The chatter in foreign tongues almost deafened me, while the vibrant colours of the various stalls blinded me to the reality that Jesus Christ once trod along these streets. Aromas of coffee and unknown foods mingled occasionally with the distasteful smell of foul drains; a smell which sometimes stops you in your tracks in hot climes. Spain, Greece and now Israel reminded me of the dregs of life, amid the hustle and bustle of the Holy City.
Trying to keep up with our tour guide was difficult, as traders and my own curiosity tried to drag me into the shops. Thankfully, the white and blue caps we had all been asked to wear, kept me on the right track. Our guide was determined to get to her destination, despite some of the frailer members of the tour having difficulty in keeping up with her pace; the searing heat, sticking clothes to bodies. We were heading up Via Dolorosa to the place where Jesus was condemned to die, though innocent. We brushed past hoards of fellow pilgrims paying homage to the Saviour of the world and were oblivious to the armed Israelie solders on guard at ease on some street corners.
As we entered the forecourts to the place where Pontius Pilates fortress once stood, a party decked in turquoise scarves passed us singing. A minister was carrying a cross, not a heavy duty one, strong enough to support the weight of a tortured man, but a few sticks in the shape of a cross. The structure was suffice to remind the congregation of the stages of the cross we were all soon to follow.
Our party congregated outside the Church of Condemnation, as our guide told us that we were standing in the place where Jesus was led like a lamb to slaughter. Only a few slabs on the floor of the church are from the actual era, everything else has been lost in time. Was the game scratched on the slabs put there by the same Roman soldiers who hit and spat at Jesus? Were these the slabs which were splattered with the blood of the lamb as He was whipped with a cat-o’-nine-tails til his flesh was ripped from his back? Or was the Church of the Flagellation where he stood wearing a purple robe and a crown of thorns thrust through his scalp as the crowd mocked the King of the Jews? They say time heals and thankfully we can declare that ‘by His stripes we are healed’ because of the wounds he bore at that time.
I tried to capture a feeling of His Holy presence but it evaded me as I captured images of reality on my camera. I struggled to keep up with my tour members, who were heading for lunch in a restaurant decked out like a Bedouin tent.
I joined the congregation decked in turquoise scarves and joined in their song, praising Jesus. Even though I didn’t know what they were singing, I recognised their hearts of worship and the name Jesus. My fellow traveller spotted the cuckoo in the crowd. Praise God that Christians across the world can unite and worship the Lord and ‘if the Son of God is lifted up, He will draw all men to Him.’
Let’s worship the Lord God Almighty and thank Him for all He has done for us.