The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem was found not long ago. It is located right across the street from Golgotha, the place of the skull. The skull is clearly visible in the side of the hill today. My guide said that Romans always crucified at street level so passersby would have to look into the eyes of those crucified, see their suffering, and be less likely to commit a crime that warranted that fate. So it
is most likely that Jesus was not crucified at the top of the hill as goes the hymn and common belief, but at street level which today is quite a bit lower than is visible.
A part of the garden overlooks Golgotha across a narrow street, a place where tour buses park today. There is posted an old photo that shows the bottom of the skull more prominently, but it takes no imagination to see the eyes and nose of a skull today, small caves in the side of the rock hill.
Scriptures reveal that one had to “stoop” to get into the tomb where the body of Jesus was laid. Today you can walk right into it. But look closely at the lower sides of the entry opening and you will see that they are smooth up to the height of the nearby round stone, and rough carved above that ‘stooping’ height.
Near to the tomb’s entry is a round stone, smaller than I had envisioned, about three feet high if that, but thick and very heavy. There is a slot beneath the tomb’s entry where such a stone could have been placed and rolled back or forth to get into the tomb. The stone that is there today was found at a nearby tomb. You would have to stoop to get into a hole covered by that stone.
Jewish tombs near Jerusalem in those days were three connecting rooms. The one entered into is where the family mourned (except on Saturday Sabbath.) There is a room where the body was laid, and another, all adjoining with no walls, where the “bone box” was placed.
After the flesh was decayed the bones would be put in the bone box so the tomb could be used again, perhaps many times.
At this tomb, tourists line up and walk in a circle around the mourning room only, snapping photos as they go, dozens or even hundreds of people in line behind. Steel bars block entrance into the other two rooms but they are easily seen into.
My guide told me that Roman soldiers had to be at least 5 feet seven inches tall to qualify for service in Jerusalem and area because the average height (if I remember correctly) of the Jews in those days was 5 feet five inches. Roman rulers wanted their soldiers to tower over the Jews. My guide said that Jesus was known to be taller than the Roman soldiers.
The place where the body is laid is carved in rock sort of like a raised bed, with one end being raised higher like a pillow to place the head of the body on. In this particular tomb at the place where the feet would have been laid, a notch has been carved into the rock. The notch would allow to be laid uncurled a body that was six feet two inches tall!
Folk lore? Maybe, but I saw the notch for myself. And when I went back a second time and found nobody there I entered the tomb with my wife and one other woman from my tour group. While we were inside someone closed the door to the tomb.
There I was, an American almost alone in a foreign land. Not far from where I was, tanks were rolling into the Gaza Strip and people were dying. Overhead, warplanes were frequently heard that day over Jerusalem, headed for Gaza. Everywhere there were people, male and female, some in uniform some not, carrying loaded rifles and automatic weapons. I had already witnessed a gun battle.
And I was shut inside a tomb!
Can you imagine what I felt?
No, I don’t think you can.
I felt warm, I felt safe, I felt comfortable as I pressed my back
into the rough stone; it seemed to yield to my weight. I wanted to
never leave, ever!
It was not long before the Spirit of God fell upon me so powerfully that I will bear undeniable witness for the rest of my life that the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is the place of the first Resurrection!
On the door to the Garden Tomb is a sign that reads:
“He is not here for He is risen.”
Yes, He is risen.
And I also know that He visits Jerusalem sometimes…
This is a true story. I lived it myself, it happened to me a few weeks ago as I write this, in the Spring of 2008. It could have happened to you.
If it inspires you to greater service to your Lord and Redeemer, a more powerful testimony that He lives, and a greater love for the rest of us who share your turn on earth, feel free to share this story and link to Christ.org with your friends of all faiths.
Jesus IS risen!