Here is the Easter Story. If you wish to film in any of the places connected with the Easter Story and Easter celebrations, we can arrange all the necessary permits for you. It is advisable to arrange filming two weeks beforehand.
THE GOLDEN GATE
At Easter, Christian celebrants retrace the steps Jesus took as He entered Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, but they cannot pass through the gate He used because this gate has been sealed for the past 400 years. In the time of Jesus, the Golden Gate was the most important of all the gates of Jerusalem as it was the only one that accessed the holy site of the Temple. It was called the Golden Gate because of the goldsmiths and moneychangers who plied their trade nearby.
It is believed that Jesus will pass through the Golden Gate a second time when He descends from Heaven and enters the Holy City. Because of this belief, the Sultan of Turkey ordered the Golden Gate sealed in 1535.
JESUS FORETELLS HIS CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION
The Gospel tells that Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem for the Passover festival and, on the way, He took the 12 disciples aside and said to them: “We are now going to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be given up. They will condemn him to death and hand Him over to the foreign power to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and on the third day he will be raised to life again.”
PILGRIMAGE TO JERUSALEM FOR THE PASSOVER
It happened here in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims made their way to the great city and to the Temple for they were commanded by the Bible to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year in honor of the great festivals. Among the Passover pilgrims of 2,000 years ago was Jesus of Nazareth. The Rabbi from Galilee spent His last week on earth on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in the village of Bethany on the Mount of Olives.
PALM SUNDAY: JESUS LEAVES BETHANY
On the first Sunday morning after their arrival, Jesus and His disciples left Bethany for Jerusalem. Jesus sent two disciples forward with these instructions: “‘Go to the village opposite where you will find at once a donkey tethered with her foal beside her. Untie them and bring them to me.’ The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed and brought the donkey and her foal.”The Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem follows the route Jesus took as He made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem and passed the spot where He stopped and wept over the coming destruction of the city.
JESUS WEEPS FOR JERUSALEM
The Church that stands on this spot is shaped like a tear and is called “Dominus Flevit” (the Lord wept).
JESUS ENTERS THE HOLY CITY
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the city went wild with excitement. “Who is this man?” people asked. The crowd replied: “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” Today no one would need to ask but in Jerusalem, in the year 30 AD, the Prophet from Galilee was known only to a few. To others, especially the rulers of the city, His arrival was not welcome. Rome ruled then over Jerusalem and its province through a military Governor. The Roman procurator was called Pontius Pilate.
THE JEWISH TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM
The Jewish high priest in the Temple was a Roman appointee. The situation was explosive. Both the Roman procurator and the Jewish priest had good reason to fear prophets of revolution. On entering the city Jesus went straight to the Temple. The mound on which it stood is still the focal point of Jerusalem’s Old City. This model shows how Jerusalem looked at the time of the Second Temple.
JESUS CHASES AWAY THE MONEYCHANGERS
As Jesus entered the Temple area, He drove away the moneychangers. Throughout that week He and His disciples taught and preached, and healed the sick. The Jewish Wailing Wall (the last remnant of the Temple) and the Muslim “Dome of the Rock” are situated on the Temple Mount.
PREPARING FOR THE PASSOVER FEAST
Thursday was the eve of Passover. Jesus sent out two of His disciples with these instructions: “Go into the city and a man will meet you carrying a jar of water. Follow him and when he enters a house give this message to the householder: ‘Where is the room reserved for me to eat the Passover with my disciples’? The master of the house will show you a large room upstairs. Set out in readiness. Make the preparations for us there.”
THE LAST SUPPER
According to tradition, the Last Supper took place in the Upper Room on Mount Zion, which is today outside the walls of the Old City. But in the year 30 AD, Mount Zion was inside the city. Then an extraordinary thing happened. Jesus rose from the table, laid his garments aside, and tied a towel around Himself. The Gospel tells us that Jesus then poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of His Disciples and wipe them with a towel.
THE RITUAL OF THE WASHING OF THE FEET
Thus it is that on Maundy Thursday, the ceremony of the washing of the feet is held in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Gospel tells us that after washing the disciples’ feet and taking up His garments again, Jesus sat down. “Do you understand what I have done for you”? He asked. If I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet you are to wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example.”
