“It’s such a peaceful place, away from the traffic and noise of the city!”
Sunday’s paper posted an article featuring a former local resident, who spends 8 weeks annually volunteering as a guide at the Garden Tomb in East Jerusalem. Boyd Huff is a fellow I had the privilege of knowing when he was involved in area economic development, and was pleasantly surprised to see how he and his wife spend part of their retirement years.
“Wow”, I thought. “I could spend 8 weeks a year in the beautiful garden that houses the tomb in which our Lord was laid following the crucifixion!” It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth!
In 1993, I made my first visit to the Garden Tomb as part of a tour to Israel. I later learned that the tomb was not on the original itinerary, but added by our protestant Christian guide as an alternative to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
That visit remains one of the most profound experiences of my spiritual life! To relate in its entirety is the subject of more than one post, but I can say with all confidence that the Garden Tomb is the place where they laid our Lord!
The history of the search for and subsequent discovery of the tomb dates back centuries and is the subject of considerable debate among archaeologists and Biblical scholars. But the most well-known searcher was a major general in the British military named Charles Gordon. Gordon was convinced that the craggy mount adjacent to the Damascus Gate, which resembles a skull, is the site of Golgotha and since Jesus was buried nearby; the tomb must be nearby as well. Subsequent excavations unearthed the tomb with a wine press nearby and other artifacts spoken of in Scripture. The tomb, with one finished and one unfinished burial place fits the Gospel accounts to a “T”. One must stoop to peer in and the finished burial place is quite visible without actually entering the tomb – all found in one or more of the Gospels relating the experience of the disciples that first resurrection morning!
When in that beautiful peaceful garden with its humble tomb; one has no doubt it’s “sacred ground!“
At this point, you may wonder – so what! What does this have to do with “a God of irony?”
The beautiful garden with a humble tomb lies under a Muslim cemetery!
Yes, I kid you not. At the top of Golgotha is an ancient Muslim cemetery owned by an Islamic trust and protected by the East Jerusalem government. Immediately across what was the main road to Damascus is the East Jerusalem bus terminal. East Jerusalem is the Palestinian section of the modern city.
Not only does PAPA have a sense of humor – but the humor found in irony. As our guide related this tidbit of information; I thought – “why not! Isn’t that just His way?” Isn’t it fitting that He’d hide the place of our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection beneath ground owned by those who trace their lineage to the first son of Abraham with Sarah’s handmaiden – Hagar!
Irony is an “outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected – an “incongruity” that doesn’t fit our human understanding of the way things are meant to be. It is what many call a “tongue-in-cheek” approach to life!
Scripture contains considerable irony as well as paradoxes that to the human eye appear to be contradictory. So is it any wonder that the same would be true for life lived on earth garbed in our humanity? Such is the stuff which the early Jewish leaders used to condemn Jesus as a “blasphemer”. An “eye for an eye” didn’t fit with “love your enemies and do good to them” Nor did the idea of living the humble life of a servant line up with the opulence those same leaders favored!
The bottom line for me – whether in the peaceful quiet garden outside Jerusalem’s city walls, or in the midst of hectic busy days back home – is the realization that “sacred ground” can be found anywhere. Anywhere PAPA chooses to bless.
And that He is a God Who chooses to confound us at every turn. Just when we think we have Him on a leash; He bounds elsewhere ‘contrary to what we expect‘ and without concern for our human need to understand. A need for life to be congruent. A need for no surprises. A need for logical outcomes flowing from human reason.
Today, I encourage you to look for and eagerly anticipate PAPA’s irony. Those moments when He surprises us with something totally out of context to what we expect. For it is in those moments that we can be astounded – and He LOVES to astound us!
He loves to give us more than we could hope for, imagine, dream of or humanly expect. For He is the God of irony – as well as the sacred ground upon which He leads us to walk.
Linda S. Fitzgerald, Visionary Partner
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