The time has come for us to head to the holy city, taking the route Jesus and countless other Jewish pilgrims would have taken to reach Jerusalem. We followed the Jordan River as it ran South out of the Sea of Galilee. On our way south, we stopped by two sites. The first was Bet She’an one of the 10 pagan cities Jesus sent the disciples in order to grow the Kingdom. The 10 cities collectively are known as the Decapolis.
Our second stop comes straight out of Judges 7, when Gideon comes to a well and there he chooses an army to fight for the Lord. It was a powerful experience to read the passage by the stream that flowed looking to the mountain and all the other geographical details mentioned and think to yourself, “this is the place.”
Once we left the green zone of the Sea of Galilee everything slowly turned to a pale beige, the color of a desert. However, don’t think of sand dunes like the Sahara, instead think of rock and mountain and dried river beds. This landscape is the area that the Bible refers to as the wilderness. In the Gospels, we hear several times of Jesus going into the wilderness to pray. My favorite story of Jesus in the wilderness comes quite early in the Gospels. It happens just after his Baptism, when he heads into the wilderness and is tempted. We were able to see from the road the traditional place thought to be the site of the temptation. (picture below)
From here we set our face towards Jerusalem and traveled the once deadly and treacherous pass that connected Jericho to Jerusalem. Christians are extremely familiar with this road and most of us probably didn’t know it. The setting for the parable of the Good Samaritan is the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. It is even thought that Jesus and his disciples were traveling that very pass when he told the story. Well, half way up we made a pit stop. It is the site of a known inn that existed, one of the only main stops on the way up to Jerusalem. Look at the picture to see where we were.
One of the best parts of this day is that on our way up to Jerusalem we read Psalms 120-135, the Songs of Assent. They are called this because Jericho is around 800 feet below sea level and Jerusalem is at 2500 feet above sea level. The Bible often talks about going up to Jerusalem because you literally have to go up hill, to get there. The psalms of assent were read and sang by the pilgrims on their final assent to the holy city. The original road ran through Bethany, then to Bethphage and then to the Mount of Olives. It is at this point that the pilgrims would have seen their first view of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. It was such a welcome site to see. I cannot even imagine what it would had been like for the original pilgrims, who after traveling so far, to finally see the Temple, the dwelling place of God.
Tomorrow I will share my stories from our first day in the Holy City.