I have been too some interesting places for Easter. Two years ago, I was in Soweto, South Africa in a Township church enjoying a service that would last over 8 (yes 8 hours) none of which was in English.
Last year I was at the Passion Play at St. Peters Brighton. This year finds me returning to a troubled Jerusalem for Easter. I am up before sunrise on Easter Sunday morning heading for the Garden Tomb one of the sites of the possible sites for the crucifixion. I am joined by 1000s of others too.
The Garden Tomb is believed by many to be the garden and sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea, and therefore a possible site of the resurrection of Jesus. The Garden is owned and administered by The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, a Christian non-denominational charitable trust based in the United Kingdom.
The Garden Tomb is an alternative site to the famous Holy Sepulchre, which I visited last time that I was in Jerusalem, for you to consider the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Garden is a beautiful place in which you will discover several things that were all here on the night Jesus died and which match the accounts in the four Gospels.
They never claim to be in the right place as we could never prove that; but where Jesus died is of little importance compared with why. So here they ask you to open the Bible and see what it says about these vital Christian truths.
The Garden Tomb is a quiet place preserved for worship and reflection, with many places to sit and enjoy the surroundings and listen to groups from all over the world worship in their native tongue. I am not sure whether this is the tomb but I certainly could visualize the gospel stories taking place here and that is enough to sense the tangible presence of a God at peace with Himself in the place.
I am there early enough to get a good spot, or so I thought. The Easter Morning service is being broadcast live on CNN. There is a visiting preacher from London who enjoys rugby and have brought a rugby ball as a teaching aid. He throws the ball into the audience and its coming my way. I reach out and catch it- what a relief. I go to throw the ball back and as I do, I feel my camera strap restraining my arm and the ball drops down limply in front of me. On live TV. Never mind!
This is an ancient wine press for treading grapes. I would have liked to have seen it in use.
After the service, on the way out I see a sign saying “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” an ancient passage from the Hebrew Scriptures. Jerusalem is a troubled place and remains troubled today.
I walk back along the edge of the city wall and soon encounter a protest. Muslims are upset at not being allowed into the city that day to pray in their Mosque. I chat with the police and soldiers. Many were on national service from Tel Aviv. I had a long chat with a police sergeant, he used tactics very similar to the Met Police in London and was very happy to take a few minutes to talk to a curious tourist with a large camera. I was impressed with the way he was handling things but saddened at the obvious dismay of the protesters.
As you can see eventually things turned nasty not to far away and tear gas was deployed before some young Arabs were taken away in handcuffs.
I wanted to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. A couple of days later my schedule took me to Galilee in the North of the country. I was on a boat, sitting peacefully with its engine off whilst we floated on the lake. No noise, except for the odd bird or wave. Here was my chance to pray for the peace of Jerusalem on the lake where Jesus, fished, walked and taught His disciples how to pray.