Dr. J. L. Williams was an evangelist and teacher who traveled around the world in apostolic ministry as God led and enabled him. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, he mentored key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures. He was relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships. J. L. went home to be with the Lord on December 28, 2016.
The following pictures are a potpourri of the many people and sundry ways they were able to be involved in helping out in the relief efforts. God can use every available talent in some way to make an “Impact of Hope” on people through the love and compassion of Christ.
In His Healing Love,
The following pictures show the emotional bonding that took place medically and spiritually between the Medical staff and the patients they treated. The stories of these people are forever etched in our hearts!
In His Healing Love,
The following series of pictures I took focus on some of the precious babies, children and young people who where hurt by the earthquake. Some were nearly dead by malnourishment because their mothers could not give them breast milk. Each one of the “least of these” deeply touched all of our hearts.
In His Healing Love,
As we seek a holistic Biblical view of The Passion of the Christ, we must not overlook any detail - regardless of how small it may seem. Every aspect of this story can teach us valuable spiritual lessons. This is especially true when we take time to examine the “Place of the Passion.” As we look at the specific location of Christ’s crucifixion, we realize very quickly that this was not just any ol’ place in Palestine! It was not just some hillside randomly picked by the Romans to hurriedly carry out this unexpected execution. This was a very specific spot that God had been preparing for the millennia of eternity!
Let me remind you of three very significant historical events that took place in this general geographical place long before the crucifixion of Christ. They involve three of the most important Biblical characters in the Old Testament: Abraham, David and Solomon.
When we studied Abraham in an earlier chapter, I alerted you to the fact that I did not want you to forget the particular place where he took his son Isaac, for sacrifice. As you will recall, it was in the “…region of Moriah” that he was to go and sacrifice Isaac “…as a burnt offering on one of the mountains...” (Genesis 22:2).
We know from the story that it was a three day journey by foot from Beersheba, where he was living at the time. So we read: “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.” At that time he instructed his servants: “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” And we further read that “Abraham built an altar there.”
It was on Mt. Moriah then, that Abraham went to “worship” through the sacrifice of his beloved son. This story reminds us of the costliness of worship! Central to authentic spiritual worship is always an altar – a place of sacrifice and death. Cheap worship is a contradiction of terms. In authentic religion, if there is no altar there can be no sacrifice and therefore no worship.
So with and obedience beyond human comprehension, Abraham was about to sacrifice his only son on Mount Moriah when God stayed his hand! At that same time, God also provided a substitutionary sacrifice to take Isaac’s place on the altar. I don’t want you to overlook here the incredible faith that Abraham expressed when said to his servants: “We will worship and then WE will come back to you.” Abraham went up the mountain fully prepared to sacrifice his only son. When he took his son to Mt. Moriah, Isaac was already a dead man! Abraham had already put him on the altar…given him up…fully surrendered him to God. In his mind and heart Isaac was already dead!
But Abraham also went to Mt. Moriah fully expecting God to raise him from the dead! Listen to this further commentary on the story from the book of Hebrews. The central theme of the story is Abraham’s great faith. The writer begins and ends at that point:
“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Do you see what great faith Abraham had in God? Did you notice the significance of that one sentence: “He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son.” As he set out to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice “…his one and only son,” Abraham clung to the many “promises” that God had previously given him. The greatest promise that Abraham clung to was that God would give him more offspring than the “stars in the sky” (Genesis 15:5) – and they would all begin with Isaac! So there was only one possible faith conclusions: It Abraham was going to take Isaac’s life – God was going to give it back! And the only possibly way that could happen would be for God to “…raise the dead!”
So this first mention of “Mt. Moriah” forever sets it apart as holy ground! It was the place where God tested Abraham – and he passed the test because of his passion for God! This holy mount was the place of worship… love… faith… sacrifice… death… grace… substitution… resurrection! And one day it would also be the place of The Passion of the Christ!
A second very significant spiritual event took place in this area during the life of King David. It is recorded in I Chronicles 21. As God increasingly gave him success over his enemies, David became filled with a false sense of pride. He began to secretly entertain the thought that he had done all of these great exploits by his own military genius.
Therefore, against the will of God and contrary to the council of his advisors, David decided to take a census of his people – especially his fighting men. They had grown to the place that they numbered over one million! Not a bad army in anybody’s book! With that knowledge, it would be easy for David to begin to trust in his army rather than in his God. So because this was “…evil in the sight of God…He punished Israel.” As a result of God’s judgment through the plague he sent, seventy thousand men died. So because of David’s pride, he lost more men in this judgment by God than he ever lost in battle. It was an extremely costly sin in terms of the loss of human life! But it would be a lesson David would never forget.
