There is a big debate in Israel, and it centers around the question of where Christ died. Where was his tomb? And where did the Cross stand as he died on it? There are two possible answers to this question: the first was talked about in an earlier post, but the second is called the Garden Tomb.
Now, there is archeological evidence that points to the Holy Sepulcher being the actual place of Jesus’s death, but the Garden Tomb is much more appealing with its peaceful atmosphere and springing garden life. My group sat in this garden today with possibly the best guide in the whole world. He was sweet and teary-eyed as he walked through the final three days of Jesus’s life with us, as if he were hearing it for the first time. He spoke to us as a humble old man who had moved to Israel from Texas in order to minister to people from the tomb. As he spoke, birds rang out from olive branches and flowers blew into our hair in the wind. There was also the sweet sound of hymns being sung throughout the garden, and all in different languages! Groups of Cantonese speakers, Hebrew speakers, and even more English groups. I couldn’t help but wonder, is this what it will be like to worship in heaven?
Though we toured more than the Garden Tomb alone (since every day is so packed we’re near collapsing by dinner), I want to focus on this part of the day especially. It was such a moment of peace and devotion that I’d been craving from the Holy Land. Personally, I don’t believe the Garden Tomb is the place of Christ’s actual burial, mostly because Chris (our guide who is also an archeologist) told us the cave has evidence of being much older than the death of Christ, and that it was not a new tomb when he died, or unused. Still, the Spirit was definitely in that place. It was in the hearts of those hungry for a spiritual connection and awareness of the one who died for them. The one who loved them to actual death.
After touring the empty tomb, we took communion at the far left of the garden. We sang How Great Thou Art as we passed small pieces of crackers and tiny cups of grape juice around, making sure to serve one another purposefully. Dr. Bramer even threw in a tiny speech, talking about the believers’ unity in Christ no matter where he died or where he rose again. In a culture that puts so much emphasis on subjective truth, it was nice to sit in a place of confusion but be completely at peace. To rest in a community that willingly wants to care for you is the missing piece of our hearts we constantly seek on social media or in fruitless relationships. To be at peace in the unknown is to have faith, but to do so surrounded by community is to be blessed beyond belief.
Thus, the Garden Tomb may not have a connection to the physical death of Christ, but it definitely had a connection to the Risen King. There is an international church that meets every day under those trees and around that tomb, and the evidence of their devotion is tangible in the very sweetness of the breeze.