Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Trip of a Lifetime! (Day 9)

Saturday, May 7th

In Israel, today is the Sabbath.  We started the day by visiting the BYU Jerusalem Center located on the Mount of Olives, not far from the Garden of Gethsemane.  This campus is absolutely beautiful, and the story of how it came to be is pretty fun.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave these remarks when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was touring the BYU Jerusalem Center on December 28, 1992:

"There is every reason in the world why the Brigham Young University Center for Near Eastern Studies should not be here.  If you want a list of reasons - if you want the details of one of the most impossible tasks in this entire undertaking - it would begin with trying to find a piece of property.  For a decade, for fifteen years, we looked for some kind of property in Jerusalem - anywhere in Jerusalem, and finally anywhere in Israel.  We ended up looking in Bethlehem and other locations not at all favorable to our purposes.  It is a very, very challenging issue in this State to obtain property, as you might suppose.  It is a very small country and it has a destiny and a complexity in which the land is always the most central issue.  We went years trying to find some kind of property suitable to our educational program.  We stayed in a kibbutz here and a kibbutz there; in a hotel here and a hotel there.  We did a lot of things and went lots of places that really were not satisfactory for our University program and for our University students.

We finally came on to a piece of property just off the side of the hill to your left here - a little swale, a little dip in the hillside.  It was not wonderful but it looked like it might be available - if we could pull all the loose ends together - and best of all it was somewhere near the Old City.  It didn't have any kind of a view; if anything it looked over the backside of a garbage dump.  But who was complaining?  It was Jerusalem!  Well, when President Kimball and President Tanner were here for the dedication of the Orson Hyde Garden, they were brought here to look at that piece of property.  It wasn't much, and everybody was a little bit embarrassed, kicking the ground and trying to explain to the First Presidency, "You have to understand how difficult it is to obtain property here."  President Tanner - his health was stronger than President Kimball's at the time, had come to see the property first - then walked off, just walked away, and came up this little wadi and circled over the rim of the hill and came to where you now sit.  He came to look out over the premier piece of land in all of Jerusalem - there was not a piece of property in the entire city more special, and at that time, more vacant - than this piece of property.  President Tanner just stood there looking out over the city.  Everybody came rushing over to join him; it was a wonderful view.  President Tanner stood there in majestic silence for a moment and said, "This is the piece of property."

Well brothers and sister, he might just as well have said, 'Get Buckingham Palace for the Hyde Park Chapel in London.'  There is simply not a way to convey how utterly inaccessible this property was.  It was land expropriated from the Arabs during the Six-Day War; that was problem number one.  It was contested land; land that the Arabs still believed was theirs in the West Bank.  Equally adamant was a Jewish community that responded to Palestinian claims over this property, 'Never!  Not ever.  Not now.  Not ever.'  So a Green Belt was established to protect the land so no one could ever build here.  That was a way to calm the emotion; a way to still the tempest.  It was agreed, 'Nobody will ever build here.'  Further more, it was near the Hebrew University and that was very protected property.  There was great fear among some that our students would somehow infiltrate or be missionaries with their students there.  Of course, that was foolishness, but some worried about it.  Also, the Supreme Court Building of Israel was going to be built right where our driveway now is.  That was another competition for the wonderful Jewish focal point.  And people were not about to let the Mormons build on the highest piece of property in all of the city.  And on and on and on and on.

Well, we tried to explain all of that gently and sweetly and mildly to President Tanner.  Now, you have to be careful when you're speaking with a prophet not to say inappropriate or unfaithful or weak or timid things.  He listened.  And of course, you can picture President Tanner: that wonderful, stoic, square, Canadian jaw with his loving eyes and not saying a word.  Not a single word, until this long list of impossibilities was outlined.  Then he said just one thing: 'Don't tell me your troubles.  Get the property.'  If you can believe it, that is an exact, verbatim, full quote.  'Don't tell me your troubles.  Just get the property.'  A few hours later, President Kimball was brought to the same location and stated: 'I like it.  Everybody else who likes it, raise your right hand!'

Now when the President of the Church and his First Counselor raise their arm to the square and smile at you, then walk away, it is both exhilarating and sobering.  Well, the rest is history, miraculous history, divine history.  It is a miracle.  And here we are.  And after being driven from the city (quite literally; the only thing missing was the tar and feathers), to have been invited back to participate and to contribute and to rejoice and to sing with you and your spouses and your family members - all of this is part of the emotion that I felt last night and that I am feeling this morning and that I will feel forever about this Center.  This building is a miracle and your visit is a miracle.  This is an historic, revelatory, magnificent time in the Church.  It is a great thrill to be a part of it.

Let me close with one final comment: one of the initial - and strongest - objectors to the Center said to one of our young students, 'Do you promise that you're not going to proselyte?  Do you promise that you're not going to introduce the second Holocaust?'  You see, that's the issue: the Jews have already lost one generation and they greatly fear losing another.  They see conversion to Christianity, which of course we are not proposing or offering to them, as a type of spiritual Holocaust.  With some emotion this man continues, 'Do you promise?  Do you promise?'  And the young student replies, 'Yes!  I promise! I have signed a form; I have given my word not to proselyte.'  And the man responded, 'Yes!  But what do we do about the sparkle in your eyes?'  And brothers and sisters, what do we do with the sparkle in yours and in your beautiful voices?  God bless you in your gift of music to this city.

This is truly a wonderful moment and wonderful history.  This is the Kingdom of God and I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was also privileged to bring Mayor Teddy Kollek up to to the site upon completion of the facility.  "Mayor Kollek, our dear, dear friend, came to tour the building and I was invited to walk him through the building.  He didn't say a word; we walked around the building and I tried to make some small talk. I pointed out this and that, but he didn't say a word.  I began to grow uneasy; I really wanted him to be pleased.  We walked for some time - I guess it was close to 45 or 50 minutes - through the building and on the grounds.  Finally, we walked out onto the 7th level on this veranda here to your left which looks out on the city - on his city.  He had not said a word for most of an hour.  I, too, had grown quiet.  We stood and looked out on the view which is before you now.  Then he turned and said, 'You have taken the most beautiful piece of property we could offer you and have done more with it than I thought was humanly possible.  I consider it the most beautiful building built in Jerusalem in the last one hundred years.'  He then turned and walked away."

The BYU Jerusalem Center has a winepress (shown below).  It is a functioning winepress - in the fall, students have an opportunity to tread grapes in it.

This is an authentic olive crusher.  A donkey would be tied to the horizontal wood handle of the press and would pull the stone around, crushing the olives underneath it.  The crushed olives would then be collected into a basket and then further processed by the oil process in the second picture below.

In order to get "virgin oil," the crushed olives were not taken to the press (usually the next step) but were gathered and placed in a large container.  Then hot water was poured over the crushed olives.  The mixture was stirred and the oil separated from the meat of the olive and would float.  The oil was then skimmed off by hand.  Virgin oil is clear and free of impurities.

Second grade oil (which is more common and usually used for lamps) was produced by pressing the pulp.  This was done in a press beam olive press.  To prepare for the olive press, the crushed olives were scooped up and collected into round baskets called "mash sacks" to be taken to the olive press.

This press beam olive press was used in the second part of the process.  The mash sacks were placed towards the front of the beam under a round pressing board.  Large stones were used to weigh down the beam pressing upon the mash sacks.  The oil would drain into collecting bowls.

The oil press below is a direct-pressure oil press.  This was a typical screw-based oil press, using a direct pressure crushing method. It was widely used in the Golan and Galilee in the Hellenistic and Roman/Byzantine periods.  In this oil press a vertical screw was fixed inside a wooden frame.  The frame was supported by a stone base with holes on each side.  The screw was turned around with a short handle, which pushed down a crushing stone upon the basin. The juice flowed out from an outlet into the collecting vat.

The view from the Jerusalem Center, sitting high atop the Mount of Olives, is absolutely breathtaking.  We were looking out at the city, with the Temple Mount right in front of us.  The Dome of the Rock reflected the sunlight and shone magnificently...

