A little over fifty years ago, I was privileged to visit the Garden Tomb near Jerusalem. My husband and I, with our two oldest daughters, then five and seven, were on a dream vacation that started in Liberia, and ended in Lebanon before flying back home to Monrovia. Near the trip’s end, on our very first day in Jerusalem, after checking in at the YMCA Hostel, we wandered down hill late in the afternoon. Without a guidebook or even any advice, we came upon the famous site and were greeted by the keeper of the Garden Tomb, an ardent, humble Christian who was later killed in the “Six Day War.” At that time, he simply walked us through what had become a sacred shrine for Christian visitors.
So many years later, I can still pull up images of what we found that afternoon. It helps me to imagine the rest as I read Scripture accounts of that first day of the week when the women came, hoping to embalm the body of Jesus with spices, wondering how they would find help in rolling the stone back.
We’ll start our forty day ‘journey’ to Pentecost Sunday at the empty tomb. Before you begin, gather some art supplies and make sure each family member has his or her own Bible from which to read. On some poster board of manageable size, let the artistically inclined draw a garden with a tomb, carved into the side of a hill, in the center. On plain paper, you can draw sketches of the various people who came to the tomb and cut them out and add them to your picture. If you’re fortunate enough to have flannel board lessons, you might even be able to find some figures from that source. But, don’t worry, home-drawn figures work, too.
Now read Matthew 27:57 to 28:15 right through, volunteers taking assigned segments from this story. Here are likely scenes:
- Matt. 27:57-61 – THE BURIAL – Joseph, Mary and ‘the other Mary.’
- Matt. 27:62-66 – SAFEGUARDING THE BODY –Jewish Elders and Guards
- Matt.28: 1-10 – THE TOMB IS EMPTY! Angel, Jesus, the Mary’s, the guards.
- Matt.28:11-15 – PAID TO LIE! Guards and Jewish Elders
JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM!
Let a family member make a list with everyone’s suggestions of the facts of the story, so far. You might start with: 1. Joseph, a rich Arimathean and Jesus- follower gets permission from Pilate to take Jesus’ body to bury him. 2. Etc., 3.Etc.
Let someone pretend to be a reporter from the Jerusalem Chronicle and the rest of you take the parts of characters in this story. Role play the reporter interviewing the people who were actually at the tomb at one time or another to get their reactions to what they experienced. If you’re really ambitious, you might even start your own issue of the Chronicle. Write an article based on today’s reading, and keep going as we explore more scripture in the weeks to come.
As you have time, share with one another what person in this drama you would have chosen to be and why that person’s perspective interests you.
Whenever you take the time to explore this part of the glad story, include a time of worship –of praise and thanksgiving. How different life would be if Jesus had not been raised from the dead. What hope beyond the grave would we have? But we do have hope and we can be glad…as the Angel said, “God has raised Him to life, just as Jesus said He would!” Hallelujah!!
SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY – STILL AT THE EMPTY TOMB!