18 months ago, Kimberly and I got to go to Israel. I wrote the following post after visiting the empty tomb. Join us at Wildwood this weekend as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection together and its implications for our lives. Join us Good Friday at 6:00 or 7:30 or Easter Sunday at 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00.
Just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s old city, nestled between mosques, coffee shops, parking lots, and a cemetery sits the most historically important location in the history of the world. It is here (at a location now called “The Garden Tomb”) that Jesus most likely was crucified, buried, and resurrected.
Of course, we cannot know for certain that this is the actual location of these events, but it is very probable. The Romans typically crucified their prisoners outside the city walls along major highways. This was meant to both humiliate those being executed and serve as a deterrent to all who passed by. The traditional site of the crucifixion (the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) is actually inside the city, making it unlikely that Jesus was killed there.
Furthermore, three of the four Gospel writers describe Jesus death as occurring at the “place of the skull” or “Golgotha.” Inside the “Garden Tomb” complex is a hillside with three distinct caves located on it side facing Jerusalem . . . that look like the openings of two eyes and a nose on a human skull.
Also, this skull-like hill set alongside a prominent highway in the first century . . . the Road to Damascus. Again, this makes this site consistent with the kinds of places where Romans crucified prisoners.
Finally, in close proximity to Golgotha was a Garden where Joseph of Arimathea would have buried Jesus quickly after His death. Archaeological evidence has confirmed various olive presses in this “garden” as well as a cave like tomb.
All this makes it probable that the Garden Tomb (or someplace like it close by) is the location of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Or course, I say “probable” because we cannot really know for sure. The reason why we can’t know for sure is because JESUS IS NOT THERE! HE IS RISEN!!!!!
In the summer of 1995 I was a part of a 6 week mission trip to Russia. On our way out of the country, we stopped in Moscow and visited Red Square. While there, I walked inside Lenin’s Tomb and saw the father of Soviet communism literally floating in formaldehyde. His tomb was occupied. This made my visit to Red Square historical, but but holy.
Visiting the Garden Tomb however, was totally different. The tomb was empty, therefore my eternity can be full. Jesus was indeed the Son of God, punctuated by His triumph over the grave. The resurrection is an overwhelmingly powerful piece of historical evidence pointing to the fact that Jesus Christ is indeed the promised Savior of the world.
As we visited the tomb, one by one, we entered the tomb, then emerged (most of the time with tears in our eyes.) I sat there watching all 40 of my travel mates walk into and out of the tomb. It was a reminder to me of Romans 6:3-4. These verses say:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
When we trust in Christ, it is as if we were buried with Christ. We walk with Him into the tomb and leave behind all our sin. Then we get to walk out of the tomb identified with Christ and able to live in a newness of eternal life. It was a tomb baptism of sorts.
How about you? Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins? Have you identified with His death, burial and resurrection? If not, you need not enter the Garden Tomb literally. By faith, you can spiritually identify with Him and be saved.
He is not there. He is risen just as they said!