Old Jerusalem

Holy Land Journal:  Old Jerusalem & Emmaus

Zack Shavin takes us in the footsteps of Jesus in Jerusalem: Last Supper, Gethsemane, Pontius Pilate, Calvary, Upper Room on Pentecost, and Road to Emmaus


Jerusalem: Tower of David at Jaffa Gate

Tower of David, Jerusalem

Today is a high point in our Holy Land pilgrimage experience. We were going in the footsteps of Jesus in Jerusalem: From the Last Supper Passover meal on Mount Zion to the Garden of Gethsemane, questioning before Caiaphas the high priest, trial by Pontius Pilate at the Praetorium, along the Via Dolorosa to Calvary and his crucifixion, Upper Room where the Holy Spirit came down on Pentecost, and the Road to Emmaus

Garden of Gethsemane

Gethsemane: Olive garden where Jesus came after Last Supper

Gethesemane: Olive garden where Jesus came after the Last Supper

It was another beautiful, warm morning in Jerusalem – as we drove to Gethsemane, to begin a very special day following the footsteps of Jesus. Zack Shavin got us the outdoor Garden of Gethsemane for Mass – we gathered with Jesus – we were among olive trees, in the place of the olive press, facing the Beautiful Gate, where the Messiah would enter to declare the end of days and from whence the scapegoat is beaten into the Judean Wilderness for the sins of the people – possibly why Jesus went to Gethsemane.

Sr. Pat proclaimed the Word of God as we celebrated Eucharist in solidarity with Jesus, alone and abandoned, struggling with God’s will. How those he counted on were asleep – times we were not there for people or they were not there for us! It is a powerful place – no kiss of peace to identify with Jesus being alone – later we accepted our personal crosses. Jesus, the anointed, is being crushed for God’s covenant life and the end of days to happen. Then 30 minutes of silence as we touched olive trees and – beginning the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we examined ourselves on the sinfulness and pain we wanted Jesus to take to God with him.

Church of All Nations where Jesus arrested

Gethsemane: Church All Nations where Jesus was arrested

Gethsemane: All Nations church

We walked through the garden and thousand year old olive trees to the Church of All Nations also known as the Basilica of the Agony, built around the Rock of the Agony where Jesus prayed alone that night, sweated blood, and was arrested. Zack explained the significance of the place and the Temple scapegoat ceremony – the goat carrying away the sins of the people – and Jesus as the lamb of God carrying the burden of sin for humanity. We remembered the Bible story of Jesus that fateful night of betrayal – then a silent visit inside the church, colored with purple stained glass, harsh Rock of the Agony, cups and thorns interwoven.  It’s a powerful place! Then we walked up from Gethsemane and crossed the Kidron Valley into the Old City.

Pools of Bethesda & St. Anne Crusader church

Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the man who was ill for 38 years

Pool of Bethesda

We entered Jerusalem’s Old City through through Stephen’s Gate. We remember Saul (Paul) as a rabbinic student in Jerusalem watching the people’s cloaks as they stoned St. Stephen there. Zack Shavin explained the Temple Mount and area as it was at the time of Christ – Sheep’s Gate and  Sheep Pool . We stopped at the nearby Crusader Church of St. Anne and the Pools of Bethesda.  Sr. Georgette read the story of the crippled man, the paralytic, who was ill for 38 years that Jesus cured there – Zack explained about the pools for Temple purification water – then in the Church of St. Anne we remembered our grandmothers – they were some pilgrims here.

Via Dolorosa: Way of the Cross

Way of the Cross procession to Calvary in Jerualem

Walking the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem

We walked uphill into the Arab Quarter, to the Chapel of Flagellation at the Praetorium  – Antonia Fortress – where Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate and condemned – to begin the Way of the Cross. Zach arranged for us to have a large cross to carry and follow. People took turns – station to station along the Via Dolorosa we sang, prayed and remembered, as we walked through the marketplace – it was impressive watching this Jewish man helping us carry the Cross. We prayed and sang at each station – “this is holy ground” – “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” – life was going on around us – as we were walking with Jesus, it had a touch of reality.

Calvary:  Holy Sepulchre church

Holy Sepulchre church built by St. Helena over Calvary

Holy Sepulchre built by St. Helena over Golgatha

We went across the roof – through an Ethiopian chapel, featuring the Queen of Sheba and Solomon. We stopped to have our group picture taken outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary. The Church was packed – then up the stairs to Calvary, where we prayed the last stations. Zack Shavin explained that the name Calvary is taken from Latin and is the translation of Golgotha, which is the Hebrew word for skull. It wasn’t too crowded so we had time to reverence this holy place – at the Greek Orthodox side of Calvary, we lined up to reverence and touch Calvary, the spot where Jesus died, having embraced the breadth and depth of the human experience to save us – lots of different conflicting emotions going through us – it is never quite like what we expected it to be.

Tomb of Jesus:  Resurrection

Holy Sepulchre: Resurrection Tomb of Jesus

Holy Sepulchre: Resurrection Tomb

We stopped at the anointing place below – the Resurrection Tomb memorial, place of the tomb of Joseph Arimathea, was very crowded – no chance to get in. Zack Shavin took us behind to show some of the graves from the rabbinic cemetery at Jesus’ time – this is where he was buried and raised to life. There, in that holy cemetery, we celebrated the Resurrection – Sr. Pat proclaimed the resurrection and we shared the forgiving power of God’s love in Jesus.

