Sunday, April 5, 2015

My Easter In The Holy City

Today, I did something that I have been dreaming of doing for nearly ten years now. I spent Easter Sunday in Jerusalem. I woke early this morning at 5am to get ready. From the apartment where I'm staying, the Garden Tomb is about a 25 minute walk. I left at 5:30am in hopes to arrive when the doors to the Garden opened at 6am. The Sunrise Service was scheduled for 6:30am and there was a second service scheduled for 9:30am.  It was a beautiful walk and I stopped occasionally to snap some pictures on the way.
When I arrived, I wasn't prepared for what I encountered. The alley from the doorway entering the Garden all the way to the street was jammed with people. I had assumed that attendance at the Sunrise Service would be a little lighter than the later one. What was I thinking? This is what I saw when I came around the corner into the alley.

After a few minutes the line started to move. I turned around to see how many were behind me and there were now almost as many behind as there were in front.

Once inside, the Garden was packed with people. Every seating area was full as well as the standing room areas. Luckily, I'm tall, so standing room wasn't an issue for me. I found a place where I could lean/sit on a railing and see the worship team, the tomb, and the speaker podium and I waited for the service to begin.

I have been to the Garden six different times now including today. I have never needed to go there to convince myself that Jesus rose from the dead. I have believed in faith that He did so for many, many years. Still, there is something very special about going there, receiving communion together, and experiencing it over and over again through the eyes of the groups that we take.

But today was just for me. I know there is nothing magical about the place, but still, attending an Easter Sunrise Service in the Garden Tomb is kind of surreal. The realization that somewhere very near where I was standing, Jesus gave his life on the cross, and then was buried in an unfinished tomb and on the third day rose again right in that vicinity, made the hair stand up a little on the back of my neck as we sang the words 'Forever, author of salvation. He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave!"

The service was much like any other Sunrise Service you might attend at Easter. It really was nothing special as far as the service order or the speaker and the message. But singing 'Hallelujah, Jesus is Alive' with a tomb cut out of the rock in front of you that has a sign on the door that says 'He is not here. He is risen!' That is something that I will not soon forget.
I am and will be forever grateful for this incredible opportunity to have been given time for a sabbatical, but also to be able to spend some of it in the Holy City.

After a quiet afternoon, I made my way at 5pm to the Easter Services at King of Kings Community in the city centre. The service was full, the worship engaging and the preaching of the Word was rich and meaningful. I soaked it all in - the presence of God was powerful in that place, every bit as real as it had been in the Garden in the morning. Because it's not about the location or even the worship band, the songs, the speaker or the message, it's about the hearts of the worshipers.

If you are ever in Jerusalem and you have the opportunity, visit King of Kings. It is a dynamic expresson of God's Kingdom in the city of Jerusalem that is making a difference and helping people find the true Messiah, who is our Saviour, Yeshua.




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