on easter morning, we woke up super early to go to the garden tomb for the sunrise service there. we walked through the dark streets of jerusalem before dawn, bubbling up with easter joy. we queued with many other believers at the entrance, thinking about the greatest miracle of all time. and as soon as we entered the grounds of the tomb, we were hit with a wave of faith and happiness that built over the next hour or so as we worshipped among the jubilant crowd under flowering trees and a gradually brightening sky.
i count my experience at the garden tomb on easter morning 2007 as one of the very, very best experiences of my life. i had really built the sunrise service up in telling ian about it – but he heartily agreed that it – was – so – awesome … and he counts our experience at the garden tomb on easter morning 2016 as one of the very, very best experiences of his life. it’s hard to explain the feeling there. it’s so so so so so so wonderful.
the service was very different than our typical mormon services, and we loved it (not that we don’t also love our typical mormon services! but we do wish they were sometimes a bit more lively like this one!) we earnestly and enthusiastically sang praises, echoes “hallelujah”s and bowed our heads in prayers of gratitude for the resurrection of the saviour. the scene got lighter and lighter as morning sun started to fill the sky and we were buoyant and blissful.
^^ the band down by the tomb was awesome, and so many were singing along with heart (notice the raised hands) ^^
^^ they were able to fit a lot of people in the gardens surrounding the tomb! it was powerful to be surrounded by so many believers from all over the world and all different churches. ^^
^^ it was a bit lighter by the time the sermon was delivered – a glorious message of hope and joy. ^^
^^ feeling so full of joy (and of baby!). the pulpit over my shoulder is engraved with the words “jesus is alive!” love that. ^^
we really believe that jesus christ rose from the dead on a spring morning about two thousand years ago (and that that miracle happened somewhere very close to this spot on earth!). because he did, we will all rise again. in his resurrection, christ completed an atonement that makes it possible for everything to be made right and fair, for all of us to be with our families forever and continue to progress after this life, for all to find true peace in this world and unimaginable joy in the world to come. hallelujah!
after the sunrise service, we thoroughly enjoyed spending the rest of the day exploring jerusalem. the high of our morning lingered with us throughout the day and we were joyful. we walked in damascus gate and through those wonderful winding streets of the old city to the western wall, where we joined a tour of the western wall tunnels – the ongoing excavations around the temple mount. then, we visited the jerusalem archeological park before embarking on a tour of the city of david (through hezekiah’s tunnel!). we finished our day with another peaceful, beautiful vsit to the garden of gethsemane. and when we went to sleep that night, we both declared easter 2016 as one of the best, best, best days ever, ever, ever.
^^ the western wall tunnel tour provided awesome context that helped us put together all the pieces of the long and significant history of the temple mount in our brains. the tour guide was so clear and passionate. ^^
^^ stones from the time of herod (you can tell because of the signature style of the border around each block). two thousand years old! the temple mount as it existed when christ was living in jerusalem! ^^
^^ the closest spot to the holy of holies in the ancient temple – pretty far underground. read that plaque and take in all the professed significance of this specific place. pretty staggering. ^^
^^ more (above ground!) herodian stones at the jerusalem archeological park. ^^
^^ a two thousand year old street – a main thoroughfare back in the day, before the roman destruction of the temple. ^^
^^ these stones were hurled from the top of the temple mount when it was destroyed by the romans in 70 ad. ^^
^^ a view from the archeological park towards the ancient (originally built around four thousand years ago!) city of david (the very beginning of what grew into jerusalem) ^^
^^ the boy at the (now sealed) southern gates of the temple mount. ^^
^^ sitting on the original steps towards the southern side of the temple mount. we know from the new testament that christ spent time in this very place. ^^
^^ on the city of david tour, we learned so much! here’s an illustration of how the place used to look (four thousand years ago!) and how it looks in modernity. ^^
^^ heading down through layers of civilization to hezekiah’s tunnel. ^^
^^ this nearly two thousand foot tunnel was built (incredibly, from two ends that met up exactly!) to bring water from a spring to the city of david about three thousand years ago. quite the feat of ancient engineering, and quite fun to wade through! ^^
^^ at the end of the tunnel is the pool of siloam, a noted location in the bible where christ healed a blind man. ^^
back at the garden of gethsemane, on the evening of easter, we sang hymns together and quietly reflected on our faith in the saviour. i love, love, love the red poppies scattered throughout this unkept part of the hillside/olive grove. or buzz of easter joy was tempered into sweet, sweet peace and it was the perfect way to end one of the best, best days ever, ever.
^^ beloved old city streets on the way back to our airbnb. ^^
a day we’ll never forget. a really good one.