Souls Longing to Connect with God: Seeing the Church of the Sepulchre in a Different Way
In the early morning hours of Shabbat, there is a calming stillness that lingers over the city of Jerusalem. You can hear the chorus of singing birds, the murmured intonations of worshippers at the Western Wall, and, if you use your imagination, you can hear the sound of human hearts yearning to connect with God in a city known for its religious ardor and aura. As you make your way to the traditional site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, you can hear the eager voices and hurried steps of pilgrims who long to walk where Jesus walked—desiring to give heartfelt honor to a man who so lovingly sacrificed himself for the good of others. Many of them want to touch the rock where tradition says the body of Jesus once laid when he was taken down from the cross. Some who visit the site come searching for answers, while others seek a mystical experience, believing that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the undisputed location of Golgotha and the ancient tomb of Jesus.
When I first visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher years ago, I felt very little connection or excitement about this site. All I could see at that time was a religious practice so foreign to the Bible. I saw idolatry, and an ancient building that was constructed centuries after the time of Jesus. Yet over the years I have come to see this place in a different way. Archaeology and tradition have made a compelling case that the site upon which this historic building stands is the actual location where our Lord was crucified. Just to the right past the entrance to the building, steps lead to an enshrined rocky hill, a likely location for the crucifixion. Further inside and adjacent to the alleged burial tomb of Jesus (and present day Edicule) is a room which leads to several first century burial chambers; a perfect location close to the crucifixion site where one might need to hurriedly bury a friend so near to the start of sabbath (Luke 23:54). So, from the standpoint of the central doctrine of the Christian faith, this makes the church of the Holy Sepulcher a fascinating place.
However, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is important for another reason. As you walk through the dimly lit corridors of this historic site and stop to consider its architecture, its art, and its walls riddled with the marks of a tumultuous past, you will hopefully begin to witness something far more valuable. This place stands as a monument. It testifies to the hearts of others who have longed to be near the place where Jesus purchased their redemption and so willingly sacrificed himself on their behalf. The place where hundreds of thousands visit each year tells the story of souls whose lives are marred by sin, and who come here seeking forgiveness and hope from God. Through the aroma of smoking oil lamps and burning incense, there is the unmistakable fragrance of people who want to know more about Jesus. And by means of the flickering flames found in a place so filled with darkness comes the epiphany that Christ is the light of men which shined in darkness revealing to us the light of day. A light that our world needs NOW more than ever. A world where many are still eager to know God and who need to understand the connection between fact and faith. A world where souls are searching: souls who need you to show them the way to life everlasting.
Let us then not grow discouraged and become beguiled by the thought that people are not interested in knowing about Jesus, or in studying His word. Deep within every human heart, there is a desire for love and the need for hope. My visits to Israel have revealed to me that
people all over the world are longing to have a relationship with God. Our work at the Bear Valley Bible Institute has shown us that each year, a new group of students arrives who are just as dedicated to the Lord and to the principles of New Testament Christianity as those from previous generations. And likewise, news from all over the world, discussed by brethren from Bear Valley Bible Institute International, Gospel Broadcasting Network, and House to House, have shown me that the church of Christ is working hard and making a difference in the lives of countless souls who will one day enter the bliss of heaven (see the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=11&v=kyTxoV-cgk0&feature=emb_logo).
See this video as well on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLzSmNxEm0g&feature=youtu.be
By John W. Moore