October 1971

Ungarnished Tomb

Robert F. Turner

Eusebius says that excavations by the Roman emperor Constantine, who reigned from 306 to 337 A.D., uncovered the tomb of Christ contrary to all expectations. The location is within the old city walls of Jerusalem, and for this and other reasons is an unlikely spot; but for centuries this place has been accorded a superstitious veneration. This was not true in the first century, when Josephs new tomb was easily found, and readily available to all.

On Sunday morning, following the crucifixion, there was a flurry of interest in that tomb. Two Marys. Joanna, and other women visited the grave — once. Peter and John ran to the tomb -— a most unusual way to approach a place of the dead. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had placed the body there, and it is reasonable to suppose they revisited the tomb on or shortly after the third day. And I can imagine certain priests and elders of the Jews taking a sudden interest in the place they had intended to forget. But not for long. The truly remarkable thing about this burial place is the little attention it receives in the later writings of those who deeply cherished His memory. Apparently, NO ONE GARNISHED THE TOMB. It is understandable that, in the early struggle for existence, no expensive monument would be built. But five thousand men acknowledged Him as Master, less than two months after His death. His mother, His bosom disciples, and untold hundreds of Judea who had benefited personally by His life, were living near by. And as the literature of this sect took form, isnt it strange that no one pointed to the tomb as a place of veneration? Is it not singularly unlike men to heap such praise upon the work and teachings of a Master yet give so little attention to the spot which holds his earthly remains?

Ah, but here is the difference! It is clear that these early disciples did not regard resurrection as an allegory. Far more than His teaching, far more than mans faith — arose.

Why garnish an empty sepulcher? Even those who crucified Him knew, there was no one in it!!