As we reflect on Easter, our family had a special meal which included communion, dressing up, family photo and a lovely 4 course meal. I then re-shared experiences and photos from Jerusalem, and focused on the Garden Tomb, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Both are places that force one to reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Especially the resurrection bit, because…THE TOMB IS EMPTY! Praise God that scripture tells us that Jesus is not dead, he has risen again, and will return again one day to finally rid this universe of sin.
“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”Matthew 28:2-7 (NIV)
I love the mental picture of the angel rolling away the stone then sitting on it! Just the presence of the angel was enough to terrify the guards. The power of God is something we should not underestimate!
“And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”Mark 16:6 (ESV)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem, and was thought to have been built by Constantine, directed by Helena, his mother. Through the ages it has gone through rebuilds and modifications to the church it is today. Many scholars agree that it is built fairly accurately over the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.
“The church was built during the 4th century by the Emperor Constantine, who accepted Christianity and made it the official religion of the Roman Empire. His mother, Saint Helena, toured the Holy Land and identified the sites in which the events mentioned in the New Testament took place. Helena identified this place as the Calvary, where Jesus was crucified. She also identified the burial plot of Joseph of Arimathea, who facilitated Jesus’ burial after he was taken down from the cross. Lying within the boundaries of the church are the last stations in Jesus’ Way of Grief- from the 9th to the 14th station.”https://www.itraveljerusalem.com/ent/church-of-the-holy-sepulchre/
The crucifixion took place outside the city walls of Jerusalem, however, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is found inside the old walls. Historians suggest that at the time of the crucifixion, the ‘older’ old walls were further in, meaning it did in fact take place on the outside of the city.
“Just a few years after the crucifixion, Golgotha was included within the perimeter of the city by a new wall built by Herod Agrippa in the year AD 44. In the 2nd C, Roman emperor Hadrian, wanting to root out every remembrance of Jewish and Christian religions, obliterated Calvary and the tomb by building a temple dedicated to Jupiter over the area. After Constantine had converted to Christianity, his mother Queen Helena came on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in early C4th to search out the area of the crucifixion and other biblical sites. In her search she said she found part of the wood from the true cross! In AD 326 Constantine demolished Hadrian’s temple and erected a magnificent basilica. While Constantine’s monument was destroyed in AD 614 AD the Persians, it was rebuilt again on a reduced scale by Abbot Modestos. In AD 1009 this church was also destroyed, only to be followed by the building of the present church by the Crusaders.”2019 Study Tour notes
Before entering the church, there is a courtyard. In the courtyard is station #10 of the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus is stripped of his garments. There is a small Franciscan chapel built at the place. Mark 15:24 says “And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take“. In the pictures below, you can see steps leading up to the small chapel, and the main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the left. On the other side of the chapel, (inside the main Church) is a monument to where they nailed Jesus to the cross – as the two happened more or less at the same place.
This image shows one of the many little chapels built on the inside of the main Church. This one is an Armenian Chapel – “Division of Holy Robes”.
Of interest inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is the place of crucifixion (station #12 of the Via Dolorosa). The rock is seen enclosed in glass, and the box where you can see someone crouched inside, is thought to be where the cross was in the ground.
In the main entrance of the church, is a slab of rock which is thought to be where they lay Jesus’ body after taking it down from the cross (station #13). People were touching it, and kissing it after they entered the Church.
The other significant place is the tomb, which has a shrine built over it, called the “Chapel of the Angel” (station #14). We didn’t have time to stand in line and so we didn’t see inside the shrine. Pics can be seen here – https://wellsofgrace.com/easter/via-dolorosa/index2-en.htm, and here (https://www.biblewalks.com/sepulchre#Photos)
“When Queen Helena visited the Bible lands, on the advice of the locals, she isolated one tomb from among others and said it was the Tomb of Jesus. This tomb continued to exist inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre until its 1009 destruction when the tomb was totally destroyed too. The present sepulchre construction built over the tomb site was built in 1810 by the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches.“2019 Study Tour notes
I am not really concerned whether it is this place or that place, what is brilliant is the fact that Jesus did not stay in the tomb. Death did not defeat him, he rose victorious! He alone is the one who can say to Satan, ‘your future is sealed, one day sin will be no more’. He is the one who can forgive us, because he has already paid the consequence of all our sins. He died in our place that we could live his life. He took on our chains that we could have freedom. Earthly freedom from the condemnation that comes from our inability to keep the law perfectly, and then, eternal freedom! He died that one day we might live forever in a new world that we can only dream of.
“To the believer, Christ is the resurrection and the life. In our Saviour the life that was lost through sin is restored; for He has life in Himself to quicken whom He will. he is invested with the right to give immortality. The life that He laid down in humanity, He takes up again, and gives to humanity.“The Desire of Ages, page 460, (E.G.White)
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:14 (ESV)
“Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved”Ephesians 2:5 (ESV)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 6:23 (ESV)