Every year at Easter time, millions turn their thoughts to the Holy Land. One year I visited the Holy Land with the desire to discover for myself the miracle of Easter. I found much that helped, but I learned that I didn’t really have to travel around the world to discover Easter. When I returned, I found what I sought in my own backyard.
Some archaeologists say the Garden Tomb is a possible burial place of Jesus. Tradition and the Bible seem to agree. (See John A. Tvedtnes, “The Garden Tomb,” Ensign, Apr. 1983, pp. 8–14.) When President Harold B. Lee visited the site, he gave what many believe was a spiritual confirmation of this sacred place: “Something seemed to impress us as we stood there,” he said, “that this was the holiest place of all, and we fancied we could have witnessed the dramatic scene that took place there.” (Ensign, Apr. 1972, p. 6.)
The Garden Tomb is in a quiet garden away from the noise of the crowded markets and shops in Old Jerusalem. After walking out of the Damascus Gate, a major entrance to the Old City, we crossed the road and walked up a sidewalk to the walled-in garden.
It is a peaceful place. The ancient trees create archways overhead that sway and bow in the afternoon breeze. Flowers of every color line the walkways. A tomb is carved out of the stone hill in one part of the garden. Still visible are the grooves, or trough, where a large stone was once rolled in front of it. This is perhaps one of the loveliest places in Israel.
But as I climbed a hill in back of the garden and looked toward Golgotha or “the place of a skull” (See John 19:17), where Jesus is said to have been crucified, I heard the noises of heavy traffic and the shouts of angry bus drivers, and I smelled exhaust fumes in the air. The abrupt contrast was disappointing.
I walked back into the garden and sat down on a bench to think. The sun, beginning to dip into the western horizon, shone and glistened off the leaves in the garden. The shadows of nature began to crawl across the garden floor. The wind sent leaves twirling to the ground.
I began to notice what was happening around me. The leaves that were falling to the ground would become a part of the earth through which new life would emerge next spring. Winter would come, leaving the limbs of the trees dark and bare. But spring would follow, and small buds of leaves would again curl outward from the seeming death of winter.
I realized that the cycle of life in this garden was an eternal round. The seasons brought changes, but each season was part of a plan of living and dying and living again. And I felt at that moment that I, too, was part of the same plan.
As I saw the sun setting, I knew that the next morning I would see the beginning of a new day: the sun would rise again in the eastern sky, changing the blackness of night into the light of day.
I suddenly realized that whether I was in the Garden Tomb in Israel—or in my back yard enjoying the sunset or watching the leaves falling off our own trees—the miracle of Easter was going on everywhere around me and within me every day. The whole earth, indeed, is holy land—a witness of the Resurrection.
As I walked away from the garden that evening, I knew—as so many who have visited Israel have come to realize—that the place itself neither provides nor withholds a spiritual experience. Sacred feelings won’t automatically be felt there; in fact, they may come at any place and at any time if we are receptive. For that reason, my family can experience the significance of Easter at home just as deeply as someone who is privileged to spend Easter morning sitting quietly on a bench in that sacred garden.
I don’t need to return to Israel to experience the significance of the event that took place there. The miracles of Easter are manifest all around us every day—and most wonderfully, within ourselves.