I just came back from another amazing trip to Israel. There is so much to process and even more to apply. But one pressing reflection has to do with our coming celebration of Easter and a few gates visible on the southern steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Named after an Old Testament prophetess, the Hulda Gates are very visible on the south side of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount. On the eastern side, there are three very obvious gates outlined. And on the western side, there are two more gates that are now only partially visible.
If you were visiting the temple in the time of Jesus, you would have walked up the southern steps, stopping to do a ritual bath along the way. You would have purchased an offering (a lamb, two turtle doves or whatever). And then made you way through one of the triple gates, climbing a ramp that would exit you up on the top of the mount near the portico. (This exit is still very obvious just to the west of the doors leading to the Al-Aqsa mosque.)
When you left the temple, you would have to exit via the two gates on the western side of the mount.
There was only one exception to this traffic pattern. If you were in mourning, you would go through the western gates, walking against the flow of travelers. You would have been calling great attention to the fact that you were mourning the death of someone close to you. People would have stopped and cried with you for your loved one.
So, what might have happened after the death of Jesus? Would His followers have traveled through those western Hulda gates and been questioned by others? “Who are you mourning?” “Who died?” “How did they die?” “What does it mean to you?”
Their answers would have been clear and concise directing friends and neighbors to the truth that the Messiah had indeed died, but He had risen! They mourned His death, but celebrated His resurrection and the amazing impact that had on their lives.
Fast forward to today. With Easter just around the corner, we too mourn the death of our Savior, but celebrate His resurrection. The same kinds of questions the first century believers encountered as they walked counter-culture onto the temple mount, we answer as we walk counter-culture through our world.
This week lets make sure we have our messages ready. We may not be literally walking through the Hulda gates, but we are mourning His death. Any attention we might garner along the way should help us share our message:
I Corinthians 15:3 “…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.”