The Road to Jerusalem

- The City of the Great King -



John Hoole – April 15, 2012



(Click on Photos and Maps for larger version)


It is nearly impossible to pick up any nationally syndicated newspaper today or watch any national news broadcast without hearing about the escalating unrest and impending conflict in the Middle East.  Every day in the media we are watching the gathering storm over the State of Israel.  Today, I want to focus specifically on the city of Jerusalem.


I have visited a number of cities known for their size: Tokyo – Cape Town – Cairo – London – Mumbai.  Other cities are known for their industrial and manufacturing capacities.  Or they are known for their sports teams, or their unique location.


But Jerusalem is like no city on the face of the earth.  It is not a large seaport with hundreds of ships visiting its harbor each day.  In fact, it is not even located on a major river.  It is not even a very large city – maybe 500,000-600,000 people living there.


But the real reason Jerusalem is like no other city on earth is because Jerusalem is nothing less than the City of God.  And, by the way, the city of Jerusalem is the only city on earth promised a very long future.


In 2 Chronicles, God says:


“I have chosen Jerusalem…that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually…in Jerusalem, which I have chosen…I will put my name forever.”  (2 Chronicles 6:6; 7:16; 33:7)


God Himself chose to establish Jerusalem as the place on earth where his name would be forever.


Psalm 147:2 tells us, “The LORD builds up Jerusalem.”


In Isaiah 62:1  (NIV), God says:


1       For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.


And then we have the words of Christ Himself, as He sat on the Mount of Olives and wept, saying:


Luke 13:34 NKJV


34     O Jerusalem , Jerusalem , the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 


During the Diaspora – the dispersion or scattering of the Jews following AD 70 and again in AD 135, wherever the Jews found themselves on the earth, the concluding words of the Passover Seder has been “Next year in Jerusalem.”


David, Israel’s poet and prophet, recognized the great importance God had placed on His city, Jerusalem.


Psalms 137:5-6 NKJV


5       If I [David] forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! 

6       If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth —  If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.


Do you understand what David is saying in these verses?  Remember, David was a master musician who played with such skill that the demon spirits in King Saul were quieted by the sounds of David’s harp.  And David enjoyed singing the songs of Zion.


In verse 5, David is saying:  “If I forget Jerusalem, let me never be able to play the harp again, because my right hand will forget its skill.”  And in verse 6, “let me never again be able to sing another song because my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth.”


The message is very clear.  If you take a master musician’s ability to play his instrument, or if you take away the ability of a vocalist to sing, the purpose of that gift if greatly reduced.  To paraphrase, David is saying, “Israel without Jerusalem would be like a human body without a heart.”


Today I want to take you with a group of people as they make their journey to this city.  I will be incorporating a number of photos I have taken, and some taken by others.




The central person of this group is Jesus Christ.  The trip begins in Matthew 16:21 (NKJV), where we read: From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem,…


From what time?  Where was Jesus when He makes this statement, and the words that followed?


Jesus and the disciples had been in Bethsaida, and they walked some 20-25 miles north.


Matthew 16:13 NKJV


13     When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"


This account is also told in Matthew 16 and Luke 9.


At Caesarea Philippi, we visited the place you are looking at now.  I will come back to this picture, but first I want to show you a few more pictures close to this cave.  I climbed the hill to the left of the cave, and took a few pictures.


In this photo, you see the cave at the far left.  But also you are able to see what else they have uncovered in this area.  The next photo was taken from the same spot, but brings the ruins a little closer.  What you see are the foundations of several temples and courtyards.  It was similar to other pagan cities of that era.  While Dan, 3 miles away from this city, was a Jewish city, Caesarea Philippi was a gentile city.


Caesarea Philippi is located in the very northern part of Israel.  Today, its ruins are located in what is known as the Golan Heights.  He comes to this place, a place that during the time of Christ was used for pagan worship.


Inside the cave is a large spring of fresh water.  Its water becomes the Banias River.  This, along with the Hazbani and Dan Rivers make up the 3 headwaters of the Jordan River, which flows from this area into the Huleh valley, where they join, forming the Jordan River on to the Sea of Galilee.


At this location, we are 1,150 feet above sea level  (Sea of Galilee is 670’ below sea level) and we are on the southern woodland slopes of the 9,200-foot Mount Hermon.


