The Empty Tomb

Bible writers often used directional words when describing places and events.  “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers…”(Luke 10:30).  “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord” (Psalm 24:3)? 
Lori and I were privileged to travel to the Holy Land in December, 1999.  We saw the lofty heights of Jerusalem and the terraced slopes of Mount Zion.  In all probability, David’s palace was situated on one of these slopes, thus enabling him to view the terraces below.  Had he not been looking down from his rooftop, perhaps his tryst with Bathsheba would never have occurred.  One translation says he “looked down and saw…”
Our tour included a bus ride from Jerusalem down to Jericho.  We held our collective breath as the bus wound its way down the narrow road.  Several times it appeared that we were going to fall off the edge, as there were no guardrails. 
Israel is an intense, complex, and absolutely fascinating country.  Although it is a small nation, even tiny, it is densely packed with immense geographical diversity and a long, rich history.  Fractious politics, along with religious and cultural differences exist that defy belief.  Israel is home to three major world religions.  Most profoundly, it is the land of the Bible.
It’s intriguing to actually visualize specific locations while reading my Bible.  I stood near the spot in Caesarea Philippi where Peter made his great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).  I stood outside the foundation of Peter’s home in Capernaum wondering if Jesus ever slept there. 
I read the Christmas story and I see the Shepherd’s Field outside of Bethlehem, where the angelic host delivered earth’s greatest birth announcement.  When I read of Jesus carrying His own cross, I picture the Via Dolorosa, the “way of the cross.” and I remember my walk.  When I read about earth’s final battle against evil, I see the Valley of Jezreel, a narrow, peaceful plain.  One day, blood will flow like a river where cattle now graze.  Lush, irrigated fields now produce bumper crops.
I read about the show down between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal, and remember standing on that very slope.  Jesus’ early ministry took place around the Sea of Galilee.  I rode on a boat much like those of His day, and I remember the Sea Walker and his fishermen-disciples.  I marvel that the Sea of Galilee is really a large lake.
Going down to the Dead Sea, I picture a man lying on his lounge chair with his legs crossed and his arms folded above his head.  I floated in the waters of the Dead Sea in that very posture – only without the chair!  It is virtually impossible to sink in that body of mineral-laden water.  I stood in the Garden of Gethsemane beside olive trees that bent low the night Jesus prayed, “Not what I will, but what you will”(Mark 14:36b).  I contemplated the Savior’s agonizing death as I viewed Golgotha, the “place of the skull.”  Tour buses now park beneath its rocky cliff. 
However, nothing moved me more than the garden situated just yards away from Golgotha.  The empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathea testifies, “He is not here; He has risen” (Luke 24:6).  My salvation was secured when the Holy Spirit breathed into the lifeless corpse of Jesus of Nazareth.  Now we sing with conviction, “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes…
Calvary speaks of His death. The empty tomb confirms His resurrection, and the Mount of Ascension reminds me that He’s coming back in like manner that He left.  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has changed countless lives, including mine.  Through this tiny nation all the nations of the earth have been blessed.  In the closing days of time God’s power will be seen in and through this precious real estate. 
Hope Community Church is tentatively planning a trip to Israel during September, 2018.  Be looking for further details on our website.



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