PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Thursday, April 6th.
Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a special visit to Jerusalem.
The sites in the area are important not only to our Christian faith, but for the holidays we mark this weekend: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
BUTLER: Millions of Christians visit Israel each year. This spring, WORLD’s Jenny Lind Schmitt was one of them, and she brings us this story.
SOUND: [CARS, HORNS HONKING, TALKING]
JENNY LIND SCHMITT, REPORTER: On a bright spring morning on the Mount of Olives, the sounds of a busy city intrude on the peace of the Garden of Gethsemane. Cars honk their horns and visitors from all over the world emerge from tour buses. It’s a little hard to picture Jesus in this garden, living some of his most difficult moments after the Last Supper with his disciples.
GETHSEMANE MEDITATION: After dinner they obviously crossed the Kidron Valley. They came into the Mount of Olives, and it was this night, and from this garden that Jesus was betrayed and he was arrested. And that points us then to the cross where the crucifixion happens.
Trinity Opp is pastor of Alexandria Covenant Church in Alexandria, Minnesota. Church members sit amid tall dark cypresses, flowering shrubs, and ancient spreading olive trees. The name Gethsemane means “oil press.” In biblical times, people made olive oil here. Opp reads the story of Christ’s passion from Luke 22, and reminds his listeners that the name also points to something else.
TRINITY OPP: It was a place where the weight of the sin of the world pressed upon Jesus so much, that he sweat blood because of the pressure of what was to come. The pressure that he felt was the weight of your sin, the weight of my sin.
Opp and his congregants are on a tour of Israel. They began in Caesarea, traveled north to Galilee, and south to the Dead Sea. Now the trip culminates in Jerusalem as they retrace the steps Jesus walked during His life on earth.
OPP: In the Christian life, understanding the Bible in context is a really big deal. When you understand the Bible from the land of the Bible, it changes the way you read the Bible. It changes the way you understand the Bible.
Kathy Augustine is visiting from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
KATHY AUGUSTINE: I have waited for I can’t tell you how many years to be here, and I’m gonna get teary to think that we just walked down from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. We just sat in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s just. It’s kind of hard to believe we’re here.
SOUND: [STREET NOISES, WALKING, CARS]
Next, the group walks on the Via Dolorosa, the path in Jerusalem where Jesus carried his cross to the crucifixion hill. The narrow cobblestoned street is busy with visitors, merchants, motorcycles, delivery vans, and Israeli army security personnel. The busyness feels unsettling. But Mickey the Israeli guide points out that’s how the original Good Friday must have been. Everyone was hurriedly preparing for Passover. Jesus was just one more person executed by the Romans.
VIA DOLOROSA: We’ll walk from the Antonia to Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is here. It’s not a very long way.
At the end of the Via Dolorosa, the group gathers in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Tour leader John Delancey explains why this is likely the very spot Jesus was crucified and buried.
JOHN DELANCEY: I’m just going to say right out, that archaeologically, hands’ down, this is the site. But also as I begin, we need to remind ourselves that we worship the Person, not the place.
Delancey is an archeologist and pastor who’s been leading tours to Israel for 30 years. On short trips, it’s challenging to quickly teach visitors how archeology works and have it all make sense. But Delancey’s passion is helping Christians make the geographical and archeological connections that help them understand the Bible’s environment.
DELANCEY: Even though this is a so-called traditional place, the Holy Sepulchre Church, I think it really does preserve the location of where Jesus died on a cross, was buried, and rose again. We do know that this was a necropolis of the city. Because of Hadrian tipping us off, perhaps where perhaps he thought Jesus was crucified and buried and wanting to get rid of any evidence of this guy named Jesus, we almost have to indirectly thank him because later Christians 200 years following Hadrian built this church here in honor of that event.
SOUND: [PEOPLE TALKING, HONKS]
SOUND: [MUSLIM CALL TO PRAYER]
Later, Muslim calls to prayer wail across the city.
Crowds of Muslims stream from Ramadan prayers at the Temple Mount. The tour group threads through them to get to the Garden Tomb. It’s a possible site of Jesus’ resurrection.
In the quiet of the garden, the group gathers to take communion together. Delancey reminds everyone that while the journey here is significant, what is more important is the salvation that Jesus bought for each one of us.
DELANCEY: Lord thank you for this blessed time we set ourselves apart for the sacred purpose of worshiping and honoring you.
GROUP SINGING: I will sing of my Redeemer and his wondrous love for me. On the cruel cross He suffered, from the curse to set me free. Sing, Oh Sing of my Redeemer, with his blood he purchased me.
Bethany Harper from Redmond, Washington, says the journey has reminded her of the truth her belief is based on.
BETHANY HARPER: There’s historical truths all around, of: This is where Jesus exactly was, and we know that for sure. Or this is where he might have been. It kind of makes you realize the reality of our faith.
Kathy Augustine says she won’t feel the true impact until she gets home.
AUGUSTINE: Only because I will read the Bible completely differently than I ever have.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Lind Schmitt, in Jerusalem.
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