As many of you know, I have just returned from a ten-day trip to Israel Among
the things that our group was able to do was follow the probable route that Jesus
took for his entry into Jerusalem on what Christian tradition knows as Palm Sunday.
We walked down from the top of the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, and
up to the Temple Mount. In the city itself we were actually walking about twelve
metres above the road that Jesus walked because Jerusalem has been rebuilt many times,
the next city on the ruins of the last.
We also followed the Via Dolorosa, the “sorrowful way” of the cross, marked by the
twelve stations of the cross. Many of these stations are in the Arab market, the
Souk. This loud, crowded, jostling environment must be very similar to what Jesus
experienced as he made his way to the place of crucifixion.
At the heart of Christian devotion is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the reputed
site of Jesus’ empty tomb. The tomb is housed in an edicule, a marble structure
recently renovated. You can go inside and view, not the place where Jesus’ body
was laid, but a marble slab that protects it. Ascend a few flights of stairs and
you come to the Altar of the Crucifixion, supposedly built atop the selfsame hill
where Jesus died. There is even a hole through which you can reach to touch the
A lot of people would argue that these “holy places” are pious inventions but the
fact remains that Christians began building churches here as soon as the Emperor
Constantine’s Edict of Toleration allowed them to have their own places of worship
early in the fourth century.
We can reasonably assume that the faithful had been coming to pray where Jesus died
and was buried a long time before that.
They are still coming. You have to get to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre early
in the morning if you don’t want to wait half a day in line. Thanks to our Israeli
guide, we were there
for the 7:45 am opening time and waited only about twenty minutes. As we were ready
to leave, the church was already full of people weeping, praying and singing in multiple
What was my reaction to all of this? I was certainly impressed by the devotion
evident all around me and I knew that the emotional reactions of several people in
our group were
undoubtedly genuine. Nonetheless, the words of the angel to the women who visited
the tomb on the morning of the third kept echoing in my mind: “You are looking for
Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen; he is not here.”
At Easter, we celebrate the reality that Jesus is not bound by death. He is not
to any place, however holy. He is as alive and real for us as he was for those who
knew him twenty centuries ago. We don’t have to go to the Holy Land to walk where
Jesus walked because he walks with us right now.
If I had to name the holiest site I visited in Israel it would be Yad Vashem, the
Holocaust Memorial, sacred to the memory of the more than six million Jews slaughtered
by the Nazis during World War II. Jesus is always to be found where the need is
greatest, where people suffer and die, where hate rules. On the cross, he takes
this unbearable weight on himself and, rising from the dead, he shows us that we
do not have to be crushed by it. He wants to lead us along the paths of healing
to a world which rejects all that made the Holocaust and the other atrocities of
history possible. We are not there yet but the risen Christ goes before us, calling
us to follow.
My friends, I hope you will find grace to truly enter into this holy season and
(Rev.) John Moses
HOLY WEEK AND EASTER SERVICES
Palm Sunday, April 9, at 10:30 am
Maundy Thursday, Seder Meal, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and Jesus’
“last supper” with his disciples, April 13, 6:00 pm.
Good Friday Service, April 14, 10:30 am
Easter Sunrise Service at the French Cross in Morden, April 16, 6:30 am
(Followed by breakfast in the Morden hall.)
Easter Celebration Service with communion, 10:30 am.