Category: Asia


Istanbul, Turkey: February 2013

Istanbul, Turkey: February 2013

We went to an outdoor cafe on the Bosphorus to drink Turkish tea with our dear friends Feza and Kazim.  You can see the bridge which connects Asia and Europe. This was the stunning sunset we saw!

Jesus in Jerusalem

Jerusalem at night.

Jerusalem at night.

Last month we traveled to Israel with our friends John and Kelsie. We spent four wonderful days in Jerusalem. It is the most fascinating city…there’s no where else like it in the world!  Jerusalem is the site of many important biblical events.  Since I am a Christian, it was an amazing experience to see the Bible come alive…especially the Passion of Christ.  Jesus was a controversial figure then, as he still is today.  In his day, he inspired great devotion as well as great anger. The following photos tell the story of  Jesus’ last few days before he was crucified.

Things have changed a lot in the last 2000 years!

Things have changed a lot in the last 2000 years!

1.  The Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus celebrated the Passover (the Last Supper) with his disciples in Jerusalem.  When it was over, he went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, located at the foot of the Mount of Olives.  Jesus knew what was about to happen, and wanted time to pray.

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,”  Jesus said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Mark 14:32-33

The church in the background with the golden onion domes is the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here that Judas lead the chief priests who came to arrest Jesus. Why did they want to arrest Jesus?  Read below…

For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.  John 5:18

For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:18

The photo below was taken on the steps of where we spent the night at a place called The House of Prayer on the Mount of Olives. Behind my boys is the city of Jerusalem. Jesus would have had a similar view when he was arrested…except not so many lights:)

Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled. Mark 14: 43, 48-50

Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.The men seized Jesus and arrested him.                                              “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”  Then everyone deserted him and fled. Mark 14: 43, 46, 48-50

2. Caiaphas’ House

The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu is built on the slope of Mt. Zion. For centuries, this location was believed to be the site of the palace of the high priest Caiaphas.  If it is indeed the site, this would be where Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, as prophesied by Jesus. “Gallicantu” means “rooster crows” in Latin.

This is one of two sites that are identified as possible locations for the palace of Caiaphas. Recent excavation on this site uncovered large meeting rooms, which may have been where the Sanhedrin met.

In the photo below you can see the Dome of the Rock, located on the Temple Mount.

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. Matthew 26:57

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. Matthew 26:57

Whether or not this is the actual site, the location struck us because from it you can see the Passion of Jesus unfold.  In the photo below you can see the walls of Jerusalem, inside which Jesus celebrated the Last Supper (Passover) with his disciples. Jesus then left Jerusalem from one of the gates with his disciples.

To the right of the walls you can see the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives where Jesus went to pray, and where he was arrested. You can barely see the onion-domed church of St. Mary Magdelene, situated in the Garden of Gethsemane.

After his arrest, Jesus was taken to the high priest and the Council for questioning at Caiaphas’ house.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.Mark

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Mark 14:55

Below is a photo of the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. It is built over a dungeon, where some believe Jesus was imprisoned after he was beaten and mocked by the Council.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”  “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked.  “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. Mark 14: 61-64

After questioning Jesus, the high priest and the Council became furious with Jesus because he claimed to be the Messiah and quoted an Old Testament prophecy. Someone without biblical knowledge would not have caught the meaning of Jesus’ statement.  Caiaphas and the Council, however, did not miss Jesus’ meaning.  Jesus had quoted a prophecy from  the book of Daniel, and in doing so, claimed to be God. Claiming equality with God was the height of blasphemy, a sin worthy of death.

citadel

The Citadel at night

3.  The Citadel in Jerusalem

Herod’s Palace at Jerusalem was built in the the 1st century BC by Herod the Great, King of Judea. It was the second most important building in Jerusalem, after the Temple.  Herod’s palace is also possibly where the wise men came after Jesus’ birth. Nothing remains of the palace today except for the Citadel, which has been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries.

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. John 18:28

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. John 18:28

The praertorium (governor’s residence) at the Palace was the official residence of the Roman governers when they came to Jerusalem.  So, this is possibly very close to the site of Jesus’ trial by Pontius Pilate.  Interestingly, after interviewing Jesus, Pontius Pilate wanted to release him.

