Where Is Jesus’ Tomb, and Why Is it so Crucial to Christianity?
- Hope Bolinger SEO Editor
- 2021 18 Jan
One of the least talked about elements of the Easter story is Jesus’ tomb. After all, he left that burial place on Easter Sunday when he conquered death. So why dwell on his burial when he had overcome the grave? In fact, the disciples didn’t seem to pay the burial place of Jesus any mind during their ministry, which is why, archeologists still haven’t reached a consensus on the correct place in which Jesus’ body was placed until that fateful Sunday.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the possible places of Jesus’ burial, including locations that accept visitors. We’ll also talk about why the tomb is one of the most single important parts of our foundation of our Christian beliefs. Let’s dive in.
What Does the Bible Say about Jesus’ Tomb?
All four Gospel accounts have something to say about Jesus’ tomb. Let’s dissect each of them.
Matthew 27:57-61: “Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.”
Jesus gets an odd burial for a person crucified at Golgotha. Most criminals executed there did not receive a burial, let alone in the tomb of a rich man. Jesus receives proper burial rites, which included using oils to embalm the body and wrapping it in cloth, like a mummification process. Myrrh was perhaps amongst one of these oils to delay the decomposition of the body, one of the gifts of the Magi given to Jesus.
The women who followed Jesus make note of his burial spot (there was likely several tombs in the area).
Mark 15:42-47: “It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.”
We need to make two important notes here. First, they had to bury Jesus before Saturday (Sabbath day). Because touching dead body would’ve been unclean, and in lieu of the Passover festival, they would’ve been working on a Saturday, a no-no in that culture.
Secondly, they roll a stone against the tomb. This thing weighs tons. So even if Jesus swooned on the cross (which he did not) instead of died, he would’ve suffocated in the tomb, rather than having the ability simply to roll this massive thing out of the way. Especially in his tortured state.
Luke 24:1-8: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.”
The Gospel accounts show angels at the tomb on that fateful Easter day. Others talk about how guards had been placed at the tomb (probably to prevent people from stealing the body). But the guards flee when an earthquake jostles the tomb. We need to keep in mind, these guards could’ve lost their lives for abandoning their posts. They would’ve taken the job seriously, and not fallen asleep at it—las some people have suggested.
John 20:3-7: “So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.”
When Jesus leaves the tomb, after rolling away the stone, he leaves behind his burial cloths. Some have suggested that the Shroud of Turin was the exact linens in which they buried Jesus. It’s also important to note that if someone had tried to rob Jesus from the tomb they would not have taken the time to fold Jesus’ funeral linens all nicely and wrapped him up in something else. They wouldn’t have had the time with the Roman guards outside. Plus, the Roman guards would’ve caught them and killed them.
Where Is the Tomb Located?
There are some possible locations that have been suggested. The most famous is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where you can visit a tomb that matches the description found in the Bible. But not everyone agrees that Jesus had been buried there. Others have suggested the Garden Tomb, found in Jerusalem. Ordinarily, the public can visit. But due to COVID restrictions, they have temporarily closed the tomb off to visitors.
Why Is the Tomb so Important in the Easter Story?
Why does the tomb matter so much? Because if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, if the disciples just spread a lie, the Roman officials could have simply taken people to the burial place of Jesus and said, “Look, his body is right there.” But they didn’t. In fact, Scripture provides rumors the Romans attempted to spread because they had not good explanation for why the body disappeared (Matthew 28:13).
Jesus did not swoon, and the disciples did not steal the body. Jesus would have suffocated by the time he could’ve opened the tomb. And besides, water poured out of him on the cross when pierced, a surefire sign of death (John 19:34). The disciples fled from the Garden of Gethsemane. They didn’t have the gumption to suddenly steal Jesus’ body from the tomb right under the noses of some very alert Roman guards.
And for what? To endure execution and torture all in the name of a lie?
No. The tomb shows us that Jesus resurrected. Because Jesus no longer lies in the tomb, we have a hope that is foundational to our beliefs. Because Jesus left the tomb, we can have a chance to experience eternal life with him.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/alessandrophoto
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, literary agent at C.Y.L.E., and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,000 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in October of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.
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