Christian Coalition

The Bible talks much about self-examination and is filled from cover to cover with lessons of morality, honor, integrity and values.  Christian history as it relates to Israel and the Jewish people is not one of which those who claim the name of Christ ought to be proud.  In fact, it is cause for us to hang our heads in shame and disgrace.  Time and again when the people which God Himself calls the ‘Apple of His eye’ needed us - needed anyone - to come to their rescue, we turned our backs and closed our eyes.  As a result, the lives of six million Jews and others were brutally snuffed out in the most horrible and agonizing ways imaginable and the atmosphere is ripe for it to happen again.  As Christians we have an obligation to stand up for the weak and speak out for those who are being marginalized, persecuted and slaughtered because of race or religion yet our silence is deafening as people around the world are suffering and dying in Syria and elsewhere. The Good News is not so good if we fail to express our faith to the world not only in word but, more importantly, in deed even if it means there is a personal price to pay.  God will honor us if we honor Him – in word, yes, but, more importantly, in deed. As my mother always said, “Actions speak louder than words.”

 

Followers of Christ are called Christians. As His disciples, we are to follow His teachings and reflect His love to the “world” which means in our homes, in our businesses, in our churches and in the world beyond.  The manner and fashion in which we conduct our lives matters.  Are we fair and honest in all we do and say?  Do we conduct our business affairs with diligence and integrity?  Do we put the best interest of others above our own desires?  Do we tell the truth and take responsibility for our decisions and actions even if there is personal cost involved? God knows the beginning from the end and there is nothing we can hide from Him which will not be revealed.

 

God’s Word makes it abundantly clear as to what is acceptable and what is not.  The Bible clearly states that the Jews are His chosen people and Israel is His special land deeded to the Jews in an everlasting covenant.  Those who would come against the Jews simply because they are Jews will suffer the wrath of God who likens these precious yet peculiar people to being the ‘apple of His eye.’

 

Almost daily there are news reports of Israel being condemned on the world stage for one contrived grievance or another. God chose Israel and the Jews to be the recorders and keepers of His Word to pass it down from generation to generation.  If it weren’t for the Jews, there would be no Christianity and the Bible clearly warns that it is not the “branch which bears the root, but the root thee.” If we believe God’s Word is true from cover to cover, then as Christians have a duty to stand with Israel and the Jews because they are the root.  All who claim to be Christians but are actively engaged in anti-Israel, anti-Semitic campaigns such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions will suffer the wrath of the Almighty.

 

As Christians, we have been given another chance to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters.  While we’ve failed miserably in the past, it’s not too late to make a change.  We should take it as a personal affront when the world unfairly and unjustly condemns Israel for taking necessary protective action to defend her borders and her people from aggression and terrorism.  We should stand against those who engage in BDS campaigns claiming they are “helping” the Palestinians by punishing Israel.  This is an outright lie.  BDS is nothing but an anti-Semitic effort to promote an anti-Israel agenda.  Just ask any Palestinian who is gainfully employed by an Israeli company located on the “other” side of the so-called “Green Line.”  Does it help them feed their families or pay their mortgages when business is taken away thus forcing work hours to be cut or eliminated?  The time for sitting on the sidelines is over. It’s time for Christians to join in the game of “The World versus Israel.”  Going forward, Christians must determine what we want our legacy to be and for this we must ask ourselves whose side we are on. Are we in line with God’s Word and therefore standing with Israel or are we on the side of the world which is clearly against Israel and the Jews?  Those churches or universities with which we are affiliated, are they investing in Israel or divesting?  How about your pension fund?  Is it divesting from Israel? Remember, God will not be mocked. Just as those who bless Israel will be blessed, so those who curse Israel will be cursed.  As we do unto Israel, so it will be done unto us.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2 NIV).


Psalm 18 is said to be a Psalm of David that was written when the Lord delivered him from the hand of Saul. We read about just such a day in 1 Samuel 24:22 where it says that after Saul and David made an agreement that “…Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.”


