The Four Gardens of God – IV John 19:41, 42

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The photo above is of the Garden Tomb of Jesus. There is another location within the sixteenth century Turkish wall of Jerusalem, and just outside an earlier city wall built around 30 BC. This tomb is housed within the Church of the Holy Sepulcre (yes, that is the correct Catholic spelling!). But I believe (as well as many other archeologists and Bible scholars) that the Garden Tomb is where Jesus was interred after the crucifixion. I will give some reasons for this claim a bit later.

The featured Scripture is John 19:41 and 42:

     Now in the place where He [Jesus] was crucified there was a 
     garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet 
     been laid. So there they [Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus] 
     laid Jesus, because of the Jew’s Preparation Day, for the 
     tomb was nearby. 

I have been to Israel twice, in 1993 and 1996. Both times I have had the privilege of visiting the Garden Tomb. The second time the touring group was rather large, and our guide instructed us to enter into the tomb six at a time and stay for only a couple of minutes, so everyone could have the experience of seeing the tomb’s interior. I was part of the first group of six, and I found a spot out of the way beside the open wooden door which protected the tomb after hours. I stood there for about half an hour, not in the way of anyone as the small groups of six came and went, contemplating on what happened almost two thousand years before! It was a moving spiritual experience! As I stood against the wall at the open door’s edge, I ran my hand behind the door and discovered some loose sandstone bits that had dislodged and settled on the ledges of the tomb’s irregular walls. I picked up a few grains and later sealed them in a small plastic bag which I still have. To think that these sandstone grains were just four feet away from the greatest miracle ever – Jesus’ resurrection! And I wonder what amount of energy the surrounding sandstone walls (including these bits) absorbed in that momentous instant!

What are some of the evidences that this Garden Tomb is indeed the place where Jesus was buried, and where the resurrection occurred three days later?

  • Our featured Scripture tells us it was “…a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” It was Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. What do we know about Joseph of Arimathea?
     Matthew 27:57 through 60:

           Now when evening had come, there came a rich man 
           from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also 
           become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate 
           and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate com-
           manded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had 
           taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 
           and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of 
           the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the 
           door of the tomb, and departed.Joseph was rich, and he was a disciple of 
               Jesus.He asked governor Pontius Pilate for Jesus’ 
               body, and was granted possession. 

          ➔   Although, like the rock tombs of the day, 
               Joseph’s tomb had a large circular rock doorof one to two tons weight, that 
               rolled in a groove to close the tomb. But 
               there are no known photographs of the Gar-
               den Tomb in the last century and a half of 
               modern photography with such a giant rock 
               in place!

     Mark 15:43 through 46:

           Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who 
           was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming 
           and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for 
           the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was al-
           ready dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him 
           if He had been dead for some time. So when he found 
           out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 
           Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped 
           Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had 
           been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against 
           the door of the tomb.Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent and re-
               spected member of the Sanhedrin, the seventy 
               member ruling body of the Jews.

          ➔   Apparently Joseph was very cautious of the                
               Sanhedrin’s threat of excommunication (see 
               John 18:38-42 below). So he took courage 
               when he openly approached Pilate and asked 
               for Jesus’ body!He was also waiting for the full manifesta-
               tion of the kingdom of God. (see Isaiah 
               chapters 11, 60, and 61 to catch a glimpse 
               of the future kingdom).

     Luke 23:50 through 54:

           Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council 
           member, a good and just man. He had not consented 
           to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, 
           a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for 
           the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked 
           for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped 
           it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out 
           of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That 
           day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.Joseph of Arimathea was a good and just man 
               who had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s de-
               cision and deed – that of falsely condemning 
               Jesus to torture and crucifixion! 

          ➔   He was from Arimathea, located about 20 miles 
               northwest of Jerusalem.

     John 19:38 through 42:

           After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of 
           Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pi-
           late that he might take away the body of Jesus; and 
           Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the 
           body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to 
           Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh 
           and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the 
           body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with 
           the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now 
           in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, 
           and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet 
           been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the 
           Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.Although Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, he 
               kept it a secret for fear of the Jews! The 
               fear was...that if anyone confessed that 
               He [Jesus] was Christ, he would be put out 
               of the synagogue [excommunicated from the 
               center of Jewish life].” (John 9:22). 

          ➔   John is the only gospel that tells us Joseph 
               was joined by Nicodemus, another member of 
               the Sanhedrin! (see John 3:1-10; 7:50-52). 

          ➔   They hastily prepared Jesus’ body for burial 
               by wrapping it in linen cloth with a large 
               amount of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred 
               pounds! The worth of that large amount of 
               myrrh and aloes would be in the range of a 
               quarter of a million dollars!Why the haste? The Preparation Day for the 
               Jewish Passover was about to begin at sun-
               down! Jesus died at three in the afternoon! 
               (see Mark 15:34-37).
  • If indeed the Garden Tomb was Joseph’s, he would have been a much shorter man than Jesus! How do we know? The foot-end of the burial platform was hastily dug out and extended by about twelve inches to accommodate a taller body! You can readily see the rough excavation at the foot of the body platform, obviously rougher and more hastily dug compared with a much finer quarrying in the rest of the tomb! Joseph probably told a servant to quickly go and dig out that space so the taller body of Jesus could be laid out properly!
  • There is archeological evidence that a church or chapel was built adjoining the tomb!
     Notice in the photo above there is a hole excavated 
         into the rock a few feet above the tomb door and a bit 
         to the left. It is thought that this is evidence of a 
         support for a roof beam for a church (chapel) that was 
         built honoring the burial and resurrection place of 
         Jesus the Christ!

        Not seen in the photo is a depression in the stone in 
         front of the tomb that could have been used to hold 
         water for foot washing! Some say it is the base of a 
         baptismal font, but it does not seem large enough for 
         that use.

     Also, one can plainly see the stonework blocking up 
         part of the tomb wall. Why was that wall broken down? 
         Perhaps it was so that worshipers could see directly 
         into the tomb.........the empty tomb!

We will stop here. In the next Gem we will explore the significance of the empty tomb!