SEARCHING FOR THE EMPTY TOMB

SEARCHING FOR THE EMPTY- four women searching for the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem and finding the risen Lord!

I will never forget the first time I saw the TOMB.
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.
 

We darted through the very crowded and close Arab market that was alive with strange faces and unusual aromas. Brightly colored wares hung on each side of the narrow streets two stories high. The passageway were so narrow that we could hardly walk four across…
 
Arab market in Old City Jerusalem by day
streets in Old Jerusalem by day
We had ventured out away from the rest of the students to visit the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, the holy burial chamber 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 a labyrinth of alleyways and passages. The ancient stone buildings so tall on both sides it felt as though we were in a tunnel! 
 
Arab market in Old City Jerusalem by day
It wasn’t long until we were completely lost! Being lost in a foreign country can be scary and dangerous. And being lost in old city Jerusalem two days after a terrorist attack heightened my angst! Throughout my study trip, the Jewish areas of Israel had been bombarded with hundreds of Scud missiles and a terrorist had commandeered a backloader and plowed over crowds of Jews not far from where our group was that day!
 
We wound our way here and there trying to find a familiar looking landmark… the Tower of David, the golden top of the Dome of the Rock, the jewelry shop of David, the “safe” jeweler. But as much as we tried, nothing looked familiar. I began to second guess our decision to leave the safety of the group and go on this personal pilgrimage! What was I thinking?
 
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 in a sea of strangers and strange things! The prickly feeling mingled with the heat 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… a cross and the word NIKA. I knew that Greek word. It meant VICTORY.
 At that moment I knew exactly where I was although I had never been there before.  
 
We had stumbled onto the VIA DOLOROSA… the way of the cross. There we were standing in front of the eighth station of the cross!
 
We were unknowingly walking the path our Savior walked over two thousand years earlier as he carried His instrument of death to Calvary!
 
Right there in the midst of the market and the noise and the smells and 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 to weep 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.
 
That evening, lost in old town Jerusalem while seeking the tomb where they had “laid our Lord”…we were these women! We were the woman of the eighth station on the Via Dolorosa. Jesus met us at that corner and strengthened us and poured His great love over us!  And we were at peace!
 
Our circumstance had not changed, but when the Lord steps into your world EVERYTHING changes! We went on our way praising God confident that we were not lost at all. We were just where God wanted us to be!
 
When we finally got to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre it was dusk and the church not overly crowded.  
 
How could I ever explain this “church”? Think of a fortress the size of a football field. Nothing to me resembled a church… or Calvary or a garden tomb… which are all in such close proximity housed inside the “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 place smelled like burning oil and incense!
 
There was nothing western or familiar about this place. It was old and oriental and orthodox!
 
We made our way to an area in the huge complex-of-a-church that housed 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!
 
The tomb by day
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! The magnitude of it all! Jesus’ supreme sacrifice for me and the extreme and lavish gift of life eternal at my God’s expense pierced my heart!
 
Just before the Church closed for the night, four American women in holy garb… head covered, shoulders covered, knees covered… got in line to go into the tomb.
 
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 won’t get them back inside me again!
 
Things between me and God!
 
But this you must know…
 
I was in the inner tomb,  inside a cave. It was where centuries ago 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 first-century tomb.
 
I knelt down at the stone slab where my Lord’s body was once laid.  I kelt down and draped my arms over the hot stone laying 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 the tomb empty too!

An angel met them and said. “Why are you looking for the LIVING ONE among the dead? He is not here…

HE IS RISEN”. Luke 24:5-6
 
He is risen, indeed!

 I have seen the empty tomb with my own eyes!  I know for certain my Redeemer lives! He is risen indeed!

 

SCRIPTURE MEMORIZATION VERSE THIS WEEK: 

WHY DO YOU LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD? HE IS NOT HERE; HE IS RISEN! LUKE 24:5-6

SEARCHING FOR THE EMPTY TOMB. My Easter story from Jerusalem

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53 Comments

  1. I’m at a loss for words. I can’t imagine visiting this most important site of our faith. One day. Thank you for sharing this. It is as if I visited with you.

  2. Hi Yvonne,
    Thank you for sharing your story and experiences of Searching for the Empty Tomb. Your experiences and use of adjectives helped me to “reflect”on the experiences that my mom and dad had as they visited the empty tomb. Their relationship with God kept them positive about life and nonjudgmental of others, especially my dad. Their strong faith continues thorough their children and grandchildren.
    With great appreciation for sharing of your stories and ingenious decorating projects.
    Friends through Christ,
    Joy Beth Hicks

  3. Thank you for sharing your pilgrimage to Jerusalem, it was if we walking with you Yvonne. Blessings to you my christian friend.

  4. What a beautiful post! Can you share with me the name of the place or group with whom you studied in Jerusalem?

  5. Yvonne, thank you for posting this again. It is as beautiful now as it was the first time I read it. He is risen indeed!!! Praise His Holy Name.

  6. What beautiful post! I recently started following you because I enjoyed your style, but as always, the most beautiful things are found in the joy of Christ and following Him! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Thank you for so beautifully writing about your journey to the tomb and transporting me back to the time I too visited this same tomb. Yes, HE IS ALIVE! HEAVENS GATES ARE OPENED WIDE!

  8. So beautifully written, so humbling. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, I went as I read this.
    My heart is so heavy, I have close loved ones who are lost and I am praying faithfully for salvation for them.

