Day 6: The Garden Tomb, Golgotha, Bible Land MuseumFriday, November 9, 2012 By: Sandy Thorn Clark
AFTERNOON OF EMOTIONS: After a morning with cloudy skies and occasional sprinkles, the sun broke through when the Journey Home Tour arrived Friday afternoon to Jerusalem’s Garden Tomb, considered by many Christians because of its hillside skull (the Gospel description of Golgotha) – to be the site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Emotions ran high as tour participants one-by-one stooped to enter the dark rock-hewn burial tomb, with its door rolled away. Overcome with heartache, Catherine Williams of Calgary, Alberta emerged from the tomb sobbing and asking, “Why did they do that to our Lord?”
At a communion service led by tour director Rev. Jerry Clark, there was praise and worship including the singing of “Amazing Grace,” “At the Cross,” and “Because He Lives.”
RENEWAL OF WEDDING VOWS: The Garden Tomb also was the site of a memorable renewal of wedding vows ceremony. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience as Donald and Mary Jane Westlake of Sun City Center, Fla., lovingly celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary by reaffirming their life’s commitment to one another and exchanging new wedding rings. There was laughter when Donald interrupted Pastor Clark, who was officiating, to admit, “I’m just as nervous as I was the first time.”
Chuck and Charlie Tonkin of Knoxville, Tenn., Dr. Egberto and Josephine Zayas of Tampa, Jess and Karen Shively of Seneca, S.C., and Benny and Becky Doyal of Leakey, Texas, also pledged to cherish each other as special and unique individuals. Pastor Clark’s blessing concluded, “May your joys be as sweet as spring flowers that grow, as bright as a fire when winter winds blow, as countless as leaves that float down in the fall, and as serene as the love that keeps watch over all.”
FIRST-HAND LOOK AT HISTORY: The tour spent the morning in Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum, viewing archaeological finds exploring religion throughout the 6,600-year period from Abraham to the Byzantines, and the Israel Museum, permanent home to the Shrine of the Book which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient Hebrew manuscripts found in 1947 in earthenware jars in Qumran caves.
Chika Nwokocha of Lithonia, Ga., was nearly speechless other than to say “amazing” as a Bible Lands Museum guide named Aaron showed his favorite artifact, a marble sarcophagus (chest) from 360 A.D. with carvings that revealed how early Christians both understood the significance of life and death and confidently looked forward to the hope of eternal life promised by their faith.
Carvings depicted the theme of allowing Christ into your heart, the healing powers of Jesus, Peter who doubted Jesus three times, the moment of redemption, Adam and Eve, the first miracle (fishes and loaves) performed by Jesus, and the resurrection.
SHABBAT EXPLANATION: Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship’s founder and president, was joined by his family – his wife, Joelle, and his daughter, Yael Eckstein, and her family – for a Friday night Shabbat dinner for tour guests. The rabbi explained the rituals associated with Shabbat, observed by Jews from sundown Friday to Saturday evening.
SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE: At 7 a.m. Saturday, JHT buses will depart the hotel and head south to the Dead Sea. There, they will take a cable car to the top of Masada, the mountaintop fortress from the reign of King Herod, and will later relax by floating in the Dead Sea and getting mud baths.