A stronghold during the time of the Israelites was a natural stone high place or mountain that was protective and a place of safety. When David was hiding from Saul, he dwelt in the “strongholds” at Ein Gedi, an oasis fed by a waterfall descending from the barren mountains alongside the Dead Sea. There are many caves visible high on the cliffs above Ein Gedi similar to the ones David may have hidden in.

 

But in 1 Samuel 24:22 it says that David went up to “the stronghold,” indicating that there was one stronghold that everyone knew about that stood out amongst all the rest. It is possible that stronghold could have been the 1,300 foot high rock plateau, overlooking Ein Gedi, that is known today as Masada (fortress). There is no way to know if it is the stronghold David dwelt in, but there is no better example of what David meant when he described the Lord as his stronghold.


Masada

 

Masada has a history almost as rugged and deadly as it looks. It was the first site Herod the Great fortified after he gained control of his kingdom. He built a three-tiered palace down the cliffs on the northern edge of Masada that included a swimming pool, Roman bath and throne room. The entire fortress was self-sufficient with cisterns, aqueducts, agricultural plots, storage rooms, servants’ housing and a synagogue.

 

But, Masada is best known for the dramatic last stand of a small band of Jewish zealots who had fled there from Jerusalem in 70 AD after the destruction of the Temple by Roman forces. Some 900 zealots lived there and resisted Roman rule until 73 AD when a Roman legion laid siege to Masada building a large siege ramp so a battering ram could reach the wall around the fortress. Once the Roman assault began to penetrate the wall, the Jewish resistance ended in a mass murder-suicide leaving only seven survivors, two mothers and five children who hid in a cistern.

 

When archeologists first excavated the site in the 1960’s, they found many scrolls stored in the synagogue, but the scroll that had been taken out for the last teaching of the zealots was Ezekiel 35-38. In those chapters the Lord speaks judgment on the surrounding nations for their treatment of His people. He also promises to regather the Jewish people back to their land in a time of blessing and peace. In chapter 37 that future rebirth of Jewish sovereignty on the land is described as dry bones coming back to life from the dead.

 

These zealots took their lives in utter hopelessness, choosing death over a life of slavery to the Roman oppressors, yet knowing that one day God would fulfill His promises and raise up the nation even if from dead, dry bones. This is why Masada is such a moving place to visit today.


A heavenly stronghold

 

But the real lesson of Masada is found in the life and words of David.  He benefited greatly from the great strongholds of his day and hid in them for his physical protection. But David did not put his trust in earthly strongholds. He knew that God was his true stronghold, and only in Him could he trust.

As we visit the magnificent mountain stronghold of Masada, we are reminded of how mighty and strong is our God, like a high tower that we can run to for safety in times of trouble. And that while even a physical stronghold as protective as Masada cannot be trusted, our God can.

 

He is our rock, a high tower and shield — the One in whom we can take refuge (Psalm 144:1-2).

 

Susan M. Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem www.icejusa.org.  

The biblical, historical, and future significance of the Temple Mount makes it the most hotly contested piece of real estate in the entire world. An example of the extreme sensitivity over ownership of the site is that Jews and Christians are not allowed to pray there. The Jewish place of prayer, where Christians are also welcomed, is below the Temple Mount facing the outer retaining wall of the complex known as the “Western Wall.”

I witnessed this tension firsthand a few months ago when we took a tour group onto the Temple Mount. We were followed and even questioned by special guards whose duty it was to make sure that our Christian group was not praying. Likewise, I saw a Jewish visitor surrounded by guards to make sure he did not pray and to escort him safely outside the gates of the compound.

This site is holy to three religions, yet only the adherents of one of those religions can actually pray there. This is discriminatory and insulting, but also part of a larger effort to rewrite the history and significance of the Temple Mount.

Erasing Jewish History . . .

For Jews and Christians there is no question that both Solomon and Herod’s Temples were built on Mount Moriah, or what is today called the Temple Mount. Not only is the Bible clear about this but archaeology confirms it.