As a result of this judgment that fell upon his people, David repented in sackcloth – and fell facedown before God in reverential fear and contrition. In his desperation and despair, David cried out to God:
“Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O Lord my God, let your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people” (I Chronicles 21:17).
As a result of his repentance, the judgment hand of the Lord was stayed. At that moment God opened David’s spiritual eyes and allowed him to see His angel of judgment who was “…standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (v. 15). So the angel of the Lord instructed David to “…go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (v. 8). And David was obedient. He immediately goes to buy this particular “threshing floor” so he can build an altar to the Lord there.
When he gets there “Araunah was threshing wheat.” So David says to him:
“Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price” (v.22).
But when Araunah realizes that this was King David, and that he wishes to build an altar to the Lord there, he responds with great generosity:
“Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this” (v. 23).
Now note very carefully David’s response to this very generous offer from Araunah:
“No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that cost me nothing. So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site” (v. 24).
“David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering” (vs. 25-26).
So we see that David would not accept the threshing floor as a free gift. Nor would he let Araunah provide the animals, grain and wood for the sacrifice. This was his sin… his pride…his disobedience… his problem… his crisis – not Araunah’s. So he insists that he must “…pay the full price” for the threshing floor in order to build an altar. David said that he would not “…sacrifice a burnt offering that cost him nothing.”
That’s a great lesson for each of us. Cheap grace is never acceptable to a holy God! It is nothing but worthless worship.
Thousands of years later, the greater “…son of David” (Matthew 22:41-46) would be born who would be the Messiah. That’s why to the Jews the very term “Son of David” was synonymous with the Messiah. So at this very place where King David made his sacrifice, the Lord Jesus also “paid the full price” to stop a greater judgment of God.
But the “full price” Jesus would pay would not just be for the people of Israel. It would be for the whole world. And the “full price” for the sins of the world would not be with “…perishable things like silver and gold.” It would be with “…the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (I Peter 1:18). So both King Davids paid the “full price” at this place – one in gold, one in blood!
So it was on Mount Moriah that David’s sin of pride was atoned for on the altar through a blood sacrifice. After that the angel of the Lord sheathed his sword. No more judgment. No more plague. No more death. So we read: “When David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he offered sacrifices there” (v. 28).
But there was still one major problem. The Tabernacle that Moses had built was not there – it was in Gibeon. And the Tabernacle was the proper place for the altar and sacrifices to take place. So David said: “The house of the Lord God is to be here and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel” (22:1). From that moment on, David began to make preparations for the building of the Temple of God on that very spot – which brings us to the third Old Testament person associated with this place known as Mount Moriah.
As we know, God refused to let King David build the Temple because he was a warrior – a “man of blood” (I Chronicles 28:3). But he did let him amass a great fortune – along with many of the necessary building materials to pass on to his son Solomon, so that he could build God’s Temple. And where was it built? You guessed it…
“Then King Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David” (II Chronicles 3:1).
So on Mount Moriah, Solomon built the most costly and most beautiful structure ever built by man in human history! And the most sacred place of all was the “Holy of holies” where the glory of the Lord resided. It would be in this place that God would have his Name to dwell forever (I Kings 5:5; II Chronicles 6:6). And since it had been the place of Abraham’s altar and David’s altar, it would be the final resting place for the holiest altar of all – the Ark of the Covenant. So after the building was fully completed and the Ark was in place, it was again time for worship. Time for sacrifice. Note the extravagance of their worship and sacrifice that was led by King Solomon:
“When the elders of Israel had arrived, the Levites took up the ark, and they brought up the Tent of Meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests…carried them up; and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted” (vs. 4-6).
And it would be somewhere on this same rocky mount that the Lord of glory would make the ultimate sacrifice! It was here that The Passion of the Christ would take place. It would be the most extravagant act of worship on the most significant altar in human history – the old rugged cross! There we would see the indescribable and incomprehensible love of the passionate Christ expressed for a lost and dying world.
With that brief Old Testament review of the general place of the crucifixion, let’s turn now to the New Testament. There we gain some more insights about this significant place as it is variously described in the Four Gospels:
· “As they were going out…they came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull)…And they crucified Him” (Matthew 27:33; Mk. 15:22).
· “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on His right, the other on his left” (Luke 23:33).
· “Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified Him, and with Him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle…the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city…” (John 19:17-18, 20).
