Jerusalem--City of Great Kings
Jerusalem was a fitting place for Jesus, the greatest king of all, to live out the final moments of his life.
Jerusalem held deep cultural and religious significance for the Jewish people. Many of their great leaders, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, reigned in Jerusalem during the days of Israel's glory. It was a place of kings and power, a symbol of the Jewish nation.
Jerusalem was also home to the Temple, a place representing God's presence among his people. In Jerusalem, King David made plans for the Temple, King Solomon built it, and Nehemiah rebuilt it after the Jewish captivity. Thousands of pilgrims traveled to the city each year so that they could worship God at the Temple.
In Jesus' day, the city still bustled with Jewish culture and religion. Herod the Great had expanded and rebuilt a magnificent Temple, and the city had grown significantly in size since the days of King David.
Six primary districts existed in Jerusalem during Jesus' ministry: David's City, Lower City, Upper City, the Business District, the Temple Mount, and a New City area that was growing beyond Jerusalem's walls. Jesus likely visited each of these areas at some point during his life.
Jerusalem was the place where Jesus lived out the final moments of his life, bringing his life-transforming message to every corner of the city. And as the disciples followed their rabbi through his last days, Jerusalem became the place where they saw his message fulfilled, and where they began their own ministry to every corner of the world.
David's City and Temple
Jesus brought his message to the Temple Mount, but the Temple leaders never recognized Jesus for who he was-the greatest king of all.
Jerusalem's Temple Mount was an impressive structure. Herod the Great expanded the former temple area to a length greater than four football fields by filling in huge retaining walls with earth. He constructed a magnificent temple modeled after the original temple Solomon built years before.
Just south of the Temple Mount stood David's City, the Jerusalem of David's time. This section of Jerusalem was about ten acres in size, and was flanked by the Kidron Valley to the east and the Tyropean Valley to the west. Religious pilgrims visiting the Temple passed through David's City before entering the southern entrances of the Temple Mount.
Jesus probably visited both of those areas during his life. His family traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover each year, likely passing through David's City before reaching the Temple Mount (see Luke 2:41).
It was in the temple courts that Jesus and his family worshiped during their Passover journeys. Even as a boy, Jesus began sharing his passion for the Text, and it was on the Temple Mount where he, as a boy of twelve, impressed the teachers of the law (Luke 2:41-52).
Jesus returned to the Temple Mount as an adult and spoke passionately about God's kingdom, even when it angered and offended Temple leaders. Jesus drove the moneychangers from the Temple Mount (Luke 19:45-49). There he responded to the questions of the Pharisees and Sadducees and pronounced his judgment on the hypocrisy of the religious elite (Matthew 21:23-23:39).
We do not know for certain that Jesus walked through David's City as an adult. But it was fitting that Jesus' final days were spent in Jerusalem?the city founded by King David. Sadly, the Temple leaders never recognized Jesus for who he was:the greatest king of all. They rejected his message of peace and began to plot his death.
Common people made their home in Jerusalem's Lower City, where Jesus brought healing to a blind man.
Common people made their home in Jerusalem's Lower City, an area built along the Western Hill and stretching into the Tyropean Valley. To the east was David's City, and on the elevated land to the West, the Upper City was built.
During Hezekiah's day, a tunnel was built to channel water from a spring in David's City to the Pool of Siloam in the Lower City. This pool provided the city's water supply and could satisfy the physical thirst of city dwellers. As Jesus ministered to the city, he represented the living water that could satisfy all thirst.
Jesus and his disciples may have celebrated the Last Supper in the Lower City. On that night, Jesus used water to wash the disciples' feet, showing them that God's true followers would be servants. And through the symbolism of the Supper, Jesus revealed that he would serve his people even to the point of dying for them.
Jesus brought his message of hope to the Lower City when he healed a blind man by placing mud in his eyes and asking him to wash at the Pool of Siloam. The man had been physically blind, but he was able to see the truth about Jesus, and his faith made him well.
