A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting Israel. This, of course, was with the aim of visiting places important in the recorded events in the life of Jesus. Some places were busy with many pilgrims and this made it difficult to visualise or even think about the events which occurred there.
Adding to the difficulty was the erection of churches over places mentioned in the Gospel accounts. The traditional place of the manger has, for example, a magnificent and beautiful cathedral, which is a tribute to the faith and devotion of those who erected it. Similarly in Cana where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding. My surprise from this visit lay in the size of the flagons which held something like 20 gallons each.
In the Cathedral surmounting the traditional tomb in which Jesus was laid after the crucifixion the crowds were so numerous that joining the queue meant standing for at least an hour and a half added to which the continual movement of other visitors inevitably detracted from the solemnity of the moment. No, I didn’t join the queue. I did my best to see, at a distance this revered place and left.
Elsewhere, significant sites were easily visited such as where Christ faced trial, where He was imprisoned, the road along which he carried the cross to Calvary and the stations of the cross (recorded events/happenings).
Golgotha or the Place of the Skull turned out to be a rugged cliff face in which two holes represented the eyes, a jagged hole the mouth and rocky protrusions evocative of a face. The ancient olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane stood silent . There seemed little doubt they could have been there when the momentous events of the first Easter took place.
Nearby was a small entrance to what is called the Garden Tomb. This is believed by many to be the actual tomb in which Jesus was laid. One has to bend to pass through the entrance into the space beyond. Here in the small area involved were two, as I recall, rocky shelves. On one of these is believed the body of Jesus lay briefly from Friday until Sunday morning. Undoubtedly one felt that this could well have been His tomb. And so I, as did others, stand in silence remembering. And then, turning to leave, one saw the words written above the entry/exit hole. They were –
He is not here He is risen.
(By all means discuss the implications of this article with a minister or priest. SM)