On this day in our journey, excitement was in the air as we were going to be heading to the top of the Mount of Olives, down into the Garden of Gethsemane, and into Bethlehem. It all began with Matt leading us in a moving devotion on top of the Mount of Olives. Peering into the city that Jesus loved and wept over and realizing the lostness of His chosen people is overwhelming.
The Temple Mount is Muslim-occupied territory. We heard the Muslim call to prayer five times a day and witnessed many of them responding to this call to prayer. It is believed that here, where the Dome of the Rock is located, Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed (Genesis 22:1-14). Also, Solomon built his Temple here in 950 B.C (1 Kings 6-7). The Temple was rebuilt by Herod the Great (beginning about 20 B.C and finished about 62-64 B.C.) on a more grander and magnificent scale. The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman General Titus. In A.D.637 the Arabs captured the city and built the Dome of the Rock in A.D. 691.
|The Dome of the Rock, a Muslim mosque, sits on the highest point of Mt. Moriah.|
|The Mosque of El Aksa|
|The Church of the Holy Sepulchre can be seen in the distance with the gray roof.|
|A view of the Eastern Gate from the Mount of Olives. It was sealed during the Turkish occupation because of Christian expectations that Christ would return as the Prince of Peace through this gate. (Ezekiel 43-44)|
|Matt's Grandad would always tell us, "If I don't see you again, I'll see you at the Eastern Gate." What an exciting reunion we have to look forward to. Come quickly Lord Jesus!|
|A view of the Eastern Gate from the Garden of Gethsemane.|
|The olive tree that would have been a sprout when Jesus prayed in the Garden.|
|Inside the Church of All Nations|
|People of all nations praying and weeping over the rock that is believed to be the spot where Jesus knelt to pray (John 18, Luke 22, Mark 14, Matthew 26).|
|U.S. Seal found in the ceiling of the Church of All Nations|
|Stone pavement and steps outside of Caiaphas' house that Jesus walked on as he was delivered by the soldiers to the authorities.|
|Statue of Peter denying Jesus.|
|Pit where Jesus was held at Caiaphas' house before being delivered to Pilate.|
Next, we loaded the bus and journeyed to the Palestinian controlled Bethlehem. After going through a checkpoint, we entered the city surrounded by large concrete walls and headed to a Christian owned Souvenir shop. The Christian population of Bethlehem today is less than 2%.
Bethlehem is known for its olive wood products and many of us left with beautiful olive wood nativities and other carvings. After a time of shopping and eating, we entered the Church of the Nativity just in time to witness a very reverent time of prayer in this Greek Orthodox church.
|Church of the Nativity|
|This entrance to the church is very small. They made it this way to keep the people from bringing their animals inside and also as a symbol of bowing before the King.|
|Entering the Grotto (cave) where Jesus was born.|
|This silver star represents the spot where Jesus was born.|
|The altar that symbolizes the location of the manger.|
|The Roman Catholic Church next door to the Church of the Nativity. It is in this location that a Christmas Eve service is broadcast worldwide.|
|Shepherds' Fields where the angel appeared to the shepherd's proclaiming the birth of Christ (Luke 2).|
|A shepherd in Bethlehem today.|
|Look familiar?? A coffee shop in Bethlehem.|