Today was tough.
Apparently, it rains in Jerusalem. Oh, and it can get cold too. Today, we walked over five miles in a cold, driving rain. Temps were in the 40’s, the rain was relentless, and the wind was howling from the north.
Which made it the perfect day to walk the Via Dolorosa.
Walking the path that Jesus took on his way to be crucified shouldn’t be a walk in the park. And it wasn’t. We trudged the path, straining our eyes through the blinding rain to see each station marking the path of suffering that Jesus took. Our journey ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a magnificently haunting building built during the Crusades by the Romans. Here, I gazed upon Golgotha, peered inside a tomb dating from the time of Jesus, and prayed at the site where it is believed that Jesus died on the cross. It was a chilling reminder of the darkness of that first Good Friday, and left an impression that I know will stay with me the rest of my life.
From there, we took the bus across town to the Temple Mount. I placed my hands on the Western Wall, and offered a prayer for unity in the Church Universal. As I prayed, I thought about all of the hands that have been placed on those ancient stones before me. I prayed for all who might come after me, offering up prayers of hope spring forth from brokenness and desperation.
It was around the corner from the Western Wall, though, that I experienced one of the most powerful moments of the week. On the southern wall of the Temple lie the teaching steps. It was on these steps that Jesus would speak to the crowds, talking to them in parables about the ways of the Kingdom of God. From these steps, I opened my Bible to Matthew 21, and read aloud the parable of the two sons. In the rain. By the time I was finished, my Bible was soaked, the pages glued together by rain, leaving me a lasting reminder of the day I got to stand where Jesus once stood, saying the words that Jesus once said.
This truly is a holy place. And yet, I was reminded of something today that I hope will stay with me long after my return home: standing in a holy place doesn’t make us holy. There is nothing magic about the stones I touched today. No special powers or revelations came because of where I stood. It is faith that transforms, and it is faith that a pilgrimage like this is designed to strengthen. Thankfully, for all of us, faith can be found wherever we stand, so long as we are willing to trust.