Some of the archaeological finds include an engraved stone marking the southeast corner of the Mount where trumpets announced the beginning and the end of the Sabbath as described by the Jewish historian Josephus. Another stone was discovered in 1871 along the northeastern corner of the Temple Mount, and is now housed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in Turkey, on which a Greek inscription warns Gentiles not to proceed past the wall that defined the court of the Gentiles in the Temple. There are a number of other significant finds that support the biblical history of the area.

But, the Muslim world neither regards the Bible as accurate, nor appreciates non-Islamic history. What is worse, they will destroy archaeological evidence that disagrees with their distorted historical account. For the last 10 years, the Temple Mount Sifting Project has been recovering precious Temple artifacts that were discarded as debris during the construction of a mosque on the Temple Mount platform.

It is not surprising that UNESCO just adopted a resolution on safeguarding Palestinian heritage, proposed by several Muslim countries, which referred to the Temple Mount only by the Muslim name, Aqsa Mosque, or by the Arabic, Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The resolution, which totally ignored the Jewish history of the area, was approved by 33 states, including France, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. Seventeen countries abstained, while six voted against it: the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

This growing campaign of Temple Denial is considered a serious enough threat to Israel and the Jewish people that it was mentioned by Prime Minister Netanyahu in his speech on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah. He knows that if a godless world can erase Jewish history from the Temple Mount and deny all of the biblical, historical and archaeological evidence to the contrary, then they will have erased the Jewish significance of Jerusalem itself.

. . . and Erasing Christian History

The fact remains that the Jewish history of Jerusalem is our own Christian history. The Jewish scriptures are part of the Christian Bible, and Jesus came into the world in a Jewish context as the Jewish Messiah. He frequented the Jewish Temple on Mt. Moriah and most probably entered by way of the massive southern steps now uncovered by archaeological digs. If the Christian world does not stand up for the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, then one day we will discover that our own historical and spiritual connection to the Holy Sites there has also been erased.

The ICEJ was formed in 1980 for this very reason. When the nations of the world sought to deny this historical connection and refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel we stood up. We have been representing Christian solidarity with the people of Israel and their connection to the city ever since.

Zechariah 12:2-3 predicts a day when Jerusalem will become such an international controversy that the nations will gather against her. Thus, it is no surprise to see that this tension has been growing over the last 70 years and shows no signs of letting up. It is our duty as Christians to stand for the truth and to stand with the Jewish people and their connection to Jerusalem.


Susan Michael is the US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem www.icejusa.org

 

 

The Senate Tuesday passed its version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, setting up a conference process between the House and Senate to merge the two dissimilar bills.

The Senate passed the bill by a 85-13 vote. Notable "nays" include Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas, and Ben Sasse, Nebraska.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., summed up the vote saying, "I'd like to criticize the 13 who voted against."

The bill contains major changes to the military's organizational structure, splits the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics into two jobs and requires women ages 18-26 to register for the draft.

This version of the NDAA would update Goldwater Nichols, a 30-year-old law governing military command structure, to give the Joint Chiefs chairman more responsibility with coordinating and planning for troop movement while still impartially advising the president and defense secretary.

The Senate's proposal to split the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics would create two jobs: one focusing solely on bringing more innovation to the Pentagon and the other solely focused on business. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has criticized this move,calling on lawmakers to "remember the Joint Strike Fighter's growing pains."

A provision to make women age 18-26 to register for the draft has come under intense debate. Heritage Action went as far as to urge the Senate to not vote passage of the whole defense policy bill over concerns on "differences between men and women that are relevant to accomplishing the military mission."

 

Passage of the Senate NDAA comes as President Obama threatens to veto both the Senate and House versions of the bill. His main objections include a personnel limit to the National Security Council, and prohibition on closing Guantanamo Bay, a major campaign promise.

The first glimpse of the Promised Land that the Israelites had from the east side of the Jordan River must have elicited a range of emotions. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, eating some unknown substance called “what is it?” (mannah), they must have been extremely relieved to be entering the land of milk and honey they had been told about.

In addition, they felt fearful knowing that there were still giants living in the land they were entering. But, the children of Israel could have also been a little disappointed. Their view from the east side of the Jordan may have encompassed the occasional oasis in the Jordan valley, but they were dwarfed by the barren cliffs of the foreboding Judean Wilderness.