The architecture of the BYU Jerusalem Center is beautiful.  The white stone just shines atop the Mount of Olives.  The archways blend beautifully with the native architecture of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The center of the picture below is the chapel where sacrament meeting is held each Saturday.  They choose to hold the Sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday - in keeping with Jewish tradition.  "Sunday School" at the BYU Jerusalem Center  is instead called "Sabbath School".  The chapel is completely glass on three sides, giving one a panoramic view of Jerusalem as you sit trying to focus on the speaker at the podium standing in front of you.  It's hard not to be distracted by the beauty of the city and the Dome of the Rock laid out right in front of you.

We attended sacrament meeting here this morning.  It was such a beautiful setting.  As we sat waiting for the meeting to start the Bishop stood up at the podium and kindly reminded everyone that we were still in a chapel and picture taking was not appropriate here.  It's so tempting when you are looking at such beauty!

 As we were driving away I shot this picture looking back at the Jerusalem Center.  It encompasses not just the main building at the top, but the other white stone buildings trailing down the mountain below it to its right.  The building with the tower to the right of the photo is the Hebrew University.

We drove past the Garden of Gethsemane again on our way to our next location...

Our next stop today was St. Peter in Gallicantu which sits atop Mount Zion.  This is the site of the cock's crowing and the Palace of Caiphas where Jesus was tried.  Before entering the site I shot this picture looking north towards the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock sitting atop it...

To the east you could see more of modern day Jerusalem...

To the south is the biblical Potter's Field - where Judas Iscariot was buried.  After Jesus died, Judas went back to the temple and told the priest he didn't want the money any more and tossed it back in the temple.  Judas then went and hanged himself and died.  The high priests didn't want the money since it was the "price of blood" or "blood money", so since they didn't want to put the money in the treasury, they decided to use it to buy the field that Judas would be buried at...Potter's Field.  Potter's Field was a place where strangers were unceremoniously buried.  You can see the many caves below.  Bodies were just stacked inside these caves...

The church of St. Peter in Gallicantu means "cock crowing" and the site remembers the three denials of Peter.  It is built atop the ruins of a Byzantine church and monastery. At the time of Christ, this was where Caiaphas' palace stood, and it is believed that the prison in which Christ was held is located inside the dungeon of the church.

Brought to the House of the High Priest, Caiaphas, Jesus stood before members of the Jewish high court.  Here the New Testament records, "Again the high priest asked him,...Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?  And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power, and coming in clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:61-62).  It was enough for them to cry blasphemy and imprison Him overnight.  As this occurred Peter was identified, but three times he denied being one of Jesus' followers.

Under the church is a dungeon.  Once you enter the the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu you can look down into through the shaft pictured below into the dungeon cell located far below.

The only access to the bottle-necked cell was through a shaft from above, so the prisoner would have been lowered and raised by means of a rope harness. This is thought to be the cell where Jesus was detained for the night following his arrest.

From the church we descended two staircases to the level right above the dungeon.  This was the guardroom.  A small window from the guardroom served as a peephole for a guard standing on a stone block.

Mark is standing on this block looking down into the cell... 

This was his view...

The people below are standing in the small cell area.

 Beside St Peter in Gallicantu, excavations have brought to light a stepped street which in ancient times would have descended from Mount Zion to the Kidron Valley (the Kidron Valley lies between the Garden of Gethsemane and the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem).

These stone steps were certainly in use at the time of Christ.  On the evening of his arrest, these are the steps he descended with his disciples on their way from the Last Supper to Gethsemane.  He would have ascended these steps when brought under guard to the high priest, Caiaphas' house.
The view above is looking up the steps.  The next one is looking down them.  Christ's feet actually touched these actual steps.  We felt so blessed to be literally walking in his footsteps.

Artwork hanging on the wall next to the steps in the picture above.  It depicts Christ after his arrest in Gethsemane being led to Caiaphas' Palace.

From Caiaphas' Palace we drove to the new city of Jerusalem to visit the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are located, and the model city, a reproduction of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus.  This model of Jerusalem, located adjacent to the Shrine of the Book, depicts ancient Jerusalem at the time of Christ, 1:50 in scale.  It really made it easier for us to get a feel for all the locations we had been talking about and seeing.

This part of the model shows the temple...

