Along with Paul, I believe…
That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
-I Corinthians 15
The Church of the Holy Supulchre, located just outside Jerusalem, stands on the site at which – according to tradition – Jesus was crucified and subsequently buried. Some have expressed doubt that the veracity of this claim can be proven. Jesus may well have been executed and buried at other places, they say.
Still, even if I can’t know that it was the place where Jesus of Nazarath was killed and buried, I would like to visit this site some day. Regardless of the historical veracity of the location, a visitation of this nature, I think, would force me to ponder an important question:
Did these events – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus – truly happen in human history?
To feel the stone and peer into the tomb, to climb the hill itself, I believe would bring these events off of the pages of a book and out of my imagination, and shift into sharp focus the issue that lies at the heart of my faith.
I do not believe that the biblical witnesses leave us any room to fudge on this point (and, if you’re interested in exploring why it does not in a level of detail that is probably unparalleled in Chrisitan history, I invite you to read NT Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God). These were not vague, ghostly sightings. They were not ways of expressing a metaphorical concept that, even though he is really dead, Jesus is “still with us” in some sense. The witnesses of scripture were fully convinced that, in human history, Jesus of Nazarath was killed, was buried, and was resurrected either at this location or at some location that was very nearby.
It did happen, these writers insist. The question is – will we or won’t we “buy in” to their accounts? To accept it within your view of reality will – quite literally – change your life.
Tomorrow: what if it didn’t happen?