The year was 1982. I was a student in Jerusalem for the year. My academic focus was biblical archaeology and historical geography, two disciplines that aid the student of the Bible like me to understand the context of the Bible. The year was about learning things like Middle/Late Bronze walls and fortifications, Iron Age II 4-room houses, pottery inscriptions, regions, ridges and natural routes. If one was not careful, it very well could have been a year where the mind and information rather than the heart and formation is the focus. Of course regularly, my heart was touched when we would be “on site” with an open Bible. We would read on top of Azekah, for instance, the battle narrative from 1 Samuel 17 (e.g. David & Goliath) and be reminded that when we give tour battles to God, it is He who brings victory. Or we would sit on top of Arbel and read the kingdom parables of Jesus from Matthew 13. But it was during Passion Week in Jerusalem that touched our hearts the most.
It wasn’t quite an assignment but rather a strong suggestion made by one of Jerusalem professors, Jim Monson. Armed with a Passion Week list of daily Scriptures taken from the Book of Mark that summarized Jesus’ day-to-day activity and ministry leading up to his crucifixion, it was suggested that we walk to the Mt. of Olives every night. There, we are invited to simply sit, read these passages from Mark, and reflect upon the life of Christ. Some of us even took old Anglican hymnals with us lent to us by our friends at Christ’s Church inside the Jaffa Gate. We made sure we picked a quiet place somewhere on the western slope of the Mt. of Olives.
The first night (Monday), we positioned ourselves on the top of Olivet, appreciating the panoramic view. The next night we sat in the Jewish cemetery. No one else as here. The view of the Temple Mount is still as spectacular. Wednesday night, we sat near Dominus Flavet, the church that remembers where Jesus wept over Jerusalem right after the Palm Sunday parade event. But Thursday night, we sat in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed, and later where He would be ruthlessly bound by the High Priest Caiaphas and his religious leaders. From here Jesus was taken most likely across the Kidron Valley to what is not the Mt. Zion area near where our school is located. Friday night we returned to the top, trying to grasp the movement of Jesus on this final day of his pre-resurrected life, specifically, how Jesus was taken by Caiaphas to Pilate, then to Herod, and back to Pilate. From here, Jesus was sentenced to death on a cross somewhere northwest right outside the city wall to the northwest. Sunday would find us worshiping at the Garden Tomb.
Monday: Mark 11:12-19
Tuesday: Mark 11:27-33, 12:1-44, 13:1-37, 14:1-9
Wednesday: Mark 14:10-11 (a day of rest for Jesus)
Thursday morning: Mark 14:12-26, John 14:1-16:33
Thursday night and Friday morning: Mark 14:43-15:15 (arrest), 15:16-41 (cross)
Friday: Mark 15:42-47 (burial)
Sunday: Mark 16:1-20 (the resurrection).
May God our hearts as we consider the passion of Christ.