As most of you know, we are followers of Christ, family that living in a pre-dominantly Jewish country (Israel). While there are a number of Christians here in Israel, and we are blessed enough to be friends with some amazing ones, Easter is a different story here. The feeling of Easter and Holy Week in the air, that typically personifies our typical celebration, can be hard to find in Israel, but perhaps that focused this year’s Easter on more of an internal search and celebration that sometimes can be difficult in a commercialized one back in the U.S. This Easter will definitely go down in the Manrrique Family History, specifically because of the location, location, location. We didn’t get to attend the typical Easter services we are used to, from Ash Wednesday through Good Friday, as our church here does not have those services and so we had to focus our celebration at home, where we as a family made the dedication of spending more time in the Word, Devotions, and prayer time.
Once Maundy Thursday came, we sat and did more readings at bedtime of the evening that changed the world, then came Good Friday (which happened to be Devin’s 10th birthday, as he thought it was pretty amazing to have a birthday on the day Christ gave His life for him) Again, we didn’t attend a service anywhere, so our family continued to do our own family devotions and readings.
And now, comes Easter morning. Our church booked a tour bus to take us, very early (4:30am early) to Jerusalem to the Sunrise Service at the Garden Tomb.
I just couldn’t believe we were going to be at the site that Jesus was buried and resurrected (also, note…possibly not the original site, but hey, it could be possible and its a beautiful garden today)
I was so humbled while we drove the hour or so to Jerusalem, I just sat and prayed and looked out the window in awe that we get to do this for the year+.
Once we arrived, a little later than expected, the crowds had filled in all the seats and it became standing room only, in the very far back.
The only family picture we have at Easter service
This at first I was anxious about, but once the music started playing and ALL starting praising the song by Hillsong “Mighty to save” SERIOUSLY!!?!?! One of my favorites! Me thinking to myself “There, all is ok,” Then I heard His voice, I knew nothing else mattered except this exact moment! The mood, the atmosphere, the people, the sun coming up and starting to lighten up the beautiful garden, all of it!! I just stood there as tears rolled down my face, while I tried my best to continue singing. I got a short video clip, I really wish I would have taken more pictures and video, but I was just so wrapped up in it all.
We continued singing some of the best praise music ever, and had the common Easter service scriptures and a sermon. It was a beautiful message, given by a very kind British man, who gave the “typical” Easter message because, well, it was a large audience, of people from all over the world
We heard the Pastor say toward end, “I know you want to come closer and maybe take pictures, but please don’t, there is another service and we need you to leave as quickly as possible, don’t worry, the Tomb is EMPTY!” Oh man! We have never been to the garden tomb and I wanted better pictures; kinda wanted the typical family Easter picture, but this didn’t happen, oh well we will have to visit again:). Hopefully soon! Where we can just sit in the garden and take it all in without the “show”
We went to a great lunch at the American Colony hotel, then headed for a new museum in Jerusalem called “The Friends of Zion” I highly recommend!! It was a hour tour of a very modern, high tech museum that made you walk through the lives of fellow Christians that helped build Israel and helped make it a Jewish Nation.
Next we started for Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.
We toured the Church of the Nativity (again, its our 3rd or 4th time I think) It always brings a mixture of emotion when we go to these churches here, we can talk privately someday about it if you would like, OR just come out and see us! It was nice getting to hang out with some of our good friends from Church and also getting to see a few Arab Palestinian Christians, whom we now call friends (who owns one of the olive wood shops, we have really gotten to know him and his family, amazing man)
Next we headed up to the top of Mount of Olives. Mentioned in several scriptures from the Old Testament and the New Testament
The Old City behind us
The most amazing thing is the view from up here, and no wonder Jesus will return in this very same spot, where THIS was His FINAL ascent into Heaven to be with the Father. John 19-20
Then we walked down to Gethsemane, where there is a Olive Groove that is the most beautiful area in the world. These trees up here are dated back over 2,000 years ago, could this be the exact place Jesus wept? Where the disciples fell asleep when Jesus asked them not to? Is this where they came and captured Jesus to take him to Pilate? So much history, so much truth, so amazing to stand here!
This is the sealed Eastern Gate, This is the gate was sealed 1,000 years ago to prevent Jesus from walking through them when He returns and fulfils Ezekiel 44:1-3’s prophecy and Matthew 23:37-39!
Then we boarded the bus and headed back to Tel Aviv, a completely different world, back to life.
We will remember THIS Easter in a whole different way!!!
HE IS RISEN!!! THE TOMB IS EMPTY!!!