Jewish Quarter: Broad Wall

Jerusalem: Broad Wall from the time of Isaiah & Nehemiah (Neh. 3:8)

Jerusalem city wall from the time of Isaiah & Nehemiah (Neh. 3:8)

Then we went for a falafel lunch and walked through the Arab market which was basically closed for the holy day.  Zack then took us into the ancient Jewish Quarter – we saw the Cardo Maximus – the main street of Jerusalem from Roman times and the Broad Wall, ancient city wall of Jerusalem from Isaiah’s time and Nehemiah.The quarter was destroyed during the War of Independence, recaptured after the 1967 Six Day War, and rebuilt, leading to many archaeological discoveries.

Mount Zion:  Tomb of King David

Mt. Zion: Tomb of King David

Tomb King David

On to Mount Zion, where so much of our Christian story happens – going thru Zion Gate, we first visited the traditional Tomb of King David. Zach explained King David’s importance to the Jewish people – and suggested that this David memorial might be one of the reasons Jesus chose Zion Hill for his last Passover – Davidic messianic covenant fulfillment. David is the biblical author of the Psalms and that’s why Jewish visitors recite them here.

Last Supper & Pentecost Upper Room

Mt. Zion: Room of the Last Supper & Upper Room

Room of Last Supper

Then upstairs to the Room of the Last Supper & Upper Room (Crusader version) where we read the Gospel story – we reflected on Jesus at the Last supper – the incomplete meal (cup of completion) and remembered the Feast of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. Betty read the Acts story of Pentecost, and we reflected on the birth of the Church occurring here – the Spirit of God being the New Law, as they celebrated Pentecost, the Feast of Moses receiving the Law on Sinai. – the proclamation of the end of days – the pouring forth of the Spirit of God to all peoples to create the Reign of God – the messianic end of days and covenant fulfillment – the re-ignited divine spark!

Dormition Abbey: Mary sleeping

Mt. Zion: Dormition Abbey traditional place of the Assumption of Mary in Jerusalem

Mount Zion Dormition Abbey: Place of the Assumption of Mary

Then next door to the Dormition Abbey – the sleeping of Mary – the earliest crisis and the latest dogma – that Mary, like us, shares the full resurrection of her Son – first we gathered downstairs, where our holy women gathered near the statue of the sleeping Mary, under the holy women of the Old Testament – and before the unique icon of Jesus holding the newborn soul of his Mother. We named our mothers, grandmothers and significant women in our lives. The men gathered around them.

Palace of Caiphas & Peter’s denial of Jesus

St. Peter in Galicantu: House of Caiaphas where Jesus brought after Gethsemane

Peter in Galicantu: House of Caiaphas where Jesus was brought for questioning after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane

Then we walked down Zion Hill to St. Peter in Gallicantu church.  Zack showed us where Jesus was imprisoned in the dungeon below the House of Caiphas. We then gathered outside near a stark statue of Peter denying Jesus. Bernice read the Scripture story of Peter’s betrayal (Matthew 26:57-75)- we saw the ancient steps – the Sacred Stairway – up to Zion Hill where Jesus probably walked three times that night – then we went into the basement cistern hole. Bob read Psalm 88 – “My only friend is darkness” – in darkness, we suffered the loneliness and fear of Jesus.

Road to Emmaus: Ark of the Covenant
The sun was setting as we drove out of Jerusalem, following Jesus along the Road to Emmaus. We passed on the way Kiryat Yearim (Kirjath Jearim- modern Abu Ghosh – 2Samuel 6) where the Ark of the Covenant was kept for twenty years until King David brought it  to Jerusalem.

Emmaus: Byzantine Nikopolis

Emmaus Nikopolis: Byzantine church

Emmaus: Byzantine church

Next, to Latrun, the site of biblical Emmaus where according to Luke 24:13-35 Jesus appeared after the resurrection to Cleopas and a companion and then vanishes. The two return to Jerusalem that evening to notify the other disciples that Jesus had risen. Later on the name of the town was changed to Nicopolis. We gathered in the ancient Byzantine & Crusader church to celebrate Eucharist as a pilgrim community in search of the Risen Lord. Sr. Georgette proclaimed the Word of God. We reflected on their disillusionment and the need to break it open to know the Lord, our need to share to have companions on your faith journey – people who help us listen to God amid darkness and emptiness and  how we deal with disillusionment. People to break the bread of life, to open our hearts that burn within us, reigniting the divine spark that is the human soul.

Sr. Georgette renewed her vows as the Franciscan Sister. We ended singing “In the Breaking of the Bread” – our final Eucharist as a pilgrim community. Driving back to our hotel, we were given our daily morning prayer alone, on the self-emptying of Jesus and our need for forgiveness – it had been a long, powerful, intense day!

Contact Zack Shavin
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this Holy Land Journal Day 8 about Jesus in Jerusalem including: Room of the Last Supper, Gethsemane, questioned by Caiaphas, trial before Pontius Pilate, Crucifixion at Calvary, and Road to Emmaus? Would you like to visit the sites you’ve read about? Contact Zack Shavin, veteran guide & biblical archaeologist at Land of Israel Tours and get started planning today!