For our final day in Israel, we started out by driving to what is known as the “Garden Tomb”. It is a beautiful garden situated just next to what would have been a major highway heading north from Jerusalem. The site is also known as “Protestant’s Tomb” (because this is the site that Protestant Christians own and pretty much only Protestants visit it) and “Gordon’s Tomb” (after the man who first declared it to be a possible location for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus).
When you simply compare the outside, surface-level appearances between the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb, there is honestly no comparison.
For what relationship does light have with darkness? Or death with life?
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is very dark, institutionalized, and feels very religious. The Garden Tomb is vibrant, organic, inviting, and peaceful.
While at the Garden Tomb, we had a tour guide help us understand why they think this could be the Biblical Golgotha (“the place of the skull”), and they certainly have a compelling case.
The location works biblically, the side of the hill literally looks like a skull, there is a garden nearby the location of the crucifixion (proven by the archaeological finding of a wine press), and there is, in fact, a rich man’s tomb on the grounds.
Scientifically speaking, the tomb seems to be from much earlier than first century, AD, so that is a problem (because the tomb is biblically to be new and unused).
So is this the place, or is the church of the Holy Sepulcher located in the more likely place?
I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter, because he is not there!! Christ is risen!
Personally, I much prefer the Garden Tomb as a place to remember and reflect upon the truth of the resurrected Christ.
After spending some time hearing about the Garden Tomb and investigating the tomb for ourselves, we went to a section in the garden where we could take communion together. I had the privilege of leading the group in worship (which was really meaningful) and then we ate the unleavened bread (remembering Christ’s body broken for us) and we drank a cup of juice (remember his blood poured out for us). Then we broke up into small groups and prayed for one another. It was an incredibly powerful and meaningful time.