The Israelites were entering a land that looked just as stark, dry and barren as the desert they thought they had left behind. It is understandable that the two tribes of Reuben and Gad asked to remain on the east side of the Jordan where their cattle could graze!

Crossing Over

It is interesting to note that the place where Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land is also the place where Jesus was baptized and entered His ministry, and from where Elijah ascended into Heaven. It is a special and popular place for pilgrims to be baptized today.

At first glimpse, visitors are usually disappointed in the Jordan River. They are expecting a mighty rushing river, but it is more like a small stream, and the waters are murky. In 2 Kings 5, the leprous Syrian commander, Naaman, was also shocked when the prophet Elisha told him to bathe in the cloudy, unimpressive waters of the lower Jordan. He replied that there were much better and cleaner rivers back in his country!

This part of the Jordan valley and neighboring Judean Wilderness is the part of the land of Israel that I love the most, probably because it is so different from the lush farmland where I grew up.

It is stark, majestic, and overwhelming in its contrasts.

Proving God’s Word

The air is so dry there that it preserved ancient sacred scrolls for thousands of years. The famous Dead Sea Scrolls, some dating back as far as 300 BC, were discovered in caves above Qumran where they had been stored in clay jars. It is possible some of these scrolls were from the Temple and had been hidden there from the Romans in 70 AD. When found over 1,900 years later, they matched the modern biblical text and proved that the Bible had not been corrupted or altered in any way.

It is no coincidence that the first Dead Sea Scroll was acquired by a Hebrew University professor within weeks, if not days, of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel. God was beginning to both prove the authenticity of the Bible and fulfill prophecy at the same time.

Extremes and Contrasts

From the Qumran caves one can see the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, and the rocky cliffs of the Judean Wilderness (also called the Judean Desert) reaching up some 1,500 feet above. The Dead Sea (known as the Salt Sea in the Bible) is evaporating at such a rate that it is ten times saltier than ocean water. This salinity makes it too harsh for fish to live. It is also too dense for visitors to swim—they float on the surface of the water instead. The lowest point on earth is so far away from the sun that bathers do not have to worry much about burning.

A Land of Testing

While these contrasts and extremes make visiting Israel a fascinating experience, it also made the land a harsh place to live in. When Abraham first entered the Land of Canaan it was during such a severe famine that he went to Egypt for refuge. Isaac also encountered a drought but God instructed him to seek refuge among the Philistines near Gaza instead of Egypt. Similarly, Jacob encountered a famine and sent his sons to buy grain from Egypt, then ended up living there under the providential care and provision of his beloved son, Joseph.

Why would God give a land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that had such a tendency towards drought and famine, not to mention giants! He would use it as His testing ground. It was a land in which nothing came easy, and required faith and obedience to attain the fullness of what God had promised.

Israel is no different today. God has brought His people back to their ancient homeland where they cleared malaria infested swamps, made the desert bloom, and from where they have used technology and innovation to solve their water shortage. But, they also encountered hostile resistance from the Arabs who refused to live in peace with them, and who have fed successive generations with hatred and animosity so that Israel is faced with a seemingly unsolvable situation.

I once heard someone ask an Orthodox Rabbi why God would have regathered His people back to their homeland only to be faced with decades of war, waves of terrorism, and a situation that has no solution in sight. His answer was this: “It is part of the redemptive process.”

God uses difficult places and situations to test and refine His people. If we will obey His Word and step out in faith we can overcome the obstacles life puts in front of us. This is the kind of faith that pleases God, and without which, we will fail the test.

Susan Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. www.icejusa.org

Historically, the United States has been considered a Christian nation with a Judeo-Christian culture. Until recently, the Islamic faith was simply not part of the conversation but the tragedy of 9/11 changed this forever. Muslims are now on everyone’s radar screen. Their presence is readily noted at any public or private gathering and they are naturally viewed with a wary or suspicious eye.  Is this profiling? Yes.  Is it wrong? Not necessarily.  While every Muslim is not a terrorist, every act of terror has been committed by a Muslim and radical Islam is on the rise.  This is something Muslims may not like to hear but it’s a very natural response to the reports of terrorism we hear about in the news almost daily.

