PASCO -- From time to time, the Jewish Passover and the Christian celebration of Easter fall on the same weekend, as they did earlier this month.
This is appropriate given that the stories of the deliverance of the Jews from death in Egypt and of the resurrection of Jesus both point to a common principle: Our faith in God is more powerful than our most vexing obstacles, even death itself, no matter where or who we are.
Some years ago while living in the Middle East, my family and I visited Jerusalem during Easter weekend. I remember the thrill as we wandered through the markets of the city finding ourselves actually standing on -- or in or near -- places of sacred significance for so many people. And yet, I couldn't seem to muster much more than a tourist-like fascination.
"Where was the spiritual witness?" I wondered.
The next morning, Easter Sunday, we woke up early and made our way to a worship service being held at the Garden Tomb just outside the ancient walls of the Old City.
As the preacher taught that morning, my eyes and mind drifted past him to the wooden door placed at the entrance of the tomb itself. Now closed, this door had written on it the phrase, "He is not here, He is Risen."
It was then that this spiritual insight came: I had traveled across the world seeking communication with God when, in fact, I was no closer to or farther from him at that moment than when I was in Washington.
I realized that the grand lesson of the resurrection is that God is not bound by geography or time, and that I can find strength from him anywhere, anytime.
This can be a refreshing perspective when considering very difficult afflictions, such as death or suffering, but also in the face of less intense -- though often more common -- afflictions like unemployment, an aching back, or a bad hair day.
I recently related this experience to a group of inmates in prison. Even in that hopeless place, these men grasped the hope of this eternal message.
The empty tomb is a reminder, not only of God's ability to overcome even the most profound afflictions, but also that he is alive and able to help us overcome them as well. And as long as our attention is focused on eternal things such as God and relationships and the human soul, the struggles of life become in the words of the apostle Paul, "light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV)
As the preacher closed his sermon that Easter morning in Jerusalem, he reminded us that Jesus taught, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20 KJV) The spiritual witness that came was a loving reminder that I didn't have to go to Jerusalem to find him.
He is not there. He is risen!
* Jeffrey T. Larson is second counselor in the presidency of the Pasco, Wash., North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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