Easter in the Holy Lands

I grew up in a home where we did the typical Easter things – egg hunt, new outfits (complete with saddle shoes), pictures by the blooming flowers, rush off to church, eat lunch with family.  While I grew up in a Christian home, we never talked about Easter being a holiday about the Resurrection.  Now, its not that we didn’t believe in the Resurrection, but in the Churches of Christ, its not typically “celebrated” that way.

While we do celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection each week while taking of Communion, let’s be honest – we do a poor job talking about that resurrection part.  I can count on one hand the amount of times the resurrection has been mentioned during communion/the Lord’s Supper. We do a good job talking about the death, but not so much about the resurrection.

When I was in Israel this past summer, I was taken down the “Via Dolorosa” –

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Now, what is the Via Dolorosa?  For those of who aren’t up to speed on our Jerusalem streets, the Via Dolorosa, means “way of sorrows.” While this is not the exact route that Jesus travelled on the way to the cross – it gives an idea of what Jesus did as he walked the long lonely walk. There are many stations, with the last one being the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where it is thought to be the place where Jesus hung on the cross, and where his tomb is located.

When you get the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it is truly a spectacle to behold.  There are at least 7 different “custodians” of the place – including the Eastern, Greek, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syriac Orthodox Churches, and also the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic Churches.  As you go from one section to another within the building, you can see the various artifacts and decoration change drastically.

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In the above picture, you’ll see the “Immovable Ladder” which has an interesting story.  Below that are two archways entrances, the only entrances, and one of them is bricked shut.  You can see them better below:

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As you go inside there are a few things of great significance – at least – they are thought to be of great significance.  Whether or not these things are the “actual items” is highly debated.  Such as this:

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The first picture is thought to be Golgotha or Calvary – the rock upon which Christ was crucified.  It is covered in glass, but when you get to the second picture, it is the Altar of Crucifixion.  The hole you see is for people to reach down and touch Calvary.

No one knows for sure if this is the exact spot or not.  Although, many people believe it is the place.

As you continue to walk through the church, one other thing you’ll see is this:

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This is called the Stone of Anointing – where they would have laid the body of Jesus before they buried him in the tomb.  There are many mosaics throughout the area, leading over to the  Aedicule, which is the area that contains the Holy Sepulchre.  For those of you who are wondering what the word “sepulchre” means – its basically a place to lay the dead, otherwise known as a tomb.

I didn’t get a good shot of the Aedicule – but here’s what I got:

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Its a very crowded area, and they don’t usually allow too many people to enter, but since it was less crowded that day, we were able to walk in it – but not allowed to take pictures.  In fact, I was getting some stares taking pictures of the outside.  On the inside, its just a small, cramped, empty space.

People flock from miles around to see this place.

But there is another location where people think Christ may have been crucified and buried:

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The Garden Tomb, to me, seems like a more logical place.  There is an area that looks like “The place of the skull” here.  Tell me what you think:

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Sadly, just below this is a bus station:

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They’ve also uncovered an area here where they feel may have been the tomb where Jesus was placed to rest:

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It was here that our group took Communion.

While we took Communion, it was the hour when the Muslims began to pray.  As the eery music came on, we were singing our own song.  As their song progressed, we got louder and louder.  It was a time I’ll never forget.

So how have my thoughts about Easter changed?

We take communion each week, and I’m grateful we do.  But sadly, its so easy for the death and the burial and the resurrection to lose meaning to us.  I want to grab hold of what these people have when they visit the Holy Sepulchre or the Garden Tomb.  I want to be reminded that this was a tragic, horrifying event, but had a miraculous, holy ending.  This isn’t just something we should remember and think about on Sundays for a few minutes while we take a cracker and drink a small cup of juice.

May God bless you this week as you remember the last week of Christ.

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2 comments on “Easter in the Holy Lands

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