Matthew 26 records that, on Thursday night after the last supper with His disciples, Jesus retreated to the Mount of Olives to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. He typically went alone, but this time asked Peter, James, and John (His closest friends) to go with Him. There He agonized under the weight of the mission before Him, knowing that it would be impossibly hard to go to the cross, and be separated from the unbroken circle of fellowship He’d experienced with God from eternity past as He paid an unimaginable price for the sins of the entire world … for my sin and yours. Eventually, though, Jesus resolved, “Shall I not drink the cup my Father has given me?” as recorded in John 18:11.
After Jesus had submitted Himself to His Father and resolved to go through with His mission, He was ready to be handed over to the authorities, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Knowing this was coming, He woke the disciples (who couldn’t watch with Him even for an hour – sounds familiar), and waited for Judas to arrive with a bunch of thugs claiming to be doing God’s work.
Jesus permitted Himself to be captured, and the soldiers took Him away in chains (ostensibly) to the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest. There, He was interrogated and mocked, and ultimately thrown into a cistern in Caiaphas’ basement.
After lunch at the Sheraton in Jerusalem, we headed for the house of Caiaphas. Jesus would have been marched down the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, and up the side of Mount Zion just south of Mount Moriah where the temple mount is located. These are fairly small mountains we’re talking about here, but it’s still a bit of hike. I’d say He would have had to march maybe 2 miles – nothing for someone who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from Nazareth three times a year. We took the bus.
Or course, there’s a church built on top of Caiaphas’ place, which wasn’t really worth going through so I won’t bore you with details. But under the church in the basement was the actual chamber where Jesus is thought to have been kept. Now that’s interesting! We stood in the old cistern where they believe He was and read a psalm together. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which it was. It was amazing to be where Jesus might have personally been. They also think that He was dropped down into the water in the room from a hole in the ceiling, which had to be 15 feet above the floor. Whether there was a lot of water and he had to tread water all night or there was a little water and he was basically getting dropped on the floor from that height… Either way, doesn’t sound like He would have had a pleasant night.
I have to say that my amazement never wears off in terms of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It doesn’t get anymore profound than God’s humbling Himself to the level that Jesus did, even to the point of physical death and spiritual separation from God the Father. Praise be to the Living God for the grace and love He shows us in Christ!
In the way of additional information about Jerusalem, here are a few of the places our guide pointed out to us from the roof of the church that commemorates the house of Caiaphas:
- We saw “David’s City” on Mount Zion between the Kidron and Tyropaeion valleys. This was the (MUCH smaller) area covered by Jerusalem in David’s time before Solomon built the temple.
- We saw the location of the Pool of Siloam at southern end of the Tyropaeion valley
- We saw the Valley of Gehenna west of Mount Zion. In ancient times, residents of Jerusalem threw their garbage out of the Dung gate into the valley, because the stench would then drift southeast away from the city into the wilderness, blown by the breeze coming off the Mediterranean Sea. Jesus referred to Gehenna as a metaphor for hell, because the fires in the valley (consuming the garbage) never went out.
- The three valleys – Kidron, Tyropaeion, and Gehenna – form the Hebrew letter “W” or “Shin”, which is the first letter in “Shaddai”, the Hebrew name for God. Our tour guide mentioned this more than once with great pride. It was clear that he believed this to mean that God regards the Israelites as special.
- We saw a wall being erected (seemed nearly done) by Israel where they believe the border of a Palestinian state will one day reside. We ask our guide if Israelis are angry about having to give up territory to the Palestinians. He said yes, but that they had to do so, because the Palestinian population is growing much faster than the Jewish population. Therefore, he said that if they don’t allow a state to be formed and give up some land, in 50-100 years, Palestinians will control the government of Israel anyway and take everything. So, better to give them their own state so that they leave Israel alone (in theory). Interesting take; sounds like a familiar problem.