Actually? The tomb I’ve been in is probably not the actual tomb. There are two sites in Israel that are proposed to be the actual site of Calvary and the tomb. The actual location is probably at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the Catholic site). I’ve been to that tomb, but there’s no going inside it.
The tomb I’m talking about is the Garden tomb, which is a beautiful garden that has not been enshrined. The tomb is there and open. There is a viewing area that faces the hill (which does look like a skull). There are beautiful plants and olive trees and benches to site and think. They offer communion in tiny olive wood chalices in the garden.
To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s the actual spot. It also doesn’t matter that it’s been fifteen years since I’ve been there–I remember it vividly. The day I went there was the day that Easter became more than just a Sunday School thing or dyed egg thing or something I could explain and tell you about because I had heard it so many times.
The hill. I sat and considered the events of the crucifixion. Even with limited Bible knowledge, I remembered the events. Depictions of stations of the cross, Good Friday Scripture readings, songs I sang with the church choir influenced my understanding.
The tomb. I stepped inside and turned around and around. It was completely not what I had pictured. I considered a stone rolled into place. I considered how dark it would be inside the tomb. I considered what it would mean to stand outside the tomb and weep. I listened as one of the ministers in the group read aloud the story of Peter and the Beloved Disciple racing to the tomb and finding the linens folded.
The garden. Mary Magdalene. She’s who I thought of in the Garden. That and the words of the hymn “In The Garden,” which I learned when I learned to play it on the piano a few years earlier. Mary Magdalene mistaking Jesus for the gardener at first. It’s funny–no matter how Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for Easter, they still weren’t expecting to see him alive again when they laid him in the tomb.
That night, I sat reading the crucifixion and resurrection accounts in all of the Gospels. My faith was immature, but my heart was ready. It was then that I started to follow Jesus, not because I was raised by Church going parents or because I was active in my youth group or because I sang in the choir or because I knew my Sunday School stories and Bible trivia–I started to follow Jesus because I really, honestly believed. It wasn’t exactly the start of the journey, because it’s a journey that started with my baptism and continues today. Everything that happened before that day in Jerusalem helped me get to that point. Everything that’s happened since has that moment as a reference point. It was a marker on my journey, a moment that makes the short lists of important moments in my life.
Sometimes, as I study and learn and grow in my understanding of Scripture and history, I ask a lot of questions and things get complicated as I try to navigate and figure out what it is I believe about this or that. One thing I rely on, no matter where my thinking and questioning takes me, is that moment of simple belief when I was seventeen years-old. I know that I can trust the Holy Spirit’s leading and I know that I’ve never regretted my decision to follow Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
“These things were written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31
I hope your Easter season is filled with life and love! Christ has risen!