Today we did a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean we basically walked from border to border through the Old City of Jerusalem. From the Western Wall to “Mount Zion” (I put the name in quotations since the actually Mount Zion is called Mount Moriah). From the Upper Room to the top of David’s Tower. From Cardo to Decumanus road. We even had a little time to grab a shawarma!
However, the most interesting stop of the day was at a little place called the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Some would say this is the most pivotal spot for any Christian, because it is here historians can say with the most accuracy Jesus was crucified and buried (often disputed with the Garden Tomb located further outside the city gates).
So, what was it like to be standing above what was once the tomb of Christ? Or to see the bedrock he must have laid on for three days before defeating death?? What about the spot on which the Cross stood, as God himself died for humanity???
Well, to be honest, it was kind of like going to the mall on Black Friday. Lots of crowds, disoriented lines, and VERY pushy people. The church itself isn’t even owned by Christians, but by Muslims. There have also been fights over this spot for decades between the Greek Orthodox Christians and Catholics (like, actual fist fights have broken out over this people). The “feeling” one would think this church would invoke is not one of wonder and inspiration. It was more like intrigue mixed with annoyance.
Still, it was amazing to be in the spot (no matter how altered) Jesus had died and risen. I was curious what it looked like, but I felt my curiosity turn more towards how people reacted to what they discovered. The tomb of Christ was closed to the public and about 25 feet below us in the church, but directly above ground was an altar about five feet wide where people often pilgrimaged from across the world to worship inside for little less than 10 seconds. There was also a small cross in the spot the original Cross was said to be, and below this was a stone people would crawl under the table to touch. Additionally, a long slab in the middle of the church was believed to be the bedrock Jesus’s body lay, and people laid hands or belongings on this to be blessed and to bring blessings back to their home countries.
As for me, I don’t view holiness as a thing that can be transferred between us and ancient artifacts or through representative objects, but there is something to be said about the time and dedication these visitors of the church put into the worship of things that in the very least relate to God. Though I grew annoyed with the large crowds, it takes a hard heart not to be fascinated with so many people who are so thirsty for spiritual closeness. A closeness so great they needed the proximity of a stone thousands of years old that might have been the one to touch the Son of God. A closeness I hope goes beyond the church and back home with us.