Few things in life have helped shape my understanding of the Bible as my trips to Israel. To walk where Jesus walked and to see the places where the Bible’s main events occurred dramatically impact one’s ability to understand Scripture. The Bible truly becomes a living book.
When traveling in Israel, I found myself often saying, “This is my favorite place!” If you were to ask me today which spot left the most indelible mark on me, I would be torn between the view from the Mount of Olives that overlooks Gethsemane and the old walled city or the simplicity of the garden tomb. Both had a powerful effect on my mind and heart.
Yet for me the most touching moment in Israel took place at the garden tomb as I sat in its beautifully kept surroundings—the very site of the most important events in history. No place so captures the heart and essence of Christianity.
From the garden you can look upon a hill believed to be Golgotha. I realize scholars still debate its exact location, but I can assure you the Hill of the Skull fits well the biblical text. Its gnarled face reminds one of a human skull. For those with eyes of faith it is no stretch to see the three crosses on that hill. You can almost hear the cries of our Lord as He dies in agony and shame upon the old rugged cross.
To gaze upon the empty tomb stirs many emotions. Whether or not this is the exact location, it certainly matches the text of Scripture. Without question it calls forth joy and exhilaration as one considers what it would have been like to be with Peter, John and the women as they peered for the first time into an empty tomb. Wow!
But as exciting as those experiences are, they are not necessary in order to know the resurrected Lord and Savior. They give powerful testimony to the truth of Scripture, but they are unnecessary for validation of the truth once one has had a personal encounter with the Lord of Life.
The Easter story is alive because He is alive. Today we can experience something far greater than looking inside the empty tomb. After 2,000 years we can still meet the risen Lord personally. As he did for Mary, He is still calling our names.
Have you heard Him call your name? If so, rejoice. If not—listen. The voice that cried in agony from the cross now tenderly and softly speaks to you. Come to the risen Lord in faith and receive life—abundant and eternal.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.