Falling Into The Bible: The Garden Tomb
- Thursday, November 07, 2002
Matthew's gospel records Jesus as saying that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." After our day of walking around the Old City of Jerusalem (As I later told my mother, "I climbed Mount Zion. I mean, I literally climbed Mount Zion!") I decided that Jesus should have added that it is also easier for a man to enter the kingdom of God than to get through the Damascus Gate.
Though, truthfully, the Damascus Gate is quite a large opening, it shrinks considerably when hundreds of people are trying to both enter it and exit it at the same time. Of course that is exactly what we were attempting to do-the seven of us-following Miriam, our tour guide, through narrow roads filled with a cacophony of Arab traders and old peasant women selling their produce, all of whom were dressed in long-established costumes and playing traditional music.
It was extremely hot as we moved among the people -- shuffling rather than walking -- toward the gate that would lead us outside the Old City's northern wall and toward The Garden Tomb.
The Garden Tomb is one of the two sites in Jerusalem that claims to be the vacated burial tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, used temporarily by Jesus of Nazareth. The other is located within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Garden Tomb and a hillside quarry with a strange resemblance of a skull, often called Gordon's Calvary, were discovered in the 1880's by Christian explorer, General Charles Gordon. The quarry has also been linked to the site of Stephen's stoning and martyrdom. (See Acts 7.)
What do we really know about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? According to Scripture, He was led to a place called "The Skull" (Golgotha in Hebrew/Aramaic or Calvary in Latin). “So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull.” ~~John 19:17
We know that He was crucified in a place where those who witnessed it would be acutely aware of His "crime." “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 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: 19-20
It was the custom of the Romans to carry out their crucifixions alongside those roads that would be considered the busiest, where the highest number of people could view them, and thereby be deterred from committing the same crimes or types of crimes.
If Gordon's Calvary is the correct site of the execution of Jesus, it would have been at the intersection of the routes to Damascus and Jericho, specifically trade routes. Therefore, plenty of people would have seen Jesus' crucifixion and would have read the sign placed above His head.
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