    1. I know the heavy burden you feel for those you love who have not accepted Jesus as Lord and savior yet! “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps 34:18

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your encounter in Jerusalem it brought me back to my trip there 4 years ago a week before the Gaza war broke out. My mother and I made the trip on my Grandmothers birthday she had also made the trip years before and now my mother and I were landing in Israel on her very birthday. Everyday we encountered the Lords protection and favor. But today as I read about your experience at the tomb and the reminder that Jesus is alive and a very present Savior it stirred my faith to once again praise Him for all He is !
    Thank you for this gift of remembrance today!
    God Bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and give you peace
    Kelly Ueber

  10. He has risen indeed! Thank you Yvonne for sharing your story about your visit to Israel and the empty tomb of Christ. It was a blessing to read! My late great aunt who was a world traveler went to the Holy Land many years ago and was baptized in the Jordan River. She talked about that trip as her greatest. This is a trip my husband and I need to seriously consider.

    I was wondering if you attend any of the productions at Sight and Sound Theatre in Lancaster? This season they are doing “Jesus” which starts in March.

  11. Yvonne that was beautiful! I felt as though I was walking with you, my heart beating, my eyes weeping! I am always overwhelmed when I think of the supreme sacrifice my God made for me & you. Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed!

  12. Many readers stop by Stonegable for decorating ideas, recipes, DIY projects, etc. and along the way they find Jesus. Thank you for your holy boldness to witness for our Lord and Savior. I am so grateful for your Sunday Scriptures. May God richly bless you and your family.

  13. As I traveled vicariously to Jerusalem today I began to think……wouldn’t it be wonderful if every one that lived there believed what happened at the cross. What a sacrifice was made for the whole world. Every living creature. Thank you very much.

  14. You are such a remarkable story teller. Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful and personal experience. God Bless!

  15. Thank you. I have ALWAYS wanted to go there, and one day maybe?! We did see The Shroud of Turin (Italy) last October and that was emotional too – when they showed a short film, I couldn’t stop crying, watching Jesus crucified on the cross – just took my heart away and until I left, it was very emotional for me that I couldn’t stop. There was a very sweet lady in the church gift shop that stopped me to give me a special gift, although I bought things, I believe she had watched me sobbing so much that she wanted me to have a special gift from her, very nice of her to do that. I don’t know why I couldn’t control myself but yet do know – Jesus…..he is in my heart/life and always will be. One day I will make it to the Holy Land. We are going back to Italy and will go through Assisi where the nativity was made by St. Francis as a reminder for everyone. Thank you again. Although Christmas is very special, Easter has always been my favorite holiday – for the meaning of it, what Jesus sacrificed for all of us.

  16. Linda again…I forgot to mention that I could not speak Italian, so didn’t know what the lady in the church gift shop was saying – wish I did / she took my hand and was so kind …. but guess Jesus knew. Reading your post today was probably my favorite one I’ve read. You are kind like the lady in the church gift shop, thank you again for sharing with everyone.

  17. Goosebumps and tears. To be lost and anxious in a foreign and turbulent place is indeed scary. But to “ accidentally “ touch the area that you touched gave me goosebumps. Gods reminder that he has you.. you are not lost in your salvation. To be on the Via Dolorosa confirms He speaks to us . Thank you for all your wonderful stories. Sharing your faith !! Nancy

  18. Oh Yvonne I cannot even imagine how you felt! To be in the tomb of where our Lord and Savior laid! How glorious!! Thank you for sharing!!

  19. Thank you! I loved reading your piece about the search for the empty tomb. It gave me cold chills and inspired me. You are wonderful! I love the podcast too, keep up the good be work, you’re an inspiration.

  20. Very moving post. I can’t imaigne the emotions you were feeling during your pilgrimage. Thank you for your wonderful posts each Sunday.
    Alleluia! He is risen!

  21. “….the gift of eternal life at my God’s expense pierced my heart” how beautifully articulated. I feel exactly the same way but never expressed it so perfectly. Thank you for your inspiring words that are a gift to me. Bless you.

  22. I read this aloud to my husband. I felt so moved. I felt I was with you. Walking that path. Lost. I was amazed at the station where Jesus led you. Miraculous!!! I became choked up with emotion. You walked the steps our Savior walked!!! The women were there Ohhh this is all so much to take in!!! How glorious!!! I was moved in my Spirit as you shared about the tomb. And how personal your experience there. Thank you for sharing this today. My heart is full with love for our Lord. And thankfulness that you were kept safe.

  23. I have not forgotten this post , I saved and have shared this with others. I felt like I was experiencing it with you, so beautiful.i also wept because it is so moving. Thank you very sharing it again. I

  24. Thank you for this emotional post of your journey to Jerusalem, Yvonne. I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to go, but I embraced your every detail and felt like I was there. Tears of sorrow and tears of joy, “He Has Risen”!! Have a blessed week, Lori

  25. Yvonne, you should write professionally. Your experience and feelings were so touching and moving. I hope you have many more experiences that you will share. I am so glad you posted it again so new readers, as I am, could share your journey.

  26. Amen and amen…..if we date follow our Lord…we are all on this narrow path each day…sometimes lost and looking and sometimes…..praising Him for always giving us directions….if we just pay attention to the signs….thank you for the signs you provide in your teachings……He is Risen…..Risen indeed. Cat