Hope from the Upper Room and David’s Tomb

One of King David’s most poignant prayers came after one of his greatest mistakes.

“Do not cast me away from Your presence,” he prayed, “and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

King David Statue on Mount Zion

(Photo: Statue of King David on Mount Zion by “David’s Tomb”. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Pieces of Hebrew and Christian scripture come together in an ancient building on Jerusalem’s Western Hill. In this one small structure, events of history and tradition combine to offer the ultimate answer to David’s prayer.

In fact, the place offers hope for all of us.

Mount Zion—Misnomers that Stuck

I exited the Zion Gate on the Western Hill in order to approach the building. Byzantines in the fifth century really confused the names of this area. They mistook the Western Hill for biblical “Mount Zion,” and so the hill, the gate, and the “Tower of David,” all have wrong names that have stuck.

I made my way south beside the beautiful, century-old Dormition Abbey. Its massive white stones and cone-shaped dome dwarfed the small building in which lies “David’s Tomb,” another misnomer. David’s tomb actually rests somewhere in the City of David (1 Kings 2:10; Nehemiah 3:16; Acts 2:29).

“David’s Tomb” and the Upper Room Share Square Footage

As I entered the small room, I saw Jews praying before a cenotaph (tomb marker or monument) that lay draped in dark purple velvet with the Star of David embroidered on it in gold thread. Because Jews couldn’t enter the Old City prior to the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, many Jews prayed for hope here instead. Many still do.

David's Tomb cenotaph

(Photo: “David’s Tomb” cenotaph. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Here Byzantines honored both David and James as the Jewish and Christian founders of Jerusalem.  James’ church is located in the Armenian Quarter, but David’s tomb is commemorated at this location—where the “Church of Mount Sion” was.

Archeological remains date back to the second century, a time when it would have been difficult and risky for Christians to congregate in this place—unless they had a good reason.

  • Christians since the first century have venerated this site as the Upper Room where Jesus celebrated the Passover and Last Supper with His disciples (see Biblical Archaeology Review, 16:03, May/June 1990).
  • If the archaeology and tradition bear true, this is the Upper Room where Jesus gave hope that the New Covenant would begin by the shedding of His blood (Luke 22:20). The Hebrew prophets anticipated a promised “New Covenant” would write the Law on the hearts of God’s people through the giving of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Upper Room interior

(Photo: Upper Room. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Hope for David and for Us

After leaving the Upper Room that day, I paused again at the “David’s Tomb.” I reflected on how the New Covenant provides the final means for answering David’s prayer for forgiveness and the permanence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

In fact, this mercy provides the biblical motivation by which we live a life of renewed commitment to God’s Word (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 1:3).

Question: Have you thought about the fact that Jesus died for David’s sins too? What Old Testament saint do you look forward to seeing in heaven? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Come to the Holy Land with Wayne Stiles!
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