Faith

Come & See. Go & Tell. — Easter & the Garden Tomb

Happy Easter!  He is risen!

It’s hard to believe how quickly Easter came this year.  It feels like just the other day that Lent started, and we began our journey through 40 days on the way to Easter Sunday.  I am fortunate to have been able to spend some of Lent in the Holy Land and see some of the locations so important to my faith in-person.  (You can follow along here.)  After coming back to the U.S. for a family wedding, Craig and I had thought about quickly heading out of the country to experience Easter in another country, but we decided to spend the holiday with my family.  After eight months away and not having been with my family for Easter since high school (I think…), it was great to be back in South Carolina and celebrating the risen Christ with those who mean so much to me.

This Sunday’s story is one the most people are familiar with.  For Christians, it is one of the most joyous times of the year.  We celebrate a God who is not dead but who lives among us.  We celebrate victory over the grave.  After the sadness and grief of Holy Week, we approach the tomb and find it empty.  But, as the angels say to the women who come to the tomb:  “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”  (Luke 24:5-6)

This week, I want to share with you photos of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, Israel.  Located in East Jerusalem, the Garden Tomb is considered an alternative site for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  (The primary site is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.)  Historically, the Garden Tomb does not have much support for being the actual location of the events at the end of the life of Jesus; however, the garden does serve as a base for many Protestant groups (who do not have areas set aside for them in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as Catholics, Orthodox, and others do) to hold services, serve communion, etc.  The Garden Tomb has faced much criticism for claims of being the site of the crucifixion; however, even the site’s website says: “We never claim to be in the right place as we could never prove that;  but where Jesus died is of little importance compared with why.”  And, according to Lonely Planet Israel & the Palestinian Territories, a Catholic priest who visited the site said, “If the Garden Tomb is not the true site of the Lord’s death and resurrection it should have been.”

Path through the Garden Tomb site in East Jerusalem. Many believe that this area could be the garden of Joseph of Arimathea where Jesus was buried after the crucifixion. The Garden Tomb’s brochure says, “The Garden certainly fits the details described in the Gospel accounts and it helps many to imagine the wonderful events of the first Easter morning.”

 

Space for worship and reflection in the Garden Tomb

 

Space for worship and reflection in the Garden Tomb

 

Space for worship and reflection in the Garden Tomb

 

Regardless of who is right and where the exact spot of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the Garden Tomb, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, are beautiful places to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made and what his death means for us today…

 

Mark 16:1-8 (NRSV)

“When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 

Adjacent to the area of the Garden Tomb is a place called Skull Hill. In 1842, German scholar Otto Thenius noted that this could be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion as the Bible states: “Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.” (John 19:17-18)

The brochure for the Garden Tomb also says: “The Bible also tells us that ‘at the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no-one had ever been laid.’ (John 19:41).  That tomb (and presumably also the garden) belonged to Joseph of Arimathea…who was given special permission to bury the body of Jesus in his nearby tomb before the start of the Jewish Sabbath. The discovery of both an ancient tomb and a Roman era winepress so close to Skull Hill conforms well with that description.”

 

As you can see here, the Garden Tomb is really in the middle of East Jerusalem. Outside the walls of the Old City, Skull Hill (left) is beside both the garden and the East Jerusalem Bus Station, which provides transportation to many areas of the West Bank/Palestine. Today, the Garden is owned and administered by The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, a Charitable Trust based in the United Kingdom.

 

They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.

 

In the Garden Tomb complex is an actual tomb that visitors can enter. Unearthed in 1867, the exact date of the tomb is unknown. While the entrance to the tomb was damaged, potentially by an earthquake, one can see that it was cut out of the rock rather than being a natural cave. Inside, the tomb is an area for mourners, as well as an area for bodies to be laid to rest. Outside, visitors can see a track for a large stone to be rolled to cover the tomb. The Garden Tomb brochure notes that the tomb was used at various points during history, including by Christians in the Byzantine and Crusader periods.

 

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 

 

Me entering the tomb during my visit

 

A Byzantine cross is painted over the area where bodies were laid to rest inside the tomb.

 

But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 

 

The door now covering the entrance to the tomb.

 

But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Leaving the tomb and reflecting on the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection

Dusk falling on the Garden Tomb site in East Jerusalem.

 

This is the Word of God, for the People of God.  Thanks be to God.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Ron
    July 15, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Thank you, Madam !

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