Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Pit

Today was another exhausting day but in a different way. We walked the Via Dolorosa. We visited the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, Antonia Fortress, Pool of Bethesda, , House of Caiaphas, The Upper Room, King David’s Tomb, Lazarus’ Tomb and the Church where Mary and Martha’s house was located. (The last two are in Bethany).

It was not as physically tiring as yesterday, but it was an emotionally draining day. Bishop Watson conducted a service of healing at Bethesda, the sight where Jesus healed the paralytic. Many of us were in tears. As I was anointed I asked to stand in for Mimi Jo, Dee Greenwell, and Bernie Williams. Many of us were in tears at the end of the service. To be anointed in the exact same spot where Jesus performed a miracle of healing was overwhelming.
Now what I am about to tell you, you probably have never heard before. You might think that walking the Via Dolorosa would be an emotional event. It wasn’t. Jerusalem is a very busy city with a lot going on and there was no way I could be contemplative. However, the visit to the church over the house of Caiaphas was  numbing.
On the side of the church is a beautiful mosaic of Christ bound , but in a way I have never seen. His hands are bound, but there is a harness around his body that is attached to a rope stretched straight up above his head. It gives the image that he is dangling or hung from the rope over his head.  Bear with me. I will get to an explanation in a moment.

The Pit from halfway up the stairs. The turned off the lights for us. Got really Dark
Now, how you ever wondered what happened to Christ over Thursday Night? Here’s how Matthew tells that part of the story. “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death.  2 They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.” Where was Jesus that night? Well he was kept in the “Pit.” You see Caiaphas being the high Priest dealt with all petty criminals. So they needed a holding place for them. The holding place was a dungeon with a hole in the roof just big enough for a man to be lowered through. A roof that appeared to be about 15 feet high! There was one small observation window to observe the prisoners. But, the only way in our out was through the hole 15 feet up. The mosaic on the side of the building was Jesus being lowered into the pit; Lowered into a totally dark pit, alone. Suddenly for me, Jesus passion took on a new dimension of horror. How could what was done to Jesus become any worse? It did for me today and brought me to tears. As we left we hummed “What Wondrous Love.” 

The Outside of the building that is around Jesus' Tomb. It is contained in a much larger church complex.

The Hole in the roof of the pit. If you look closely you can see crosses carved inside of it. They are Byzantine Crosses carved during the Byzantine period circa 400AD
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

The slab on which Jesus' body was anointed for burial.
Yes, what wondrous love it is!


  1. very moving Rob, thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  2. Rob,

    Thanks for thinking of Dee while you are in such a holy place. Sights and stories are awesome.