Jesus Journey

Our hotel was very close to many landmarks and so convenient.  I snapped this photo outside the Old City walls.  If you look closely you can see the rock it was built on.  Such a spectacular sight.  Below is also one of the many gates into the old city.  IMG_0253IMG_0254

This day took us on a sacred journey through the places Christ traveled right up to His death and resurrection.  What a powerful day!

We started at the top of the Mount of olives overlooking the city.  There we took a photo of our awesome group, met a man taking photos with his donkey, and some of us road a camel!


The man gave Dean a kiss when offered some money as a token of appreciation for a photo.



We took some stairs and a walkway down to look at the many, many tombs with Jewish people buried with their feet toward the Temple Mount so that they can be ready for Messiah when He comes.  Muslims are buried near the gate He will come to as a way of blocking Him.  No chance.



Some graves were so ancient that the tombstones were falling apart.


The spires you see here are of Saint Mary Magdalena Greek Orthodox Church.


We were then on to see some 2,000 year old olive trees and the area known as the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed out to His Father to take the cup of death away He was about to endure.


While there, a private garden was opened to us and we spent time in the Scriptures with Guy and were able to pray and mediate alone or with friends and family.  I thought a lot about the anguish Jesus went through as He thought about His pending death and it made me cry.  I thanked Him for bowing to His Father’s will.

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.  And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

– Luke 22:39-44 (NIV)


We next drove nearby to the Church of Saint Peter in Galicantu, a Roman Catholic church located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion just outside the Old (walled) City of Jerusalem.  It is believed that Jesus appeared to the High Priest Caiaphas here, was sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin, and was the courtyard where Peter denied Jesus three times.


Underneath the church we went down into some dungeon pits  where Jesus was likely beaten and kept overnight.


In this pit, we together read Psalm 88:

Lord, You are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to You.
May my prayer come before You;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom You remember no more,
    who are cut off from Your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all Your waves.
8You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
     my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to You, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to You.
Do you show Your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise You?
Is Your love declared in the grave,
    Your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are Your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or Your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to You for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before You.
Why, Lord, do You reject me
    and hide Your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne Your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
    Your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.


We all could feel the sadness and loneliness of that place.

In the courtyard where Peter denied Jesus, regret was there.


We were able to see the actual Roman stairs where Jesus was brought up from the Garden.


We then entered the Old City of Jerusalem by way of Herod’s Gate into the Muslim Quarter where we found tight hallways and alleyways with merchants.  We then came to the Christian Quarter and the place where Jesus was brought before Pilate.



“Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’

If He were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’

Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’

‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death He was going to die.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked Him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’

Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed You over to me. What is it You have done?’

Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now My kingdom is from another place.’

You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.

Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’

What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’

They shouted back, ‘No, not Him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head. They clothed Him in a purple robe and went up to Him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped Him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing Him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against Him.’ When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw Him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’

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.’

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free You or to crucify You?’

Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed Me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, ‘Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!’

‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.

‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.

Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified.”

– John 18:28-40; 19:1-16 (NIV)



We heard excellent teaching from Bob about Pilate and the politics of the crucifixion.  And we realized that we were standing on the stone where Jesus was flogged, beaten and given a crown of thorns to wear.  I felt a pit in my stomach.


These were inscriptions found at the site.


As we walked, we saw one of the only Lutheran Churches in the area.


From there we went to lunch and looked out over the city from the balcony of the restaurant.



The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was next in the Old City.  It was massive and there were many people there.  This is a church that holds a number of different devout religions.  It is thought to be the site of Jesus’ death and burial, by the catholic church.  People who believe this wait for so long in lines to see in this building within a building where they believe Jesus’ tomb was.


Coming out of the Old City we were shown the places where bullet holes can be seen in the wall and small slits where guns were fired from.


And then on to the Garden Tomb site where others, including myself, believe that Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the grave.  When we entered this place it was so incredibly peaceful and beautiful.  It is kept up by Christians and run through donations.


When we entered we sat in this shaded area, listened to teaching by our leaders, and had a time of reverent communion.


We were led into a time of Biblical and archaeological learning by a guide.  He was so solid in the Gospel and a joy to listen to.  He showed us the place of the skull, called Golgotha in Greek.  We get our English word “Calvary” from the Latin Calvariæ Locus.  Golgotha is right outside the walls of Jerusalem and Jesus would have been crucified on the road (not on a hill) and the cross would have been close to the ground to humiliate the criminals on them.


If you notice, the area right next to the Golgotha hill is currently a muslim area.

Adjacent to Golgotha is the Garden Tomb area.  There our guide told us about the inscription found at the site of this tomb believed to be the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea where Jesus’ body was laid.


It was a sacred and exciting moment for us all as we went into the tomb and came out.  Jesus is alive!!


As we left that garden we saw this verse

… that means everything.


What a day it was, sacred and profound.


Photos by Susie Stewart








Jericho Has a Gondola?

Hey Everyone!  I intended to blog everyday, and tried, but I just didn’t have the time, energy, or bandwidth to be able to.  So I will do my best to recapture each day, if not only for myself, to keep the memories alive.  This was the most special trip I’ve ever been on. Profound is an understatement.

Our hotel, the Ma’agan Eden Kibbutz Village on the Sea of Galilee was very beautiful, as you can see by these photos.  This is a Kibbutz, which is a communal living cluster of homes and occupations.  The hotel is part of it.