We can clearly see then that all four of the Gospels totally agree on the exact place where the crucifixion of Jesus took place. They all referred to it as the “Place of the Skull.” And it is referred to in several languages: Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. Let’s look at each of them more closely:
· Latin: calva, calvarius or “skull”
· Aramaic: gulgolta, or “skull”
· Hebrew: gulgoleth, or “bald, round, skull-like mound”
· Greek: kranion, or “skull”
Why was this place called “The Skull?” We cannot be absolutely sure. Biblical scholars have given two explanations. First, since it was a known place of execution, some believe that there were human skulls lying around from previous crucifixions – left there as a public warning. However, this is not likely the best historic explanation because of Jewish law that required a dead body to buried by nightfall (Deuteronomy 21:23).
The more likely and logical explanation is that this rocky knoll in some way had an eerie resemblance to a “human skull.” Although the exact place is not known, it is either at the present site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, or Gordon’s Calvary. I have visited both sites a number of times. But in both places there is a large “rocky knoll” that would suitably fit the original location. And interestingly enough, they are both a part of the same geological rocky shelf known as “Moriah.”
So while we do not know the exact place with absolute certainty, we do know the general location. But contrary to a well beloved hymn, we do know that it was not a “hill” or a “mountain” as such. Remember the opening refrain of The Old Rugged Cross?
“On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame…”
So while we do know for certain that it was not a tall hill or mountain in the traditional sense of the word, it was in a very public place. John specifically tells us that “…the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city.” He further points out: “At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid” (John 19:41). So this general area seemed to have been a known burial site with gardens all around – not unlike many cemeteries today.
The writer of Hebrews underscores this matter of location when He compares the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to the animal sacrifices of the old covenant:
“The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood. Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore” (Hebrews 13:11-13; c.f. Ex. 29:14; Leviticus 4:12, 21; 9:11; 16:27).
So we know several things clearly about the place of the crucifixion. It was “…outside the gate.” It was “…near the city.” And nearby “…there was a garden.” It had to be “…outside the city gate” because it was illegal to crucify a person within the city. So it would have been a very public place as close “…outside the city gate” as possible. And since there was a “garden” with a “new tomb,” it must have been a known place of burial. As a result it would have also had some kind of road leading to it.
In carrying out the execution, the Romans would have taken the longest route to get there to draw more public attention to this horrific means of capital punisment. This would have been consistent with the Roman practice of execution. Since crucifixion was their preferred way of public execution, they wanted to do it in as prominent a place as possible. Therefore the sight of these public executions would serve as a stark visual warning against any form of rebellion against Rome. This would have been much like the “public hangings” practiced in America in years past – as well as in other countries of the world to this day.
So this place where Jesus died was a public place of pain and shame. It had been uniquely prepared through the centuries by God as a place of worship… sacrifice… judgment… atonement… forgiveness. It had been hallowed by the sacrifices of Abraham, the sacrifices of David, the sacrifices of Solomon. It became the site for Solomon’s Temple, the most costly and beautiful temple ever built. Now it was hallowed by the greatest sacrifice in human history – the sacrifice of the Lord of glory! And through the sacrifice of His life, the gore of the cross was transmuted into the glory of the cross! So without question, this is the single most important place on planet earth! For it was on this holy mount that the Lord Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected from the grave – all for our total redemption!
And finally, it’s probably best that we do not know the exact spot where the crucifixion of Christ took place. If we did, people would begin to worship the place of the cross rather than the Person of the cross! Just as is the case with most of the other “holy places” in Israel today, there would be shrines, temples, churches, altars all over it! And the competing religious groups would be “fighting for preeminence” – just as they do today at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on special holy days like Christmas and Easter.
For the same reason, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is one of the hottest and most contested places on earth. It is the site of the Western Wall – the only remaining portion of the Temple. So for the Jews, this is their most holy site in all the earth. It was here that three successive temples were built and destroyed: Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple and Herod’s Temple. And it is also the site of the Dome of the Rock – the third most holy site for Moslems because of Muhammad’s reputed “Night Journey” to Jerusalem. Only Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia would have more geographical and spiritual importance to the world of Islam than Jerusalem has – which is why there is still constant fighting between Jews and Arabs over the control of the Temple Mount.
So even though we cannot identify the precise place where the crucifixion took place, we do know for certain the identification of the Person who was crucified there. So let’s turn our attention more specifically to the Person of the passion.
This series of pictures show us going out almost daily to pick up patients needing surgery at the Double Harvest Hospital. We improvised a truck-ambulance to pick up severely injured people from both the largely destroyed General Hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince as well as the “Tent Hospital” at the end of the airport runway managed by the University of Miami.
In His Healing Love,