The spring in this cave produces an immense amount of water.  Looking into the cave, you see what looks like very little water.  That is a great difference from what it looked like only 170 years ago.  Until 170 years ago, the water flowed out over the ground in front of the cave.  An earthquake in 1837 caused debris to fill the ground in front, and partially inside the cave, and since that time, the water has flowed underground to the pools you see.  These pools are not still or standing water.

Just to the right of the cave entrance, you will see a niche carved out of the rocky face of the cliff.  There are actually two such niches.


As mentioned earlier, before this area was called Caesarea Philippi, its name was Banias [Arabic] or Panias (Greek).  This was to honor the Greek god Pan, and this grotto would have been established here after 330 B.C.  That is because it was about this time Alexander the Great came through here, and Greek culture was introduced to this area.


Those niches in the stone cliff once held idols to the Greek god Pan and the mythical nymph Echo.  Pan was the Greek god being half-man and half-goat.


In Old Testament times, - prior to 330 B.C. – this cave was a place to worship Baal.  In the Bible, this place is mentioned by two different names, in five different verses.


In Joshua 11:17, this site was called “Baalgad”, and, as stated in this passage, the location is “in the valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon.”  (Also mentioned in Joshua 12:7;  13:5).  Judges 3:3 calls this place “Baalhermon”, with Mount Hermon nearby (also 1 Chron. 5:23).


If you examined further along this rock cliff, you would see many other niches carved for placement of idols.


Now that we have looked at the background of this place, I think this would be a natural place for Jesus to stop for refreshment with his disciples.  This is especially true with regard to what he teaches his disciples here.  First, Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do people say I am?" 


Jesus often taught his disciples using metaphors and parables that related to the physical context in which He was ministering.  For instance, Christ said “I will make you fishers of men” while they were mending their nets.  And He spoke about a “sower who went out to sow,”  at a location where they could visibly see sowing occurring.  He spoke of a city on a hill that could not be hid at a place where they could actually see a city on the top of a hill.


So Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do people say I am?"  In Matthew 16:14, the disciples answer: “Some say you are John the Baptist, some say Elijah, others say Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”


Then Christ turns the attention away from who other people say He is, to asking his disciples, “with regard to what you see here and the gods worshiped in this place, who do YOU believe I am”?


Peter’s declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” challenged all the gods in the niches of the cliff, whether they be Baal, Pan, Zeus or the emperor himself.  And, standing in front of this rock cliff, it would explain Christ’s use of the metaphor of a “rock.”  “Upon this rock I will build my church,……”  He is, of course, speaking about Himself, the “Solid Rock,” and the fact that He is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  He uses the word “Petros,” a term that would be used to describe the very cliff that stood there.


To me, this implies that Christ walked to this place specifically to teach his disciples this lesson.  This is the only biblical record of Christ in Caesarea Philippi.  And at this place, Christ also made three historic statements and predictions.


1.  The Church


Matthew 16:18 NKJV


18     And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 


For the first time, Jesus announced His purpose to build an ecclesiaThe Church – a community of the redeemed, called out to be His Body on earth.


2.  His call to discipleship


Matthew 16:24-26 NKJV


24     If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 

25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 

26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?


Jesus is saying that His Church, His body, will be composed of those on earth who would deny themselves and follow Him.


3.  His coming death and resurrection


Today, I want to focus on #3.  Let me again read the verse we read a moment ago where Jesus tells his disciple he must go to Jerusalem.  This time I will complete the verse.


Matthew 16:21 NKJV


21     From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.


This is the very first time Jesus introduces the disciple to the fact that He must die.  But then He adds that He would be raised alive on the third day.  So, let’s accompany Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.


We are told, in the next chapter in Matthew, that they make their way to the region around the Sea of Galilee.  And once again He reiterates to His disciples that he must die and be raised the third day.


Matthew 17:22-23 NKJV


22     Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, 

23     and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up."  And they were exceedingly sorrowful.


They are in the Galilee region several days – maybe a week or more - and they make a stop at Capernaum, where, in chapter 18, we find Jesus teaching the disciples a number of important principles.  Things like:


                   •  How we must become like little children to enter the kingdom


                   •  That the things we bind on earth will be bound in heaven


                   •  The promise that where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, there He is in their midst.


                   •  Importance of forgiveness is not for just 7 times, but 70 times 7.


At the beginning of the next chapter – chapter 19, we are told Jesus and the disciples leaves Galilee to the region of the Jordan River.  We are not told where they cross the River.


