Day 12: Lazarus come out

Dear friends,

Well, I am starting to get kind of homesick which is probably good timing as we only have two days left of our course. It’s going to be an intense couple of days, though.

This morning (after getting to sleep in a bit to recover from our trip to the Galilee) we had a seminar on Holy Week. I though there was not much more I had to learn about Holy Week but I was wrong. Rodney walked us through the Gospel narratives showing new insights all along. I had never really credited quite how much there was a building crescendo  of events in Jesus’ last week, leading to conflict with the authorities. As before, understanding the geography and Jesus’s location during various events is making a big impact on how I understand them. For example, possibly the Garden of Gethsemane was where Jesus and the disciples were staying while visiting Jerusalem. Archeological remains of a building with equipment for pressing olives into oil have been found. It’s likely the olive grove owner would have rented it out for pilgrims to sleep in during the big Passover pilgrimage. Since it’s mentioned so many times as where Jesus met privately with the disciples during that week, it might have been their “motel” so to speak. That sort of insight makes me wonder why I never wondered before where Jesus stayed when in Jerusalem.


In the synoptic Gospels, the big turning point that leads to Jesus’s clash with the authorities is the turning over of the tables in the Temple. In John’s Gospel, it’s the raising of Lazarus that makes Caiaphas say “someone has to die for the people, so the Romans won’t destroy us all.”  So our next stop was Bethany, where the tomb of Lazar us is. Bethany is also where the Mary and Martha story is set (they were Lazarus’s sisters) and where the story of Jesus being anointed with oil by a woman takes place.

Bethany is only 2 miles from Jerusalem, but it took us 30 mins to drive there because the barrier wall is in the way. (Bethany is now called Azerya, an Arabic spelling of Lazarus, and is in the West Bank.) There is now a small but beautiful Roman Catholic church on the site that commemorates these events. There used to be a much larger Byzantine church, but after the area was conquered by Muslims in the 700’s, a mosque was built over Lazarus’ tomb and most of where the Byzantine church was. The new RC church snugs right up to the mosque, on the other half of the Byzantine ruins. Going down into Lazarus’ tomb is quite a trip, down a narrow, windy, very old staircase that tunnels under the mosque. The tomb looks suitably ancient.

This evening, we had a very interesting lecture on the current political system from the Palestinian point of view (we had the Israeli point of view last week) from Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, who attended the cathedral’s elementary school when he was a child. He also has a Boston connection as he did his PhD at BC.  It’s hard to say anything coherent about the situation here in a few sentences in a blog (and the more I learn the less knowledgable I feel), but I will say that it’s been interesting to see my fellow pilgrims shift in their stance as they see things first hand. No one has remained unchanged by this experience.

Tomorrow, we retrace the events of Maundy Thursday by visiting the Garden of Gethsemane and the Cenaculum (Upper Room/Last Supper location).



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