Sunday, the Lord’s Day, we got to visit the Church of The Holy Sepulchre.
But, first we visited the water pipes and tunnels from the time of King David. These pipes are over 3,800 years old and are the pipes David used to take back the City of Jerusalem from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:7-9).
Afterwards, we loaded into the bus and headed for the Damascus Gate to enter the Ancient City and walk the 14 Stations of the Cross. For anyone who does not know, the Stations of the Cross commemorate the points along Jesus’ journey from trial to Resurection. They are:
- Pilate condemns Jesus to die
- Jesus accepts his cross
- Jesus falls for the first time
- Jesus meets his mother, Mary
- Simon of Cyrene helps carry the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls for the second time
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls for the third time
- Jesus is stripped of his clothes
- Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is taken down from the cross
- Jesus is placed in the tomb
The Stations are marked along the Via Dolorosa. The Via Dolorosa runs through the Muslim quarter to the Christian quarter. We took turns carrying the Cross through the packed market streets. We ended our journey on the rooftop of a portion of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built on the grounds that would have been Golgotha or Calvary. At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion it was outside the walls of the city. Control of the church itself is shared among several Christian denominations and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for over 160 years, and some for much longer. The main denominations sharing property over parts of the church are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic, and to a lesser degree the Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox. Meanwhile, Protestants, including Anglicans, have no permanent presence in the Church. Due to this conflict over control, a Muslim family was given the keys to the Church many generations ago and a member of that family comes every morning at 5am to unlock the doors.
When you first enter the Church there is a steep staircase to your right. These stairs take you up to the stone where Jesus was nailed to the Cross and to the top of Golgotha where the Cross would have stood. There is an opening where you can touch the rock of Golgotha.
Back downstairs is the Rock of Anointing. This is where Jesus’ body was anointed with oils and prepared for burial.
Finally, you get in line to visit the Tomb. Unfortunately, there is not scientific evidence that this was the tomb that Jesus was placed in, but it is in the location of the tombs from that time. The Greek Orthodox Church maintains control of the Tomb and do not allow pictures inside. The line was a good hour to get in, but the experience of being in that place and thanking Our Savior for the sacrifice He made to save us was incredible!
It was an amazing day!