Today after church we went to the Garden Tomb, one of the sites where Jesus may have been buried. It is beautiful, simple, and peaceful; a welcome break from the gilded churches where people choke on incense, contradictory doctrine and centuries of sectarian bickering.Next to the site there is a cliff with a combination of outcroppings and indentations that look a bit like a Golgatha (a skull). The bottom of it is covered because the ground level has risen since the time of Jesus. Due to that and some other specifics in the Bible and particularities about the site (including the fact that there is one part of the tomb that looks like it was carved out hurriedly for someone three inches taller than the man the tomb was originally constructed for) it is widely to be the site of the crucifixion and burial of Christ.
The caretakers actually let you go into the tomb itself. Through some stealthy maneuvering on my part, I got to be inside alone by myself for a few minutes. I stood there, expecting to feel some powerful burst of spirituality at the site of the resurrection, but nothing happened. I stood there in the dark, disappointed. Where were the spiritual fireworks? Where was the earth-shattering personal revelation? And then it dawned on me; why should I feel something special in here? The whole point of this crude tomb, the reason it was wonderful, was because He wasn’t here anymore! I walked right past the door that said, “He is not here for He is risen” and completely missed the point. I had heard and repeated the phrase my whole life, and it took standing there in the dark to actually understand it. If Jesus was still in this tomb, his body or his trapped soul, there would be no reason for me to be here.
Then I got emotional and started to cry, leaning against the rock wall and looking at the thin hollow where one of the most miraculous events in the history of the world took place. I have traveled all over the world. I have seen the Parthenon and the Taj Mahal, but all of the labor and intricate beauty of those places couldn’t equal the marvel of this little cave. Men built those as memorials of their mortal lives, and a dead man rose from this to immortalize mankind. I realized Mary Magdalene might have stood in the exact same place, crying for exactly the same person. The same man brought two women, born thousands of years apart, to the same place for the same purpose.
My classmates began to sing a hymn that echoed around the garden and into the cave as I wrote a prayer on a scrap of paper and stuck it in one of the crevices in the rock. I probably wasn’t supposed to do that, but it seemed more meaningful to me than the traditional gesture of sticking a prayer in the Wailing Wall.