I had hoped to post this blog on Easter Sunday, but God had other plans. Perhaps it would have been too seamless in its timing (I thought it couldn’t be any more perfect) or it might have been too easily forgotten due to all the activity of the day. After all, Easter Sunday is a huge day when we (as the church) pull out all the stops—unleash all the bells and whistles—because we know we have an opportunity to share the gospel with people who may not return to our churches again until next Easter. In retrospect, I think God wants to remind all of us that Easter is not a day we celebrate once a year, but a quality of life we are to experience every day for the rest of eternity as believers.
The greatest event of human history took place in a tomb in Jerusalem in those moments where darkness gave way to light and another day dawned. Except on this day—something occurred that had never happened before—God raised His beloved Son Jesus (who had been crucified three days earlier) from death by the power of the Holy Spirit. That one act changed everything. Death and the grave were defeated and Satan’s back was broken as Jesus stepped forth from the tomb—alive! That resurrection, that transforming act of God’s power, declared that the full payment of sin’s debt offered by Jesus was sufficient and accepted by God the Father. O, what must it have been like to be the first to look inside and hear those amazing words: “Why do you look for the Living One among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!
Every pilgrim who travels to Israel longs for that moment when they will see the empty tomb. It is the highlight of not just the trip but a lifetime. Faith becomes sight and praise erupts from deep within your spirit and soul. But…there is one tiny problem. No one is 100% sure where the tomb is exactly located. In fact there are four or five locations that claim to be the one and only true site. Just a note here, no matter which location is the true one—the reality is they are all empty. Jesus is not there; He has risen!
It is my own personal belief that the tomb is probably located in the Church
of the Holy Sepulcher, a site venerated since the 4th century. This is the same church I mentioned in an earlier blog about the site of Golgotha or Calvary. Eusebius, an early church father, claimed this spot had been a place of veneration since the first century, but that Emperor Hadrian covered the site with earth and desecrated it in the 2nd century by building a temple to the goddess Aphrodite. Emperor Constantine later ordered the temple
demolished, the soil removed and a church constructed which connected the sites of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Tradition says that much of the rock face surrounding the tomb was removed, and today within the church is a marble rotunda (a small building) which supposedly encloses the tomb. Currently the veracity of that claim cannot be verified due to the site being covered in marble. Though this is probably the true site, it is impossible to visualize what it looked like that first Resurrection morning.
Anglicans and a few Protestant groups claim the Garden Tomb (another site) as the place of the Resurrection, but this site has no historical patina before 1883—no tradition to back up the claim. But if you want to see what an actual first century tomb looked like, this one fits the biblical description, and here you can celebrate a memorable communion. It is a wonderful place to contemplate, pray and travel with your imagination back in time 2,000 years to that fateful moment when Christ arose.
In the end it’s not the site that proves the event. We don’t worship sites—we worship the Risen Lord Jesus! That assurance of the Resurrection is voiced throughout the whole realm of Christendom, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, in these simple words—“Jesus is not here. He has risen!”