IVP - Online Pulpit - Easter Reflections

April 28, 2011

Easter Reflections

By Mae Elise Cannon

During this Easter season, I am reminded of the great privilege of living in the Holy Land, with the opportunity to spend significant time in many of the places where Jesus lived and ministered during his time on earth. The Mount of Olives is one of my favorite places to sit, reflect and worship. Overlooking the city of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives reminds us of the time Jesus spent on the earth and also the promise that one day there will be a New Jerusalem:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev 21:1-3)

Jesus’ time on the earth not only ministered to people in the “here and now” but also provided the promise for a different future.

Dominus Flevit

Walking down from the top of the Mount of Olives, there is a church that commemorates the site where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. The church is called Dominus Flevit, which means “The Lord wept.” As Jesus was descending the Mount of Olives on the road to Jerusalem, the people began to worship him. They spread their cloaks in the road and waved palm branches as he passed. These disciples cried out: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Lk 19:38). When Jesus saw Jerusalem, he was deeply troubled. The Scriptures tell us in Luke 19:41-42:

As he [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

Jesus grieved over the brokenness that he saw in the city of Jerusalem and in the world. The people of Jerusalem missed their opportunity; they failed to see “the time of God’s coming.” It was as if Jesus’ disciples understood bits and pieces of Jesus’ message, but didn’t have a comprehensive picture of what was happening or what was yet to transpire.

Garden of Gethsemane

As one proceeds down the steep incline on the Mount of Olives, a pilgrim will come across a large church commemorating the possible site of the Garden of Gethsemane. However, on the other side of the street, away from the hordes of tourists and the thousands of people who come to visit the Church of All Nations (or the Church of the Agony), there is an olive garden hidden in the recesses that is often quiet and peaceful. This is a profound place to reflect on the struggling of Jesus when he was in the garden with the disciples on the night before his crucifixion. This is very close to the place where Jesus would have uttered these words (Lk 22:42): “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Although the disciples had fallen asleep, we are told that Jesus was not alone. “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him” (Lk 22:43). However, Jesus was in anguish and “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Lk 22:44). I have heard some say that Jesus’ wrestling in the Garden of Gethsemane is indication of Jesus’ humanity; an argument against his divinity. However, I believe that Jesus’ wrestling in this garden is one of the most profound glimpses of the true miracle of Jesus’ incarnation: Christ as fully human, fully divine. Christ willingly entered into the suffering of humanity. The wrestling of Christ indicates the deepest form of empathy and compassion as he sacrificed himself to carry out the will of God; “not my will, but yours be done.”

Golden Gate

If one continues to walk past the Garden of Gethsemane, through the Kidron Valley and up to the Old City of Jerusalem, one can see the “Golden Gate” or the “Gate of Eternal Life.” It is believed that this gate to the Old City is where the Messiah will appear again when he returns (Ezek 44:1-3). In ancient times this gate was known as “Beautiful Gate.” In 1541, the gate was sealed by the Ottoman leader Suleiman I in order to prevent the return of the Messiah. Looking upon the gate, there are thousands and thousands of graves which surround it—the burial place of many hoping to be the first to rise when the Messiah comes again. The Golden Gate is a reminder to Christ followers of the hope that we profess in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Our Lord and Savior is one who lived and suffered on this earth. He understands our every need and sorrow; he gives us joy and hope for the future restoration of his creation. As we reflect on this Easter season, co-workers and laborers in the ministry of the gospel, may we: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” for “the Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).

cannonOP.jpgMae Elise Cannon served as Executive Pastor of Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Creek, CA and is currently living in the Holy Land. She also wrote the Social Justice Handbook.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at April 28, 2011 11:49 AM Bookmark and Share

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