Israel #9: The Way to Jerusalem

Today we left the northern area of Galilee and headed towards Jerusalem.

Our first stop was a powerful one: The Jordan River.

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Rod (our teacher) stepping in to teach us and my pal Rachel photo bombing

Our group had a baptism experience in the same river where John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Many from our group chose to get baptized, while the rest chose to experience Mikveh. Mikveh is an ancient act of regular, self baptism as a symbolic act of cleansing. There were Mikveh pools outside temples and synagogues that the Jewish people (including Jesus before He would enter a synagogue, not as an act of repentence but as an act of commitment) would wash their feet, hands, head, heart, and sometimes even their eyes or mouth before entering into a time of worshipping God. Some of the more pious Jews even did it multiple times a day, before meals or when they just felt lead to.

It was a powerful experience for me doing Mikveh. Baptism is obviously Biblical, powerful, and something Jesus commands. But Mikveh (at least for me) was a whole new experience. Instead of being baptized by someone else and feeling the power of the moment as a public act of faith, Mikveh was something much more personal between just me a God.

I stood in the mucky waters of the refreshing water of the Jordan and thanked Jesus for His grace and forgiveness. Then I took the cool water and washed myself as I confessed and symbolized a cleansing I know Jesus has already given to me.

Then we all linked arms and crossed the Jordan together, as that’s what God’s people did as they literally and symbolically moved from one life (chaos, sin, desert, wandering, etc.) into a new life (freedom, promised land, hope, salvation, etc.). Needless to say, the day got off to a powerful start.

 

From there we visited the ancient Roman town of Scythopolis. There were no Biblical accounts here, but it continued to give us a flavor of the Roman, Hellenistic world that was in stark contrast to that of the Jewish world. The Romans glorified perfection (body, work, etc.) and comfort over anything else. Sound like any country or churches you know..?

Panoramic view of the city center, houses were on the outskirts
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The “wide road/gate” Jesus was referencing when talking about the need to take His, “narrow” road that leads to life (Matthew 7) IMG_2927IMG_2925
An ancient Roman bathroom. My friends Matt and Debbie considering trying it…IMG_2929

 

After lunch we headed for our last hike of the day, and it was a humdinger. Not only in difficulty but also in significance.

While the bus took us the majority of the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, we did experience the intense walk from the ancient city of Jericho on the narrow, wilderness trail through the mountains. This was the same trail that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus would have taken up to 3 times a year to worship in Jerusalem.

It was also the area Jesus spent 40 days in while fasting in the wilderness. Contrary to what I thought (that Jesus spent these 40 days totally isolated amongst cactus and tumbleweeds), it’s highly likely Jesus interacted with people during this time. The “wilderness” to the Jewish people is where they lived. To us, that’s a place where we avoid, but they’re desert people. So Jesus, most likely, walked the path we walked to day, encountering numerous types of people during His fast and preparation. All while being tempted by the devil.

Not only that, but this was the same trail Jesus walked on His way to, what He knew would be, His death.

Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem… – Luke 9:51
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It was humbling to step on the same path our Savior once walked on, as He willingly walked towards His death and the payment for our sins.

After our hike, we sang songs on the bus as we ascended to “The House” where God’s people have traveled for thousands of years to worship Him.

Jerusalem in Hebrew is pronounced ya-roo-sha-lime. The suffix of “ime” in Hebrew means that there’s two of something. So the Hebrew words for hands, eyes, ears, etc. all end in with an “ime” sound. Jerusalem is the only city that has this suffix (since all other cities are singular) because of the fact that there is a Jerusalem in Heaven and on Earth (Revelation 21).

Tomorrow we explore the city!

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Our first look at Jerusalem!IMG_2957
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