After visiting the Jordan River on the second full day of the pilgrimage, we headed over to Jericho. Jericho is an ancient city, mentioned early on in the Old Testament, just after Joshua brought the Israelites into the Promised Land. Today, Jericho is in the West Bank and has been under control of the Palestinian Authority since 1994. Pilgrims on our trip who had been to Jericho before mentioned that the city has deteriorated since the last time they had been there a few years before.
We stopped in Jericho to remember Zaccheus, a vertically-challenged tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus as he passed by. Jesus saw Zaccheus and stayed at his house, dining with him. Zaccheus repented of his sins and promised to give back the money he had taken dishonestly.
After lunch (yes, shawarma! But it did come with fries this time), we headed over to the Mount of Temptation just on the outskirts of Jericho. This is the traditional site where Jesus was tempted the third time by the devil toward the end of his 40 days and 40 nights fasting in the wilderness of the Judean desert, right after he was baptized in the Jordan by John.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:8-11
We don’t know for sure that this is the exact spot where the devil brought Jesus, but considering the geography of the area, it is a likely contender.
There are many caves around the mountains. On the Wikipedia page for Mount of Temptation, it says that when Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena went to the Holy Land in the 300’s AD to search for relics and holy places of Christ, she identified this spot as the Mount of Temptation (she also had the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcre built and claimed to have found the real cross of Christ). Today, at the top there is an Orthodox monastery carved right into the side of the mountain.
Jesus is often called the new Adam. Adam was made in the image of God, perfect. When he was tempted by the devil in the Garden of Eden, he succumbed to temptation (the temptation to be like God) and fell into sin. Since then, each human has been born with the sin of Adam, passed down. Jesus was born without sin, though he would take on the sins of the world. He came to fulfill the Law in our stead. The devil started in on him, not when he was strong and protected like Adam, but when he was weak, thirsty, and starving. But Jesus did not succumb. He did what Adam could not do; he resisted temptation.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15
There are two ways up the mountain, one on a cable car, the other one a hike up to the top. Being “true pilgrims,” (see the movie “The Way”) a group of us hiked. A beautiful view rewarded us for our effort. (I consider it to be the second hike of the new Gloria Dei hiking club.) The hike was not too strenuous, and the monastery at the top had a beautiful chapel. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stay a few days in this monastery and pray?