The Walk Between Golgotha and the Tomb
Keynote address April 2019 by Lynne Hilton Wilson Ph.D.
Take a walk back to ancient Jerusalem for the first Easter morning. Try to imagine in your mind's eye, the scene—it’s sights, smells, and sounds, as we walk beside the women who retraced their steps to the tomb were Jesus’ body was laid three days earlier.
In your mind’s eye, as you walk beside those women, I hope you feel their greatness. They are possibly, the most noble women who have ever lived.
We know that Mary the mother of the Lord was at the foot of the cross, and her sister was there to comfort her.
We know the name of four others who huddled together on that pre-sunrise walk. Mary of Magdala, the wealthy town just north of Tiberius, Joanna, the wife of Chuzza, Solome, the mother of James and John, or sons of thunder, and wife Zebedee.
We know there was another Mary who had two boys named James and Josie.
We know there were other women in addition to these who’s names are recorded.
You may not need to imagine, you may need to just remember, because as I presume, we were all there with our premortal angelic view, peering down from the clouds, cheering these women on.
Imagine in your mind’s eye that it is still dark, as this small group of shrouded women slowly and quietly retrace their steps down the main road. Slow because they are carrying a heavy load under their long robes. Their dark shawls cover them head to foot, not only because it is still chilly in the wee hours of the morning, but also because they're outside of their homes.
In Jerusalem, Jewish women were to stay indoors as much as possible. But if they ventured out, they most completely drape themselves head to foot, including the veil over their faces.
This little group are on their way to a garden, just off the main road, to visit the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. They feel dark and cold not just because the sun has not yet risen—they feel dark and cold because of sorrow. They are in deep mourning.
The darkness inside is almost overwhelming them. They are confused with unmet expectations and
with fear of both the Romans and the Jews. The other disciples are all hiding; barricaded in a room, still asleep.
But this small band of courageous women had not slept much, and ventured out in hopes that the darkness will be their cover to cross their quarter of Jerusalem and down the main road without being seen.
Jerusalem at Passover time
This is especially difficult because the city is bursting with pilgrims. A city that usually houses between 20,000 to 25,000 people, explodes during the time of the annual pilgrimage feasts. One Passover, a priest counted well over a million Jews who came to worship. There is simply not enough housing for all the pilgrims. If you are fortunate to have extended family in Jerusalem, you can bunk up with them—most of which were one-room homes. You had to squeeze your mat on the floor between their children like baby birds scrunched up in a nest. If you cannot fit inside, you sleep outside. There are people sleeping on the hillside, on flat rooftops, in courtyards, and public squares.
As the women carefully wind their way down the narrow-dark-passageways, they worry about disturbing those sleeping in corners and alleyways. Finally, they reach the city wall—they are halfway there.
OUTSIDE THE WALL
Looking at the temple brings back memories for all the women being on the temple hill with Jesus. Women could have joined him as he taught in Solomon’s Stables, or the court of women.
Imagine how their minds may have been flooded with memories of the past few days they just spent with Him—especially on walking up Mount Moriah with throngs of pilgrims cheering for Him, “Hosanna, to the Son of David” as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Where were all those people now?
I wonder if they heard a rumor that the veil of the temple was rent during the violent storm?
Outside the wall
I imagine, they pause and turn around to see the outline of Herod’s grand temple in the dim light.
His mother may have even remembered finding her little twelve-year-old there.
I wonder if they heard a rumor that the veil of the temple was rent during the violent storm?
And yet always aware of others, Jesus saw them sobbing and lovingly spoke:
“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Can you imagine in your mind’s eye the women comforting each other as they stumbled along?
I imagine as they edge their way down the dark street, they still smell the same smells.
Over 100,000 lambs were slaughtered on the temple mount three days ago. The stench is horrific.
Fearfully they continue to creep along one side of the main road, the famous broad road that runs from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea.
I'm sure it was quiet at that time of day. How different than it was a few days before.
Imagine how frightening it must have felt to return to that same road.
