As usual, it was a hot summer’s day in Jerusalem. We’d been there for a couple of days but this day was going to be particularly special – it was the day we were to visit the place where Jesus died and rose from the dead.
The “holy land” is an interesting place. It’s hard to describe what it’s like in an abbreviated way but amidst all the turmoil and hostility there is something beautiful to be found. A rich heritage of faith to lay hold of. Being raised in the evangelical tradition it’s easy to romanticize Israel while at the same time overlooking all the horrible things that happen by both sides. It is made even easier when you are on a Christian tour that makes a point of seeing the holy sites, while avoiding the places of tension. However we were on no such tour…
As we left the Old City towards the Garden Tomb, we had to exit through the Damascus Gate and journey through a Muslim neighborhood. For some strange reason that I can’t explain, it seemed fitting that the place Jesus died and rose again would be located there. As we approached the entrance to the site I was alarmed at the deafening noise of traffic around me. Strangely enough however, as soon as we walked into the compound it was completely peaceful. You couldn’t hear any of the outside world.
Once we walked in, our guide began taking us through the site as we started with Golgatha (“The Place of the Skull”), where Jesus was crucified. She explained that it was likely that Jesus wasn’t carried up to the top of the hill to be crucified, but rather would’ve been killed right on ground level in front of it. This was because the Romans wouldn’t have gone through all the extra effort of climbing/descending a hill with their supplies just to kill what was in their eyes “just another Jew”. Upon hearing that, I looked down at what would’ve been the place where Jesus died and was shocked to see that it was a tour bus parking lot. How could this be?! For all the shrines and holy sites you can find in this land, the place that is the climax of them all lies somewhere underneath a parking lot of beat up old tour buses.
As I sat and stared in disbelief, I suddenly had an epiphany. Of course this is where He would’ve been crucified – not on some hill top, not all theatrical like we see in the movies, but on the side the road outside the city gates. In this moment I was offended and profoundly moved. Offended that it seemed as though the place of His crucifixion wasn’t being respected as I thought it should be, and yet moved because that’s exactly the point. It was in this place of insignificance that God chose to put Himself on full display.
This season has been a rough one for me. I’ve wrestled with God about His purposes for my life and why things have happened how they’ve happened. I’ve felt the sting of feeling thrust into a season of insignificance and hiddenness where I (pretty regularly) wonder where God is in my everyday life. Yet as I think back on that moment where I stood on a ledge and overlooked the place where Jesus was crucified, hope is ignited in my soul. If God can use the most insignificant of places for the most significant of events, then maybe He’s got a purpose for my season. If I choose to believe that it’s in this place of hiddenness and “insignificance” that the Lord desires to do something significant in my heart and in my life, I’ll then have the “joy set before me” to make it through to the other side.
On to resurrection,
– Sam McCabe