Matthew 27:57-61 (ESV)
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
Jesus was crucified around the year 33AD. The city of Jerusalem was then severely destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.
In the 130s AD the emperor Hadrian built a temple over the site of Jesus’ tomb near Calvary (Golgotha). Hadrian hated Christianity and sought to bury important Christian sites by building pagan temples over them. Finding Hadrian’s temples actually helped to know locations of important biblical sites.
In 313 AD the Roman emperor Constantine finally made it legal to be a Christian in the empire. Constantine’s mother, Helena, wanted to preserve the important sites of the Bible.
Helena had Hadrian’s temple torn down and the new Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built to preserve both the locations of Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb. Is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher really the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection?
Many people who travel to Israel today are shown a place called the Garden Tomb. It’s a peaceful place with gardens all around. You feel like you’ve just stepped into a 1st century cemetery. Many people leave Israel convinced the Garden Tomb must be the authentic spot.
The problem, however, is all the Garden Tomb burial spots are simply too old. We know Jesus was laid in a freshly carved tomb. There are no 1st century tombs in the area of the Garden Tomb. There are, however, 1st century tombs inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Some say the Church of the Holy Sepulcher can’t be the spot because it’s inside the walls of Jerusalem. Crucifixion only happened outside the walls of Jerusalem.
Recent archeological work underneath the nearby Church of the Redeemer have shown the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is indeed outside the ancient city walls of Jersualem.
First, there’s a stone quarry found at the bottom layer of the excavation. These were always outside the walls of a city. Second, the Bible tells us there were gardens around the place of the crucifixion. Archeologists found proof of gardens in the area in the 1st century. Third, Golgotha was described as being on hill. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a lot higher than it’s surroundings. It’s truly up on a hill.
So if you ever get a chance to walk into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher know that you’re walking into the air space where the sin of humanity was paid for on the cross and death was defeated at the resurrection of Jesus.
Dear Lord, we pray that we would never take lightly what You did for each one of us. Thank You for taking our sins on Your body on the cross and then conquering death so that we may live forever in Heaven with You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.