You know, every year, hundreds of Christians visit Israel.
A lot of them take the time to visit the Garden Tomb. Let me quickly address the “garden tomb vs. Church of Holy Sepulchre” debate.
The mother of Caesar Constantinus visited Israel after learning about her son’s new found religion, or alleged thereof. She visited sites, for the express purpose of building shrines at the location of it. She usually just asked someone nearby, “Where was the place where this happened or that happened?”
Considering the fact Rome had already forcibly removed most of the Jews from Israel, it meant she had to ask a lot of people who didn’t live in Israel at that time, but who were quick to move in to suddenly vacant Jewish homes and take what they like.
I’m telling you right now, most of the arabs who’d moved in had no idea, so they simply guessed. Other areas were already well expressed in the New Testament, and it was pretty simple to find the spot.
The church of the Holy Sepulcre just looks dark, damp, and miserable. It doesn’t look anything like the kind of area that Jews built tombs in. No flat cliff face, no groove for a stone, no big stone, no big hollow space in the face of the cliff. It has the kind of look of later tombs, low and cut into the ground or low rock faces.
General Gordon of the UK was a Christian, and he was completely unconvinced that the Holy Sepulchre is the right spot. He was complaining to a friend as they walked through Jerusalem, near where the outskirts of the old city was. He complained that it should look “more like that spot over there!”
He gestured and froze. There was a garden tomb… but right above it was a cliff that was partially shaped like a human skull.
Golgotha, hill of the skull. And a big garden tomb sitting there.
As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, tombs aren’t dug and not used in Jerusalem. Somebody would have sooner or later buried old Uncle Avram there! Or Cousin Yossi, or whatever. Tati or Ima Or Bubbe or Zeyde would have been buried there long ago.
So… why is the tomb empty?
“hey, let’s bury uncle Shmuelie right there…” “no, don’t use that one. We used it once and it didn’t work out so good.”
The only reason Jews wouldn’t use it is because… well, they’d either not had time (not a good answer – those type of tombs only date to a certain time period, and it was long before the fall of Jerusalem – but in exactly the right time period for Jesus…)
…or they’d buried someone and they didn’t stay buried.
Religious leaders around the world have burial spots, or places where we’re told that they died.
Christians go to Jerusalem to see nothing. And they’re excited to do it!
It’s the most fantastic nothing in the world. There should be a body there. Or remains thereof. But there isn’t.
1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. Matthew 28:1-7 (KJV)
Now, there’s people that say, “He was reburied in a shallow trench, and dogs ate him.”
If you think people are going to buy that, you’re as gullible and stupid as you think Christians are!
Or the absolutely stupid, “The women went to the wrong tomb.” That’s so stupid, I can’t believe a book publisher didn’t say, “Uh… you SURE you want to commit such a bonehead theory to print, with your name attached?” I mean, you’d think they’d run around shouting, “He is risen!” and the Sanhedrin simply would have brought everyone to the CORRECT tomb, and said, “uh… he’s right there.”
They didn’t. So, as I pointed out yesterday, they didn’t have Him, and the theory is about as silly as a bag of rocks.
Let’s look at the facts. the early Christian authors bear witness that all the apostles suffered martyrdom for their faith. Would one or two willingly die for a lie, something you made up?
Maybe one. Possibly two.
But not twelve. not all of them.
When faced with prison, the Watergate conspirators fell apart. They quickly turned on one another to save their necks. After James the brother of John was killed, and they saw how things were going, you’d think at least three or four would have recanted.
When co-defendants are facing ten years in prison, prosecutors make an offer with the rhyme of “he who talks, walks.” The truth is, the number of those refusing to make a deal is very low.
We’re only talking about those who are facing a few years in jail. Now, compare that to being boiled in oil, crucified, burned at the stake, beheaded, impaled, flayed alive…
Who’s the person who should have recanted the quickest?
Paul. Newcomer to the whole thing. Never sat with Jesus. Had nothing to gain. Everything to lose. He was a SOMEBODY! A read through of Pirke Avos chapter 1 in the Mishnah shows you what he gave up. His name should have been in there, right after Gamaliel the Elder. His opinions and arguments should have been in the Talmud, faithfully debated by Yeshiva Bokherim right up to today.
He gave all that up and was beheaded. Cheerfully going to his death. And gained nothing. Had everything to lose. If the whole thing wasn’t true, Paul would have been the quickest to recant. But he didn’t.
He knew about the big old empty nothing. A garden tomb, with nobody in it. He’d seen that somebody, studied at His feet in Arabia, dwelling with Him in the Wilderness. He’d seen Him. Paul knew. He lives.
He is risen.
How can I prove it? “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:6 (KJV)
What’s in the tomb? A big ol’ empty nothing.
That’s not just something, that’s everything.