Picture from inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Note: grave was still empty!)

This is a guest post by JMU student Alex Gerkin:

Our adventure continues in the Holy Land. We began Day 7 at the Mount of Temptation. As we stood on the mountain side where Satan tempted Jesus and attacked Jesus’s identity we challenged ourselves to look inward at our high risk places. Asking ourselves where are the high risk areas in our lives where we don’t allow God to reign above all else? Then we traveled onward to En Gedi, a place where Saul, a prideful ruler, collided with David, a ruler who is considered more broken and flawed in worldly standards, but is called a man after God’s own heart. As we stood in a cave, one just as Saul and David had, asking ourselves what kind of leader will we be in this world? Will I be a broken or a proud leader? Our journey continued at Masada, one of Herod’s fortresses that had been seized by the Jewish rebels, but then recaptured by the Romans. We ended our day with camel rides through the Judean desert, in awe of the vast desert and the love our God has for each of us.

Day 8 began with our exploration of the city of Jerusalem. We visited the Western Wall. Then we went to Caiaphas’s house, the high priest during Jesus’s time. As we sat in a place Jesus had possibly been held as a prisoner before his crucifixion and near where one of his best friends would deny him, we were reminded that our God has experienced loneliness and suffering, not because he was forced, but because he loves us so deeply. We were purchased at a cost, Jesus went forward as a volunteer, not a victim. Our final stop of the day was the Garden Tomb, a site that is believed to possibly be Jesus’ tomb. We found refuge in knowing that even if the exact tomb location is disputed, He did not stay in a tomb. As the angels asked the women at the tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

The next day we continued throughout Jerusalem. We went to the Mount of Olives, then walked down to to the Garden of Gethsemane; the place the war was truly won. Jesus pressed on, crying out to the Father, “not my will, but yours, will be done.” This is a crucial point for you and for me. Sin entered the world in a garden, but brokenness, suffering, and pain was conquered in this garden. We continued to follow in Jesus’s footsteps leading up to his death as we visited the Upper Room, Tomb of David, and Antonia Fortress. Here Jesus ate his last meal with his best friends and disciples and was sent to Pilate’s judgement hall. We ended our day at the Pool of Bethesda, a pool that had been believed to have healing powers. Jesus asked a paralyzed man who had been waiting to be healed by the pool for 38 years, do you want to get well? And as I look back on these last 3 days of our tour in the Holy Land, as I have gotten to follow so closely the footsteps of Jesus, I too ask myself: Do I want to get well? I so deeply believe that following Jesus is the way to life. The only way.