“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!” “See the place where they laid Him.” Those words, spoken by the angel to the bewildered woman on Easter morning were running through my mind as I awaited my turn to enter “The Garden Tomb”.
Just moments before we had shared in Communion where we broke bread and shared the cup in remembrance of Jesus broken body and His shed blood on our behalf. I have partaken of The Lord’s Supper in many different times in a variety of locations, but words fail to describe the sensation of sharing Communion on (or at least very near) the location where Jesus death, burial and resurrection actually took place!
This was the final day and climactic moment of our 12 day pilgrimage following the footsteps of Jesus through the modern day country of Israel. We had already seen and experienced so much throughout our travels in the beautiful and diverse country of Israel – the hillside of Bethlehem where the angels announced Jesus birth, Jesus boyhood town of Nazareth, the rolling hillsides of Galilee, the picturesque Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights, the Jordan River, the Spring of Ein Gedi, Herod’s mountain top fortress of Masada, the Dead Sea, the Garden of Gethsemane and of course, Jerusalem.
Many people have asked me about the trip and my most common response has been: “I will never read the Bible the same way again.” The stories that I have heard and loved since I was a boy simply came alive and are now grounded in a new reality of the time and place in which they happened. But of all the stories, none is more important than what happened on Easter.
So as I stood there in the line, looking ahead at the open tomb entrance cut neatly into the rock, I wondered: What would it have been like to be there that first Easter morning nearly 2000 years ago? What depths of sorrow did the women experience as they prepared to enter the tomb that day? What sort of shock must have electrified their souls when instead of finding a dead body they are told by an angel that Jesus is alive?
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the scene. The midday sun was shining warmly, the birds were singing in the trees, the fragrance of the garden filled the air and for one brief, beautiful moment – I was there... I could picture the women slowly entering the tomb in sorrow but then racing away in euphoric delight! For in that short span of time – everything had changed! Their fear turned to hope, sorrow to joy, and death to life – Jesus was alive – and because of that fact nothing would ever again be the same!
I opened my eyes to see that I was now just one person away in line from being able to enter the tomb. One of our travel companions, Matt Reimer was just ahead of me, and when his turn came he did something that will stay with me the rest of my life. Instead of entering the tomb, he simply stuck his head inside took a quick look inside, popped back out and with a big grin on his face announced: “Nope - He isn’t in there!”
That is the message of Easter and the hope of all who believe. Jesus isn’t in there because He is Alive! That single truth that has rocked the world ever since. Sure, there are many who deny it and many that still doubt – but what is undeniable are the countless lives that have been changed by placing their faith in the Resurrected Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. My life is one of them. My hope and prayer is that your life is too.
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