Yesterday we took a walking tour of Old Jerusalem. What a fascinating mixture of sights, sounds, and even smells.
It’s also a composite of Christian, Jewish and Muslim culture, heritage and religious belief. Surrounded by ancient walls, it’s home to such ancient sites as the Islamic shrine, Dome of the Rock, also called the Golden Dome, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which dates back to the 4th century and the Western Wall.
Going through security checkpoints with armed guards reminds you that there is not only security concerns but political and religious tensions among these groups as well.
As we walked around the Temple Mount, we were reminded of its rich Biblical history. It was here on Mt. Moriah that Abraham proved his faith by his willingness to offer Isaac. On the site, Jesus cleansed the Temple of the greedy money changers. Peter preached the first gospel sermon on Pentecost. And Paul was arrested here.
We walked through or by the various famous gates of the city–the Beautiful gate. The Lion’s gate. Herod’s gate. And the Dung Gate.
The shops and markets which crowded alleys were selling prayer shawls, rosaries, ceramics, souvenirs, all kind of icons, as well as serving falafel, pita, and fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice.
We saw the pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the man with an infirmity for 38 years (John 5). Next to it is the church of St Anne where we paused for a few minutes to sing hymns praising God.
From there we began our most significant and sobering walk of the day. The Via Dolorosa, which is Latin for the Way of Suffering. Or The sorrowful way. It is the path tradition says that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. Of course, we are not sure. But it is marked by nine stations of the cross that depict Jesus on the way to Calvary.
As I reflected on the walk, the way of the cross, I am reminded that it was the way of rejection. The way of suffering. The way of humiliation. The way of pain.
Weakening by the merciless scourging, lack of sleep, and the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, Jesus walked that way to fulfill the Father’s plan.
I am humbled to know that Jesus walked that way for me. And for you. It was the way to bring pardon to the human race imprisoned by Satan and bound by sin.
Paradoxically it became the way of peace. Peace from haunting fears. Dread. And worry. Peace of mind that surpasses understanding. Peace within. Peace with God. Peace with others.
The way of the Cross is the way of salvation. The way to access the blood of Jesus. The way to divine association. The way of the cross is the way of redemption. Reconciliation. Restoration.
But the way of the cross is a way I must also walk. A cross that is mine to bear. A cross of commitment. Consecration. Transformation. It is a cross that exposes my own sinfulness. Shame. And short-comings. A cross of suffering. A cross of ridicule. And sometimes even a cross of isolation.
Thank God Jesus walked The Via Dolorosa. Without it, my walk today would have been a mere walk on a sightseeing tour. But because of it, I have access to the transforming power of the cross.
In the words of the 20th-century hymnist Jessie B. Pounds.
I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this;
I shall ne’er get sight of the Gates of Light,
If the way of the cross I miss.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman