Artifacts & Biblical History

It looks different today, but the place is the same. It is darker now, covered with a dome that blocks the sun. There is no grass, no hillside, no trees waving their leaves nearby.

Instead there are the hushed voices of hundreds of people, the Muslim call to prayer echoing in the distance and the smell of incense in the air. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and the uneven stone floor.

Hundreds enter with you but most stop inside the massive doors not quite sure what to do now. There are no signs or directions, only the imposing sense of having arrived and awe-inspiring columns and pillars, passageways and stairs. Now what?

 Two thousand years ago the appearance was very different. No people swarmed the site and all that could be heard was the groaning of men hanging by torturous nails from rough-hewn crosses of wood. The few people who had to pass this way hurried along without much of a glance. The scene was too horrible and too common.

For all its morbidity the location was in a garden of sorts. But the executions that took place in this garden outside the city walls prevented it from being used by families as a place to picnic. The tombs nearby were not the kind of surroundings for children at play. But it was a garden with a gardener and it had a specific use.

Today there were three men hanging in this uninviting garden. Only a few curious on-lookers and friends lingered nearby. The criminals had paid the price for their crimes and not many gave them a second look. Rumor had it though, that the one in the middle was a bit unusual. Pilate had come from Caesarea and had convened a special trial to prevent a riot from taking place in the city. Word had it the the man in the middle was killed even though he had done no wrong. He was killed for expediency to keep the peace.

It was not long before a small contingency of men arrived with the necessary supplies needed to prepare his body for burial. They seemed uninterested in the two thieves on the left and right but went straight for the man in the middle. He was a mess. The soldiers must have really had their sport with him back at the Antonia Fortress. His naked body hid none of their sadistic pleasures.

He was taken from the cross. His mother was there, one of the few left to view the sickening spectacle. A rich man had taken interest in this corpse and placed it in a tomb he’d recently cut into the side of the rocks for himself. Tombs had chambers and the dead were laid on flat niches carved into the stone. Only the wealthy could afford such a burial.

As the sun made it’s final dip below the hills to the west, the men exited the tomb with blood still on their hands and they rolled a massive stone in front of the tomb to keep others from entering and to keep the stench inside as the flesh began to decompose. The deed was done, the aftermath cleaned up and the body buried. It was over.

The organ begins its thunderous pulse through the ancient building as words in Latin are sung, not with the polished precision of an accomplished choir but with the often discordant notes sung by regular folks. Millions of people from ever language, tongue, tribe and nation of the earth have gravitated to this one-time garden. Many have spent their life savings to come here.

Others, especially in centuries gone by, have spent months on tossing ships and trudging through hot deserts deprived of all creaturely comforts just for this moment — the moment of stepping through these massive doors to the sound of Latin, the chanting of the monks and the pulsing of the organ.

Many have backed their way out to take a second look. How could this and the garden be the same place. There is no physical comparison. Yet they are the same place. The hill on which the crosses stood in the morbid garden is still here. Devotion and love have changed its appearance over the centuries. There are now oil lamps, altars, candles, statues and ancient icons and mosaics depicting the scene and interpreting its meaning for untold millions.

Jesus hung on a cross on this rocky crag of a hill two thousand years ago. I tell my pilgrims, “Get in line, step up to that altar, bow down and move under the altar. Put you hand down into the hole and you will feel the stone where the foot of the cross was standing. Remember, if you put your hand there 2,000 years ago, it would come up sticky with his blood.”

A statue of Mary to the right side, reminds us she was one of the few stragglers that lingered after the crucifixion. He statue is encased in glass and the artist was truly an artist. Her face is haunting. Her eyes have a great peace mixed inextricably with a stare of horror. It is obvious she trusted the plan of God but was still wracked with pain at the death of her Son. You cannot pull your eyes away from the sword jutting out of her chest. Thirty three years earlier the prophet Simeon had told this young mother that a sword would pierce her soul as well.

And not a stone’s throw away the place of the cross is still, even after two millennia, the tomb where the body was laid. It doesn’t look like a tomb carved into a rocky hillside. It is an obtrusive metal framework holding up stones blacked by centuries of soot from candles and olive oil lamps. Again, it is love and devotion that changed its appearance. It is love because from this tomb everything changed. No science fiction writer or Greek philosopher could have conceived of such an story. Sometimes truth is stranger that fiction.

