Posted by: Robin | March 24, 2008

A Visit to the Tomb

garden-tomb.jpgSeveral years ago I spent eight weeks in Europe, Turkey and ten days in Israel. In Israel I saw all the traditional Christian sites. Five days into my stay I thought if I heard a guide say one more time, “This is the traditional sight Jesus . . .” I thought I’d scream. Some of it was pretty inventive though, like the donkey herder who said I could ride on his donkey who was the direct descendent of the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on, and the Arab owner of the traditional site from which Jesus ascended who pointed to an indentation in the rock and said, “That is Jesus’ heel mark from where he pushed off.” The hardest things for me to get enthusiastic about were the sites that are covered by churches. Not being from a liturgical tradition the icons and incense at the Church of the Holy Sepluchre and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem were a little hard to appreciate.

By the time we visited the Garden Tomb, an alternate site for Jesus’ tomb overseen by the Anglican church, I was pretty jaded. (See http://www.gardentomb.com/) Though it is unlikely to be the authentic tomb of Jesus, at least it was a tomb cut out of rock with ledges for bodies and a large cover stone of the kind a wealthy man of 30 AD like Joseph of Arimathea  would have had. I walked in dutifully, appreciated it being incense-free, and thought, “Whoopty-doo! An empty tomb carved out of stone!” I started to walk out. Then it hit me. The tomb is empty!  The tomb is empty! He is not here! On this day that we Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, I remember that visceral realization with gratitude.

In Israel I saw a night sky of amazing clarity filled with a greater riot of stars than I had ever seen before. I understood why David sang of them in the Psalms. I saw how huge the waves can get on the Sea of Galillee and appreciated better how frightening it would be to be caught on it in a storm. I appreciated the roughness of the terrain and the distances Jesus and the disciples walked. The Old Quarter in Jerusalem gave me a sense of what a narrow maze of streets the city must have been two-thousand years ago. I saw how tiny a mustard seed was and how huge and sharp the native thorns were. I thought seeing where Christ was born, crucified and entombed would be significant. They were not, but being able to more accurately imagine the thirty-three years Jesus lived in that place in between Christmas and Holy Week was very significant. It is life that makes the difference. The tomb is empty. “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.'” (I Cor. 15:54b)

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Responses

  1. He is risen indeed

  2. Good point, it is life that makes the difference.


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