Restoring the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb, the workers meticulously removed layers of history in order to stabilize and reinforce the structure. On March 22, 2017, the caretakers re-opened the site with a ceremony that focused on a well-known fact to Christians.
The tomb is surrounded by a small structure (Edicule) within a church building, known as both the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Basilica of the Resurrection. The repairs were long overdue.
This site has been the focus of attention throughout history. In the fourth century, after his conversion to Christianity, Constantine built a church on the site. In the twelfth century during the times of the Crusades, a new structure was built on the earlier remains. In 1808, fire destroyed the Crusader-era building, and it was rebuilt in 1810. In 1947 the British governor built a cage of iron girders to reinforce the Edicule. Intended as a temporary fix, the ugly supports lasted these 70 years.
Working at night, the conservators removed the exposed girders. Inside the Edicule, they removed a marble slab placed over the tomb in the 1810 repair. Below that marble slab, they found yet another placed 500 years ago. As they prepared to remove it, they knew they were about to see what human eyes have not seen for hundreds of years. As the marble began to move, the workers watched as the original rock that held the body of Jesus became visible. What they found is our well-known fact.
The tomb is empty!
Another site, the Garden Tomb, is also thought to be a possible burial place of Jesus. It is empty too. The empty tomb matters because Christianity is based in historical events. It is not just a philosophy of religious thought, but truth about God and humans to which history bears witness.
Paul, who saw the resurrected Christ, understood this. He wrote, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:13-17).
To dismiss the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus as only a “spiritual” resurrection is to remove the power and meaning from the gospel truth. It also ignores the ample evidence that it actually happened as described in the Bible.
Christians will gather on Easter Sunday around the world to celebrate our Resurrected Savior! We are not “still in our sins” and we have the hope of our own resurrection to eternal life. That historic truth is witnessed by the empty tomb.