The first followers of Jesus, says Luke, lived a communal life sharing their possessions equally. The Greek Orthodox Bishops shared their Easter meal in Jerusalem in the communal spirit of those first disciples of Jesus.
At Passover, Jewish families gather together to celebrate their liberation from slavery and the Exodus from Egypt. At Easter, Christian worshippers celebrate the birth of a new religion. These two festivals, celebrated at the same time, have much in common.
BREAD AND WINE
Something else happened during the Last Supper, which would determine forever the form of Christian worship. Jesus broke bread and poured out wine. In the words of the Gospel: “during the supper, He took bread and broke it and gave it to the disciples with the words: ‘Take this. This is My body.’ Then He took a cup and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said, ‘this is My blood the blood of the covenant shed for many.’”
In the Upper Room that night, the Passover feast was not a joyous occasion. Jesus knew that His end was near. He could not long avoid the wrath of the Jewish leaders in whose eyes He was a troublemaker, nor that of the Romans, in whose eyes He was a revolutionary. He predicted that one of his disciples would betray Him and that even Simon Peter whose feet He had just washed would denounce Him before the night was out.
JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES AT GETHSEMANE
In deepening despair, Jesus and His disciples finished the Passover meal and left the room on Mount Zion to make their way to the Mount of Olives. The Basilica of the Agony sits at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane – the olive press. Some of the ancient trees, some of which are nearly 2,000 years old, are still there.
When Jesus and the disciples reached Gethsemane, Jesus said to them: ” Sit here while I pray.” Then He threw himself on the ground and prayed that this hour would pass him by. “My father,” he said, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken away from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
THE BETRAYAL OF JESUS
It was too late. The wheels of the final act of this great, holy drama had already been set in motion. Judas Escaria appeared with a contingent of the local militia. His kiss was a sign of betrayal. Jesus was arrested and brought to the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest.
JESUS IS BROUGHT BEFORE CAIAPHAS, THE HIGH PRIEST
Tradition has unanimously accepted that this site on Mount Zion is the site of the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest. A church now stands over the dungeon but in the courtyard, the ancient path and steps to the dungeon remain.
Jesus was held here overnight and it is here where He was questioned and where the High Priest asked Him: “Art thou the Christ the Son of God?” And the Lord replied, “I am.” And Caiaphas shred his garments and said, “What need have we for further witness?” and they said, “Let Him be put to death.”
PETER’S DENIAL OF JESUS
The Gospel tells us that Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard when a serving maid came up and said, “You were there too with Jesus the Galilean?” Peter denied this and said, “I do not know what you mean.” Twice more, on Mount Zion, Peter denied that he knew Jesus. At the third denial, the cock crowed. And Peter remembered that Jesus had said, “before the cock crows you will disown Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly. The rooster on the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu commemorates this event.
On a Friday morning, which later became Good Friday, the scene shifts to the fortress of Pontius Pilate on the Temple Mount. At this time, the responsibility for capital punishment had been taken away from the Jewish people and placed in the hands of the Roman conquerors.
JESUS IS TRIED BY PONTIUS PILATE
They took Jesus from the court of Caiaphas to the court of Pontius Pilate and there before the Roman procurator, they accused Him of sedition and treason for claiming that He was a king.
Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” and Jesus replied, “I am.” Pilot went before the people and said, “I find no fault in Him at all.” The people answered, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him, crucify Him.” Pilot asked, “Shall I crucify your King?” and they replied, “we have no King but Caesar.”
SITE OF THE TRIAL: THE ANTONIA FORTRESS
Church tradition holds that the location of the Praetorium where Jesus was tried is the Antonia Fortress, the massive fortress built by Herod on the north side of the city. Its foundations and possibly its floor are still visible.
The stone pavement (Nethostrosis in Greek) is very old, and may even be the original pavement of the Antonia Fortress. Games are cut in the old stone floor, one of which is called Bysilias, the “king’s game,” which involved mocking a condemned prisoner.
JESUS WAS FLOGGED AND MOCKED BY THE ROMAN GUARDS
Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged. The soldiers placed a crown of thorns on His head and enveloped Him in a purple cloak. Then, again and again, they shouted, “Hail, King of the Jews” and struck Him on the face and Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
THE ECCE HOMO ARCH
The arch refers to the words of Pilate, “Ecce Homo, Behold! the man,” as he brought Jesus out to the crowd for judgment. It is from this site that Pilate sent Jesus to His crucifixion.
