The end of our Holy Land pilgrimage has arrived. Today was a mountaintop day. Our Father is faithful; He is good; and He is with us! On a lighter note, I’m going to miss the chocolate lava cake for breakfast…delicious and addictive.
We stepped off the bus at an inspiring vista this morning. We stood on the Mount of Olives and looked at the Holy City of Jerusalem. We walked down the Palm Sunday trail, reflecting on the words of the Pharisees and the worship of Jesus’ disciples. Rejoicing was heard; praise was loud; and Jesus was adored! The Pharisees asked Jesus to rebuke His followers, telling them to be silent. Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). As Jesus drew near and saw Jerusalem, “He wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Is your worship pleasing to God? Are you rejoicing and praising Him? When was the last time you wept over our city?
The Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley are filled with graves. A Jewish burial site would cost $25,000 or more. On the Mount of Olives or in the Kidron Valley, Jewish people want to be buried facing the Temple; Christians want to be buried facing away from the Temple; and Muslims want to be buried facing Mecca.
We had private time in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read Matthew 26:36-46 and sang, “Spirit of the Living God.” Group members found a personal place and prayed. Angie and I prayed together, and Eddie, Rick, and I prayed together. Tears flowed; hearts were touched; and the Spirit moved!
We left the Garden of Gethsemane and walked down the Kidron Valley. We saw the tombs of Absalom and Zacharias. We met many school children that were excited to see us, and they asked us our names. As the children shouted, I imagined the children who wanted to be around Jesus (Matthew 18:13-15). We came upon a Jewish family. We were treated to coffee, music, and stories. I found a jar of nutella in their place. You never know what you’ll find in Jerusalem. We walked near the City of David. At the end of the valley is the Pool of Siloam. We sat near the pool and read John 9. We walked inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Lunch today was in the Old City. Our folks got to shop and purchase souvenirs for family members and friends. It’s fun to negotiate with vendors and help the Israeli economy. In the states, and even in Bethlehem, we have Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). In Jerusalem, they have Arab Fried Chicken (AFC). We made an executive decision NOT to eat there.
We found many t-shirts in the Old City. Seminoles and Gators have a presence in Jerusalem. And yes, the Wildcats were in the shop, too!!!
In the Garden Tomb, we reflected on Jesus’ cross and resurrection. He defeated death and the grave. We celebrated the Lord’s victory by singing, “Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me), Victory in Jesus, and Because He Lives.” My message focused on John 19:38-42. That text explains the location of the cross and the empty tomb. We concluded our worship time by observing the Lord’s Supper. What a way to remember our redemption and assurance in Christ!
As we prepared to leave Israel, I reminded our folks that the mission continues. In Matthew 28:19-20, the resurrected Lord said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We’ll see you soon. Thank you again for praying for us and following our Holy Land pilgrimage. We’ll share more stories and pictures in the coming days.
The Tomb is Empty,
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