Israel 3 – Where Jesus Walked

Today we went on the New Testament Jerusalem walk, traveling to Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall of the Temple, and the pool of Bethesda.

Robinson’s Arch is located on the southwestern corner of the Temple, named after Edward Robinson, the American archaeologist who discovered it. As we sat in the area that used to be covered by the arch, we learned about Herod the Great’s construction of the Second Temple and his addition of the Court of the Gentiles. It was helpful to be able to pair the images of what we were seeing with familiar stories like Jesus driving out the money changers and Jesus being tempted by the devil to throw himself from the highest point of the temple. It was also awe-inspiring in the general sense – seeing the massive cornerstones at the southwest corner and knowing that the wall used to be even taller than it is now made me gain an appreciation for just how impressive the Temple’s construction really was.

We sat directly beneath the remains of Robinson's Arch. Check out the linked wikipedia entry to see what it used to look like!

The view from directly beneath what remains of Robinson’s Arch

We then walked over to the southern steps of the Temple, a site where Jesus likely would have taught. As we looked out on the City of David, our instructor reminded us of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:27:

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.’

Suddenly this analogy was brought to life as we looked across the Kidron Valley at the various tombs and graves lining the Mount of Olives – Jesus was using imagery that would have been familiar and immediate to the people he was speaking to.

Standing in front of the eastern Hulda Gates on the steps of the Southern Wall

Standing in front of the eastern Hulda Gates on the steps of the Southern Wall

Lastly, we came to the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. Our instructor shared an eye-opening explanation of the biblical account that provided a new, meaningful context to the story. Learning that Bethesda was the site of a known healing cult helped me understand the powers at play – Asclepius (or whoever they were turning to at the time), who could not heal, and Jesus / Yahweh, who did heal. [There’s more to this story that I’d love to share – ask me about it when I return from my trip!]

Looking down into one of the dried out pools at Bethesda

Looking down into the remains of the Byzantine Church built around the pools of Bethesda

As some have suggested, the scriptures are beginning to ‘come alive’ to me in a way that isn’t possible without actually visiting these sites.

To walk along the streets that Jesus walked…

To sit down on the southern steps and see how the mountains come together just south of the City of David…

CoD

To walk on the floors of the pool where Jesus healed a paralytic…

BethesdaFloor

…I am being blessed immensely. I am excited to take these experiences back to my brothers and sisters in Christ at home, not to overload them with information (although what I’m learning will be helpful in practical teaching), but to share a clearer picture of the world in which Jesus lived.

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