Welcome back sojourners! I hope you enjoyed the entrance into the Holy City yesterday!
In Biblical days, Jews entered the Holy City several times a year to celebrate feasts and festivals at and around the Temple. Here’s a picture from the model city that depicts what the Temple and Temple Mount may have looke like in Jesus’ day.
Here is a night shot of Temple Mount.
As you know, though, the Romans completely demolished the Temple in 70 AD, fulfilling Jesus’ prophesy that not one stone would be left upon another. (Mathew 24:2, Mark 13:2 and Luke 21:6) Here is rubble from the Temple that was pushed off of Temple Mount, and remains there today.
Temple Mount (the platform on which the Temple was built) still remains, however, and I’ll take you to sites on and around Temple Mount. First, a tiny bit of history! Temple Mount sits atop Mt Moriah, which is where Abraham obediently took his son, Isaac, to be sacrificed; and where God spared Isaac by providing a ram for the sacrifice. (Genesis 22) This is no ordinary mount!
Today, the most recognizable thing atop Temple Mount is the golden-domed Muslim shrine, known as Dome of the Rock.
As imposing and “impressive” as it may seem, it is nothing compared to what the Temple was. To give some perspective, here are two pictures from a previous tour illustrating the difference between the two.
Looks like a tiny wedding cake, doesn’t it!
Jews were not allowed to go up on Temple Mount until Israel was attacked by neighboring Arab nations in 1967. In the Six Day War, Israel totally dominated much larger armies and re-captured Temple Mount. However, in an effort to keep the peace, Israel handed over control of Temple Mount to the Muslims. Today, there is little draw for Jews or Christians to go upon Temple Mount (other than as tourists), as it is dominated by the Dome of the Rock and nearby Al-Aqsa mosque. There is an eerie feeling up there, and Christians and Jews are very closely watched by the Muslim officials. (Israeli soldier and police units officially patrol Temple Mount, but the presence of suspicious Arab officials makes it very uncomfortable.)
On a more important note, the area to the south of Temple Mount has been excavated and visitors can see hundreds of mikviot (ritual baths) in which Jews entering the Temple during Jesus’ day would have utilized prior to entering the Temple area.
After the ritual cleansing, common Jews would have entered the Temple area via the southern steps. Jesus would have entered via these steps! We KNOW Jesus walked upon these steps! We sat on these very steps as Pastor Mark taught.
Given that there is nothing on Temple Mount to draw the Jews, the closest they are able to get to where the Holy of Holies once stood is the Western Wall of Temple Mount. This is perhaps the most holy site for Jews today.
Though celebratory occasions such as Bar Mitzvahs are celebrated at the Western Wall, I personally find the Western Wall a very bittersweet place to observe. Sweet, because the Jewish people are the most passionate people you will ever see. They passionately seek God. Bitter, because despite all the effort and sincerity displayed in their yearning for God, they are simply blinded to the presence of their Messiah. So close…yet so far away!
Finally, the eastern wall of Temple Mount is actually the eastern wall of the city. Jesus entered those gates on Palm Sunday, and they are now sealed. (The original Eastern Gates are actually below ground level now.) Though many have tried, the Bible tells us those gates will remained sealed until the day Jesus steps foot on the Mount of Olives and an earthquake splits the Eastern Gates wide open! He will enter again on that day, and all the world will recognize Him! On the Eastern Wall, here is today’s version of the Eastern Gates:
Hope the pictures help paint the picture in your mind! Blessings….and thanks for stopping by!