THE JEW, THE ARAB AND JERUSALEM
When you visit the synagogue next to the Wailing Wall, this rabbi will tell you that he is a descendant of Abraham and the rightful heir of the land. The Palestinians also claim Israel as their land through their forefather Ishmael, son of Abraham. And the war between Ishmael and Isaac that began so many centuries ago is still raging.
The name Jerusalem means peace but there is no peace because of the hatred between Jew and Arab. But in spite of the political tension, Jerusalem is still one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
I have walked these little lanes so many times by day and by night and they don’t seem to loose their charm. There is something in Jerusalem that beckons you to come back.
Come with me to the church of Nativity in Bethlehem. This is the site, according to tradition, where Christ was born.
Luke 2:7 says this about Mary: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed; him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Let’s proceed to the place where the manger used to be.
Whether this is the genuine birthplace of Christ does not really matter. What really matters is the fact that God became man. And this is the golden chain that binds us to Christ. And through Christ we are bound to God the Father.
Archaeologists discovered this ancient manger at Megiddo. When the Saviour of the world was born He was placed in such a crude stone manger from where animals were fed. No smell of baby powder, only the stale smell of animals. What humility, what a sacrifice in order to come and identify with people like us.
While you are looking at ripened grain at the shepherds’ field of Bethlehem, let me tell you what the name in Hebrew means. “Bet”; means house, and “lechem” means bread. Bethlehem; produced more than physical bread; it produced the bread of heaven.
Jesus says in John 6:35 “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
I invite you to have a daily portion of this nourishing food. You will find it in die pages of the Bible.
Let’s do a little geography before visiting Nazareth. We are standing on the ancient tell Megiddo. The hill at your right is Mount Gilboa where Saul committed suicide. The hill straight ahead of you is Mount Tabor, the mount of transfiguration.
The town where Jesus grew up is on your left. Let’s go there. A beautiful church has been built over caves where the poor lived. The world’s finest artists were employed to beautify this church and millions of dollars were used in its construction.
But in sharp contrast to the luxury above are the humble cave dwellings below. This is where the world’s Redeemer grew up. What kind of character did He develop in these unfavourable circumstances?
Luke 2:40 says: “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” What a life for contemplation.
When I drank water from the well from which Jesus drank, I thought of a statement that I once read. “As a child, Jesus manifested a peculiar loveliness of disposition. His hands were ever ready to serve others. He manifested a patience that nothing could disturb, and a truthfulness that would never sacrifice integrity. In principle firm as a rock, His life revealed the grace of unselfish courtesy.” Desire of Ages, p.28.
When a modern Jewish boy turns 13, he is taken to the western wall in Jerusalem where he celebrates his Barmitzva. At the age of 12 Jesus attended His first Passover feast in Jerusalem.
This scale model of the temple gives you an idea of what Jesus saw. One Bible commentator said that while Jesus was watching the impressive rites of the paschal service, He began to realize His mission as the Saviour of the world. DA 78.
I took this picture from one of the hills of Nazareth overlooking the valley of Jisrael. Luke 2:52 records the following words after Jesus and His parents returned home from Jerusalem. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.” He was the best and most honest carpenter in Nazareth. I wonder if He didn’t make His own cross?
The river Jordan is mentioned in many of the Old Testament stories. But this river really became important when Jesus was baptized here at the age of thirty by John the Baptist. After His baptism Jesus was led into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil. The only weapon Jesus used in Him fight against the enemy was quoting the Scriptures.
When I looked at this monastery at Jericho, commemorating the 40-day wilderness experience of Jesus, I thought of the importance of Bible study. If Jesus made use of the Bible to gain the victory over the tempter, how much more should you and I make use of this mighty sword to defeat the enemy.
Don’t you think this is beautiful? I have taken this photo just below the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus left Judea He came to Galilee where He spent most of His time ministering to the needs of people.
