I will never forget being in Jerusalem and entering the church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is considered the place where both the cross and the tomb of Jesus are located. The church has an incredible history in and of itself but the fact that it holds under its roof the place called Golgotha that is to say a place of the skull (Matthew 27:33) where Jesus was crucified, the tomb, and then the apparent site of the resurrection is sort of a mind-boggling, sensory overload. Add to that the crowd. I was there long before the days of a pandemic or face masks and we stood in line body pressed against body with little room to move.
Our guide told us when we exited that if we wanted, we could come back the next day when they opened at six o’clock in the morning. Being a good western tourist, and wanting to get my money’s worth, the idea had real appeal. Several of us went back at the crack of dawn. The church was empty. Suddenly everything around, became holy. The place was real. It was also intensely spiritual. There was a beautiful, transcendent silence. And it is really hard to explain.
Often times, when I visit historical sites, they are just that—historical. I have seen the Alamo. I have been to Lincoln’s birthplace. That is the past. Sure, we can all learn from those who have gone before us. However, this is Jesus. He lives. Yes, that is the Easter proclamation. And I’m telling you, those words came alive for me. Jesus is not a historical figure.
Granted, I am a preacher by trade. I am expected to say good things. The truth is my faith in Jesus comes not from a job, or trying to persuade others, or appeal to the guy in the third pew on the left whose head is nodding and eyes are closing as he is falling asleep during my sermon. My faith comes from Jesus—pure and simple.
So, here I am in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and one of my first thoughts was this is true, this is real, I believe. Sure, some of you might be thinking to yourselves, “I was hoping the preacher finally gets it.” Trust me, it doesn’t take a trip to Israel, or Jerusalem, to make a believer. All it takes is Easter.
What else occurred to me was usually when the leader of a movement is killed, it is like chopping off the head of a snake. It is over. Whatever problem the Romans had with Jesus were no more. The Pharisees had no need to be embarrassed by Jesus. No one would ever again call them hypocrites. The poor men and women who followed Jesus will get over it. And so it goes.
Earlier that week on our tour of Israel we visited Masada, the site where the Jewish War came to an end against the Romans. The followers of the Jewish leader decided at the end the only way out was by mass suicide. So, that is what they did.
Back to Easter. Nothing like this in history has ever happened. There is no rhyme nor reason as to why Christianity caught hold and took off. The only explanation is Easter. I get it.