Israel has been on the front lines of the world’s war on terror for many years and so much so that they have become the world’s leading experts on safety and security. With terrorism on the rise around the world, people living in non-Muslim countries are seriously concerned about the spread of Islam.  It’s virtually impossible for Westerners and those who embrace freedom and democracy to differentiate between radical Muslims and moderate Muslims as all Muslims must, by definition, embrace the teachings of Mohammad and the Koran and the Koran teaches that all non-Muslims must convert or die.  To the world, ISIS or ISIL is the face of Islam because they are making news.  The media always follows the trail of blood and a very large number of murders committed by Islamic terrorists are preceded by torture, slavery, kidnappings, physical violence and beheadings. Why are there no Islamic leaders speaking out with real zeal and conviction against terrorists and their despicable acts of violence?  They say with their mouths that Islam is a religion of peace but do their actions match their words?  No.

The media is largely responsible for the way we perceive people and circumstances.  What the media tells us is often the basis from which we form our opinions.  Muslim violence makes news therefore every time I see a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf or an Arab-looking man wearing some sort of an Islamic covering or sporting a full beard, my mind instantly recalls the latest report of violence perpetrated against innocent people by Muslim terrorists or an organized Muslim terrorist entity.  Are there any Muslims in this world who are engaged in humanitarian efforts to help others outside of the Islamic faith?  If so, they must be doing it under cover of darkness because to help an infidel is considered a sin against Allah unless trying to create a convert.  Those who are ignorant of the true teachings of the Koran proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace, in my mind love and kindness are not attributes I would associate with Muslims or Islam.  There is a huge void waiting to be filled by the voices of major Islamic leaders speaking out publicly and consistently against the vicious acts of violence committed by Muslims.  Without any push-back, what is the non-Muslim world to think?  

Moreover, the Muslim agenda seems to be more about politics and public relations than about religion. Muslims are determined to dominate every geographic area they infiltrate and if it happens to be a holy site, they cap it with a mosque then claim it as their own. This is one reason Muslims are seen as militants and not as people who are truly seeking peace and the Palestinians are prime examples.

To carry this thought further, as militant and geopolitical as they are, Muslims are colonialists and imperialists. They want geopolitical control and they want it under the aegis of Islam - both politically and religiously. Now you have an overarching imperialist state of Islam with its medieval seventh century laws populated by those who become offended by anything they don’t like.  These very people who claim to be offended by such things as cartoons depicting Allah in a comical or less than holy light fail to realize what a hideous offence they are to others when they impute slavery and torture and take away the rights and freedoms of others and threaten death and annihilation to those outside the Islamic faith or inscribe death threats to Israel on the sides of bombs. It’s really not so much that they fail to realize their offense, it’s more like they are thumbing their noses at the world and daring anyone to stop them or attempt to stand in their way.   

Hamas, Hezbollah, the rogue state of Iran, ISIL or ISIS, and others are evil entities yet they are the public face of Islam perhaps revealing the true nature of Islam but the world finds this hard to believe.  Adherents to Islam oppose Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and this seemingly with the blessing of UNESCO. The Palestinians are working overtime to erase all traces of Jewish history from the Temple Mount and other sites in the Holy Land precious to both Jews and Christians.  It’s unbelievable that in the year 2016 the Palestinians are managing to change history right under our noses while we stand by and watch it happen.

The history of Jewish attachment to the land of Israel and the Temple Mount dates back 3,500 plus years. Listening to the Palestinian (Muslim) narrative which now seems supported by UNESCO, you would think there is no Jewish connection to the patriarchal burial sites, other Jewish holy sites and the Temple Mount. Even the Kotel, also known as the Western Wall, no longer has Jewish history connected to it according to the world’s protector of education, science and culture - UNESCO.

