Your Questions Please! – The tomb of Jesus

April 6, 2010 at 8:51 am Leave a comment

Question: Jesus was so popular when he lived his years on earth. How is it people are so unsure of the actual place of his tomb? Wouldn’t everything he did on earth be so well documented through the ages?

Pastor Frontz’s answer: According to all the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who had not agreed with the decision to condemn Jesus, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus and buried it in “a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid” (Luke 23:53b).

In the years after Jesus’ death, Christians were scattered throughout the Holy Land and the Roman Empire. The land descended into chaos and war. Around 30 years after his death, the Jewish nation revolted in an armed uprising against the Romans. The Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman legions in 70 A.D. A later uprising was crushed in 135 A.D.

When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, there was renewed interest in identifying the actual places of Jesus’ ministry. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, was built on the site traditionally identified as Golgotha or Calvary since the fourth century. According to tradition, Jesus died, was buried, and was raised from this site. Other Christians identify “The Garden Tomb,” discovered in the 19th century, as the actual place where Jesus was buried.

But perhaps the most significant answer to this question, “Why don’t we KNOW for sure where Jesus was buried?” is because Jesus’ tomb never became a site of pilgrimage for the earliest Christians, at least, not after Easter Sunday. To experience Jesus’ presence, to “remember” Jesus, they did not need to go to the tomb. We do not need to go to the tomb to encounter him. Instead, he is present, according to his promise, “wherever two or three are gathered in my name” (Matthew 18:20). He is present when we gather around his table according to his command, and take bread and wine in remembrance of him.

For the earliest Christians, the location of Jesus’ tomb did not need to be remembered, because Jesus was not there! He had been raised! Believing the witness of the apostles, we too celebrate and rejoice in the Resurrection news. Alleluia!

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