VIA DOLOROSA, THE WAY OF PAIN
On Good Friday, the streets of Jerusalem are filled with thousands of Christian pilgrims from every corner of the world. They come to walk down the “Via Dolorosa, the Way of Pain” and relive the events of Easter Week. The Gospel tells us that great numbers of people, many women among them, followed Jesus and lamented over Him.
JESUS CARRIES HIS CROSS
Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me. No, weep for yourselves and your children.” The Via Dolorosa consists of 14 stations of the Cross. At the sixth station, a woman stepped out from the crowd as Jesus was passing by and wiped His face and an image of His face remained on her kerchief. They called this woman Veronica (Vera ekon = true image).
Generations of pilgrims have walked down the Via Dolorosa, the traditional Way of the Cross which retraces the steps of Jesus as He was led to the site of the crucifixion.
CALVARY, THE SITE OF THE CRUCIFIXION
The Via Dolorosa ends at the place of the skull – Calvary (Golgotha). Calvaria in Latin, Gulgalta in Aramaic means skull and refers to the hill that contained a pile of skulls or resembled a skull geographically, and where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands today. Calvary was an old stone quarry outside the city in the year 30 AD but is now in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Another tradition places Golgotha outside the present walls of the Old City near what is now a bus terminal.
When they reached the place of the skull, they crucified Him and the criminals with Him, one on His right and the other on His left. Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” From midday, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three in the afternoon. At about three Jesus cried out, “Eli Eli Lama Sabachteni?” which means, “My God, My God why hast Thou has forsaken me.” Jesus again uttered a loud cry and breathed His last breath.
Immediately following the death of Jesus, His followers became frightened and fled into hiding in Jerusalem. Life in the markets continued as usual. The death of Jesus made little impact. It must have seemed like one of the routine crucifixions carried out by the Romans. But this crucifixion would alter the life of many. There remained only one last task, to take down the body and give it a decent burial.
THE BURIAL OF JESUS
The Gospel tells us that, when evening fell, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pontius Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate gave the order that he should have it. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet and laid it in his own unused tomb, which he had cut out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone against the entrance and went away.
THE TOMB OF JESUS
The stone of unction, just inside the main doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, marks the traditional place where Jesus’ body was washed and prepared for burial. The tomb of Jesus, which once was a cave, is a covered edifice today which stands at the center of the Rotunda of the Church. In the days of Jesus, Jews buried their dead in caves, carving out niches in the walls and sealing the entrances with great rolling stones. Dozens of such caves can be found around the city of Jerusalem. The Garden Tomb, believed by Protestants to be a more plausible site for Jesus’ tomb, is a typical example of the type of tomb current in the time of Jesus.
It was Friday and the Sabbath was about to begin. The holy women who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph to the tomb. They observed how Jesus’ body was laid, then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes and on the Sabbath, they rested as is commanded in the Bible.
EASTER SUNDAY IN JERUSALEM
The door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is locked. Thousands of people are gathered outside. For 800 years, ever since the Crusaders were driven away from Jerusalem, a Muslim family has held the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. With great ceremony, they now open the doors for the Christian pilgrims who have come to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
On a Sunday morning, the holy women returned to the tomb with sweet spices to anoint the body of Jesus. To their amazement, they found an empty grave. Jesus appeared to the women that day and to other disciples. Several appearances followed over a period of forty days until He ascended to Heaven.
THE RITUAL OF FIRE
The Eastern Churches mark the Lord’s resurrection with a ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that dates back to the 18th century – the Ritual of Fire. By mid-afternoon, the Church is filled with great crowds of devoted pilgrims. The Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, accompanied by the bishops from the Armenian and Syrian Churches enters the tomb. Then, as if by magic, a holy fire descends from Heaven. The fire rekindles the lamps, symbolizing the resurrection. The crowd is delirious with joy.
PRAYER ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
The various Protestant denominations hold their services on the hills around the city. Many come to the Mount of Olives where our story began and where it ends.
RESURRECTION IN JERUSALEM
The Golden Gate of the City of Jerusalem is the gate that leads from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount. The gate is presently sealed. One day it will open wide for Jesus when He returns to Jerusalem and when the end of days will come.