Visiting Golgotha and the Garden Tomb

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Garden Tomb

(This Resurrection weekend series sprung forth from our Israel tour back in November, but I have been yearning to share it with you again! Enjoy!)

For Christians, it is hard to imagine a sight of greater significance than the Garden Tomb. To step inside the garden is to step into one of the most peaceful places on earth, despite the chaotic neighborhood in which it nestles! While we can’t be 100% certain this is THE place where our Lord Jesus was buried and rose again on the third day, we CAN be sure of one thing: wherever He was laid, He DID rise again! To be onsite, visualizing that infamous day almost 2,000 years ago, peering into an empty tomb, knowing Jesus defeated death once and for all…well, it’s just more than one can process.

Whether you have actually been to Israel to experience this, or you are living vicariously through these posts and photos, I want this to be a special time, so please put everything else aside, stop to consider the day, stop to consider the setting, and come along as I take you on the journey.

In your mind, transport yourself back in time to that Friday. We now call it Good Friday, but for Jesus, there was little “good” in it. Ironically, the “good” has been accounted to you and me, as it was the day our Sacrificial Lamb paid the ultimate price to forgive our sins.

Yesterday, we left off at Caiaphas’ house, where Jesus was imprisoned in the midst of 6 illegal trials. (If you missed it, now is a great time to go back and read it. Then, return to this post.)

We know the outcome of those trials…they could find no guilt, yet the people called for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. (Ironically, “Barabbas” means “son of the father” in Hebrew.)

Meanwhile, Peter had denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of Caiaphas, and Jesus was ultimately dragged from that place across town before finally carrying His cross to Mt Calvary. What did that scene look like?

All four gospels record that Jesus was taken to Golgotha (“Place of the Skull”), to be crucified. (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33 and John 19:17) Immediately adjacent to the Garden Tomb stands a skull-like hill, though an Arab bus station below and the work of heavy equipment above have begun to destroy the face-like features. Until the nose crumbled a few years ago, here is what Golgotha looked like:

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Place of the Skull

Stop to consider that the main thoroughfare to Damascus ran right alongside that hill. Contrary to modern-day depictions, Jesus was not crucified at the top of the hill, but rather at the bottom, along the road, where passersby could easily mock Him and spit upon Him.

Picture the plight of Jesus in your mind. Sweating drops of blood while disciples slept…betrayal unto death by a disciple…6 illegal trials and imprisonments…triple denial by one of His closest friends…beating and scourging that would kill most humans…a crown of thorns…nails in His hands and feet…nakedness and degradation…His Father turning His back, as Jesus took on the guilt and shame of all the sin of the world…”Father, why have you forsaken Me?”…suffocation on a cruel Roman cross…

As you get a glimpse in pictures, hopefully the Bible comes to life, even in Jesus’ death. Put yourself at the foot of Golgotha, then in the adjacent garden. With those images as a backdrop, consider these words:

Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

~John 19:41

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 

~Matthew 27:57-60

Can you see it in your mind’s eye? This garden, literally adjacent to Golgotha, was home to a rich man’s tomb, that of Joseph of Arimathea. In those days, a rich man had things others didn’t. A wine press…a garden with a large cistern…a very large tomb hewn out of stone (not a cave).

All those things are found here. Indeed, Jesus’ body was laid in a tomb very similar to, if not the actual tomb we see today at the Garden Tomb. It is hewn from stone, it is large enough for the placement of two bodies (likely meant for Joseph of Arimathea and his wife) plus a weeping chamber. Only a rich man would have such a tomb.

This tomb was new at that time. In fact, it appears to be unfinished, as the chamber on the right (#7 in the diagram) seems to illustrate. Many believe this is the actual place in which Jesus laid. Imagine standing in this weeping chamber, gazing upon the place our Risen Savior once laid. The Bible is alive!

Oh how I long to share more, but it will have to wait. Meanwhile, please read at least one of these “Friday chapters”: Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 or John 19, using the pictures here to help you visualize it.

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming!

Shalom friends!

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