There are two words that were used repeatedly during our tour of the Holy Land and they were “historical” and “traditional.” At first I did not understand the difference and why it was important. We were in the land of the Bible so every place should be historically accurate of places of the biblical stories. You know places such as the barn and manger where Jesus was born or where he was crucified and buried or even where the Son of God was baptized. I guess not so much, hence the differentiation between the two terms. For instance, the places of his birth, crucifixion and baptism are sites known as traditional sites, which means they are close like maybe 400 feet or 6 blocks or in the neighborhood of the original place. Throughout thousands of years of history, a great many of the important theological sites were destroyed and rebuilt a number of times. There are many sites like the Western Wall in Jerusalem or the recently uncovered synagogue in Magdela, that have been proven to be historically accurate places in the ancient world. Once I was able to understand the difference between these two words, I could truly appreciate the historical places to the fullest.
At first I did not connect the temple events with another stop we made in Jerusalem, which was the historical Garden of Gethsemane. Yes the real garden in which Jesus prayed the night of his arrest. Beside the garden is a church that houses the rock that is believed to be the place where Jesus prayed in agony to be released from the suffering that was to come. While I took pictures of this rock, it is the name of the church that caught my attention. It is called, the Church of All Nations. The architecture inside the sanctuary was created with indigo walls and yellow stars scattered over the cathedral ceilings to reflect the night sky of the garden. With this design, people are invited to experience the garden suffering with Jesus. A number of our group commented that praying in this holy place left them with a profound connection to Christ’s suffering.
Now let’s go back to the Mark text that describes how Jesus threw the money-changers from the temple with these words, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” I find it interesting that the church that stands alongside of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in agony, has been named as a house of prayer for all nations and people. Many nations helped to establish this church and by its name, The Church of All Nations, it seems to be an intentional reference of the gospel text. Just as Jesus taught the 1st century people that the House of God was meant to be a place of prayer and worship for all people, we are also welcome to sit inside and pray just as Christ did that night he was betrayed so long ago. We are free to enter and worship with all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…