The mountains of Qumran are located on the western bank of the Dead Sea and are famous as the hiding place of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a literary treasure trove hidden since shortly after the time of Christ.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient religious writings found in caves and ruins in the Judaean desert.  The first was accidentally discovered in the summer of 1947 by a shepherd boy of an Arabic tribe when he threw a rock into a cave in an attempt to drive out a missing animal.  The sound of breaking pottery drew him into the cave, where he found seven clay jars containing scrolls that had been wrapped in linen for nearly 2000 years.

Eventually, fragments of about 850 scrolls were found in 11 of the hard-to-reach caves that pockmark the cliffs of the area. These ancient manuscripts were in various states of completeness. Only a handful were intact, the largest more than 8 metres long.

Most were written in Hebrew, some in Aramaic and a few in Greek. Most were on parchment, with a few on papyrus. They had been preserved by the hot, dry desert climate.

The scrolls include at least fragments of every book of the Old Testament except the book of Esther. The oldest existing copies of the Old Testament, they generally confirm the accuracy of later manuscripts. Other scrolls also give a new insight into the Jewish society in which Christianity began.
Who hid the scrolls? Academics have hotly debated this question. The prevalent view is that the scrolls were written or copied by a devout group of Essenes, a strict Jewish sect formed in reaction to what they saw as religious laxity in Judaism.

The Qumran community was driven from its wilderness retreat by the Romans in AD 68, leaving its library of scrolls hidden in caves for safe-keeping.

The age of the scrolls ranges from 700 BC (one fragment), to 68 AD.  Texts of Samuel, Jeremiah, and Exodus may date from about 200 BC; but most of the biblical scrolls come from the first century BC.

This is a picture I took of one of the clay vessels some of the scrolls were found in...

This is a picture I took of the actual Apocrypha scroll...

We ended this amazing day at Golgotha and the Garden Tomb where we were able to talk about the Resurrection and final triumph of Christ over death.  Along with Gethsemane, this was another of my favorite parts of our trip.  How can you explain the sheer joy of seeing the tomb from which Christ was resurrected?!  The magnitude of this accomplishment is more than words can describe!  I am so grateful for Christ's sacrifice for me.  I am sure I watched all of the proceedings of the last week of his life as it happened.  I am sure my heart ached for him as I witnessed the great pain he bore - for me.  I am sure I sang with choirs of angels on the morning of his resurrection.  There is a sign on the door of his tomb which reads, "He is not here for he is risen."  I love my Savior with all my heart!

Some of the things that stood out to me at John's Lecture at the Garden Tomb included:

1) We don't need to save other people - we need to love them.  You are called to love, not to judge.  Let go of the feeling you need to judge or change somebody - then you will have the capacity to love.  In most cases you can't change someone anyway.  Real change happens from inside.

2) Don't lose faith in what you know because of what you don't know or what someone else tells you or claims to know.

The word Golgotha is Aramaic; the word Calvary is Latin; both of these mean "place of the skull".  The slope has eroded badly in the last hundred years, but you can still make out the eye sockets and the nose bridge.

The man pictured here led our tour of the Garden Tomb.  He was a volunteer from England and had the most powerful testimony of our Savior.  His point was this and it is well taken: "There is much controversy over the actual location of the burial place of Jesus, but that does not matter.  The point is this - the tomb is empty.  He is risen!"

Immediately to the west of the southern cliff stands Damascus Gate. Herodian stonework is found here, along with remnants of a Herodian gateway and towers. This provides evidence that Golgotha was—as the Bible states—not far outside the city walls near the gate (John 19:20). It was also situated beside the main northern road—an ideal place for a public execution because of the numerous passersby, who, in the New Testament story, mocked Christ as he hung on the cross (Matt. 27:39).
The account in John 19:41–42 provides the principle biblical information about the site: “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.  There laid they Jesus. …”

The biblical tomb had belonged to Joseph of Arimathaea.  In the years to come, evidence was uncovered that the Garden Tomb was, indeed, a Jewish tomb of the first century which had never been completed.  It also conformed to the biblical description because it was located in the midst of a garden and near the proposed place of execution.

Cut into solid bedrock, the Garden Tomb conforms to the biblical description of “a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid” (Luke 23:53).  It has a nephesh (“soul”) or window-like cut in the upper right-hand face, through which, according to Jewish tradition, the spirit of the deceased departed after the third day in the tomb.