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” John 19:6-7

4.   The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

This is the most fascinating church I have ever seen.  It is a strange mix of Byzantine, medieval, and crusader styles.

The first church was founded by Constantine the Great in 335, after he sent his mother, St. Helen, to find the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.

The early Christian community of Jerusalem was said to have held liturgical celebrations at the tomb of Jesus until 66 AD, when the city was taken by the Romans.  Emperor Hadiran filled in the quarry and built a temple to Aphrodite.

The early Christian community of Jerusalem was said to have met together at the tomb of Jesus until 66 AD, when the city was taken by the Romans. Emperor Hadrian filled in the quarry and built a temple to Aphrodite.

Constantine removed the pagan temple. The rock-hewn tomb of Jesus was isolated and the church was built around what was believed to be the excavated hill of the Crucifixtion.   According to contemporary Christian historians, the Rock of Golgotha was found during the excavation and building process.

The most convincing piece of evidence that this might be the actual tomb of Jesus is that other first-century tombs are found inside the church.  The burial shafts date to the time of Jesus' death.

The most convincing piece of evidence that this might be the actual tomb of Jesus is that other first-century tombs are found inside the church. The burial shafts date to the time of Jesus’ death.

5.   Golgotha

This site LOOKS much more like the place of the Skull, as described in biblical accounts. This area was part of an ancient stone quarry. According to local oral tradition, the quarry was the site of execution by stoning (think about it…makes sense). So, it is possible that the Romans also used the site for crucifixions.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. The Crucifixion of Jesus So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified, So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. John 19:16-18

Crucifixions usually took place next to busy roads, so that many would pass by and be deterred by the fate of the criminals or insurrectionists.  It is ironic that now, in modern times, just below this site is a very busy bus station. I took the photo and cut out the bus site because I though it took away from the preciousness of the site…the place where Jesus died for the sins of all humanity. However, in retrospect, I think it’s God’s way to shout “I love you!!” to all the hundreds of people coming and going on the buses each day.  I wonder if they hear Him?

 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

6.  The Garden Tomb

In scripture, the place where Jesus was crucified, and the place where he was buried were very close in proximity…as are Golgotha and the Garden Tomb.

The garden area is really lovely and peaceful. It has been tastefully landscaped to accommodate Christian groups who come to worship and give thanks at this site.  We heard a group singing worship songs in another language, and we could recognize the tune without understanding the words.  It was beautiful!!

 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.  John 19: 41-42


Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. John 19: 41-42

The tomb was excavated in 1867. The exact dating of the tomb is disputed; however, it fits biblical description in that it is cut out of solid rock, and it was sealed by a rolling stone. You can see the channel for the stone behind Andy’s legs.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb  and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. Mark 16:1-4

You can see in the photo above that we were given an audio guide to explain the history of the Garden Tomb and the reasons why it is believed to possibly be the site of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. I’m a bit skeptical when people say this is “THE” place where something happened…especially when thousands of years have gone by, and the city has been destroyed by Romans, earthquakes, invaders and crusaders.  I really liked what the audio guide narrator said:

The exact LOCATION of the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection isn’t as important as WHY he died, and WHO he died for.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The Jews have been persecuted by ignorant Christians throughout the centuries since Jesus’ death for being “Christ killers”.  Their reasoning is ridiculous, because Jesus was Jewish, as were the disciples and the early Christian church.  The persecutors of the Jews didn’t get it…that Jesus’ death wasn’t a mistake…it was part of God’s plan to reach out to a lost world, to bring people back to a relationship with Him. In fact, Jesus predicted his own death.

 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. ..And I, when I am lifted up[g] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:27, 32-33

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. …And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:27, 32-33

However, Jesus’ story didn’t end when he was buried…

He is not here he is risen!