It’s quite an experience to walk in His footsteps and see names like Magdalah which reminds one of Mary Magdalene who used to live here. Jesus changed her from a failure to an over comer.
This is the place, according to Bible scholars, where Jesus gave His sermon on the mount. Can you hear His words of comfort rolling down these hills early one spring morning: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In other word, Happy is the person who feels his need of God. I’m so glad that we don’t have to qualify with our deeds but rather with our needs.
We are looking at the mount of blessings from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Two thousand years ago people sat over there while listening to Jesus saying: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” This is more than mourning the loss of a loved one. It is also a deep sorrow for transgressing God’s holy law. Only the Holy Spirit can produce this kind of sorrow.
But Jesus was much more than just a Preacher. Let’s take a boat and sail towards the ruins of an ancient town called Kfar Naum, the city of Nahum. Today it is called Capernaum.
Archaeologists discovered the original synagogue where Jesus preached, just behind this second century one. One Sabbath while Jesus was preaching, a man with an evil spirit walked in here. Mark 1:26 tell us Jesus healed him. Jesus, who healed broken people so long ago, is still the same today.
It’s a great experience to sleep at Tiberius and greet the sun as it rises over the Sea of Galilee. One morning as I watched the fishing boats coming in after a night of fishing, I thought of Jesus, the God-man who changed the history of our world.
Jesus mingled with people as one who desired their good. He showed sympathy for every one He met. He ministered to their needs. He wept with those who wept and He rejoiced with those who were happy.
As I meditated on the life of Jesus I asked God to help me to be a little more considerate, to make me a little kinder and a little more forgiving.
You are looking at the modern city of Tiberius, which is also mentioned in John, 6:23: “Then some boats from Tiberius landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.”
Usually the waters of the lake are calm and placid as you can see. But storms, without a moment’s warning, can turn this lake into turmoil. Listen to this interesting incident:
Matthew 8:23: “Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.”
The rest of the story says the disciples were so absorbed in their efforts to save themselves that they forgot that Jesus was on board.
Are you experiencing a terrible storm right now? Are you sinking in despair? Are you overcome by feelings of guilt and remorse? Then I would advise you to do what the disciples did?
Matthew 8:25: “The disciples went and woke Him, saying, Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” How did He respond to their desperate cry for help? I love these Bible stories.
“Never did a soul utter that cry unheeded. As the disciples grasp their oars to make a last effort, Jesus rises. He stands in the midst of His disciples, while the tempest rages, the waves break over them, and the lightning illuminates His countenance.
“He lifts His hand, so often employed in deeds of mercy, and says to the angry sea, Peace, be still. The storm ceases. The billows sink to rest. The clouds roll away, and the stars shine forth. The boat rests upon a quiet see. Then turning to His disciples, Jesus asks sorrowfully, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” DA 335
The story of Jesus and His disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee, 2000 years ago, appeals to every human heart. Inviting us to allow Jesus to calm our troubled hearts.
Excavations done at Tiberius agree with what the Bible says about this coastal city. The reason why the name is only mentioned twice in the New Testament is very interesting. Herod Antipas built the city on the site of an old cemetery, and the better class Jew considered Tiberius ceremonially unclean.
Because of a recent draught the water level of the Sea of Galilee, dropped considerably. Someone noticed an object in the mud. After excavating they found a very ancient boat.
And to the pleasant surprise of all, it dated from the time of Christ. Did He sail in this boat? I don’t think this discovery was incidental. I think it was providential.
In the account of the resurrection of Jesus, the Bible speaks of the stone that was rolled away from His tomb. Here you see a typical example of such a stone at the family grave of Herod the Great. We are standing in the Kotel tunnel in Jerusalem. This young Israeli girl is telling us about the former glory of this famous city. Let’s spend the last few minutes in this famous city.
I took this slide of the Damascus gate in 1966 during my very first visit to Jerusalem. In those days the city was under total Palestinian rule.
