Impressions of Jerusalem: Via Dolorosa to Golgotha

Gray Weather For A Somber Day

We woke  to a gray, drizzly morning — the perfect setting for our final day of touring Jerusalem.  On the itinerary, a walk along the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross.  The weather matched the somber mood as we retraced Jesus’s final steps on his way to the cross.  Hard stuff this day.

After he was beaten by the Roman soldiers in the area of the Antonia Fortress, Jesus was led down the path to the place where he was crucified.  It was crowded with people caught up in the drama of the proclaimed Messiah staggering to his death under the weight of the cross.  Some were followers but many were among the crowd who a few hours earlier, cried “crucify him!”

The Via Dolorosa

As we walked along the Via Dolorosa, I imagined what it must have been like the day Jesus was crucified.  I could sense the crowded, noisy, smelly place it must have been.

We stopped at several places marked along the way, the stations of the cross.  These stations had either a small chapel or a church to commemorate a particular event.  One of the chapels we went into signified a time when Jesus stumbled under the weight of the cross.  Another was in honor of Simon of Cyrene, who was enlisted to carry the cross of Christ.  An entry to a church had a relief depicting Jesus meeting his mother on his way to the cross.

A Holy Site

We ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  We waited, along with other pilgrims, to see the spot where many believe Jesus was crucified.  We knelt down and touched the stone under the altar.

This may have been the spot where Jesus was crucified.  There is no way to know for sure.  While it was indeed a beautiful, awe-inspiring place, I found myself distracted by the ornate surroundings.  There was so much gold and silver, so many icons and candles burning.  I longed for a moment of silence to myself where I could focus on and ponder the weight of Jesus’s crucifixion.  But, there were large crowds so our stay was brief then we were pushed along.

We saw the Stone of Unction where Jesus’s body was laid and anointed after he was taken down from the cross.  The next part of the church we went into was the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional empty tomb.  It was an impressive monument in a rotunda under a dome.  There were so many people waiting in line, we were not able to look inside. 

When we left the church, we walked through the busy Muslim and Jewish markets.  Shopkeepers were selling their wares as they have for centuries.  After lunch, we visited Gordon’s Calvary outside of the Damascus Gate which many Protestants believe could be Golgotha. It’s a rocky hill that looks like a skull.  (Golgotha means place of the skull.)  You have probably seen a picture of it.  What the pictures don’t show is the Palestinian bus station right under the site.  Our guide told us that the fumes from the buses are slowly causing the rocky cliff to disintegrate, inch by inch.  Sad.

It was a thought-provoking day — standing in view of the location where Jesus was crucified, where the Son of God paid for the sins of the world with his death on the cross.  That was Friday.  Praise God, Sunday is coming! 

Stay tuned next week for our last stop in our tour of Israel and the rest of the story.

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