Message of the Tomb
Many visitors to Israel become preoccupied with ancient stones and sites, and as a result they often miss the spiritual significance of the events that took place at those sites. At the Garden Tomb the emphasis is on, not just the wonderful visual aid that we have of the Easter story, but on the spiritual meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The place is of historical importance, but it is not as important as the Person who died on that Roman cross and rose from the dead from that Jewish tomb.
Skull Hill, also known as Golgotha, might well have been the site for the crucifixion, but here our focus is on the greatest sacrifice the world has ever known, when Jesus voluntarily offered Himself as a substitute for the sins of the world. The empty tomb is considered by many to be the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, but here we point our visitors to the greatest miracle the world has ever witnessed, the resurrection, of Jesus from the dead.
The apostle John in his gospel simply mentions that Jesus, carrying his own cross, went out to the The Place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him. John 19. 17,18. No details are given as to where the exact location of the Skull was, or of the horrific suffering that explains how crucified victims slowly died. The main concern of the New Testament writers is to explain why Jesus died. The apostle Peter clearly states in his first letter; Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. 1 Peter 3.18. Through His sacrifice, Jesus removed for ever the iron curtain of our sin and rebellion that separated us from God, and opened up a new way for us to come into God's presence and to enjoy friendship with Him.
The apostle Paul wrote; God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5.21 This simply means that, God took the sinless Christ and poured out sins into him. Then in exchange, he poured God's goodness into us. (The Living Bible) All the wrong and evil that is in us was absorbed by the sinless Son of God on the cross. When we turn from our selfish and sinful ways and seek forgiveness from God, Jesus comes to live within us by His Spirit and our lives are transformed and characterised by God's goodness.
At the empty tomb, the guides explain some of the important facts about the tomb, and also indicate at least 5 ways in which the tomb fits the details given in the gospel narrative. While this may be interesting, it is not nearly as important as understanding the relevance of the resurrection in the 21st century. As people leave the tomb and climb the steps towards the exit they are confronted with a verse from the bible on a plaque which clearly states; Jesus Christ declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. Romans 1.4. Many prophets, priests and kings, leaders and gurus have lived and died, but their bones are still in their burial places. Jesus is unique and His resurrection, that He clearly predicted, proves that He was the Son of God. No one has been able to disprove this historic event which is the foundation of the Christian faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then He was just another roving Galilean preacher.
One of the profound statements Jesus made before He died took place outside another tomb in Bethany, the tomb of Lazarus; I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die. John 11.25 Because Jesus rose from the dead He is able to impart to all who believe in Him, the precious gift of eternal life, which begins here on earth and continues beyond death. Once we place our lives in His hands, He promises us a new quality of life now and a new inheritance in heaven later. Our lives do not drag on to a meaningless end, with no hope for the future. Instead we are promised, beyond the grave, a new body like His resurrection body, a new character like His beautiful character and a new environment in which to live, where there will be no sickness or suffering, no violence or vandalism, no pain and no more death.
Some may say as a result of visiting the Garden Tomb; "I think I have found the place where Jesus died." We hope and pray that they will find forgiveness through the death of Jesus and peace with God. Some may return home saying, "I saw the place where they put the dead body of Jesus." It is far more important that they should discover the new life that Jesus offers now, and that they should share the next life with Him in heaven. Our staff will always be on hand to help our visitors, in a gentle and unobtrusive way, to answer their questions and to explain how they can discover these wonderful gifts of forgiveness and new life.