First stop: The Garden Tomb
This is the area which is thought be the site where Christ was buried. The thing that impressed me the most about this site is the fact that the tour guide from the site, kept saying that they are not 100% sure that this is the spot, but it seems most likely. They shared that if this isn't the exact spot, it would have been a place very similar to this. I loved that.
Our family was particularly excited to see this area because the street that the Garden Tomb is located is called "Schick Street". We're Schicks after all. Pretty cool!
So we wanted a photo by the sign. However, when we arrived. "Schick" is spelled "Shick" on the sign. Bummer! All the maps online say "Schick" - but it didn't matter. Schick is Shick. If you've done any genealogy, you know that time changes spellings - so the spelling wasn't overly relevant.
In the New Testament, we read about Christ, while carrying his cross was taken to Golgotha, meaning the place of the skull. This would have been an area near the city walls of Jerusalem. The displaying of bodies being crucified was done just outside of the city walls, so that when the people came through the gates - which they did daily, as they left the city to work - they would be reminded to behave.
This rock formation resembles the skull and would have been outside the city gates at the time of Christ.
You can see in the photo below, what the area looked like when they first discovered it. It does resemble a skull. The tour guide mentioned that when he first started coming to the Garden Tomb, the area resembled a skull much more than it does today. It continue to deteriorate as the rock itself is not being preserved. You can see the rock is outside of their structure - next to a parking lot. Kind of sad.
Here is the rock today. You can still see the skull face if you look closely.
The grounds were beautiful and the tomb area was well preserved.
Here we are outside of the tomb itself. We could see the groove that was cut into the rock for the stone to be rolled into place. The stone is missing. When this group purchased the area, the owner was going to fill this tomb with water and use it as a cistern.
It is so much smaller than I had envisioned from the stories I've read and movies that I've seen. But in reality, they were cutting from rock. It only needed to be so big. Makes sense. The Byzantine cross was carved into the wall outside of the tomb and can be seen in the picture below. I believe it has been repainted.
When you walked in, there were three distinct areas to the right with a small hallway of sorts where we were standing. A gate has been added in front of the area where the body would have been laid.
You can tell by the close photos, that the entire area was quite small. The photo of the boys above was taken with us standing back as far as possible.
Looking at the picture below: There would have been a stone table on the left where the body would have been laid, wrapped in linens.
Here are both families outside of the tomb.
Next we headed to the top of the hill outside of the Old City Walls. We talked about the amazing view and all the things we could see from that vantage point. We then walked down the stone streets to the Mount of Olives and then up to the City Walls.
Here we are looking out over the Old City.
The area with white stone boxes in front of the kids, is the Jewish cemetery. To the right and just below that, is a Muslim cemetery. If you look in this picture - just to the right of the kids, all the way in the background, there is a break in the buildings. A green grassy area. This is actually a valley between to hills. This is the "Valley of the Shadow of Death". It is a valley that is shadowed by the cemetery. There were larger, much older tombs that we'd eventually walk down and see.
Who knew that "as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" actually meant WALKING through a physical valley that was in the shadows of death. I always thought of it as strictly a metaphor.
I love this picture for many reasons. It is Itai, our guide, walking with the big kids; Carly, Logan, Andrew and Alex. These big kids were glued to Itai's side the entire time. They were taking in every single word and actually remember most, if not all, of what he said. The adults were a little overloaded - and apparently a lot more out of shape - because we were trailing quite a bit behind!
Next stop was the Mount of Olives. These olive trees were thousands of years old. No, they were not around when Christ was on the earth - but trees like these, would have been.
I love the little old monk that was caring for the grounds. He was adorable.
Of course, there was a church that had been built around the "actual stone" that Christ knelt on when he atoned for our sins. Again, I'm not 100% sold on the actuality of these "exact spots". If I were Christ and suffering the sins of the world, I don't think I'd choose to kneel down on a hard stone. The soft ground would have been a more likely choice - but that's just me.
Regardless of the exact location, what Christ did for me - for all of us - in this general area, is unbelievable. Being there brought the understanding of the physical aspects of the life of Christ to a very real place for me. This is where He was. When He did this, it would have been in this area. When He did that, it was over there. This type of knowledge is invaluable in your understanding of the gospel. Really, this is a must-do for everyone! I can't say that enough. If you ever have the chance to go - do it!
Here is the church built over the rock.
Inside the church is the large stone. You see a group of men from Africa that were loudly chanting and repeatedly bowing on the rock. The monk in charge kept asking them to lower their voices, when they did not, they were 'encouraged' to move on.
It's fascinating to see how differently we all worship. I find strength and power more in the lessons and example of Christ and less in the physical place where things happened. These people seemed to be drawing more from the physical. We're all trying to get to the same place, doing things in the best possible way that we know. I loved that about this experience. Lots of very different people, from very different places, all there to see and learn the very same things. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. I love that!
We rounded down the valley and headed up a long stone staircase toward the Old City. Walking past some amazing tombs on our way.
Below is a great picture of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Now it is a road. Not sure I'd like to drive there. I'm just sayin'. -As I drive through the Valley of the Shadow of Death- No Thank You.
We rounded the corner and came upon the Walls of Old City Jerusalem, but that will have to wait until another post. This one is long enough don't you think?