Today we started the day at Masada, traveled to Jerusalem and went to Caiphas’ house to see the pit where Jesus was held before his trial, went to Genesis Land where we endjoyed the hospitality of Abraham, and visited the Museum of Israel to see the scale model of Jerusalem as it was in Jesus’ day and the Shrine of the Book (where the scroll of Isaiah, as discovered in Qumran, is on display).
The most impactful moment for me today was the time we spent in the pit in Caiaphas’ house (the church of St Peter in Gallicantu). We read the account of Jesus’ arrest (Matthew 26:57-68) and then Psalm 88.
One of the things that modern Christianity struggles with is dealing with the ugly parts of the story. We want to rush to the point where Jesus is risen and all is well and we are forgiven. It’s the main point of the story, to be sure, but we do Jesus – and ourselves – a disservice when we look away from the pain it cost him.
It wasn’t easy to do what he did. He suffered for it – physically, mentally and emotionally. And we can’t just breeze past that because it makes us uncomfortable. When we hurt because of the things Jesus went through, we draw closer to him.
The pit in Caiaphas’ house is an ancient cistern. Carved to hold water in a desert country. It had not windows, no doors, no stairs. The only way in was to be lowered on a rope through the hole at the top. There was no escape.
In the pit we read a psalm of lament – Psalm 88 (here are some verses from it):
“You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.
Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.”
Psalm 88:6, 8-9, 16-18 NIV
As one of my favourite Christian singers writes, “you did that for me.” For us he suffered. For us he was outcast. For us he bore a pain we cannot fathom.
This Lent, may you not turn away from the suffering of Christ. May you know that he did it for you, and for me, and for all. And may you know that because he did, you are forgiven.
Above: Riding the cable car up to Masada.