Those who know me well know that I don’t do mornings; not early ones anyway! But when I was a volunteer at a Christian Guest House in Israel in 1988, we all got up to see the sunrise on Easter morning and held a short service on the terrace balcony. It was a magical moment and worth getting up for as we enjoyed the view from the village of Usafiyah on Mount Carmel.
The spring time was beautiful on the mountain as there were a large number of wild flowers to be found in the grounds of Stella Carmel and the nearby forest; flowers such as wild cyclamens and anemones of varying colours were common place. On a day off in the Spring, we were all taken on a wildflower walk to find black Iris’ growing wild in the countryside.
One of my favourite places in the Holy Land is the Garden Tomb (sometimes known as Gordon’s Calvary) in Jerusalem which is a popular visiting place for Pilgrims following the footsteps of Jesus. It is not in fact the traditional site which claims to be the place of Christ’s cross and tomb. The Garden tomb was discovered by General Charles Gordon in 1883. In my view it gives tourists a far more authentic experience of what Christ’s tomb would have been like in contrast to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Despite the proximity of the Arab bus station the Garden Tomb is such a beautiful and tranquil place, it is easy to sense Christ’s Spirit and presence there.
Within the garden grounds there is an excavated wine press and water cistern; the entrance to the tomb still has the gully along which the flat disk like stone door would have been rolled across to seal it up. You have to bend down to enter and inside you discover a shelf cut out of the rock on which a body would have been laid. The stone that sealed the door is no longer there and the open entrance tells every visitor that the tomb is empty.
The whole message of the Garden Tomb is, ‘He is not here, the tomb is empty, He is risen’. At Easter Christians celebrate this good news, that out of the suffering and sacrifice of death on a cross, comes new Life with the Risen Christ. Happy Easter.