What these photos don’t really show you is the sweeping view of the Sea of Galilee.  Taking that in was so beautiful.  Tiberius was right across the lake through the haze.  This time of year typically has a lot of haze.

It was interesting to observe Jews as families living and vacationing together.  A wonderful sense of community and togetherness.


From this resort we headed out for a day of touring.


As we were driving around in our bus we would often see huge groves of banana palms covered in a massive box of netting to speed up growth and preserve as much water as possible inside.

We headed to Capernaum (or as our tour guide Daniel referred to it, Ca-per-na-HOOM), first thing this day because it can be one of the hotter places.  Jesus spent two years here.


We walked around and in the area of where the synagogue was.  You can see the difference in the color of stone from ancient times to more recent.  In Jesus’ day the stone was at the bottom, darker, volcanic.


Being in Capernaum thrilled my heart.  I imagined Christ walking in this town, spending time with people, teaching, and healing.  He healed Peter’s mother most likely in this spot a modern-day church has been built over.  We spent some time praying in the church.


We looked out at the water from Capernaum and stood with a statue of Peter with the inscription, “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my church.” ~ Matthew 16


We then drove through Tiberius.  What a cool town on the hills of the lake!  Andy was kind of obsessing over Tiberius.



On to the Mount of Beatitudes!  Catholics have made this site, thought to be the place where Jesus spoke the Beatitudes, into a very beautiful spot to visit and worship in.


By the way, we were very blessed to have Bob Siegel and his wife Dana along with us.  Bob is extremely knowledgeable in all things Bible and has his own radio program (  He spoke to us on descending stairs as Jesus would have spoken to the people on that hill, being at the bottom of the group. The Missions Pastor from our church, Crossroads Community Church, who did such a great job of leading our entire group to the Holy Land, is standing next to Bob teaching.  Bob is his brother-in-law.

As we drove away from the Galilee area and headed south to the desert, I though a lot about how it would be to travel in the hot sun through these parts.  Not an easy thing.  Below is when we passed over one part of the Jordan River.


As we followed along the Jordan River path, we were right next to the border with Syria and with Jordan.  You can see the security fences in the photos below.  It was sobering to see first hand what the Jews need to do in order to protect themselves from hostile neighbors.

Trees planted always made a stark contrast with the rocky desert.  Did you know that in the last 100 years, Jews have planted over 200 million trees in Israel?  It adds so much!


One of the most shocking things for me during this day, was seeing Jericho.  In all my imaginings growing up, I did not expect Jericho to look like this!  Aaannd, modern day Jericho has a gondola!  Who knew?!

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In Jericho we stopped for lunch at the Sultana Restaurant.  When we stepped off the bus it was 117 degrees and when we left it was 119.  What?!?!  The food was delicious and I especially loved this dessert.  The staff of the restaurant were entertaining and made even our meal a drama.  One of our team members, Carlie, was used as a model to demonstrate a dead sea mud mask that you take off with a magnet!

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This man asked us if we wanted to buy a flying carpet.  🙂

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One thing I didn’t realize before visiting Jericho is how close in proximity it is to the Dead Sea.  All such a barren desert area.

Our guide brought our attention to a monastery cut into the mountains where they have kept the skulls of priests for hundreds of years, and to a very old sycamore tree like the one Zachaeus climbed.

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As we headed to Jerusalem, large areas that have held refugees were also pointed out to us.


We saw surprising Jewish settlements in Arab areas, like this one on the hill.


Bedouin camps camps at the foot of mountains.

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and Palestinian neighborhoods

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I was struck by the differences in Arab and Jewish neighborhoods.

We drove steeply uphill through the desert until we got to


What a vast, interesting, beautiful place.


We overlooked the city from a place where many names were recorded of people who had given over a million dollars to help enhance and build Jerusalem.  One of the names you might recognize – Steven Spielberg.  Many Jews from all over the world contribute generously to furthering the building, education, agriculture, and more.


Not far from this site, was Bethlehem.  We overlooked the city and the hills where the shepherds saw the angels at night.  It looked nothing like I had imagined.  I felt thankful to see what it was really like.  Bethlehem is a town that is mostly muslim now, which also surprised me.


I took a small piece of this hyssop plant and brought it home.  It has a very strong scent.

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” ~ Psalm 51:7

“Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning.” ~ Exodus 12:22

“A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

– John 19:29-30 


This was a sharp, beautiful thistle, and a ginormous aloe vera plant.


As if all of this wasn’t enough to fill a day, we got to go to a portion of the Jordan River and get baptized!  How wonderful is that?


Thank you to Bob and Guy for baptizing us!  And thank You Jesus for giving us a reason to testify to new life in You!


We capped it all off with a night out near the Old City at a happenin’ mall.  We happened to be there for a light show and presentation.  The old is mixed with the new in so many amazing ways in this city.


My favorite part of the evening was watching people dancing in the streets together.  It was joyful and just made me happy.


So!  Believe it or not, that was all in one day!  The whole week the Israel Tour Company did such a phenomenal job making sure we experienced everything we intended to experience with the longer stay.  I’m so grateful.  Onto the next day!


I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
    in your gates, Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.”

– Psalm 122:1,2,6,7 (NIV)


Photos by Susie Stewart