The Southern Steps of Temple Mount
As we often say, “Israel is the only place on earth where your Bible comes alive.” And while God is real and can make Himself known to anyone anywhere (as He is doing all the time), a visit to the Land of Israel does draw any person of faith closer to the Creator, while also placing the biblical accounts in their proper place geographically and culturally. In other words, no other place on earth can invite you to “walk where Jesus walked,” and for that we are thankful.
Any visit to Jerusalem will not be complete without exploring the Southern Steps of Temple Mount. Not only is this site an archeological treasure house, displaying and confirming biblical events and personalities connected to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but also we know beyond any doubt that the Lord Jesus Himself climbed these steps many times during His visits to the Temple complex.
“Each day Jesus was teaching at the Temple, and each evening He went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear Him at the Temple.” (Luke 21:37-38).
Called the “teaching steps” by some, these Southern Steps were used by rabbis and teachers from that period as a platform to spread their doctrines to the passing multitudes along this busy and crowded passageway into the Temple. Located today at the southern edge of the Western Wall, this broad staircase was in use daily, 365 days a year, with great crowds swelling to hundreds of thousands during the three Pilgrim Feasts when all the male members of the nation of Israel were commanded to come up and worship God at the Temple.
With over 50 ritual baths discovered in the vicinity so far, serving the multitudes as they purified themselves before entering the Temple courts, this area was no doubt the busiest spot in all of Israel and the greatest platform to stage a public event as we see happening numerous times in the Gospels.
It is important to notice that these steps were (and still are) irregular and uneven. This unusual and intentional design required the pilgrims ascending them to pay careful attention to their steps. The reason was to encourage the worshipers to adopt a thoughtful, reflective, and serious mindset as they approach God at the Temple and resist the urge for social interaction while they passed through the bustling crowds, the family reunions, the buying and the selling at the Temple Courts.
It is also safe to assume that this is the spot of the event described in Acts chapter two when the disciples, freshly anointed with the Holy Spirit and addressing the international pilgrims gathering in Jerusalem during the Feast of Pentecost, spoke to them using their own native languages. According to Acts 2, this miracle took place at 9:00 amduring the morning prayers when great throngs of worshipers would attend. No place in Jerusalem was better suited to stage Peter’s first and powerful apostolic message, bringing 3,000 Jewish souls into instant conviction, faith, repentance and baptism. Remarkably, it is probable that the Southern Steps are the very spot where the new Community of Faith was born.
The setting was perfect! Peter’s powerful words still rang in the Jerusalem morning air when the thousands of Jewish worshipers “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call … Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” (Acts 2:38-43)
With dozens of ritual baths ready to serve these thousands of new disciples, obedience was immediate. And, themselves pilgrims from all over the world, they would now carry the good news of salvation in Messiah to their homelands. A new beginning dawned on earth, and it all started in Jerusalem!
Neil Armstrong, the very first man to walk on the moon, visited Israel in 1994. Asking his guide, the renowned archaeologist Meir Ben Dov who excavated the Temple Mount if there was a place where Jesus would have walked without a doubt 2,000 years ago, his answer was “the Southern Steps.” Visiting the Steps, Neil bent down, kissed the ground, and was heard saying that this was a more exciting moment for him than walking on the moon!
He was right, and we are looking forward to seeing you in Israel,