In front of the tomb, there is a trough which could have served to guide a rolling stone in front of the door (Mark 16:3–4; Matt. 28:2).  Such rolling stones for tomb entrances are known from other Jewish tombs of the time of Jesus in the Jerusalem area.

It has been argued that the chisel marks in the trough at the Garden Tomb appear to be Crusader in origin, indicating that it was perhaps used for feeding animals but not for guiding a rolling stone into place in front of the tomb entrance.  Nevertheless, the trough has the same width as the rolling-stone trough at the so-called “Tomb of the Kings,” another Jewish tomb from Jesus’ day.  Moreover, the low wall forming the front part of the trough is some six to eight inches higher than the bedrock forming a court in front of the tomb.  If the trough were an afterthought, it would have had to be formed by lowering the entire rocky courtyard by chiseling, which is not the case.  If the chiseling is of the Crusader period, it is more likely to have resulted from efforts to deepen the channel, rather than create it.

Visitors to the Garden Tomb are often surprised at the height of the doorway leading into the tomb.  Such an opening would require a very large stone to block it—larger than any of those known from other tombs of the period. But an examination of the chiseling on the left-hand side of the doorway (the only side which is complete) reveals that its original height was considerably less—approximately one-third of the present doorway.  The top portion of the doorway has evidence of very rough chiseling, done when more stone was later removed to heighten it.  The width is the same as the original, however, as is evidenced by the fact that its side is still partially marked on the lower right.

The height of the doorway is important for understanding the biblical story, in which both John and Mary Magdalene had to stoop down to look inside the tomb. (John 20:5, 11
).  From this position, each was able to see the spot where Jesus was buried, which again points to the burial niche in the northeast corner.  It was probably because of the light entering through the nephesh that they were able to discern the interior of what would otherwise have been a dark tomb.

The reason for the missing door and front wall of the Garden Tomb (the latter now filled in with masonry) can probably be traced to the construction of a Byzantine church on the site in the fourth century.  Evidence for that church takes the form of mosaic decorations found at the site (remnants of flooring), as well as the arching and holes for ceiling-beams found above the tomb entrance.
The Garden Tomb fits the qualifications for that of a rich Jew of the first century A.D. Several noted archaeologists have examined it and declared it to be Jewish and of the Herodian period.  Like other Jewish tombs of Jerusalem from the same period, it is oriented toward the Temple Mount. It also resembles them in form, in that there is an outer “weeping chamber” for visitors, plus an inner chamber with burial niches for the dead. The type of chiseling inside the tomb and on the face of the cliff outside the tomb is the same as that found in other Jerusalem burials dating between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D.

Here are found three burial niches, only one of which was completed by the workmen, thus indicating that it would have been a “new” tomb when Jesus was buried there, as the Bible states.  The only niche which can be seen from the door is the one in the northeast corner.  It would therefore fit the requirements for the burial spot of Jesus, for both John and Mary Magdalene were able to see the spot from outside the tomb, looking through the door.  Mary Magdalene, coming to the tomb on Easter morning, was able to look inside and see angels seated where Jesus’ body had lain (John 20:5, 11–12).

When one examines the burial niche closely, it becomes apparent that it was enlarged in the area of the head to the east, by further chiseling into the bedrock.  This is probably because the person buried there was taller than the one for whom it was constructed.  This evidence of a “borrowed tomb” fits the character of that of Joseph of Arimathaea, in which Jesus was buried.
There are 3 burial niches and Christ's would have been the one on the left.  When found, it was the only one that was finished (hence it being a "new tomb").

The Garden Tomb
The Garden Tomb today. In evidence are supports (1) for the arches of a Byzantine church, along with niches (2) which may have held roof support beams.  The front of the tomb was destroyed when it became a shrine but was filled in with stones (3) in modern times, though leaving a high doorway (4) in place of the original low one.  The nephesh (5) remains, as does an anchor/cross symbol (6).  The trough (7) for the rolling stone is still visible.  Atop the cliff is a stone wall (not shown), separating the Garden Tomb property from that of the Convent of St. Stephen.

Long grooves in the bedrock floor in front of the tomb may have supported a low screen, typical of Byzantine churches.  The screen would have separated the congregational area from the area where the priests officiated, with the tomb proper (its front wall having been knocked out) serving as a shrine in the tripartite setup.

The rectangular depression in the bedrock floor to the left of the tomb entrance was possibly for a reliquary—a box containing bones or other relics of some early saint. These were common in Byzantine churches.

Byzantine crosses adorn the interior of the tomb, and two of the most elaborate of these, having been painted on the wall, have faded since the tomb’s discovery. Others—both painted and carved—remain, as does a large embossed plaster cross in the larger cistern.
Another cross is carved on the outside wall of the tomb, to the left and just above the height of the doorway. Close examination shows that it was originally an anchor which was later extended and changed into a cross. The anchor, along with the fish, was a very early Christian symbol and may indicate a first-century veneration of the tomb site.

Ground plan of the Garden Tomb
Ground plan of the Garden Tomb. (1) The doorway. (2) The weeping chamber. (3) Threshold and steps. (4) The burial chamber. (5–7) Burial niches. (8) Chiseling to lengthen the burial niche. (9) The nephesh. (10) The trough for the rolling stone. (11) A rectangular depression in the bedrock, possibly to hold a reliquary in the Byzantine church. (12) Grooves in the bedrock, probably to stabilize a screen in the Byzantine church.

Latter-day Saints have an additional insight into the sacredness of the Garden Tomb.  President Harold B. Lee was the first prophet of God holding the keys and powers of the presidency of the holy priesthood to visit Jerusalem since Peter walked the city’s streets nearly nineteen centuries earlier.  Detailing the feelings and impressions he had during his visit to the Holy Land, President Lee gave special emphasis to the significance of the site.  “Something seemed to impress us as we stood there,” he said, “that this was the holiest place of all, and we fancied we could have witnessed the dramatic scene that took place there.” (Ensign,Apr. 1972, p. 6.)

The talk by President Harold B. Lee referenced above means more to me than any of the other evidences presented about the authenticity of the Garden Tomb as the site of Jesus' burial and resurrection.  I am including his talk in its entirety because I love President Lee's sure testimony of the sacredness of all of the wonderful spots we had opportunity to visit:

"I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked"

For three glorious days we walked on sacred ground and felt the influence of the greatest person who ever lived upon this earth, Jesus the Christ, the very Son of the living God.

As we approached the Holy Land we read together the harmony of the four gospel narratives so beautifully put together by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and then as we left our room each time, we prayed that the Lord would deafen our ears to what the guide said about historical places but would make us keenly sensitive to the spiritual feeling so that we would know by impression, rather than by hearing, where the sacred spots were.

For the first time, there in the Holy Land, I think I began to appreciate that lovely sacred refrain that has been put to music: “I walked today where Jesus walked.”

In fancy, as we rode in a rented car with a competent guide the five or six miles from the walled city of Jerusalem to the town of Bethlehem, nestled among the Judean hills, we could hear again the strains of that sweet Christmas hymn:
“O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in the dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.”

Beyond us and to our left was the field of shepherds. In our mind’s eye, as we looked upon the hillside where sheep still grazed as they did way back nearly two thousand years ago, we caught the significance of the story of the shepherds.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8–11.)

Presently we were, as it seemed, with the shepherds at the mouth of the cave hewn out of the rock now to be found in the basement of the Church of the Nativity. There seemed to be in this place a kind of spiritual assurance that this was indeed a hallowed spot. Down in the basement is the cave hewn out of the rock, which seemed to us to mark a sacred place.

Out beyond Jericho, the city of palms, we were to find again a wonderful spirit on the banks of the Jordan River, where the courageous John the Baptist had baptized the Son of Man. The sacred incident that took place is recorded simply:

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16–17.)

For three miles out of the walled city of Jerusalem we traversed the road to the cottage of Martha and Mary and Lazarus, where the Master found more congenial company than within the gates of Jerusalem among many of the self-sufficient of the Jews. Only a block away from the homesite of Martha and Mary is the rock-built tomb of Lazarus. As we stood there at the mouth, we remembered the drama that took place as the Savior declared, just prior to the raising of Lazarus, the significance of his great mission when he said to Martha:

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

We fancied we could hear Martha’s fervent testimony: “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:25–27.)

