by Regin Reyno
November 29, 201910th leg: Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel
I was greeted by lovely, wonderful, friendly people at the entrance. “How much is the admission fee?”, I asked. “Oh no, it’s free.” One of them replied with a smile. Then handed, me a brochure with a map of the place. “I want to go to Jesus’s Tomb”, I said. “Oh, it’s easy. This is the way to the tomb, but I suggest you go to Golgotha first. Here is the map, we are here, turn right, then follow this. After that, go can go to the tomb.”
“Golgotha? Wow. Isn’t that where Jesus was crucified?” I told myself silently. My excitement grew. My heart rate increased. “This is unbelievable!”
That morning, I was in search for the tomb where they laid Jesus after His crucifixion. From my hostel, The Post Hostel Jerusalem, I walked to the old city of Jerusalem, entering The New Gate, then went outside again, passing through Damascus Gate.
I arrived at The Garden Tomb; a beautiful garden where that conversation took place. It is just located just a few meters from Damascus Gate: one of the gates of the old city of Jerusalem.
I didn’t know that in searching for Christ’s tomb, I will also find the place where He was crucified. It was amazing. I didn’t expect that tomb to be that close to where He was crucified. Growing up, I always thought that Jesus was crucified on a hill; a high hill that requires some serious hiking. That’s why it was a surprise for me that I was a few meters from where Jesus was crucified.
The garden was so peaceful. Only a few people were there. It is surrounded by beautiful flowers, bushes, and small trees. There are also gazebos and benches where you can meditate and relax.
After a few steps, I was at the view point of Golgotha. I was witnessing the place where Jesus was crucified.
The word “Golgotha” means “skull” in Aramaic. And truly, you can see a skull-like formation from the rock. That spot is believed to be where Jesus was crucified, because according to the Bible,
1. He was crucified outside of the city.
2. He was crucified near the city.
3. And, people were passing by His cross on their way going somewhere. That was Passover (feast) so people during that time were traveling. So, most probably, by a road near a gate of the city.
4. It is at a place called, Golgotha or skull.
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Hebrews 13:12 NIV
Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. John 19:20 NIV
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads. And saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” Matthew 27:39-40 NIV
They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Matthew 27:33 NIV
The spot believed to be where Jesus was crucified, by The Garden Tomb, meets these descriptions in the Bible.
1. It is outside the old city of Jerusalem.
2. It is near Damascus gate.
3. It is by a road.
3. It is by a road.
4. There is a physical skull-like rock formation.
I was at the spot alone, at first. I read the description then sat there and imagined the scenes that happened thousands of years. I can’t believe it was happening. I was beholding the site where Jesus’ was crucified.
I sat down and contemplated on His sacrifice. I felt a powerful feeling; a feeling that is hard to explain. It’s like the sacrifice of Christ for our sins became more real. Although, I fully, 100 percent believe His crucifixion even before this encounter, but to be at the actual site of the event where that took place? It felt so special.
Then, a group of pilgrims came. They sat on the benches while their guide, explained about that place. I was there alone and didn’t have a guide so I also sat nearby and listened to their guide. The guides are volunteers for The Garden Tomb. The guide’s explanation was marvelous. It is like he is also offering a sermon; not just a simple explanation, but he was also sharing the good news of salvation-the Gospel-to the people. It was like I’ve just listened to a sermon in church. I was blessed by the guides talk/sermonette.
After my Golgotha moment, I proceeded to the tomb. On the way, once again, I passed by beautiful plants, flowers, and meditation areas. It is was so calm, quiet, peaceful. Not much people, it was not crowded.
Passing by the a chapel, I noticed a group of people worshiping; singing gospel hymns. Others are having their communion service with those little wooden cups for the grape juice and unleavened bread. Most of them are in big groups. But there are also groups of threes or fours. Discussing, contemplating on Jesus’ sacrifice. It was a beautiful sight.
Arriving at the tomb, my heart rate increased, once again. “This is amazing!”, I thought. That was exactly what I was expecting. A hole on a huge rock where they can just put a big rock to cover it. I remember my mom’s stories when we were young during our worship time at home.
She told us stories about the life of Jesus: the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus’ tomb. And this was the sight that stuck in my mind as related by her through her stories and description: a hole in a huge rock or mountain/hill, and covered by a huge circular carved rock.
