Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. That begins this evening.
Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:
Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3
Their question made sense.
They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.
One question gets to the heart of our heart.
One morning when I was in Jerusalem, I chose to have my devotions on the Mount of Olives at sunrise. Making my way through the Old City’s dark and narrow streets, I passed beside the Temple Mount and exited the city on its east side.
(Photo: Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: צולם ע, via Wikimedia Commons)
After climbing the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, I sat near its summit as the sun began to warm my back. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, I read about Jesus leaving the Temple, predicting its destruction, and sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–5).
Looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount—now crowned with a Muslim shrine—I thought about how Jesus’ prediction proved true. Because Israel rejected Him, they ultimately lost the very objects they hoped to secure through His death—their Temple and their nation (John 11:48).
Suddenly I heard a sound that jerked my mind in another direction.
Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Jesus spent every day in Jerusalem. The places of the Passion Week where He taught, died, and rose again are now traveled by Christian pilgrims.
Last week I shared some 360-degree images from 11 various sites in Israel. This week I’m including some panoramic images I took from sites in Jerusalem—specifically, those that connect with the Passion Week of Jesus.
Just click on the images and drag right or left to look around!
The Mount of Olives from Dominus Flevit
Jesus began the Passion Week on Palm Sunday, descending the Mount of Olives on the back of a donkey—presenting Himself to Israel as their Messiah (Dan. 9:25; Zech. 9:9, 16; Matt. 21).
The site of the Dominus Flevit Church remembers the point where Jesus paused and wept over Jerusalem, knowing the leaders would reject Him and His offer of the kingdom.
How fitting that the first mention of the Mount Olives in the Bible represents the irony that would occur on its slopes throughout the centuries.
In King David’s day, the summit of the Mount of Olives held a place “where God was worshiped” (2 Samuel 15:32). And yet, that same context revealed the rejection of God’s chosen king, David, who crossed the Kidron Valley and ascended the slope weeping as he fled from his rebellious son.
David’s mournful exit as Jerusalem’s rejected king offers an ominous foreshadowing of the ultimate Son of David’s rejection on those same slopes a thousand years later.
But the history that occurred on Mount of Olives does more than tell the story of rejection. It speaks of redemption and—one day—of the ultimate acceptance of the King.
More than that, it tells our own story.
Whenever I visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, I’m eager to walk to the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. I’ve never been to this corner on Rosh Hashanah or during the Feast of Trumpets, but I’d love to go there then. Archaeologists have uncovered a large portion of the first-century street that stretched north along the original Western Wall.
One hundred meters north of the corner is the part of the Western Wall where locals and tourists pray. But beneath the ground, Jerusalem’s Central Valley has been filled in with the rubble of the Second Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70. As a result, the beautiful modern plaza stands about 30 feet above the first-century street uncovered at the southwestern corner.
There at the corner lies a reminder of something Jesus predicted 37 years before the temple’s destruction.
And of a promise He made that could be fulfilled at any moment.
Jerusalem is famous for the standard sites tourists visit. The Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Holocaust Museum, and the Israel Museum top the list of many visitors to Jerusalem.
Pilgrims, sightseers, and worshippers from three major religions journey to the Holy City every year. Because Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all see Jerusalem as a Holy City, it’s tough to designate many of the Christian sites in Jerusalem as distinctly Christian.
After all, Christianity has its roots in the faith of the ancient Hebrews. Jesus was a Jew, and so, many Jewish sites are therefore also connected to Christianity.
Even still, I have selected ten Christian sites in Jerusalem that have a direct, historical connection to the ministry of Jesus.
In this post, I’ll share with you the first five of these Christian sites in Jerusalem.
When people picture Jerusalem, they usually think of the historic Western Wall, or the Old City, or the Temple Mount crowned with the Golden Dome of the Rock.
But most folks are surprised to learn that the original city of Jerusalem lay just south of the Temple Mount on a small spur of land that encompassed about only ten acres.
Crammed with houses and punctured with archaeological digs, the original area of Jerusalem looks much different today than it did three thousand years ago when King David conquered it.
But you can still get a sense of its drama.
Let me show you.
The true value of our hearts is hidden. But sometimes we reveal its value by how we give—not by how much. That’s the currency God cares most about.
On His way out of the temple for the last time, Jesus sat down in the Court of the Women and observed those who made donations to the treasury. To be sure, this seemed an odd place to pause.
But the Lord had a lesson to teach His disciples.
It’s a lesson on how He values our hearts.
Abraham saw the acreage. David bought the lot. Solomon built the house. Nebuchadnezzar tore it town. Zerubbabel rebuilt it. Herod the Great expanded it. Titus flattened it.
Before these temples stood on Mount Moriah, it was nothing but a hill used for threshing wheat. Hardly worth noticing.
But today, the Temple Mount remains the most precious piece of real estate in the world. And the golden shrine that graces its crest has become the icon for the Holy City of Jerusalem itself.
How did this ordinary hill become holy? Not through battles or land bartering or by popular vote.
God chose it.
Who would have ever thought to use stairs as a memory-trigger?
At the southern edge of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a 200-foot wide flight of stairs represents both original and restored steps from the Second Temple period.
Millions of sandals (including Jesus’) shuffled up these steps in antiquity as Jewish pilgrims came from all Israel and the Diaspora to worship the Lord for the annual feasts.
Some suggest the pilgrims sang the Psalms of Ascent on these steps. If so, the place brought to mind critical themes.
The place echoes of our need to be reminded of what we already know.