After the men left the garden long ago everyone thought it was over — it was done. He was dead and buried and it was time to go on in life without their friend. But it was not over. It had only just begun. In the darkness of the morning two days later something happened that changed the world and all of eternity forever. With the massive stone still in place and guarded by Roman soldiers, the dead body sat up, romoved the heavy stone and stepped out alive.

To read the whole article, click here.

{ 1 comment }

Passover Lamb: A True Story

by JesseRay on April 12, 2019

  1. Contributed by my son Jesse Ray a while ago but worthy of reposting…

I arrived on the scene with my gun and stoically loaded in some self-defense rounds (although I was clearly not in danger). I did not lavish the idea of slaughtering a lamb, but my friend and new-farmer, Pat, called and sheepishly asked for some help. I guess he thought I was qualified since I had butchered last year’s deer with the help of my family.

It took a while for me to prepare the surroundings, I had never killed something so large, at such close range. During these few minutes I had time think about the gravity of what was about to happen.

Of course my mind took me back to the Jews and passover. Remember, the Bible is not just filled with stories, but with accounts of historical events. These events that we are familiar with actually happened. The Word of God prescribed, no dictated, the killing of a lamb. For the Jews, the lamb was not just dinner. The blood of the lamb was spread on the horizontal and vertical wood of the door frames (of course we recognize this as a foreshadowing of Christ’s blood dripping from His wooden cross).

Samaritan-Passover,-slain-lamb,-tb041106729-bibleplaces

(Picture: Present day slaughter of Passover Lamb by Samaritans in Israel) 

Exodus 12:21-22
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel, and said to them, “Select lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood which is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning.

We all know that the consequence of sin is death, yet today we do not always see or feel that direct connection. Before Jesus, the Lamb of God, came as our final sacrifice, a cute, woolly lamb <baaa>, had to die in expiation for sins. The Jews symbolically placed their own sins on the head of the lamb before it was killed in Leviticus 1. The male sheep was chosen from the flock for its spotlessness, just as Christ, sinless and perfect, died for our sins.

We Catholics are blessed with the sacrament of confession, a very quick and clean way of cleansing sins from our soul. Well, let me tell you there was nothing quick or clean about killing a lamb. If we had to go through this every time we sinned I would expect people would either sin less, or would carry more sins around on their hearts.

Passover (doorpost)I tell the following story, not for the sake of gore, but because it was a very raw and spiritual experience. You should stop here if the thought of blood makes you queasy.

I was compelled to pause, and say a prayer thanking God for this animal and for the gift of it’s life. At first it all happened quite fast: The the gun popped, a red spot appeared on the lambs head, the lamb dropped. I was glad that was over with.

What happened next surprised me. All living things try to avoid death, and even after the lethal blow, the lamb was not going to die without a fight. I apologize, for the detail, but far more blood than I expected began pouring out of the sheep’s mouth and nose. The famous painting “Adoration of the Lamb” by van Eyck flashed in my brain, (of course in the painting the sheep is standing, but the flow of blood is clearly key in the comparison).

My friend Pat, the instigator of this whole event, took action (and large knife) holding the sheep down with the full weight of his body and slit the throat. As more blood emerged it was clear that the bloody descriptions in the old testament will never be void of imagery for me anymore.

PETA people refuse to eat lamb chops or wear sheepskin because of (I assume) the violence of slaughter. (or maybe they just need some cause to distract them from the evils of abortion and euthanasia that many support). Before any scriptural lessons, I think seeing that this tasty protein-source doesn’t start out in a Styrofoam package at Meijers is good to know.

But seriously, what kind of a “merciful” God would order His people to do something so violent and base? The answer points to the Eucharist, and is so deep that we need to understand God’s plan of salvation is exposed in history and recorded in scripture. Now we just need to know where to look.

Adoration of the Lamb_van_Eyck_insetMy dad, Steve Ray, teaches about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and its Biblical foundations; he can speak for hours about the beauty and reality in his talk entitled Defending the Eucharist: You are What You Eat. The whole talk can be found here, and is really a great listen.

I pray that you will all draw closer to our Lord and find joy in His Cross and Resurrection.

{ 7 comments }

Steve Ray joined John Harper on Morning Air (Relevant Radio) to discuss the origin and the meaning of the Stations. Also insightful comments on each individual Station.

Join the 20-minute discussion with the link provided. Steve’s discussion starts at the 26:00 minute mark.

