On one of my last days in Israel, I had the opportunity to physically walk through Holy Week as Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago — from His descent into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, walking along the Via Dolorosa, heading up to Golgotha, and ending at the Garden Tomb.

I was eager for this day to approach. Getting to physically walk through one of the most prominent, foundational stories of my faith is extraordinary; the fact I even had the opportunity is incredible.

But I ended the day feeling disappointed and ultimately unfulfilled.

Some could chalk it up to the sheer exhaustion of the trip — physically, mentally, and emotionally.

It has been almost a year since Israel, and I still feel overwhelmed (in a good way) by the information I learned on the trip. That, paired with 8 days of 12+ hours on your feet, can really wear a person down.

But no, that wasn’t why I felt upset after that day in Jerusalem.

It was the ticket booth at the Garden Tomb. The paved walkways with arrows pointing to the bathroom. The roped off sections of The Holy Sepulcher. The security camera inside of the tomb. The busses in the parking lot at the base of Calvary. All of it made me feel numb. And honestly, that feeling still lingers.

Jesus isn’t here. This is fake. This is purely for commercializing.

One of the supposed sites of Golgotha (on the left) at The Garden Tomb and a bus parking lot at the base.

I woke up this morning around 10am and hopped right on my laptop to look over a few papers for some students. And now I sit in our den room staring at the TV, watching my pastor move across the pixels.

Leading up to this Easter season, I find myself feeling the same way I did after that day in Jerusalem — unfulfilled.

I am unnerved by the colorful posts on Instagram. The “He is Risen” statuses. The photos of crosses on Facebook. The texts with flowers and hearts. And I am by no means discounting any of this — I’m guilty of it as well — and, like the ticket booth and the bathroom signs and the security cameras at the Garden Tomb, it’s all only with good intentions.

The line to enter the Garden Tomb.

And though, despite the good intentions, it still feels wrong. Skewed. Unbalanced.

There is no voice echoing from the kitchen reminding me that, “We’re gonna be late!” There is no ‘Easter Sunday best.’ There is no plan to meet up for lunch after the service. There is no Easter.

Or at least the Easter I have grown to know and love.

Just as Christ was not to be found in the tomb — Easter is not to be found in tradition.

Christ was guaranteed to be in the tomb — where else would He have gone? But He was not.

Easter is guaranteed to be in tradition — or so I thought. But it is not.

It is not in the flowery dresses. It is not in the delicious ham my Aunt makes. It is not in the colorful plastic eggs we hide. It is not even in the church service we attend every year.

And now, I would love to wrap this up in a neat little bow. This story begins with a conflict and should end with a resolution, right?

Well, I am still trying to find it.

There’s a lot I don’t know. I find myself excited and intimidated by that truth.

But the reinstatement of Peter serves as a reminder of what I do know.

John 21:15–17

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

View of Old City Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.