All Christians should be outraged and take a personal stake in this redaction of history. When Jewish history and connection to the land are being challenged and erased, this affects both Jews and Christians because Judaism is the root of the Christian faith. Any affront to our Jewish roots is an affront to our Christian values and faith. It means Christian historical foundations are being trampled, undermined and destroyed.

It is high time for Christian academia and world powers to stand up for our Jewish brethren and call for an end to the rewriting history and the unfair treatment of Israel and her people. If the Muslims want respect, they must give it in return in equal portions.  If Muslims do not want to be profiled, they must stop committing acts of terror and Islamic leaders must publicly condemn those who continue with the violence of jihad.  Furthermore, Muslim immigrants whether entering the United States or elsewhere must assimilate in to the culture of their new land and not enter with the notion to infiltrate in order to bring about change from within. Left unchecked, the burqa-wearing Trojan horse will trample upon all who embrace Judaism and Christianity and will grind the values of freedom and democracy in to the dust bin of history.  

DATE: 5/26/16                                                                 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Media Relations
202-549-6257
mediarelations@cc.org
www.cc.org                                                                            

Christian Coalition of America: "Maloney Amendment Denies Religious Freedom Rights to Faith-based Organizations" 

Washington, DC - Roberta Combs, President and CEO of Christian Coalition of America said that she was disappointed that the Maloney Amendment to the Energy and  Water Appropriations Act of 2017  --  which would effectively deny religious freedom rights to faith-based groups receiving federal grants such as the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities  --  was passed in the House of Representatives just before midnight last night.  The Maloney Amendment passed by a margin of 223-195.

However, Mrs. Combs said "I am encouraged that the Byrne Amendment protecting the religious freedom, the First Amendment rights of such Christian groups passed by a large majority:  233-186." Sexual orientation and 'gender identity' should not trump the religious freedom rights  -- including determining whom to hire  --  of faith-based organizations."

The Byrne Amendment to the energy spending bill was sponsored by Representative Bradley Byrne, R-AL.  It would simply reinforce support for the Religious Freedom Protection Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.  Furthermore, the Byrne Amendment would ensure that government contractors such as the Salvation Army will not lose their federal funding.

The religious freedom language in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 which the Maloney Amendment sought to strip out stated that: "The government cannot discriminate against religious groups that receive federal contracts."  Rep. Steve Russell, R-OK who authored that provision in the defense spending bill, said his language was a means of protecting religious freedom. Rep. Russell stated:  "Instead of upholding the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, we have now seen this body continue its assault on faith in America."

Christian Coalition of America does not seek government contracts, but it strongly opposes the Maloney Amendment.   Mrs. Combs said that Christian Coalition of America agrees with the statement of the Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Congressman Bill Flores from Texas who said: "This country has a First Amendment that protects religious liberties. That's all we were doing."

###

 


This Monday, May 30th, 2016, we will honor our nation’s veterans who have have made the ultimate sacrifice in all of America's wars while serving in the United States armed services.  Memorial Day originated after the Civil War to honor those who perished in that war.  But in the 20th century, it was extended to include all those who have died while in military service.

I personally would like to remember and honor my late husband, Andy Combs, who was a World War II and a Korean War veteran.  After serving in both wars, at the age of 32 years old, Andy was stricken with polio, but did not let this stop him from becoming very successful in business.  He continued enjoying a great life with lots of energy and vitality.  He was a gentleman who loved life and people.  He was also very appreciative of kindness; saw the good in everyone; and his friends meant a lot to him.  Andy loved his country and was proud to be an American.  Andy knew many soldiers who died in those wars and on the Normandy beaches on D-Day; a military operation in which he participated.

I would like to ask all Americans to take a moment to remember all military personnel who made that ultimate sacrifice while serving on active duty.  Today there are over 150,000 American troops stationed in over 150 nations around the world; many of whom are active in Middle East combat zones. Please remember them in your prayers. Let us thank and honor all the fallen for their sacrifice in defense of the United States of America and the values we so cherish.  May God bless each and every one, as well as their families this Memorial Day.


