And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). (Mark 15:22)
If I mention the “place of a skull,” might think I’m talking about a Mexican restaurant! There, the decor often includes ornamental “Day of the Dead” skulls. In their culture, that is a day of celebration. Golgotha, however, is a place of death.
Golgotha is a place of crucifixion. Criminals were executed on this hill outside the city of Jerusalem. Some think this hill was a rock formation that actually looked like a skull. Given that most who were crucified were not buried but simply tossed down the hill, there may have been a lot of old skulls lying around, too.
We really covered a lot of ground today. Our group left the hotel about 8 am. Our first stop was Temple Mount. The security line was short and the crowds were few, but we also couldn’t go inside due to remodeling work being done today. Even so, the Dome of the Rock was beautiful under clear blue skies.
We next headed to the Western wall of Herod’s temple to join many others in prayer. I went to the left with the men, while the women went to the right. The crowd was still small when we arrived.
I watched with interest as many sang psalms and said prayers while others place their carefully written prayers into the cracks in the wall.
We walked further down the western side of the wall and marveled at the size of the stones used to build the wall over 2,000 years ago.
Rounding the corner, my wife and I ran up the southern steps as had many pilgrims before us. The steps are different widths, to keep folks from running too fast.
On the way to King David’s tomb, we ran into a special Jewish family celebration. A little three-year old boy was about to get his first haircut! He didn’t seem too happy about it, but the family and many bystanders joined in songs, cheering, and a blue and white balloon release.
Even though King David probably isn’t buried there, I was fascinated by the location of his tomb. Men and women entered on separate sides. Chairs were filled with men praying and reading psalms. I appreciated the reverent atmosphere of that room.
The upper room we visited probably wasn’t the site of Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples, but we went to that place as well. More Muslim than Christian in design, it was much larger than I would have expected it to be.
As we walked through the Jewish quarter, we paused to look at some of the old wall of Jerusalem, from the time of Solomon. There isn’t much from the first temple period, so I appreciated this ancient site.
Caiaphas’ house is where Jesus was taken after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and where Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. The house include some deep pits where Jesus May have been held prisoner before his trial. I read Psalm 88 to our group, and we thought about the only One we can cry out to for help when we’re “in the pit.”
The very last place on our tour was Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. This place was simple and was more like a place where Jesus could have been crucified, buried and the resurrected. We met for communion and a chorus of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” before we rode back to our hotel.
Tomorrow is a free day. I think we’re going to go back and wander around the Old City again, and spend some time at the market.