Why the Garden Tomb is [Probably] Not Jesus’ Tomb

HOLYLAND 2005 111Several years ago I was blessed to be able to visit the Holy Land with a former teacher and friend. Seeing the places where biblical events transpired was a truly life-changing experience. I do, however, remember being perplexed by the presentation of the two different popular locations for the burial place of Jesus. One site is contained within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having grown up in a city with an abundance of Catholic churches and being familiar with the iconography and liturgy that accompanies them I was not impressed by the site. It was dark, dank, and devoid of joy, crowded with weeping pilgrims asking forgiveness, perhaps unsure if Christ would grant their petitions.

There was a great contrast between that first site and the Garden Tomb that we later visited. The Garden Tomb was situated in the midst of beautiful greenery in a quiet and quaint area inviting the meditation and reflection of visitors. There was even a sign on the recently added tomb door that read “He is not here. He has risen.” I will never forget my instructor standing beside me near the Garden Tomb with a smile on his face, saying facetiously, “This place just feels so good, this is where it had to have happened. Jesus had to have risen from the dead here, right?”

He was referring to the fact that in spite of how the two different sites may feel, the Garden Tomb is almost certainly not the place where Jesus was buried. Looks can be deceiving, and the look and feel of these two sites today convince many to trust their emotions rather than the evidence. In the following brief sections I want to outline three reasons why the Garden Tomb is likely not the place where Jesus was buried and rose again. Continue reading

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Stop Labeling Him “Doubting Thomas”

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In John’s gospel Thomas is absent from the larger group of disciples when Jesus makes His first appearance to them. As a result of this absence, Thomas does not see Jesus, and when the other disciples tell him what has transpired, he refuses to believe. In our day Thomas has been given the label “doubting” because of his lack of faith that Jesus had really risen from the dead. I would like to suggest that this label is misleading, over-simplistic, and ultimately unhelpful. Thomas has gotten a bad reputation in the church today for his doubt, but what if doubt wasn’t really the problem at all? Continue reading

Why is the Birth of Jesus Good News?

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“And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”    (Luke 2:8-11)

There’s a lot of good news at Christmas time. For children, there are shouts of joy for presents under the tree on Christmas morning or weather reports of giant snowstorms on the way and days off of school. For adults, announcements of Christmas parties, bonuses, time off, paid vacation!

But why is the birth of Jesus good news? Why do we, two thousand years later, celebrate the birth of a Jewish boy from a home of unimportant nobodies in an unimportant Podunk city in the ancient Middle Eastern nowhere? How does this event that took place so long ago have any bearing on our lives today? The angel’s words to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11 help us understand. Continue reading

An Aerial View of Ephesians

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A few months ago I wrote a post called “Christ, the Cosmos, and the Church,” surveying some lessons I had been learning in the letter to the Ephesians. The past three Sundays I’ve had the opportunity to preach through the letter. I decided to do an aerial view of the letter. I wanted to look at Ephesians as a whole and see how Paul incorporates themes and elements throughout the entirety of the letter, rather than breaking it up into smaller, isolated portions and examining them alone. The following are several themes that came to the foreground in preparing the messages. Continue reading

Put Away the Charts!

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In September of 1622 the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a newly constructed Spanish sailing vessel, was caught in a hurricane near the present day Florida Keys. The ship was part of a large convey that was carrying loads of treasure back to Spain. Five of the ships were lost, the Atocha sinking in just 55 feet of water with the top of the mast still visible above the water after the seas had calmed. Salvage attempts began right away, but the divers’ attempts were restricted by how long they could hold their breath. The treasure was just outside their reach and would remain that way for the next three and a half centuries.

In the 1940’s technology leaped when Jacques Cousteau developed the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or SCUBA gear, which led to the subsequent discovery of several sunken ships. Soon after, Mel Fisher, a veteran of World War 2 and a diver himself, started a salvage company intent on finding the wreckage of the Atocha. After years of searching and salvaging, in 1980 he found remains from one of the sister ships, the Margarita. Believing himself to be close, Fisher worked harder than ever to locate the prize ship of the Spanish fleet. Continue reading

What Can Only Be Known Through the Cross

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In John 17:1 Jesus prays to the Father and asks that He would glorify the Son. The reason Jesus asks this is spelled out in the following verses: 1. Jesus wanted to be glorified so that He could in turn glorify the Father (v. 1). 2. Jesus would accomplish this by completing the work He had been given to do, defined in v. 2 as giving eternal life to all whom the Father would give to Him. 3. Eternal life is defined as knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom God had sent (v. 3). To summarize, Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him so that He could glorify the Father by giving the knowledge of the Triune God (eternal life) to all whom the Father had given Him. Continue reading