This has been a bit of a mixed week for me. I’m writing before the tour group arrives (Thursday early evening) and my much-anticipated time in Jerusalem has been different than planned. Well, there wasn’t much of a plan to begin with, to be honest. I didn’t feel well much of the time, so I spent most of each day in my hotel. That’s really not a problem for me.
But one day I did get out. I wandered over the Garden Tomb. It’s one of my favorite spots in Jerusalem. I know it might not (probably not) be all that authentic — and I’m really into authentic. But it does take you back to what the Bible describes as the place of crucifixion and resurrection. It’s very special. And…they have a wonderful bookstore. That’s why I went.
It was before noon and I had hoped it would not be quite so crowded. But it is moving toward high tourist season, so it was, of course, busy. I could hardly move when I got in at first. But a large group was clearing out, but the Tomb was still crowded. I decided it would be best to head to the shop. It didn’t take long to find (and pay for) the items I needed.
After finishing my transactions, I wandered back out to explore the Garden. It was pretty amazing actually. If you’ve been, they have really organized it all — one way to the tomb and one way out. No posing at the entrance — and they are enlarging a platform just above the tomb for choirs and things. The privacy plywood was lovely. Not.
But the Tomb itself was empty. No, not just without the body of Jesus. I mean there was no one there. Really? I went down and enjoyed some moments in the space. It was special. The last few trips I’ve not even ventured down because it gets so crowded. And you get a moment with 10 of your closest friends inside the tomb. But not on this trip. I was alone in the tomb for at least five minutes.
I stood there gazing at the remnants of a first century tomb. Unfinished. The chambers just as John had described them. As I stood there, I thought…our entire faith is based on the veracity of this place. Or one nearby. We have staked everything on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we’ve had too many graveside services this year at Peninsula, and our hope is only in this: an empty tomb. We’ve staked it all. Life. Eternity. Hope. It all rests on whether or not Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.
I thought of Les and Eileen and Dolores and Georgia. These recent deaths have colored my view of where I was at that moment. Either Jesus takes us to heaven, or we have no chance of getting there. That is the truth of the empty tomb. “My hope is built on nothing less, that Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
If I did nothing else this week, I was reminded of the truth of resurrection. So now I’m ready to explore the rest of the story of God, as revealed by the land.