{ 0 comments }

Walk the Road to Calvary with Steve Ray this Lent – New Talk

March 27, 2019

Wisdom from Steve Ray’s Stations of the Cross “If you want to know about Jesus and the Crucifixion, you not only read the four Gospels, but you go back in history, and you study the land, and you study the culture at the time. And it fleshes it all out, and black and white becomes a […]

Read the full article →

Temple Sizes Compared – bigger than a football field

March 18, 2019

Since we are at the Western Wall today, seeing all this with our own eyes, I thought I would share again this blog about the size of temples of Israel. The 1) Tabernacle in the wilderness, the 2) Temple of Solomon, 3) Herod’s Temple at the time of Christ and 4) Ezekiel’s Temple are compared. The […]

Read the full article →

Feast of Chair of St. Peter: “Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter” Steve’s Article, YouTube Video and Resources

February 22, 2019

St. Cyprian of Carthage (beheaded 257 AD) one hundred and fifty years before the New Testament writings were collected into one book called “The Bible”: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will […]

Read the full article →

Did Jesus Ascend into Heaven from Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12) or from Bethany (Luke 24:50)?

February 19, 2019

Since we are on the Mount of Olives today I thought I would address a common concern. One of our past pilgrims wrote to me expressing an apparent contradiction in the Bible about what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion. Acts 1:12  “[After the Ascension] they […]

Read the full article →

Discovering the Place of Paul’s Shipwreck on Island of Malta on the Feast Day!

February 10, 2019

You would not have wanted to be with St. Paul today because February 10 is the Feast Day of the Shipwreck of St. Paul on Malta. I have been on ships in the Mediterranean many times and I make a practice each time of going out on the deck on a stormy night and imagining…. […]

Read the full article →

St. Adam & Eve, St. Abraham, St. Moses – Did you know some Old Testament people are Saints?

January 16, 2019

I am doing a show on Catholic Answers Live tonight (Wed., 1/16/19). The topic is OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS. Tune in at 6:00 PM Eastern at www.Catholic.com. You can listen to the podcast later too. Adam and Eve have liturgical feast days, so do Isaiah, Jeremiah, King David and many others. The Roman Martyrology (1600) lists […]

Read the full article →

UNESCO Adds the Baptismal Site of Jesus to the World Heritage Sites

January 13, 2019

Happy Feast Day of the Baptism of Our Lord! Since we will be at the actual site of Jesus’ baptism in two weeks with a bus full of pilgrims, I thought I would share this post again. This is an exciting development which helps establish the authentic baptismal site of Jesus. With the involvement of UNESCO […]

Read the full article →

Debunking 4 Biblical Myths Accepted by Many as True

December 29, 2018

There are three “truths” I have been asked about many times. Often people tell me these as though they’re explaining to me something I’ve never heard before. However, in each case, there is no historical, biblical or actual basis to any three of them. In each case they started being taught in recent times and […]

Read the full article →

Pilgrimage with Steve Ray 100 Years Ago – Imagine with Real Photos

December 28, 2018

Step into a Time Machine and imagine what it would be like going back in time on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Steve and Janet Ray 100 years ago! I have used actual pictures from over a century ago to re-create what it may have been like. I hope you enjoy! And, I […]

Read the full article →

Was Jesus Born on December 25?

December 24, 2018

Yes, Christ Was Really Born on December 25: Here’s a Defense of the Traditional Date for Christmas   by Dr Taylor Marshall The following is adapted from Taylor Marshall’s new book: The Eternal City: Rome & and Origins of Catholic Christianity. This is a long article and quite convincing. I have only given Objection 3 to […]

Read the full article →

My New Book Now Available! “The Papacy: What the Pope Does & Why It Matters”

December 21, 2018

  My new book is available today. My friend Dennis Walters and I have been working on it for a while and we hope you enjoy it. You can see and order it here. You can buy it now as a Christmas bundle with free shipping and other of my new items.   Topics include: […]

Read the full article →

Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

December 18, 2018

With upon us, I thought I would post my article this Christmas season with bits of interesting information and details about Christmas, the Gospels and Epiphany. Join us in Bethlehem for Christmas this year from December 26-January 4 or any of six times in 2015. Visit www.SteveGoes.com. Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?  A […]

Read the full article →

How Big was Noah’s Ark

December 5, 2018

It was a big boat at a time when big boats did not exist. It was a feat of genius ingenuity. You can read the instructions for building in Genesis 6:14-22. We are also told that the ark is a picture of the Church and salvation. In the ark Noah passed through the waters which […]

Read the full article →