Footsteps of Jesus
Have you been following the Footsteps of Jesus? Since Epiphany, each 2020 Sunday bulletin cover has had a picture of a location in the Holy Land that tied into that day’s Gospel reading. The pictures show the probable locations of the baptism of Jesus, his days of ministry to the people, and more. These photos will continue through to Trinity Sunday as we explore the life of Jesus and its meaning for us today.
To view a description of a location, click on the photo below.
Al-Maghtas, meaning “baptism” or “immersion” in Arabic, is an archaeological World Heritage site in Jordan on the east bank of the Jordan River, officially known as the Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan.” It is considered to be the original location of the Baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, brought up in Nazareth, and preached in Jerusalem, but during his significant Galilean Ministry years he stayed in Capernaum. This is where he performed many of his miracles. Capernaum became his home and the Bible calls it Jesus’ “own city” (Matthew 9:1). This is where he met James, John, Peter, Andrew, and Matthew, five of his future disciples. The picture on the cover of the bulletin is a photograph of the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum, where Jesus is known to have taught (John 6:59).
The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias, is a freshwater lake in Israel. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth. The lake is fed partly by underground springs, but its main source is the Jordan River. Many of the miracles performed by Jesus occurred in and around the Sea of Galilee, such as walking on water and the miraculous catch of fish. It is also where Jesus called to Simon Peter and Andrew with the words, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
The Mount of Beatitudes is a hill in northern Israel, in the Korazim Plateau. It is where Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount. The actual location of the Sermon on the Mount is not certain, but the present site has been commemorated for more than 1600 years.
Sea of Galilee, seen from Church of The Beatitudes
The actual location of the Transfiguration of Jesus is unknown, but one likely candidate is Mount Hermon, on the Syria-Lebanon border. Mount Hermon is a short distance from the city of Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus and his disciples were known to be shortly before the Transfiguration. Mount Hermon is the highest mountain in the area and it is covered with a permanent white snowfield. This melting snow provides water to the area during the dry months, and it also feeds the Jordan River.
The hill in the Judean Desert where Jesus was tempted by the devil is referred to as the Mount of Temptation. While it is impossible to know the exact location of the mountain, Mount Quarantania is a likely candidate. This mountain, which is on the road from Jerusalem, towers over the city of Jericho. The name Quarantania is based on the Latin word Quarentena, which means forty, the number of days in Christ’s fast.
Jacob’s Well, also commonly known as Jacob’s Fountain and the Well of Sychar, is a deep well hewn out of solid rock. This is believed to be the location where Jesus met the Samaritan woman. Over the years a number of churches have been built near and over the well itself. Today the well is contained within a Greek Orthodox Church named The Holy Church of Jacob’s Well.
According to the Gospel of John, it was at the Siloam Pool where Jesus healed the blind man. In 2004, during construction work to repair a large water pipe just south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the remains of pool were discovered. The cover photo shows the steps that led down to the pool. The bottom of the pool was located off to the left, under what is now a garden.
The town of Bethany played a major role in the ministry of Jesus and is famous as the place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Over the years several grand churches were erected over what is believed to be the tomb of Lazarus. By the 14th century the churches were in ruins and the original entrance to the tomb had been turned into a mosque. In the 16th century the Franciscans cut through the soft rock to create the present entrance.
The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by a large wall which has eight major gates. The Eastern Gate, known by Christians as the Golden Gate, is the only gate that faces the Mount of Olives. This is believed to be the gate Jesus passed through on what has come to be known as Palm Sunday. This gate gave the most direct access to what would have been the area of the Jewish temple. The exterior of the gate has been walled up since medieval times.
The day that has come to be known as Maundy Thursday is usually associated with the Last Supper, but that’s not all Jesus and his disciples did that day. Following the meal in the Upper Room, they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane for Jesus to pray. The name, Gethsemane, means “oil press” in Hebrew. It was there, in this olive grove, that he was betrayed and arrested. Gethsemane is located on the western foot of the Mount of Olives, only a short distance from Jerusalem. Beside the garden is the Church of All Nations which was built over the rock on which some believe Jesus prayed.
As with many places mentioned in the Bible, it is impossible to be certain of their locations today. Where Jesus was crucified on the cross is one of those unknown locations. A Roman Catholic Church named The Church of the Holy Sepulcher has been built over the spot where some believe the crucifixion, and eventual burial of Jesus, took place. Others believe that the crucifixion took place on the Mount of Olives itself. Another possible location, shown above, is just north of Jerusalem’s old city walls. The spot is called “skull hill” because some people believe they can see the shape of a skull in the rocks on the cliff. It is also known that the Roman Empire carried out executions on this hill.