In our mind’s eye we fancied we had witnessed the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, as the Savior peered into the mouth of that tomb on the whited figure of Lazarus, who had been buried for several days, and said in a commanding voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” (John 11:43.) The power of this Man of God over death had asserted itself.

It was from this topmost peak that his ascension took place, and the two men appareled in white stood by and said to the multitude as they saw him go up into the clouds: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11.)

We walked on the sacred ground in these places and again in Gethsemane. In the Garden of Gethsemane, one of the deeply spiritual places, there are eight old gnarled olive trees showing evidence of great antiquity. It was here that Christ kneeled, in the vicinity of the very spot where we were standing. We fancied we could hear again the agonized words of his intense suffering, which he described in a great revelation:

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” (D&C 19:18.)

And then he had prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39.)

Time was now running out for us on our visit to Jerusalem. We had followed the guide through the traditional hall of judgment, where the Master was beaten and sentenced to death by a tribunal that made mockery of justice. We followed the way of the cross supposedly to the place of crucifixion and the place of the holy sepulchre. But all of this, according to tradition, we felt, was in the wrong place. We felt none of the spiritual significance that we had felt at other places, for had not the apostle Paul said, speaking of the crucifixion, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate”? (Heb. 13:12. Italics added.)

In other words, he suffered to his death upon the cross for the sins of mankind, not within the gates of Jerusalem but outside the gates, and yet the guides were trying to make us think that his crucifixion took place inside the walls. And again, what we were seeing there did not agree with John’s description of the place where the crucifixion and burial took place, for John had said:

“Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

“There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day [the Passover]; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” (John 19:41–42.)

There was yet another place we had to visit, the garden tomb. It is owned by the Church of the United Brethren. Here our guide took us as though it were an afterthought, and as the woman guide with her little son led us through the garden, we saw a hill outside the gate of the walled city of Jerusalem, just a short way from where the hall of judgment had been inside the city walls. The garden was right close by, or “in the hill,” as John had said, and in it was a sepulchre hewn out of a rock, evidently done by someone who could afford the expense of excellent workmanship.

Something seemed to impress us as we stood there that this was the holiest place of all, and we fancied we could have witnessed the dramatic scene that took place there. That tomb has a mouth that could be sealed by a rolling stone, and there is a stone track built to guide a stone as it was rolled across the mouth of the tomb. The stone has now been removed, but the stone track is still there. Mary, after peering into the tomb, saw that He was missing, and she went out weeping bitterly.

“But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

“And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

“And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

“And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:11–14, 17.)

As we looked out that night from the veranda of our hotel room, silhouetted against the sky was Mount Zion, and there was King David’s tower marking, so they told us, the place where they say the Last Supper was held just before the Savior went down to the Brook Cedron and to his betrayal and judgment and finally to death. Here on this Mount Zion or in America’s New Jerusalem (our students of the scripture are not in agreement as to which) is to be commenced the greatest drama of the whole history of the world to usher in the second coming of the Lord. The Master himself has described this momentous event:

“… the Lamb shall stand upon Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

“And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.” (D&C 133:18, 22.)

“And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake.

“And the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly.

“And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?

“Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.” (D&C 45:48–49, 51–52.)

The next morning, as we went over the rocky slopes along the Jaffa Road to Tel Aviv and to our airport, we beheld the back-breaking work of the returning Jews to make the “desert blossom as a rose,” as the prophets had foretold.

I came away from some of these experiences never to feel the same again about the mission of our Lord and Savior. I had impressed upon me, as I have never had it impressed before, what it means to be a special witness. I say, with all the conviction of my soul, I know that Jesus lives. I know that he was the very Son of God. And I know that in this church and in the gospel of Jesus Christ
 is to be found the way to salvation."

What a magnificent experience!!  From here we returned to the Olive Tree Hotel and Mark and I went with his family on a walk to Old Jerusalem.  We entered through the Damascus Gate.  It was so fun to walk through the crowded alleys, looking at the hustle and bustle of people selling their wares.  It was fun to see all the children playing and running through it all.  It was fun to explore on our own without a big group and being obvious tourists.  Today was so fun!

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