For many years’ scholars maintained that the original Damascus gate was situated just below the modern gate. But because Arabs occupy this part of the city, they were not allowed to excavate.
But fortunately this part of the city developed a sewage problem in the 80’s; and they were forced to dig around the Damascus gate. And guess what? They discovered the original Damascus gate from the time of Christ. What an archaeological break-through. Christ and His disciples walked on these very stones you see.
I told these friends of mine that the story of Jesus and His ministry in Jerusalem is a true story. As a matter of fact it is the greatest story ever told. And believing that story, means eternal life.
Archaeologists also identified the pool of Siloam. This is where a certain blind man washed his blind eyes at Jesus command and received his sight. This is what Jesus did for people when He was here. The same Jesus wants to heal my blindness concerning the needs of those around me.
Have you ever had an experience where an accident turned out to be a blessing? We were on our way to the Mount of Olives when the Arabs threw stones at our Israeli vehicle. We were told to report this attack to the police.
While I was waiting for the paperwork to be completed I strolled around and came across this huge column. To my pleasant surprise I discovered that it dated from the time of temple that existed when Christ was here. What a discovery. It gives one an idea of the former glory of that beautiful temple.
By the way, when you visit Jerusalem and you notice these flat rims around the building blocks. They are the identifying marks of the masonry of the second temple, the temple from the time of Christ.
I have exciting news for you. They have discovered the sarcophagus of Caiaphas the high priest who reigned during the time of Christ. He was involved in the condemnation of Jesus.
After He was arrested in Gethsemane on a Thursday evening just after midnight, Jesus was betrayed by one of His best friends. A man by the name of Judas.
Botanists tell us that these olive trees are the children of the trees who grew here when Jesus was agonised with my sins. It was here that He decided to take the crushing weight of my sins upon Himself. He knew that by taking my sins upon Himself, He would be separated from His worship.
Jesus caused such agony that his capillaries burst and His face was covered in blood. What love, what incomprehensible love for a sinner like me.
After Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane He was led through the Kedron valley and up these very steps to the palace of Caiaphas the high priest. A mocking crowd of almost a thousand people surrounds him. Can you see Him? If this recent excavation could talk, you will hear the story of how Jesus was struck with cruel fists, spat in the face and mocked till daybreak. First He was tried before Annas, then before both Annas and Caiaphas. After that the Sanhedrin condemned Him. After sunrise this condemnation was again enforced. Four unfair trials during one night.
Archaeologists discovered these grooves in the rock of the palace of the high priest. Whenever a person was found guilty, his hands were tied in here. Then he received a total of 26 lashes across his chest. 26 lashes ripped when Jesus stood here 26 lashes ripped out His flesh out.
In one of the Messianic psalms predicted that Jesus would be cast in a dungeon. Let met read from Psalms 88:7: “You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.”
I’m reading from verse 8 while you are looking at the actual dungeon: “You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.”
Mark 15:1,2 “Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and turned him over to Pilate.”
Was there really a Roman governor in Jerusalem at this time?
While excavating at the ancient Roman amphitheatre at Caesarea archaeologists came across this cornerstone. On investigation they concluded that it was an altar dedicated to Caesar Tiberius.
I wish I could share my emotions with you when I saw the name of Pontius Pilate for the first time outside the Bible. There was really a man by the name of Pontius Pilate, and there really was a God-man, called Jesus Christ who was condemned to death by this Roman governor.
This chapel in the Via Dolorosa, called Ecco Homo, the Latin for the words “Behold the Man.” It commemorates the time when Pilate contrasted Jesus with Barrabas, the criminal.
And told the crowd to behold the Man, Jesus Christ. To behold His innocence in contrast with the guilt of Barrabas. Many interesting discoveries were made in the area of the ancient fortress of Antonio where the Roman guard was stationed.