I imagine that they remembered where they were standing when the Roman soldiers dragged Jesus, bruised-and-bleeding from Pilate’s scourging, barely able to walk, down the street.
I imagine the women would
have covered their faces and quickened their pace to pass that stretch of the road, as their minds bounded from the slaughter of the animals to the soldiers slaughtering the Lamb of God.
Can you Image what it was like to approach Golgatha again?
In the moonlight, they can barely see across
the street. If they lifted their veils, they could have seen dark shapes of the tall wooden poles permanently affixed in the ground for crucifixions. (The Romans keep the tall poles along the main road at all times as a warning for
all who travel that road to remember the cost of breaking the Roman laws).
Instinctively, their feelings intensify
and they stumble. I imagine that they begin weeping again, but they keep walking.
Even though they are silent as they pass the place of the skull— I imagine their minds replay the awful-brutal-scene over again and can hear the yelling, jeering crowds in their head.
Remembering the Cross: I imagine that Jesus’ mother, Mary, remembered what He had said from the cross,
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And when He told the fellow prisoner on his right,
“Today thou shall be with me in Paradise."
Did Mary direct the soldiers to bring liquid when Jesus called out “I thirst?” She must have stood fairly close when He spoke to her with the thoughtful words, “Woman, behold thy son.”
With all the noise and commotion of the rising storm, I wonder if she heard Him scream, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Did she see the excruciating pain leave his face as He cried out, “It is finished! Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
I imagine that in an attempt to chase away fearful thoughts, one of them begins humming a favorite Psalm.
Perhaps it was, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” or “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding . . . He will direct thy paths.” (If I would have been there, I would have joined in.)
Whatever they said or did, I assume it was still in a whisper as they are frightened of being heard by Jews and Romans.
These sweet women are almost there, as the garden is near to the place of the skull.
Into the Garden:
We learn in the Gospel of John that the tomb was in a garden just past Golgotha (Jn 19:41). So as they step off the main road, I assume they feel some relief for making it this far—their hearts stop racing and their
load feels lighter as they know they are almost to there. The women have only been to the tomb only once before.
Three days ago, during a violent storm, they followed the servants of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who carried Jesus’ limp body and laid Him in the tomb at last, in peace. I imagine noticed that act of kindness, at the end of such a hellish day.
Now in the privacy of the garden, they may have removed their face veils to see better in the full moonlight. It was, perhaps, the most beautiful garden they seen in Jerusalem. Wafts of the spring blossoms met them. I imagine as they walk across the garden, they feel enormous gratitude to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for
going to the Governor’s office and doing whatever was necessary to receive Pilot’s permission to take the body of Jesus. Their positions at the Sanhedrin helped, but I’m sure they also received Divine guidance on that terrible afternoon.
Joseph of Arimathea had prepared a new tomb for himself inside his lovely garden. His servants had carved a shaft into the limestone rock and with an adjacent antechamber or mourning room. The burial shaft
included a rock shelf where they laid Jesus’ bruised and torn body. The servants helped wash Jesus’ body, and anointed Him. Nicodemus had bought 75 pounds of ointment (the KJV says “a hundred pounds” but their weights then measured only 12 oz per pound). Once His body was cleaned and anointed, they dressed it, or swaddled it in cloth. The strips were wrapped around and around His arms and legs, covering his cut hands and feet, gently adhering his pierced side, and wrapping up his jaw and forehead.
The women from Galilee had spent much of the last two days, their two “holy days”—the Passover and their Sabbath—preparing burial ointments for their Lord’s body. Now that the Sabbath was over, three days and three nights later, these wonderful women also wanted to add their skill and years of experience in fulfilling the Jewish burial practices of washing, anointing and clothing the deceased in preparation for their afterlife. The women had been so frightened and worried about how to retrace their steps, that they just now began worrying about how to open the tomb. They had made it this far, but I imagine fear again overtook them, I imagine that one of them suggested they pray for God to soften the hearts of the Roman guards.