It is difficult to put into words how vividly your Bible comes to life as you gaze upon the very places from where Scripture was written. For example, how vividly we imagine the crucifixion when standing “face-to-face” with Golgotha, the hill where Jesus was crucified. Some of you have been there, and perhaps these pictures will transport you back there.
Some of you have not been there. Words are inadequate to do it justice, but I’m asking the Lord to supernaturally paint pictures in your mind, perhaps via the pictures shared, so your Bible goes from black and white to living color, just as it did for our tour group in November.
Yesterday we revisited Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. It is especially here where I hope pictures are superimposed in your mind, transporting you to that history-changing weekend! Jesus died at Golgotha and He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Yes, He would rise again, but I wonder: was that really on everyone’s mind? I don’t think so! Short of understanding Jesus’ veiled promise that He would rise again in three days, how would they have known? And even if they had known, what would life have been like in those hours “in between?”
Remember, it was the time of Passover, and the city of Jerusalem was packed, as it is during modern-day Passover commemorations. (See picture above, on the left.) In those days, the Temple still stood, and was the center of activity as the Passover lamb was sacrificed. Today, the Temple is no more, and the Western Wall is the holy sight Jews flock to at Passover and other feasts.
Can you picture the One born in nearby Bethlehem, where sacrificial lambs were born? What about the Good Shepherd who humbled Himself to become our Passover Lamb? Are you able to put yourself in that picture?
Jewish law required a sacrifice at Passover. Not just any lamb would do. It had to be without defect. Bethlehem was a prime spot for raising sheep and goats, and those traveling to Jerusalem for Passover would have stopped there to select a sacrificial animal. On that weekend, little did they realize the sacrifice that would be made!
Imagine the scene as morning broke after Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb, was slain. At the beginning of that week, some had hailed Him as the One who comes in the Name of the Lord. How many were then in the crowd that shouted, “Crucify Him!” I wonder who was at Golgotha (pictured yesterday) when the sky went dark, an earthquake rumbled, and a Roman centurion exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
But what about the day after the perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sin of the world? Imagine being a shepherd in Bethlehem. Perhaps you were not witness to the crucifixion that took place, and that resulted in such unusual phenomena. But news traveled fast. Do you remember a man named John who had said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Surely those words meant something, now that the prophecy was fulfilled. Or did they…? Put yourself in that shepherd’s field. What would you have thought?
What went through the minds of Peter, James and John, Jesus’ three closest friends. They were with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, and had fallen asleep instead of praying. (Matthew 26:36-46) Peter followed Him to Caiaphas’ house, only to deny Him three times. (Mark 14:66-72) All had abandoned Jesus as He faced accusations and trials before civil and religious officials, even as the Roman cohorts played games in which they mocked Jesus. (John 18:28-40) Jesus had even given over His own mother into John’s care. (John 19:26-27) Now, they were alone, all was silent, and they wrestled with fear while searching for faith.
There must have been great confusion “in between” Jesus’ death and resurrection. Many were glad to see Him go. Disciples and followers must have missed their miracle-working mentor. Some, like the Roman centurion, recognized Him as the Son of God. But what now? He was gone and all was silent.
Are you able to imagine yourself on that dark Friday, and during the “in between,” unaware what was about to happen on that glorious Sunday morning? Stop and imagine. Put yourself into the narrative. What would you have thought? Would faith overcome fear?