This for instance is the original pavement, called Lithos Stratos where Jesus was condemned to death. While the cruel trial was in progress, the soldiers played the game of the kings on this pavement. Matthew 27:16 say Pilate “had Jesus flogged”. Ancient sources tell us this was so severe that many a victim died before the last few lashes were administered.
The victim was stripped to the waist, usually bound to a post with his hands tied together and then lacerated on his back. But let me tell you more about the cruel Roman instrument of torture, the Flagellum. Pieces of bone and metal were tied to the thongs to intensify the suffering. I don’t think it is necessary for me to tell you exactly what the victim looked like when the last few lashes ripped out the last bit of flesh that was left.
Often times the victim’s intestines were exposed and he died before they could crucify him. We are bought with a very expensive price, the life of Jesus Christ.
John 19:17,18 says that Jesus was Jesus at a place called the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. General Gordon first identified this scull-like hill.
For many years I had a desire to visit this hill called Calvary. One specific year I found that the gate that guarded Calvary was not locked and the man who guarded the area was gone.
I quickly slipped in and took this picture. As you notice, Calvary today is a Moslem cemetery and no Westerner is allowed to come and take any pictures here.
This is where, according to some scholars, the greatest event of all history took place. It was here that God the Father and God the Son settled our sin-account and revealed their supreme love for us. While I stood here Galatians 3:13 came to my mind:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
What is the curse of God? The bible says it is eternal separation from Him. Why was Christ cursed with the curse of eternal separation from the Father? Because He took my sins upon Himself so that I may take His righteousness upon myself.
1 Corinthians 15:22: “In Adam all die.” When Adam our representative fell into sin, we all sinned in Adam.
Romans 6:23 says: “The wages of sin is death.” How was God going to satisfy the claims of the law on the one hand as well as setting the sinner free on the other hand?
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “For Christ’s love compel us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”
On Calvary Jesus died as the representative of fallen humanity. In Christ we have already received the punishment for our sins that which is eternal death. When Jesus died the claims of the law were satisfied.
Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What does Paul mean when he says he was crucified with Christ? Was he nailed onto one of the other crosses? No. Paul says that when Christ died, he Paul also died. He received the punishment of eternal death; eternal separation from God, when Christ was punished.
My fellow sinner. We have already received the punishment for the transgressions of the law. We are set free. Praise God.
When I took the picture of this lonely tree on Calvary I thought of the lonely cross that stood here 2000 years ago. You know. Jesus was condemned for our sins, in which he had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death that was ours that we might receive the life that was His.
Isaiah 53:5 “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him.”
May I invite you to trust God to handle your sin problem. He is more than capable. Maybe you have a little doubt as to whether you will make it to heaven. May I invite you to trust Him to get you there?
White you are looking at the traditional tomb where Christ was buried, I am reading from Ephesians 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ…” What a thought. When Jesus was resurrected that Sunday morning we too were resurrected in Him.
And what happened when Jesus ascended to heaven from this traditional spot on the Mount of Olives? Colossians 3:1 says we have been raised with Christ.
Somewhere beyond a million galaxies we have a Mediator, a Representative, called Jesus Christ. He longs to apply the benefits of His atonement for those who ask for it. Please make use of His salvation benefits.
One of my favourite hymn writers is Isaac Watts. I took this slide in Bunhill Fields cemetery in London. I love to read his songs especially this one:
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a tribute far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.
Another beautiful hymn says: Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; let the water and the blood, from Thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Not the labours of my hands can fulfil Thy law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling; naked, come to Thee for dress, helpless. Look to Thee grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Saviour, or I die.
Are you guilt-ridden and longing for peace that surpasses all human understanding? Do you want the assurance of salvation?
It is so very simple. All you have to do is to bring your sins and your failures to the foot of the cross, confess them, and leave them there. The moment you do it, God rewrites your history in Jesus Christ His Son and you are saved by grace. This is the good news.
My prayer for you is to accept this divine offer. The acceptance thereof means eternal life.