Many have speculated that the site of Jesus' burial and resurrection lies somewhere within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, inside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. But I believe it was at the Garden Tomb, just outside the walls.
Several years ago I took this picture as I walked through that tranquil garden, lush with greenery and wildlife, and then stooped and entered the tomb. A soft beam of light spilled into the darkened room, revealing the place where His body would have been laid.
As I stood alone in that still place, reflecting on Jesus' resurrection, I imagined what it would have been like to be there with Mary Magdalene and Mary the wife of Clopas when they saw that shining angel and heard him tell them not to be afraid, but to come see the place where Jesus had lain. I could almost hear an otherworldly murmur, a sound like an angel's sigh, "He is not here; He has risen, just as He said" (Matthew 28:6).
It's hard to comprehend the wonder of Jesus' resurrection, harder still to grasp the miracle that because He rose again, we too are resurrected. He knows how cynical and fearful we can be, how full of doubt and empty of faith. But Love asks us to receive this new life . . . through belief.
The book of Mark tells the story of Jairus, a synagogue ruler whose twelve-year-old daughter had died. "Don't be afraid," Jesus said, "Just believe." He took the child by the hand, and said "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" and immediately she rose and walked around. Luke writes of the resurrection of the only son of a widow from Nain, and John tells us about the resurrection of Lazarus--four days after he died. When Jesus ordered the stone rolled away, Lazarus' sister, Martha, protested. She believed her brother was too far gone. But Jesus didn't.
There's another resurrection story, but you won't find it in the pages of Scripture. It's mine.
When Jesus rose from the dead, the first person He appeared to was Mary Magdalene, a woman from whom He had driven seven demons. I love it that the one who had had so little hope, the one who was most consumed by darkness, was the one who saw Him first. I like to think that if I had been there that day, perhaps He would have revealed Himself to me first.
Before Christ gave me new life, I was a lot like Mary. Stone cold dead in a tomb of my own making. Wearing the grave clothes of selfishness, brokenness, and sin. Searching for love in romantic entanglements. Desperately looking for life in religions and philosophies.
You would think I was too far gone.
But Jesus didn't. He rolled away the stone that was my heart, took my hand, and shouted, "My daughter—get up!"
Someday, after we have shed our failing, mortal bodies, those who believe in Him will be outfitted in glorious new bodies, made to live eternally with Him. But we don't have to wait for that day to enjoy the wonder of our resurrection. "I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24).
Present tense. Here and now. Love asks only that we believe. "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).
Lord, I am in awe when I think of Your resurrection and am overwhelmed that because You live, so do I! You have brought me from death to life. Help me to receive, through faith, all that my new life in You really means. Thank You that the eternal life You give is not just for the future,
Help me to live each day full of life, full of hope, full of faith!Adapted from The Wonder of His Love Chapter 2 © by Nancy Stafford (Multnomah/Random House)