First the Garden Tomb. Such a beautiful and peaceful place. We took a time of meditation and prayer before going in, which was a beautiful and emotional time together with everyone.
Is this the exact place of Jesus’ burial? Definitely maybe. But it DID happen, somewhere very close to here, that is certain. And the reality of what it accomplished for us – our new life, our reconciliation with God, our forgiveness, is also certain.
In between, we stopped at the Jerusalem Prayer Center and visited with gracious hosts, and simply prayed. It was a truly peaceful place and another profound experience for us to be taken from the hustle and bustle of touring around to being in quiet, and prayerfully contemplating what we had just experienced in the Garden Tomb. Our hearts were full and content in Jesus.
As a complete contrast to all of that was the Church of the Sepulchre. It was completely jammed with people. Almost chaotic. So many different groups and sects of Christianity clamoring around different parts of the church.
At the center of it all is the Aedicula – or the shrine where Jesus’ tomb is. There was a line that seemed like it went on for miles, wrapping completely around the circular structure. Different groups speaking all different languages, all anxiously queued up, waiting for their moment.
Yet all around them, others were pressing their faces on other holy relics at other various stations. Putting souvenirs on top of them in hopes that some of the “holiness” would be transferred to whatever it was.
In a word – sad. It is sad that this is where we have come. So far from what Jesus came to do. So far from the peace and simple worshipful solitude of the Garden Tomb.
People just absolutely desperate – so desperate for healing, or power, or purpose…or whatever drives someone to stand on line for hours just to touch something.
I immediately thought of the 2nd commandment – “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:4 ESV)
This is no different. This is idolatry. This is not our God. This is not the God of Scripture. This is not the God that lives inside believers as the Holy Spirit when any of us repents of all the ways we try and fix ourselves and simply believe in Jesus and live like it.
Was this the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial? Maybe. Did it happen at all? Definitely. Are we supposed to make shrines out of relics and worship them? Not a chance.
I think we all needed to process these two very different sites…and what better way to do that than with more shwarama and falafel. [and pizza for others].
After lunch, we were released for some free time in the Old City to shop. Mel and I had a great time just wandering around the market, going with the flow of hundreds of people all scurrying about, buying more things, eating the best dates we ever had, and drinking the greatest middle eastern mint tea. The sights, sounds, and smells of the Old City are truly to be treasured.
Tomorrow, we head off to more distant historical sites and may even get to finally float in the Dead Sea.