Whereas the Jerusalem Easter service for Catholics and Orthodox Christians takes place at the Holy Sepulchre church, Easter services for Protestants are held at the place revered by them as the site where Jesus died and rose again, the Garden Tomb.
The layout of the Garden Tomb is designed for people to be able to sit and pray quietly while viewing what is believed to be Skull Hill, Golgotha, and the tomb where Jesus may have been laid.
Easter is no different. In fact, the services on Easter Sunday morning are outdoors and take into account the natural setting. Beginning with a sunrise service, the Garden Tomb hosts services in English, French and Scandinavian languages.
While guides at the Garden do not claim that this is definitively the site of the resurrection, they point to the possibility that it could have been the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, who offered his tomb for Jesus’ burial. On one side, the garden faces a hill that has been identified possibly as Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. The jagged rocks of the hill make seem to take the appearance of a skull, but years of erosion have mitigated its image.
But the focus here is not on proving whether this was the actual crucifixion and burial site of Jesus, rather on providing an experience where Christians can reflect on what Jesus did.
“The place is not particularly a shrine to us,” Richard Meryon, CEO of the Garden Tomb, told Travelujah. “It is the person who is important to us here, not the place. We open the Bible and talk through the Gospel accounts and the good news of the weekend that changed the world.”
The Garden Tomb creates “an experience for visitors that engages them in the reality of the risen Lord Jesus.”
Celebrating Easter as “sun comes up in a place that looks like the place where the resurrection took place, to do that in Jerusalem in front of an empty tomb is a phenomenal experience,” Meryon describes.
However, he notes that the power of the resurrection is not limited geographically.
The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, a Charitable Trust based in the United Kingdom, manages the site which was purchased in 1894.
For those who run the Garden Tomb, the focus is not on the sites themselves but on the sacrifice that occurred here when Jesus willingly died for the sins of the world. Guides explain facts about the tomb and how it fits with details given in the Gospels.
But ultimately they point out the tomb is empty, the greatest miracle and basis of the Christian faith. As the angel asked Mary in Luke 24:5, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Easter services: A service in English is held at the Garden Tomb on Good Friday from 9 to 10 a.m. and then the Garden Tomb is open for private prayers until 5: 50 p.m. On Saturday, the Garden Tomb hosts a service in Arabic at 4 p.m. The on Sunday April 4, the order of services includes a 6:30 a.m. English sunrise service and another English service at 9:30 a.m., both led by Richard Meryon with the King of Kings Worship Team and a message by Andrew Jack. At 11 a.m. is a Scandinavian service and lastly, at 12:30 p.m. a French service is held. The Garden is closed for the remainder of the day, as it normally is on Sunday, after the services.
By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah
Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.