This set of 7 articles were originally written for the week before Holy Week, and introduce many of the places in Jerusalem that feature during that climactic period of Jesus’ life. So set aside your busy 21st century life for a moment, engage your imagination and join me as I take you on a tour of the Holy City as it appeared when Jesus walked the streets…
Let us start our tour around first century Jerusalem, in an effort to capture some of the atmosphere of the place, before it fills up with people from all over Israel coming for the joint Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. The population at the moment is about 30,000 people, but it will rise to over 80,000 as pilgrims begin to arrive.
We begin with a view from the top of the Mount of Olives, looking down towards the Temple Mount.
As you can see, the courtyards around the temple have emptied out, as the hour of prayer has just finished and most people have returned to their homes. The temple building in the centre has stood for over 500 years, since the return from exile in Babylon, but the great retaining walls, colonnades and huge courtyard are new – Herod the Great ordered them built around 30 years ago, and the work is still not complete.
The spot where this photo is taken from is one of Jesus’ favourite places. The side of the Mount of Olives drops down from here into the Kidron Valley, and the photo shows the climb up the other side to the gate of the temple. Just hidden below the bottom of the photo is the olive grove called Gethsemane, also a favourite retreat of the great Rabbi from Galilee. I wonder if He will come to the feast again this year?
Further reading: Exodus 12 (The first passover).