‘Seeing the stone removed’ - John 20:1-18

06 April 2022

We thank God that this Easter, restrictions have been removed that had prevented people visiting the Holy Land for the last couple of years, because of the coronavirus. The restrictions which have meant a lack of movement and freedom, have caused frustration for all around the world. Not being able to travel to meet loved ones or celebrate important milestones in each other’s lives in person. As restrictions began to lift for the fifth time it started to feel like it could be coming to an end, coming out of the dark tomb, into a place of resurrection, being able to breathe again, feel the sunshine, freedom, hope. But just as a new day was dawning, we were shocked by the horrors of an invasion unfolding, innocent people suffering, death, refugees.


Tales of bravery unfolded in the face of occupation, as many nations supported Ukraine. There was an expectation the war would be over quickly, how wrong the experts were, they had not taken into account the boldness, bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people. They weren’t prepared for the people to fight for their land, the future of their families, a future of a life of democracy, holding on to hope.

Here in the Holy land, tourists are returning, pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem during Lent on a personal journey to the place where hope was born. Once again, crowds will lift their palms shouting ‘Hosanna’, as full of joy, they walk down the Mount of Olives singing their praises ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’. There will be services throughout Holy Week preparing hearts to celebrate Easter joy. We will praise God for ‘the stone that was removed’, not removed to let Jesus out of the tomb, but to let the disciples enter and see it was empty. We will rejoice and give thanks for the resurrection of Jesus, for the empty tomb, for death overcome. The disciples looked into the empty tomb and ‘believed’, Mary encountered the risen Christ on that glorious morning.  As we read the account we too are drawn into seeing the stone removed, and an empty tomb, to reflect and respond to the risen Christ, Christ is risen He is risen indeed!


As we journey towards Jerusalem this Easter through scripture and our worship, spare a thought for parts of the population here that haven’t yet seen physical stone walls be removed. Whose restrictions and right to freedom of movement is still not a reality. For those who long see an end to occupation, to travel the 6km down the road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, as we see in the artist’s impression of desires and hopes painted on the separation wall.  For those who hold onto resurrection hope, whose hearts turn to worship Christ from behind stone walls and for whom some still feel they live and glimpse his resurrection from inside a man-made tomb. As we pray for peace for Ukrainians and Russians, may we continue to pray for peace, and an end of all forms of occupation people here and others around the world face on a daily basis. Pray for peace as the most holy festivals Easter, Ramadan and the Passover are celebrated at the same time this year. A time intended for the three faiths to commemorate their precious festivals, that can easily become a time of restrictions, tensions, frustrations and violence.

May we this Easter in the Holy Land, and wherever we are in the world, lift our gaze, hearts, and worship to the Holy One, who removed the stone, who could not be contained by grave clothes and who rose from the injustice and pain. In suffering death love, life, hope and freedom were offered for all. May we long for and pray for such reality for all. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Blessed Easter from the place of hope. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!


Angleena Keizer
Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem