The Garden Tomb
The people were preparing for the Passover Feast throughout the city of Jerusalem. Lambs without blemishes were ready for the annual sacrifice. Little did the people know that The Lamb of God had already been sacrificed, and animal sacrifices were no longer needed. Actually, the Passover Feast looked forward (in type) to the crucifixion of Jesus, which had now been fulfilled. Unfortunately, the Jews did not understand that the Passover looked forward to the coming of the Messiah.
Let us now return to John’s narrative regarding preparing the body for burial. “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:38-40, NKJV).
It is marvelous to see the change in these two men. Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night, and Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple, have demonstrated a bold public witness with their actions.
“Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby” (John 19:41-42, NKJV).
Matthews says, “When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb” (Matt. 27:59-61, NKJV).
The tomb was Joseph’s family tomb, and it was about to be put under the spotlight.
Many people believe that Jesus was buried in what is today called “Gordon’s Calvary” or “The Garden Tomb.”
It is located in a rock wall below where the Romans did their crucifixions. Near the wall are the remains of a beautiful garden. Over the years, erosion by the weather on the limestone wall now gives it the appearance of a skull, giving it the name “Place of the Skull.”
“The main advocate of this site was a British army officer and administrator, Major General Charles Gordon, who visited Jerusalem in 1882-83. Though he had no academic education in history or archaeology, a dream assisted him to identify the cliff as the place where Jesus was crucified. For years the site was known as ‘Gordon’s Calvary,’ Calvary being Latin for Golgotha” See website about the tomb.
The Protestants favor it as the burial site for Jesus. In contrast, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches prefer the “Church of the Holy Sepulcher” as the burial site.
As you look inside the craved-out burial chamber in the Garden Tomb, you will see that the original grave size has been lengthened by about four inches. The rock has been chiseled out at the foot of the grave. The tomb appears to have been used by someone other than the intended person.
This extension of the grave probably makes the grave a borrowed grave and meets the criteria for where Jesus could have been buried. No one knows exactly where Jesus was buried.
The prophecy states that He was assigned a grave with the wicked and the rich in His death (Isa. 53:9a). He was crucified between two thieves and buried in a rich man’s tomb.
Matthew gives us more details about the tomb. “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first’” (Matt. 27:62-64, NKJV).
“Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard” (Matt. 27:65-66, NKJV).
Archaeologists have recovered pieces of broken rock that they believed sealed an old burial tomb. These stones would have been chiseled into round wheel-like rocks, approximately five feet in diameter and fifteen to eighteen inches thick – very heavy. In front of the tomb is a chiseled-out rock trench where one of these rocks would have been placed. Finally, the stone would have been rolled before the opening of the grave chamber closing the opening.
The above verses say that the Jewish leader wanted to seal the grave. So, they probably placed some type of seal around this rock and placed guards nearby.
Twice, I have been blessed to stand in the remains of what once was a magnificent garden located at the base of a rock wall and was allowed to enter this tomb, which is now called “Gordon’s Calvary.”
I believe that this empty tomb was where they laid the body of Jesus, and as I stood there awestricken, I reflected upon what had happened there almost two thousand years ago. Jesus was actually never in this tomb – only His earthly body; He and one of the thieves went directly to Paradise at their deaths.
The other thief went to the place of torment where he would pay for his sins throughout eternity. However, the tomb did hold the earthly body of Jesus, and within a very short time, God the Father placed His spotlight on it. Today, we are blessed to see an empty tomb because God, the Holy Spirit, miraculously raised the body of Jesus from the dead.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible, copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.