He may have visited this area on the Jordan River – just a few hundred yards south of the Sea of Galilee.  Today it is called Yardenit.  “Yarden” is the Hebrew pronunciation for Jordan.


We are told Jesus and the disciples went to the other side of the Jordan River  (“beyond Jordan 19:1).  Today, that would be in the country of Jordan.  Just a short distance to the south, they might have visited this place – the city of Pella.  Pella is not mentioned in the Bible, but it was part of a group of cities that is mentioned, called the Decapolis.  Here is another picture taken at Pella.


As they continue south along the river, Jesus takes his disciples aside from the crowd and instructed them yet again that He is going to die.


Matthew 20:17-19 NASB


17     And as Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them,

18     "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,

19     and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up. " 


Where were they when He makes these statements?  Verse 21 tells us they were in Jericho.  So when in verse 17 we are told they were going up to Jerusalem, that was literally the truth.  It is about 15 - 20 miles and a climb of about 3,500 feet in elevation to go up to Jerusalem.


Later, in Chapter 21, as they drew close to the Mount of Olives, Jesus instructs two of his followers to go find a tied-up donkey with a colt, and bring them to Him.  And, shortly thereafter, we have the event called the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.


A few days later we find Jesus and His disciples in a large upper room.  This is believed to be that room.  We pick the story up in John 13.  It is just about time for the Feast of Passover.  Jesus takes on the role of a servant and washes the feet of the disciples.  This is the night where Jesus observes the Last Supper with his disciples.  He breaks the bread and passes the cup.  Jesus predicts the betrayal by Judas  (Matthew 26:21-25).  Judas leaves, but the disciples don’t fully understand what was said by Christ to Judas.  Jesus also tells Peter that he will deny Him three time.  Before they leave the upper room, Mark 14:26 says they sang a song.


They finish the Last Supper and Jesus and the remaining 11 start walking to the Garden of Gethsemane.   Jesus wants to pray.  It is about 700 to 800 yards from the recognized place of the Last Supper to Gethsemane.


The word Gethsemane means “oil press.”  Although we call it a garden, it really was an olive orchard, as it is to this day.  He went there to pray.(Matthew 26:36-37)We are told that before He begins to pray, He was “deeply distressed”  (Matthew 26:37)Mark records that He was “troubled and deeply distressed”  (Mark 14:33).  Luke records that He was in agony and his sweat became like drops of blood (Lk. 22:44)The writer of Hebrews refers to his “loud cries and tears.”


The agony in His prayer is:


1,  Seen in his posture:  “He…fell on His face.”  (Matthew 26:39).


2,  Heard in His words:  “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” (Matthew 26:39-44).


But, in the end He accepted the Father’s will.  “Not as I will, but as You will.”  (Matthew 26:39).




Matthew 26:47 tells us that Judas entered Gethsemane with a large group of people.  Judas betrays the Lord with a kiss, and those with him take Jesus as their prisoner.




Look at the map of old Jerusalem during the time of Christ.


Matthew 26:57  (NIV)


57     Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.


Here is the approximate route they took Jesus.  This walk is about 700 - 800 yards in length.  The photo you now see are the steps to Caiaphas’ house.  His house sits to the left of this photo.  These steps have been dated to the time of Christ, therefore, in walking up these steps, we were actually walking in the steps of Jesus.


At the top of these steps and to the left is a courtyard where, possibly, Peter denied Christ three times.  It was in the dungeon beneath the house of Caiaphas, where Jesus very probably spent the last night before His crucifixion.


Today they have steps leading down into the dungeon.  But, when Jesus was there, they would have lowered him through this single hole, into a cell that had absolutely no light.


At daybreak, Jesus is sent off to Pilate, who says he finds no fault in Him.  He sends Jesus to Herod, who happens to be in town that day.  Herod, after listening to the accusations, also declared Jesus an innocent man, having done nothing deserving death (Luke 23:6-15).  He then sent Him back to Pilate, who tries to get him released.  He eventually gives in to the crowd, and sends Jesus off to be crucified.


Jesus made the long voyage from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem for you and me.  He knew He was going to die.  And He had you and me in mind as He walked the long road to Jerusalem.




The next day Jesus carries out what He meant in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said He would carry out the Father’s will.  He dies – for you and me.


The resurrection is the most important event for Christians.  Without it, there is literally no Christianity.  The resurrection is proof that the Father accepted the death of Jesus for our sins.  And His resurrection guarantees our resurrection when He come.