Resurrection Sunday has such a personal meaning to me. Yes, it’s always been special. Brunch, Church, Easter baskets, family, food. But ever since I made a pilgrimage to the tomb it has changed me forever! This is my story…
I will never forget the first time I saw the TOMB.
Four On A Pilgrimage
It was an oppressively hot and rather muggy evening in early July. I was studying in Old City Jerusalem.
There were four of us. American women dressed in “holy garb”. Head covered, shoulders covered, knees covered. Our head scarves wet with perspiration stuck to the sides of our cheeks and rivulets of sweat ran down our backs partly because it was stifling and partly because we were overcome with heart-racing anticipation of where we were headed.
In the Old City
We darted through the very crowded and close Arab market that was alive with strange faces and unusual aromas. Brightly colored wares hung on either side of the narrow streets two stories high. The streets were so narrow that we could not walk four across.
We had ventured out away from the rest of the students to visit the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, the holy burial place of Jesus of Nazareth. The four of us decided that we did not want to visit the tomb as a part of a study course but as a pilgrimage.
And so it was. We scurried along, huddled together, grasping at one another’s hands and clothing just to make sure we were not parted in the crowd. The streets were packed with people and were a labyrinth of alleyways and passages. The ancient stone buildings were so tall on both sides that it felt like we were in a tunnel!
It wasn’t long until we were completely lost! It was evening and shortly the sun would be going down. Not a good time to be totally lost in a strange city.
At one point in an attempt to find our bearings, we stopped at a corner of an ancient stone building.
Standing in the middle of the street, I could stretch my arms out and almost touch the building on the other side. I could feel the panic starting to rise up inside me. I don’t like the feeling of being closed in or lost! The panicked feeling mingled with the heat of the day and made me feel lightheaded! I put my hand against the wall in front of me to steady myself and touched something etched into the building.
It was a stone plaque of sorts. A cross and the word NIKA engraved into stone. NIKA means “victory”. The word came from a hidden corner of my brain. I remember studying this Greek word a long time ago.
I knew exactly what this ancient stone was.
We had stumbled on to the Via Dolorosa. The Via Dolorosa is Latin for the sorrowful way. It is believed to be the path Jesus took carrying His cross to Calvery.
Our small group of women pilgrims was standing in front of the eighth station of the cross!
We were unknowingly walking the path that our Savior walked over two thousand years earlier as he carried His instrument of death to Calvary!
We Were Those Women
Right there in the midst of the market, the noise, the smells, the heat, and the crowds of strange faces was the Way Of The Cross! Because of my early religious background, I was able to remember the eighth station on the Via Dolorosa. JESUS MEETS THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM.
At this point, I was totally overcome by the divine appointment that brought us to this exact place!
As Jesus walked to His death, a group of women met Him and were grief-stricken. Jesus tells them not to weep for Him but for themselves and their children. As days would be coming that would be very hard for them. He felt great love and compassion for them even though He was steps away from His own death. You can read about this account in Luke 23:28.
We were just like these women. We were out to meet our Lord! And we were strengthened by
Finding The Tomb
When we finally got to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre it was dark and horribly hot but thankfully, the church was not overly crowded.
How could I ever explain this “church
The church was lit by hundreds and hundreds of ornate oil lanterns in different jewel-toned colors and shapes hanging from above. And the whole huge church fortress smelled like burning oil and incense! There was nothing Western or familiar about this place. It was ancient and oriental and orthodox!
We made our way to an area in the huge church complex traditionally thought to be the tomb where Jesus was buried.
Of course, it looked nothing like a garden and nothing like a tomb. It was a small church inside the big fortress church. A church inside a church!
I decided to sit on a bench near the opening of the church tomb to reflect and get myself in a worshipful place. My sister-in-law sat with me. I spent a lot of time weeping quietly.
I was so overcome by the magnitude of it all. I was focused on Jesus’ supreme sacrifice for me and the extreme and lavish gift of life everlasting at my God’s expense. And it pierced my heart!
Just before the Church closed for the night, four American women in holy garb got in line to go into the tomb. Into the Holy Sepulcher! There are just some things about the tomb visitation I still want to keep locked in my heart. Things that I ponder and treasure. Things I don’t want to share because if I do I’m afraid they will slip out of my mouth and float away into thin air and I would not get them back inside me again! Things between me and God!
But this you must know…
Inside The Tomb
I was in the inner tomb. Inside, where you could see that where we were was an actual cave. Where they laid the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth. It was a small cramped space. Only a couple of people could fit in at a time. I could not stand upright. It was a real tomb.
I knelt down at the stone slab where my Lord’s body once was. I draped my arms over it and laid my cheek against it and the thirsty stone drank up my tears!
The tomb was empty! Jesus was not there!
Again, I thought of a few women over two thousand years ago who came to this very tomb looking for Jesus and they found it empty too!
An angel met them and said. “Why are you looking for the LIVING ONE among the dead? He is not here. HE
He is risen, indeed! Amen!