Unfortunately, many people in Jerusalem were blind to Jesus' true identity as the Son of God. Instead of finding their thirst satisfied in Jesus, they chased after other gods, and never found the satisfaction they sought.
The Upper City was home to Herod's palace and wealthy, Hellenistic Jews. They saw a Jesus as a threat to their power, but he really offered them a power they didn't have the power over sin.
The Upper City was built on the highest part of Jerusalem. It was home to wealthy Jews, many of whom were religious elites with influence over Temple practices. Many of these Jews embraced the Romans and lived an affluent Hellenistic lifestyle.
In the Upper City area, archaeologists have uncovered ruins of an opulent mansion that belonged to an influential religious leader, much like the home where Jesus was brought when he was interrogated in Caiaphas' home.
The most elaborate structure of the Upper City area was Herod's Palace, an impressive structure with rich mosaics, large pools, elaborate gardens, and three huge watchtowers that overlooked the city.
Despite his regal surroundings and sophisticated lifestyle, Herod never grasped the truth. It was probably from his Jerusalem palace that he decided to kill the babies of Bethlehem when he heard of a potential threat to his power.
Years later, Jesus was likely brought to Herod's palace for his interrogation by Herod Antipas. Sadly, the Herod family never recognized the truth about Jesus: They saw a threat to their power, influence, and comfort. But Jesus offered them the only kind of power that really mattered,the power over sin.
Business District and New City
On his crucifixion day, Jesus faced the insults and hostility of crowded market streets. In the end, he died outside of Jerusalem's walls.
The northern portion of Jerusalem contained the business district, an area filled with busy markets and shops. On its western edge stood the Fortress Antonia, a massive fort built by Herod the Great and named after his friend Marc Antony.
Jesus was imprisoned and abused by Roman soldiers inside the Antonia. And it was by the Antonia where Pilate most likely turned Jesus over to the screaming crowd yelling "Crucify him!" From the Antonia, Jesus was forced to carry his cross through crowded streets, facing jeers and hostility along the way.
Beyond the business district, the city of Jerusalem was expanding to the north. Wealthy citizens built extravagant villas in an area that was eventually walled several years after Jesus' crucifixion. Between the New City and the Business District stood the Garden Gate, opening into an old quarry area, a public spot where crucifixions usually took place.
Jesus touched lives in every district of Jerusalem, some who responded with faith and some who responded with violence. But as he died for the sins of the world, he was led outside that great city to die a humiliating public death. His last journey mirrored that of the scapegoats that had been led outside the city on each Day of Atonement for hundreds of years.
On his crucifixion day, Jesus became the final scapegoat, taking the sins of all people on himself so that salvation could be brought to every corner of the world.
To Every Corner
As Jesus traveled through Jerusalem, he never backed down from the truth, even when it cost him his life.
As Jesus traveled throughout Jerusalem, he talked with a variety of people. Some understood his life-changing message; others were offended and saw him as a threat. But no matter who he encountered, Jesus always spoke his message with passion. He refused to back down from the truth, even when it cost him his life.
But Jesus touched more than just Jerusalem and the Jews. During his ministry, he encouraged his disciples to extend God's kingdom to every corner of the world. In the end, those disciples responded, bringing the truth far beyond Jerusalem, and often paying for it with their lives.
Today, Jesus' disciples must still bring God's kingdom to every corner of our world, starting with our own cities, schools, and businesses. Some will find our message offensive. Others will see it as a threat to their own influence.
We may even have to pay a price for speaking the truth, whether it be our job, our reputation, or our way of life.
But wherever we live, and no matter who we encounter, we must remember that Jesus' message is for everyone, even the very people who seem the most lost. Jesus never asked his followers to keep the kingdom in their religious clusters, he asked us to take it to every corner of the world.
Will you take God's message to every corner of your own community? Or will it stay hidden in your own private life?