With COVID restrictions lifted, Christians were finally able to gather Sunday for the first time in three years to attend morning services at The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
British-born Pastor Stephen Bridge, director of The Garden Tomb, told those attending the 6:30 a.m. sunrise service that he and his colleagues weren’t sure how many people would show up this year.
They had originally planned only one in-person English language service at 9:00 a.m., which would also be live-streamed globally.
But "sensing the Lord’s encouragement," Bridge decided to hold the sunrise service after all.
Bridge said he was stunned to see the garden’s seating completely packed, with many having to stand in the back and on the sides through the worship, prayer time and teaching from the Bible.
Between the two English-language services and the noon Scandinavian service, several thousand Christians worshipped at The Garden Tomb on Sunday.
“Located just outside the city walls of Jerusalem you will find The Garden Tomb, a possible location for the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus,” notes the ministry’s website. “Near to the Damascus Gate and standing in the shadow of Skull Hill you will find this beautiful garden with its ancient empty tomb. Since 1894 the focus of our ministry is Worship and Witness, as we declare the victory of the risen Christ.”
TEACHING THE GOSPEL ACCOUNTS
In addition to classic worship songs and hymns about the death and resurrection of Jesus, numerous Biblical passages were read, including the account of the first Easter Sunday as recorded in the Gospel According to Luke.
The interchange between Jesus and Martha — just before Jesus raises Martha’s brother, Lazarus, from the dead, was also recounted.
THE CENTRAL TEXT OF THE MORNING
The main focus of Bridge’s message was the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the followers of Jesus in the Greek city of Corinth.
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
“Resurrection changed everything,” Bridge said. “There's no doubt that the victory was won on the cross. It was at the cross that Jesus destroyed the powers of Satan and took everything upon himself. And He did say, ‘It is finished.’ And when they laid him in the tomb, his spirit was already with the father into your hands. ‘Father, I commend my spirit.’ And he breathed his last.
“The job [of conquering the curse of sin and death] was done on what we call Good Friday, but the victory was revealed on Easter Sunday and it has transformed the world,” Bridge continued.
Bridge went on to share how his faith fundamentally transformed his own life and gave several examples of how God had answered his fervent prayers and healed his father of a serious heart condition, as well as his son of chronic fatigue.
“We don't get all the healing we want or need this side of the resurrection, our resurrection,” Bridge noted. “But healing has been released into the world. And God does restore broken lights. Physically, mentally, spiritually, he brings restoration to those that he loves. That’s why he came….So, if at any point in your life you're suffering under the destructive powers of the evil one, for this purpose, Christ was revealed to destroy that thing that's assailing your lives. He's here to heal now.”