Home » Holy Land » Step 5: Light swallows darkness: The Garden Tomb
  • Step 5: Light swallows darkness: The Garden Tomb

    The shadow of death, the wound of betrayal, the momentary abandonment – all bowed their knees to HIM who conquered death. The grave is empty. Indeed He is risen.

    From those who have suffered the most often comes the greatest fruits of life. Fill your life with HIS Light,

    Learn to respond and not to retaliate. 

    This picturesque tomb and surrounding garden was bought in 1894 by a British trust that wanted to preserve this place, because they thought it to be the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as recorded in Matthew 27:57-61: “As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”

    It is impossible to say for sure if this is where Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, but if it isn’t the site, many think that it should be on beauty alone. The other option is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is a dark and gaudy religious place spoiled by a massive building. If this garden is not the actual spot, and many contest that it is not, it seems to be more of the sort of place we think of as an Easter event, especially with Golgotha so close.

    At least two questions must be addressed, but the academic debate between the two places will probably remain unresolved. First, what is the evidence for the Garden Tomb according to the Gospels (Matthew 28:8; Mark 15:42-47, 16:1-8; Luke 23:50 to 24:12; John 19:41-42; Hebrews 13:12)? • Excavations prove it to be a garden (a wine press and a cistern were found there).

    • It is outside the old walls of Jerusalem.

    • There is a rocky cliff nearby with the face of a skull in it (now a bus station).

    • It is near the city gate (the Damascus Gate).

    • The cliff is thought to have been a place of execution.

    • A stone gutter for a large stone to roll over the entrance is in front of it.

    • The tomb is cut out of the rock.

    • It has a low entrance that forces you to bend over.

    • Golgotha and the tomb are close to each other, as the Sabbath “hurry” required.

    • There are evidences of ancient Christian veneration on site (crosses, etc.). And secondly, how did it become the main challenge to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s claim?

    In 1841, Dr. Robinson began the debate when he wrote, “Golgotha and the Tomb shown in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are not upon the real places of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.” He concluded this because the traditional location was now within the city walls and contradicted the biblical account, although Hadrian constructed these walls 100 years later.

    In 1883, British General Charles Gordon identified the rocky cliff area as the “place of the Skull” mentioned in the Gospels, and then found a nearby empty tomb (interesting that no bones were in it at all). This skull face image in the cliff, which was only a few hundred yards from the tomb, convinced him that he had found the death and burial site of Jesus. It does look like what we would envision His tomb to be, and locals point out the garden mentioned in Scripture required a water source…and the cistern nearby meets that criteria. There is also a wine press that confirms this was a working garden-farm. Looking inside at the resting place is eerie, but actually going inside is even more remarkable!

    The small room is a two-chambered tomb, chiseled for the burial of three people on ledges, head to foot (the benches for the bodies have long been removed). Whether or not it is His tomb, the carved out sepulcher is quietly spectacular, and gives you a good idea of what the grave of the Messiah may have looked like. There is even a rutted ramp alongside its exterior for a stone to roll into place!

    The important fact remains, and all of Christianity stands or falls on this resurrection event, that it isn’t where it happened exactly…it’s the fact that it did happen. And despite the location debate, you are standing in the very city where He rose again, as it is written! “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

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