In the hustle and bustle of modern Jerusalem, there is a place of calm. A well-tended modern garden. The entrance is off a small street which feels like an alley. It has been known to be populated with pick-pocketers. I’ve known some to have fallen victim to their selfish traps. These days it is home to people trying to make another buck off a tourist or two.
When you enter the compound, you enter a sanctuary of sorts. More natural than a church, but to me just as sacred. The place is called, “The Garden Tomb.” On the far side of the grounds, you look down onto a bus station. Busy. Noisy. But as you look up, you gaze on a hill, which bears the faint markings of a skull. Could this be the place of the cross? It reminds you of the busy street which ran by the cross and the throngs of Passover guests coming and going on that Friday. Is this Calvary? Some think so.
Back inside the compound are all the remnants of ancient garden. There is a cistern and an olive press, hints of what was once a thriving garden. And there is a tomb, with a trough built in front to hold a rolling stone. The entrance is small, requiring you to bend over, as the New Testament describes. Everything the Gospels describe in their resurrection accounts is found here in this garden. Is this the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea? Some think so.
Of course, archeology argues for a different location for Calvary and the tomb of Joseph, home of the body of Jesus for three days. Archeology is probably correct. But the more authentic spot has been covered over with 2,000 years of “church.” I visit both places, but connect with the Garden Tomb, that small place of calm in the hustle and bustle of modern Jerusalem.
But it really doesn’t matter if the Savior died and rose within the confines of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or in the compound of the Garden Tomb. What matters is truth. What matters is the story.
On the door into the Garden Tomb is a verse that touches the heart of the Gospel: “He is not here, for He is risen.” It tells why a cruel death from nearly 2,000 years ago has and will have a lasting impact on the relationship between us and God. Jesus literally died for us – in our place He accepted the anger and the punishment of God for our sin. That is the message of this day, Resurrection Sunday, at either place.
But today makes me want to walk into that empty tomb. Again. One more time. He is risen. He is risen, indeed.