The actual tomb of Jesus will probably never be conclusively identified, but there are two locations in Jerusalem that claim to be the spot. One candidate is now contained within a large Romanesque church called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Another candidate, shown above, is known as the Garden Tomb. The Garden Tomb is a popular location to visit to see an ancient tomb that looks like the one described in the Gospels.
In this morning’s Gospel Reading Jesus twice appears to his disciples inside of a locked room in a house in Jerusalem. One of the possible locations of this room is on the upper floor of building south of the Zion Gate, in the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. According to tradition, this is also the location of the Last Supper and of the appearance of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This room is referred to as the Cenacle of Jesus.
Like many locations mentioned in the Bible, the road to Emmaus is difficult to find today, in part because there were several towns named Emmaus in the area of Jerusalem. Many researchers believe that the road mentioned in Luke was a Roman road that led to the town of Motza-Emmaus. Unfortunately this ancient road, originally made up of carved stones skillfully fitted together, has been eroding away for centuries. In the middle of the photo you can see the large stones that would have made up the curb of the road.
In this morning’s Gospel reading we jump back in time a little bit, to just after Jesus healed the blind man Jerusalem. The Pharisees summoned the man to the synagogue, questioned him, and then threw him out. Afterward, they confronted Jesus. Jesus used the story of the Good Shepherd and his Sheep to try to explain the truth to the Pharisees, but they did not understand. The location of this conversation was not recorded in the Gospel, but it possibly took place outside in the street. This recent photo of a street in Jerusalem shows what the streets could have looked like in Jesus’ time.
In this morning’s Gospel reading we again jump back in time, to prior to the Crucifixion. On the evening of the Last Supper, after predicting his betrayal, Jesus attempted to comfort his Disciples. It was here that he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The supposed location of this room, known as the Upper Room or The Cenacle, has been heavily remodeled over the years. The Gothic architecture was added more than a thousand years later.
Just like with last week, this week’s Gospel reading takes place in a time prior to the Crucifixion. After the Last Supper and prior to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus attempts to comfort his disciples. In this Scripture Jesus promises the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The final words of the chapter, “Come now; let us leave.” seem to indicate that the disciples are still gathered in the area of the Upper Room. This morning’s bulletin cover photo shows the exterior of the building, from the courtyard, where perhaps Jesus and his disciples walked on their way to the Garden.
In this morning’s reading from the book of Acts we hear about Paul’s visit to Athens. In addition to the twelve main gods and the innumerable lesser deities, ancient Greeks worshipped a deity they called Agnostos Theos, which means, Unknown God. In Athens, there was a temple specifically dedicated to that god and very often Athenians would swear, “In the name of the Unknown God.” Most of the Greek gods were adopted by the ancient Romans. An altar dedicated to the unknown god was found in 1820 on the Palatine Hill of Rome. It contains an inscription in Latin that is translated into English as, either for a god or a sacred goddess. This altar is currently exhibited in the Palatine Museum in Rome.
The Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony, is a Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It enshrines a section of bedrock where some believe Jesus prayed before his arrest. The current church rests on the foundations of two earlier ones, that of a 4th-century Byzantine basilica, destroyed by an earthquake in 746, and of a small 12th-century Crusader chapel abandoned in 1345.
As we have seen over the past several months, it is impossible to know where most of the events recorded in the Gospels have taken place, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying. Many spots on and around the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem have been recognized as the spot where Jesus ascended into Heaven. The Chapel of the Ascension was built on top of what is known as the Ascension Rock, where some believe Jesus stood at the moment of his ascension.
In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus appears to the Apostles in a locked room and tells them of the coming of the Holy Spirit. According to tradition, this event occurred in the Upper Room, or Cenacle, where they had the Last Supper. Tradition also holds that the arrival of the Holy Spirit occurred in the Upper Room. However, many scholars believe that the events of the day actually took place at the Temple and the “house” referred to in the text is the Temple itself. This is where many thousands of people would have been gathered for the Feast of Shavuot. The three thousand who were baptized in response to the Apostles’ preaching could have used the ceremonial baths, mikveh, at the southern entrance to the Temple, one of which is pictured.