I took photos first, of course; had a few poses, then just sat down on a bench near the tomb. I once again imagined the scenes. Once again, it’s hard to explain what I felt. There in front of me was a Jewish tomb that rightly fit the description from the Bible and is believed to be Jesus’s tomb.
Tourists come and go, but just a few of them. There were many times when it was just me at the tomb. I entered, spent some time to looking inside then once again went out to just sit on the bench by the tomb.
A beautiful lady from Australia, Stephanie H., joined me after taking her photo. She too, is a Christian. She related to me her experiences in Israel: how she was invited to Jewish homes by her Jewish friends and was able to experience Shabbat with them and their worship. She told me that this experience, seeing Jesus’ tomb is the highlight of her Israel travel. She, too felt this unexplainable emotion, seeing Jesus’ tomb.
After my reflection at the tomb, I again walked around and enjoyed the beautiful garden and calmness of the place.
Near the tomb is a place for worship. There are benches, and even a spot to put a keyboard organ. A group of Protestant Christian worshippers arrived. They started singing. People around the world go there to worship and have communion service. I heard many familiar gospel songs in different languages. What stood out was the song, Because He Lives by Bill Gaither. Upon arrival, I heard it sang many times in different languages: English, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish.
I, again, sat near one of the tour groups who were seated listening to their guide. I also listened to the guide explain some things regarding Jesus’ tomb. (That’s how you do it.) I’ve learned a lot.
Here are some Bible verses that support the location of this tomb:
At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. John 19:41
Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mark 15: 46
When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. Acts 13:29
At this garden, archaeologist found a water cistern which can hold 250,000 gallons of water. It is confirmed to be dated before Christianity. It is an evidence that it was a working garden during the time of Jesus.
There is also a well-preserved winepress excavated in 1924. That suggests that this spot was an extensive vineyard, most likely owned by a wealthy man. The guide showed us these things, which are still there up to this present time, at The Garden Tomb.
And of course, it was carved out of a rock and is not far from Golgotha, the crucifixion spot. It was Friday afternoon when Jesus was buried. So, the Jews don’t have time to go far as it was almost Sabbath/Shabbat.
I went to the tomb again to sit on the bench near it. This time, there were no tourists there. So, it was just me sitting, beholding Christ’s tomb: an empty tomb.
I closed my eyes and prayed. I thanked God for sending His son, Jesus Christ. I contemplated on His death; that it’s supposed to be me. But because of His love, He took our place so we can have life eternal.
I was beholding an empty tomb. A tomb that signifies His victory over death. And, because of that victory, we, too, can be victorious over death.
As I was having these thoughts in my mind, somewhere in the garden, I, once again, heard a group of Protestant Christians singing the hymn, Because He Lives
And when they reached the chorus, they were singing with gusto:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives
My Jesus lives!
I’ve heard the story of Jesus countless times since I was a kid. I’ve heard the story of His crucifixion, His death, His suffering; all of these. I even saw the movie, The Passion of the Christ. But never in my life did I cry or became so emotional about this.
I remember Pastor Oseas Zamora, the former chaplain and church pastor of Cagayan Valley Sanitarium and Hospital. Every time he tells the story of the crucifixion of Christ in his sermons, he tells it with great zeal and passion; with actions and all that. And, every time. Every time he tells it, he cries. And back then, I can’t relate to him.
But at that moment at the tomb, when I heard that song, tears just flowed from my eyes.
I felt something different; a feeling that is hard to explain.
The pity for His suffering, the realization of His great love through sacrifice, the joy of His victory over death; these things were on my mind.
It was a wonderful experience. I was really blessed after that encounter. I went there to just see the tomb, but what happened was worship. It was a wonderful connection with God. And because of that experience, it changed my whole perception of Jesus’s sacrifice for us, up to this day. It deepened my understanding and realization of His sacrifice.
I praise God for giving me this opportunity in visiting the Holy Land. This is definitely one of the highlights of my around-the-world journey.
P.S. Later on, I’ve met people in person and on Facebook, relating to me their experience at The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. I’ve found out that they also cried when they were there.
This is what one of the commenters on Facebook said: “When we visited the tomb of Jesus in Israel, I do not know why I can’t control myself; that I kept crying so hard at that time.”-IveeMhay