Upper Room where the disciples shared the last supper with Jesus, the same room where Jesus appears to his disciples after His resurrection, twice. This is the room where the disciples and the Nazarene Jews hung out, as if in a Kibbutz, a commune; sharing the bread, worshipping, praising, waiting; the wind of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, the beginning of Universal faith…this all in the Upper Room. In silence, we look over the room; taking it in, letting the empty weight of it fill our senses, Timothy leads out in song and we melt in the moment, feeling the wind of the spirit falling fresh…Holy.
David takes us into the Jewish quarter, beautiful, clean as if freshly swept…windows and walkways lined with flowers; purple, white Bougainvillea. We see the mosaicked Modava map; a home burnt by the Zealots, in order to incite their people to fight back; the remnants of the broad wall built during the time of Hezekiah 586 years before Christ and we see the discovery underneath; eight mansions belonging to the priestly line, the opulence of wealth evident; bathtubs, frescoed walls, imported stone and pottery. We watch the short movie telling the story of the views of the day…of the Zealots, who want to fight the Romans; of the Priests, who want to stand fast, saying surely the Temple will not fall; and of the women, who want safety for their families. And we hear the words from the scripture that has been fulfilled in our time.
“This is what the LORD Almighty says
‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there."
Yes, today we see the streets here in the Jewish quarter overflowing with people shopping, buying, selling, talking, sharing; families, fathers and mothers, children playing, working too; pushing food carts and helping their parents in the shops. Old men and women nearby always watching; we see children in school uniforms following along behind the teachers who are leading them on to their next adventure…as are we, and we are amazed with what we see; what we have seen and what is yet surely to come; knowing there is more.
On our way to the Western Wall, our guide, David, tells us; this is the Holiest place on earth, the place of Abraham binding Isaac, the place of Solomon’s Temple, the place of the rebuilding by Ezra and Nehemiah, the place of King Herod’s Temple Mount and the place where Jesus will come again…the Holiest place on earth! We must be covered, our shoulders and our knees; David gives us instruction to approach the wall, he says, “Approach the wall with confidence, this is no time for manners,” and he says other words like this, that sound firm…walk right up, find your place, reach out to touch it; firmly touch it. Tuck your prayers into the crevasses; leave your prayers there, spill them from your heart…look up, look up. David’s instructions end, “and when you are done, out of respect, do not turn your back on the wall, but back up as many steps as you can.”
I covered my head and shoulders with my shawl and walked the steps; one, two, three, more and more through the throng, up to the wall, firmly finding my place, and then…the most beautiful touch on the Holiest place. I could hear the prayers of the saints, those all around me spilling from their hearts and those that were tucked into these walls, these large blocks of stone chiselled thousands of years ago; one upon the other, row after row; crevices and cracks filled with the prayers and cries of God’s people, words in print of a hundred languages asking Him for lavishly more and me, looking up…and there holding my gaze, under the wild bushes growing in the places between the chiselled rock, tucked safely in…a white dove. God’s promise nestled there in the stone of Jerusalem’s wall...Holy.
“The Jerusalem stone, so resilient and supple…bearing testimony
like a hundred witnesses and yet remains silent.”
The Western Wall, silent, yet screaming out, God, God look down and His response echoing back loud and clear…I Am here.