Walking the Easter Streets Again

Pause for a moment and place yourself within the Easter story again

by Rev Dr Melinda Cousins

[6 minute read - plus pauses for reflection]

 

As followers of Jesus, the Easter story shapes our reality and reframes how we live in this world. As Christian leaders, we are often busy in this season crafting and preparing ways for others to experience anew the power of this story – and this year we find ourselves doing so in a rapidly changing context, through digital means and online gatherings, amidst fear and doubt. Perhaps now more than ever, it is good for us to make time to revisit this story for ourselves; to bring ourselves again to the source of our hope and the events that make us who we are.

Two years ago, I spent Easter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Being in the places where these events took place, walking the paths Jesus walked, sitting in the spaces made by believers over centuries to remember, brought a palpable sense of ‘groundedness’ to the story. We follow a God who stepped into real places in real time in our real world … and changed everything. I would love to take you all to Jerusalem to experience this, but we all know that’s not our reality this year. That’s okay, because the Easter story transcends time and place and opens new life wherever we are. Perhaps reflecting on the times and places of it again will renew and refresh us as we live in and out of this story. I invite you to join me in walking these ancient Easter streets …

The streets and laneways around the Western Wall are packed with crowds, shoulder to shoulder as far as the eye can see, to welcome the Jewish Passover. As the ram’s horn is lifted high to sound the opening note, the masses break into songs of jubilant celebration for God’s redemption of his people.

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT and imagine yourself in the ancient Passover crowd. The hustle and bustle, the exuberant singing and dancing, the community proclaiming God’s deliverance in the past. The anticipation building that perhaps one day God might again step in to rescue us.

The narrow sidestreets are bathed in lamplight as people hurry to the houses where their Passover meals are being prepared. Our small gathering washes one another’s feet, lights candles, speaks blessings, reads from the Torah, breaks bread, and shares wine.

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT and see yourself at the Passover meal with Jesus and his disciples. A familiar liturgy, the recitation of ancient promises, and then the unexpected declaration from the Messiah himself. “This is my body. This is my blood.” He will be the sacrifice. He is God’s redemption.

The street to Gethsemane is more path than street, winding its way through the Kidron Valley, up the hill, through the olive groves to the peaceful garden. A sombre church stands there today, where pilgrims pray in the darkened cloisters, while outside the twisted branches of ancient olive trees bear witness to the centuries this has been a place of prayer.

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT and kneel beside the Son. Feel the sweat dripping from his brow, the anguish in his cry to the Father, “Take this cup. Yet not my will but yours.” He chooses this path he will walk for us.

The cobblestone streets of the Old City after midnight Thursday are deserted. The recently discovered ruins of Herod’s palace loom nearby, and a glance at the church with cell-like caves beneath it sends shivers down my spine. Feeling unsafe, I hurry to my room, dragging my luggage behind. I think of the One who was dragged through these streets after his arrest on this night. From one official to another, trial to trial, false accusation to false accusation.

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT and feel the tension, the confusion, the fear. The injustice and yet the resignation of the One who has committed himself into the Father’s hands.

The street called Via Dolorosa is crowded Friday morning. I begin my walk down the Way of the Cross at the Roman Praetorium, in the courtyard where judgment was pronounced. Through the humming city streets, feeling the weight of the cross I do not carry, I enter through the heavy doors into the church built upon the rock known as Golgotha. Visiting pilgrims fling themselves prostrate, sobbing on the stone.

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT and lie with them, entering into the burden of the afternoon when the world went dark. The weight of sin and suffering placed on the Saviour. Then hear his victory cry, “It is done.”

The streets are strangely normal Saturday; people go about their business as if nothing has changed. I find myself disoriented, uncertain, in the liminal space of this day in between. Between mourning and celebration, betwixt death and life.

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT and join the disciples there, in the clouded space between secured redemption and certain hope. This day of questioning, of not quite daring yet to hope. Waiting and yearning that this might not be the end.

The streets are quiet early Sunday morning, before the city comes to life. As I rush to the garden tomb before sunrise, I think of the women making this journey so many years before. The miracle they witnessed alone is one I join with thousands from across the globe to celebrate in song, declaring in unison our simple creed, “He is risen indeed.”

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT in wonder and listen to the angel’s invitation. Join in the proclamation of the greatest truth the world has ever known. Resurrection: new life, new day, new hope.

The street leading to the town of Emmaus early Monday morning witnesses a group of pilgrims begin their long day’s trek, tracing the steps of two disciples long ago. Beginning again the everyday task of walking with Jesus, listening to his words, becoming aware of his presence.

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT, look at your own feet, and begin to walk with them. How will the Easter story speak again into your everyday journey?

This is the story that shapes us. There are many other stories being told and shared and lived out of. But as followers of Jesus, it is the events of Easter that redefine us and reframe how we live. May the Easter story remind us of who we are, refresh us in our faith, and reinvigorate us in our ministry this year.