 

One of the most memorable moments of any tour to Israel is standing on the Mount of Olives and looking across the valley at the Eastern Gate of the Temple Mount. One can’t help but imagine the magnificent Temple of King Herod standing there, or Jesus walking through the Eastern Gate as He most assuredly did and, according to scripture, will most likely do again.

But, any casual observer will notice that the Eastern Gate has been sealed shut! Almost 500 years ago, when the Turks conquered Jerusalem under the leadership of Suleiman the Magnificent, he commanded that the city's ancient walls be rebuilt, and in the midst of this rebuilding project he decided to put an end to Jewish Messianic hopes by ordering the Eastern Gate sealed. He also put a Muslim cemetery in front of the Gate, believing that no Jewish holy man would defile himself by walking through a Muslim cemetery.

This biblical, historical, and future significance of the Temple Mount makes it the most hotly contested piece of real estate in the entire world. An example of the extreme sensitivity over ownership of the site is that Jews and Christians are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount which is under strict Muslim control. Jewish prayer is held below the Temple Mount facing the remains of the western retaining wall.

Jesus had this same breathtaking view when, during His triumphal entry, as he rode a donkey from the Mount of Olives, He wept over Jerusalem. Despite the crowds shouting Hosanna and hailing Him as King, His heart was in agony for Jerusalem.

He understood the significance of Jerusalem, and what awaited Him there. He also knew of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and prophesied that no stone would be left that was not thrown down. Archeological excavations of the southern area around the Temple Mount have exposed stones that were thrown from the walls of the Temple just as Jesus had predicted. They have also uncovered the southern steps that ascended to the Temple Mount; stairs Jesus most likely walked on.

After his triumphal entry to Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the Temple, reasoned with the religious leaders, and later retreated back over the Mount of Olives to Bethany, where He remained for two days until Passover. It was in a large upper room in an affluent part of Jerusalem that Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples and predicted His impending death. Tour groups can visit an upstairs room in the probable vicinity of the real upper room which is a nice place to visualize the Passover story.

From the upper room, the biblical account tells us that Jesus retreated back to the Mount of Olives which was His custom. The Mount of Olives was named as such because it was covered by a large olive grove, and Gethsemane, the place where Jesus went to pray, meant “olive press.” In today’s garden of Gethsemane, housing the Church of all Nations, one can see olive trees that are almost 1,000 years old and may in fact have roots from the time of Jesus.

Jesus prayed in Gethsemane three times under increasing pressure, reminiscent of the incremental weight of an olive press extracting oil from olives. It was also there He was betrayed by Judas, arrested, and taken to the High Priest.

The story continues in the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest, which was back in that same affluent neighborhood in Jerusalem. Today, tourists can view in that vicinity archeological remains of a very nice home with cisterns dug underneath indicating the affluence of its owner. It also has a prison cell dug into the bedrock below. Whether this is the place where Jesus was held overnight is not known but the visitor is able to see how He may have spent that night in a pitch black cavern.

The next morning Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate and we have the story of His conviction, scourging and His agonizing walk to Golgotha where He was crucified. The most likely site of Golgotha is today under the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is a crusader building encompassing several older chapels built over a different sites, such as Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus. Because the original sites are many feet below ground level, and all the visitor is able to see is an ornate Orthodox or Catholic altar with perhaps a small view of stone below ground, it is not a popular site for Protestants.

The other site preferred by most Protestant groups is a lovely garden, conducive to prayer and worship, at the foot of a stone hill physically resembling a skull, just as the gospel writers described Golgotha. In the side of that hill is a hewn tomb like the one Jesus would have been buried in. The door to the tomb carries the good news that “He is Risen!”

To relive the final days of Jesus on a visit to Jerusalem makes the story come alive! Most importantly, we find that the tomb is empty. We do not go to Jerusalem to find Jesus, because He is wherever hearts have welcomed Him. But, a trip to Jerusalem does help us appreciate His final days and the authenticity of the biblical account.

Susan Michael is the US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and leads tours to Israel www.icejusa.org/tours. This article is the third in a series to introduce Israel and various biblical sites of interest to the Christian reader.

 

"He is risen!"

Matthew 28

1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
14 And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.