“The Land of Jesus, Part 2,” Ensign, Jan. 1987, 34
What was the land of Jesus like? In the December 1986 issue, we featured photographs of places in Jesus’ life from his birth to his early Galilean ministry. In this issue, we cover the prominent sites of Jesus’ life from his preaching in Capernaum to his burial in Jerusalem.
To press the oil out of olives, enormous stones like this one made from basalt were rolled over them.
The olive tree has a long and prolific life, and its oil was employed as an emblem of sovereignty at coronations. (See 1 Sam. 10:1; 1 Sam. 16:13; 1 Kgs. 1:39.) The absence of olive oil—or the Holy Spirit—in the parable of the ten virgins was grounds to refuse entrance into the marriage feast. (See Matt. 25:1–13.)
This cylindrical millstone has a conical depression cut into each end. A hole runs from the bottom of one depression all the way through the stone to the other depression. One of the ends fits onto a cone-shaped rock, which serves as the base. The other conical depression thus becomes the top of the grinder. The photograph shows how the mill looks once it is assembled. The round rock at the bottom is the base; the millstone is the hourglass-shaped rock on top.
The wheat is poured into the top conical hollow, and then drops through the hole to where the bottom depression rests upon the base. Wooden handles insert into two stone brackets on opposite sides of the stone. Two people then push the handles to turn the millstone upon its base, grinding the wheat.
Weighing from two hundred pounds to three hundred pounds, this millstone graphically illustrates the imagery in the Master’s statement, “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6.)
Biblical people used simpler versions in their homes, and small mills are common today in Bedouin tents. It was probably these smaller mills, and the women who operated them, that Jesus referred to when he said: “Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” (Matt. 24:41.)
The photograph offers a view of the southern part of the Sea of Galilee and its eastern hills—part of which is known as the region of the Gadarenes.
Jesus and his disciples sought the solitude of this area when they “came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. …
“But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he [Jesus] said unto him, Come out of the man. …
“And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.” (Mark 5:1–2, 6–8, 13.)
Banias (Caesarea Philippi) was in the tree-lined area seen in the lower center of the picture, nestled against the base of Mount Hermon. In Jesus’ day it was a thriving city with a river running through the middle, but today the river is all that remains. Herod’s son Philip enlarged the city and changed its name to Caesarea Philippi in honor of his emperor and of himself. The town marked one of the northern limits of the recorded mortal ministry of Christ.
Anciently, the site of Banias was a center for the cult worship of Baal; but as Greek culture began to manifest itself in the Holy Land, Banias became a center for the worship of Pan, a Greek deity. Although Philip of Macedonia attempted to Romanize the town, the worship of Pan continued through the Roman period in which Jesus lived. Carved representations of Pan were placed in rock niches in the cliffs of Caesarea Philippi, where the people came to worship.
It was in such a setting, with its long history of idolatry, that “Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi” and “asked his disciples, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:13–17.)
Originating in the snows of Mount Hermon, this body of water leaps from the ground in a single place and rushes toward the Sea of Galilee some twenty-eight miles to the south. It is one of the three main sources of the Jordan River and one of the most famous springs in the Holy Land.
In an area where water is a precious commodity, springs provide a physical image for many biblical passages: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isa. 12:3); “let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24); “ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” (Isa. 55:1).
Spring imagery was used by Jesus Christ himself: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13–14.)
This lofty mountain is clearly visible in most parts of Galilee and as far south as Jericho. It serves as the northern border of the land Jesus knew and is alluded to often in Hebrew poetry. (See Ps. 89:12; Ps. 133:3.) It is also referred to as one of the possible sites of the transfiguration.
One of the unique mountains of lower Galilee, Mount Tabor lifts its rounded head above the plain of the Jezreel Valley. This mountain is one of the possible sites of the transfiguration of Christ, and fits Matthew’s description of a “high mountain apart.” (See Matt. 17:1–2.)
In 1979 President Spencer W. Kimball visited the mountain and said a few hours later, “I feel this might have been the spot where Jesus had taken his three disciples, Peter, James, and John, to this high mountain apart, and there had given certain blessings. I felt a very warm spirit as we gathered together and felt what came to us from this experience.” (Transcription from the tape recording of president Kimball’s message given in a sacrament meeting held in the Shepherds’ Field.)
In this photograph, it is easy to see the road winding up into the hills west of the wilderness of Judea. This marks the Roman road that provides the setting for Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan. The New Testament Jericho was constructed near the hills on both sides of the present road.
On his way to Bethany and Jerusalem, “Jesus entered and passed through Jericho,” where Herod had built a beautiful palace. “There was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. …
And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:1–5, 9.)
This aerial photograph looks east toward the city of Jerusalem. The walls of the modern city mark the approximate boundary of the city in the days of Jesus. To the right, in the shadows on the southern tip of Mount Moriah (where the Temple Mount is located), is the City of David. East of the city two towers mark the summit of the Mount of Olives, and just behind the mount nestles the little village of Bethany, which is not visible.
The focal point of Jerusalem is the Temple Mount, which is the walled square in the center of the picture. The Dome of the Rock is the most prominent building on the Temple Mount today. The Garden of Gethsemane is located along the western slopes of the Mount of Olives directly east of the Dome of the Rock. The palace of Caiaphas is in the lower right, east of the tall white tower, and the Antonia Fortress is just left of the lower left corner of the walled Temple Mount.
Here in the ancient city of Jerusalem many prophets had foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace, and here at last he atoned for the sins of the world.
The Garden of Gethsemane was actually an olive orchard to which the Savior and his Apostles retired at times for seclusion from the throngs and confusion of the city. This ancient olive tree has been dated back about 2000 years. Perhaps it was silent witness to that solemn night when Jesus groaned in agony under the weight of the world’s sins. Having instituted the sacrament, Jesus instructed and prayed for his beloved Apostles; then he took them to the slope of the Mount of Olives, where he said, “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Matt. 26:36–38.)
“He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:41–44.)
Recent excavation disclosed these steps, which are the only external remains of the traditional site of the house of Caiaphas, to the upper left of the stairs. The high priest’s palace was the setting for some of the most trying moments in the lives of Jesus and his disciples:
“Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, and led him away. … And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple … and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.” (John 18:12–13, 15–16.)
“When they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. …
“Another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilean.
“And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me. … And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:55, 59–62.)
“Again the high priest asked [Jesus], … Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am. … Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.” (Mark 14:61–64.)
“And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. … And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” (Mark 15:15, 22, 25.) The features of a skull seem discernible in the face of the cliff in the center of the picture.
“Joseph of Arimathaea … came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, … and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes. … Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus.” (John 19:38–42.)
In 1972, President Harold B. Lee visited the Garden Tomb and recorded his impressions. “Something seemed to impress us as we stood there that this was the holiest place there.” (April 1972 Easter message.)
This tomb is located in the Judean hills not far from the Valley of Elah, where David slew Goliath. Its rolling stone is beautifully preserved and illustrates the nature of the rolling stone at the tomb of Jesus.
“Now the next day … the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, … command … that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead. … Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (Matt. 27:62–66.)
“When the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. … And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.” (Mark 16:1, 3–4.)
“They entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” (Luke 24:3–6.)
Ironically, the stone that was to seal the mortal body of Jesus in the tomb was rolled aside and became an unforgettable symbol of the Savior’s resurrection.