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.  Come, see the place where He lay.” Matthew 28: 5-6

7.  The Western Wall

The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.  The Western Wall is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the courtyard of the Temple. It is one of the most sacred sites for the Jewish faith. The Jews pray at the Western Wall because it is the side of the Temple Mount which is closest to the location of the Holy of Holies: the inner chamber where the ark of the covenant was kept.  Jesus often taught at the Temple, as did his disciples, following Jesus’ resurrection.

The controversy over Jesus’ claims to be God did not end with his death and resurrection. Peter and John healed a lame man begging for alms at the gate of the temple. This attracted a big crowd, so Peter began to boldly tell the crowd that it was the power of Jesus who healed the man, and how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.

Not surprisingly, this annoyed the Jewish leaders, who had Peter and John arrested. The next day they were brought before Caiaphas (a little deja-vu, perhaps?) Peter had the audacity to tell Caiaphas and the leaders that Jesus’ was the Christ!

" If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected,     which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 9-12

If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 9-12

Many who are of other faiths or of no faith have respect for Jesus. Some believe that Jesus was a great teacher, but don’t believe he was God. They believe he was a great human being. Some even revere Jesus as a great prophet.

C.S. Lewis argued against the view that Jesus was a great teacher in his book Mere Christianity. He argued that Jesus made astonishing claims about himself, such as having the authority to forgive sins and to be the only way for people to attain salvation.

 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. Acts 4:13-14

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. Acts 4:13-14

Lewis argued that since Jesus made these claims about himself, there are three ways to look at Jesus:

First, that Jesus’ claims were false and he knew it.  That would make him a liar…ouch! If he knew his claims were false, then he was purposefully deceiving people.  If that is the case, there goes the idea that Jesus was a great teacher.

The second possibility, according to Lewis, is that if Jesus’ claims about himself were false, and he didn’t know it…then he was a lunatic! These days, if someone claims to be God himself, we lock him or her up in a loony bin!

The third possibility, wrote Lewis, is that Jesus’ claims to be God are true. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus’ friend Lazarus died.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and this is his conversation with Lazarus’ sister, Martha, just before he performed the miracle:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:25-27

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:25-27

Everyone decides for themselves what they think about Jesus’ claims…liar, lunatic or Lord?

What do you think??

Sunset on the Holy Land!

The end of our first day!

The end of our first day!

We arrived in Israel with our friends and their family at 3:15am.  I think Nate was the only one who got a semi decent night’s sleep.  So we picked up our rental cars, drove to the home we are staying at, and crashed for several hours.

We woke up, had a late lunch, and headed off to the beach… just a five minute drive away. We were shown the way to this particular beach by the house sitter of the people whose home we are staying in.  There was hardly anyone there!

The water was about 80 degrees Farenheit!

The water was about 75 degrees Farenheit!

This kid LOVES the water!

This kid LOVES the water!

So does this BIG kid...he's doing the Gangnam style dance out there!

So does this BIG kid…he’s doing the Gangnam style dance out there! Bet you didn’t know that Andy can dance on water!

This pooch was thoroughly enjoying the water as well and swam with us the whole time we were there.

This pooch was thoroughly enjoying the water as well and swam with us the whole time we were there.

The sun started making its way down...

The sun started making its way down…

Time to get out and dry off...

Time to get out and dry off…

Praise God, we are in the Holy Land!

Praise God, we are in the Holy Land!

I got the whole group to pose like this, but instead of a "Praise God!" photo it looks more like "Stop, don't shoot!"

I got the whole group to pose like this, but instead of a “Praise God!” moment, it looks more like “Stop, don’t shoot!”

Then we watched the sun go down over the Mediterranean.

Then we watched the sun go down over the Mediterranean.

Cute kid!

Cute kid!

It was a lovely secluded beach. We were shown it by a local:)

It was a lovely secluded beach.

I think I must have touched the camera lense with a wet finger, because there’s a red circle on some of the photos, but they are still amazing shots to capture the lovely sunset.

Down...

Going…

Down....

Going….

Gone!

Gone!

It was a wonderful end to our first day in the Holy Land! Many more great days have followed since then.  We’ve been to the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth,  as well as three days in Jerusalem. It’s amazing to see the city of David, to see where Jesus walked and taught, and to experience the sights and sounds of this fascinating country!