4 am Easter morning: I have been looking at the clock every ten minutes or so for the last hour, I may as well just drag myself out of bed now so I can have time to shower and make myself a cup of coffee to take on my 30 minute walk to the Garden Tomb. I didn’t set an alarm. In fact, when I went to sleep last night I was debating with myself on whether or not to actually Get up and go. But it’s Easter! I am in Jerusalem! A leading candidate as a possible burial site for Yeshua (Jesus) is only 30 minutes away! Fortified with a strong cup of Ethiopian Harrar, I am on my way through our dark and very quiet part of town to follow the path toward the other side of the Old City.
I follow the way through the Muslim cemetery along the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. There will be a couple of thousand Christians from all backgrounds and countries at the Garden Tomb for the sunrise service which will be broadcast in the U.S. by CBN, but they must be taking a different route than I am, because I am alone with my Harrar, the graves, and my thoughts. I begin to pray, knowing that Jesus is not in the tomb, but will meet me wherever and whenever I call on Him. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”, the angel asked a surprised Mary at the tomb 2000 years ago. As I walk, I sing a simple song, “Baruch ha ba, beshem Adonai” (Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord). These words are rich, dripping with significance and history. The Psalmist first penned the words in a song (Psalm 118) maybe 3000 years ago. The song is a song of deliverance. First, deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, to freedom from bondage. God commands them to remember and celebrate this deliverance each year at Pessak (Passover).
5:40 am: I arrive and get in line with others to await the opening of the gates at 6 am. Most are in groups. I spoke to some Mormons from Salt Lake City on the last few blocks to the entrance. Easter and Christmas are popular times for tourists to visit Israel. Standing in line I meet Darrell, from Wisconsin. Darrell just finished walking the”Jesus Trail”, a 4-5 day hike in the Galilee that Julee and I have dreamed of doing. Darrell and I will end up sitting together for the service here today.
Psalm 118 is also a prophetic song about a coming deliverance, a deliverance from a different type of bondage and slavery, a deliverance for all people. “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever… in my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free… The Lord is my strength and my song, he has become my salvation.”
6:00 am: We are among the fortunate to have arrived early enough to get seats; many are standing. It’s a nice enough service, similar to what one might expect to find at many typical western churches in the USA. I find my thoughts drifting back to Psalm 118: “this is the gate of the Lord through which (we) might enter…the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it… Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord….”. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus called together his disciples to celebrate the Passover meal that is often called “the Last Supper”. They ate, shared communion, and then sang a song, quite probably Psalm 118. I wonder if the disciples understood that they were singing about the One they followed? I wonder if they remember Jesus telling the people just days before, “you won’t see me again until you learn to say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”…
My new friend Darrell, from Wisconsin.