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Israel Update #7

Greetings one last time from Jerusalem and the Holy Land!

Thank the Lord we packed a few coats and sweaters for the trip. Today was beautiful and sunny, but a little windy and chilly. Living in Florida, means our blood is thin. Therefore, we get chilled easily.

Our stops for the day caused deep reflection, fervent prayer, and expressions of praise. I’d been anticipating this day from the moment we learned that a trip to the Holy Land was in our future. On our way to the first location, we passed through an area of Jerusalem that was heavily guarded with security personnel. It’s still alarming to see police standing in strategic places with machine guns. This area is near the Damascus Gate, leading into the Old City. Recent stabbings have happened near this gate. In no way did we feel uneasy or threatened. I mention this because it shows that the world needs the Gospel. Lost people act like lost people, leading to evil and violence at times.

We ate lunch in a local Jewish restaurant. The rave in Jerusalem is to eat a Shawarma. We tried one. And may I say, I’m not a fan! I’m thankful Angie brought peanuts and Pringles for the day. God does provide! Overall, the food in Israel has been wonderful and delicious. Fruits, vegetables, and desserts have been plentiful at every meal. Did I mention the abundance of chocolate?

Our day started at the Mount of Olives. Jesus came to and descended the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday. As I stood on that sacred peak, I meditated on two passages of Scripture. First, Jesus’ disciples were rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice. The activity of the Father had been on display. The Pharisees objected to the loud praise and asked Jesus to rebuke His disciples. Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk. 19:40). As I walked down the Mount of Olives, my eyes and heart were drawn to the stones. The stones need to stay silent. You and I are the ones who need to praise God with a loud voice. Second, as I stood on top of the Mount of Olives, looking over the Old City, I reflected on another important moment in Jesus’ life. As Jesus stood on that same mount and looked at Jerusalem, Lk. 19:41 says, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.” That biblical truth convicts me. Am I broken over Tallahassee? When was the last time I shed a tear for the lost people in our city? Jesus ascended into Heaven from this peak (Acts 1). And as Jesus returns, He’s coming again to this scared place. The side of the Mount of Olives is decorated with olive trees and graves. People desire to be buried there. All the graves on the peak face the Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock), too.

At the bottom of the Mount of Olives, and a short, easy walk, is the Garden of Gethsemane. What a sacred and emotional place! Jesus prayed in this place to do the Father’s will, not His own (Mt. 26:36-46). Jesus knew that He was born to die. The cross was before Him. Angie and I drew near together in an area of the garden and prayed. We paused and remembered the pivotal moments that we obeyed God’s will. Those decisions weren’t always easy or comfortable. In the same space, we asked God to help us do His will in the future. May the Lord not find us sleeping either!

Later in the day, we made our way to the Place of the Skull and the Garden Tomb. People disagree about the exact place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. However, studying the biblical texts and spending time in these two locations, I know that Jesus was crucified outside the city and was buried in a garden tomb. As for the crucifixion, the area looks like a skull; it’s located outside the North Wall of the Old City; and it’s positioned on major highways. History records that the Romans executed many people at this location. And this place faces two major highways. One road goes from Jerusalem to Jericho, and the other road goes from Jerusalem to Damascus, Syria. The Romans always crucified in high-traffic areas. As for the tomb, it’s located in a garden setting. The term garden isn’t the same as our modern understanding of a garden. A rather large winepress was located on this property, qualifying it be to described as a garden. The winepress wasn’t for commercial use. It was owned by a wealthy family and used for their private pleasure and needs. Joseph and his family were wealthy. One group at the Garden Tomb was singing, “Because He Lives.” I was moved and touched to hear that hymn at the tomb. I went inside the tomb and looked around. I even took video footage from inside the tomb. Are you ready to shout glory? The stone was rolled away, and the tomb was empty. Jesus is alive…hallelujah!

Today’s pictures are a view of the Holy City from the Mount of Olives, the graves on the side of the Mount of Olives, a camel on top of the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, a view of the Eastern Gate of the Old City (this gate has prophetic importance in the book of Ezekiel), the Place of the Skull, and the Garden Tomb.

This is my final blog post of the Israel trip. I look forward to sharing details of the trip (and future plans, too) in person. Angie and I thank all of you who prayed for us and read the blog each day. I received notes and messages from people throughout the world. Your support means more to us than we can express in words. WE LOVE AND THANK THE LORD FOR YOU!

To God Be The Glory!
Pastor Ronny
1 Cor. 10:31

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