“After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden…” John 18:1
We’re standing on the Mount of Olives, looking at the City of Jerusalem. The area between us is part of the Kidron Valley, an area Jesus passed through many times on the way to Jerusalem. Below us is a cemetery where once olive trees grew. At the base of the valley you would find a garden. It was a meeting place. Telling someone to “Meet at the Garden” made a lot of sense in Jesus’ day.
Below and to the left is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the church that is built on the location of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. A garden area is located on one side of the church. Since the 4th century, Christians have agreed. That is the location. It was a beautiful church, but it didn’t really do anything for me.
On the last day of the trip, we had an unscheduled afternoon. Some of us wanted to see the “other” location, the Garden Tomb. In the 1860’s, a team under the insight of Dr. Edward Robinson searched for a garden tomb outside the old Jerusalem walls and unearthed an area that had a tomb, a well, a cistern, and the side of a hill that looked a lot like a skull, Golgotha. It is a beautiful garden space, just the way we might have imagined it to be. There is a tomb that you can take your turn to enter. It is the location of innumerable Easter Services each year. And it is universally agreed that this is not the actual location as much as it looks like the Easter Bulletin covers I’ve seen over the years.
So where do you find the real location? For me, it was a wonderful reminder that it’s not about the place. You find him when you open your heart, not to a place, but to the person. We serve a Risen Savior. He’s in your world today.