Finding your way to Calvary

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The true place of the Crucifixion is within you and not at a specific place, argues Dennis Niziol (inset, above).

I have visited the Holy Land many times often leading groups with Pastor David Beresford.

We have an ongoing discussion as to which of the two sites in Jerusalem is the authentic ‘Calvary’.

David prefers the ‘Garden Tomb’, while I lean towards the ‘Church of the Holy Sepulchre’ as the original place of Crucifixion.

Those judged worthy of death were executed outside the city walls.

The Garden Tomb is outside the walls of Jerusalem, whilst it is arguable that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre site was outside the walls during the time of Jesus.

Both places have a tomb nearby where the body of Jesus could have been laid.

The Garden Tomb has a ‘Resurrection Sunday’ feel about it and cosmetically has more going for it than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

It is a beautiful garden area and many pilgrims feel the presence of the Lord there, and the tomb itself has evidence of early Christian markings.

On the other hand the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has a stronger historical basis from the time of Constantine.

As you go into the ancient church there is a stairway on the right near the entrance.

Going up the stairs you come to an altar where there is a larger-than-lifesize painting of Jesus on the cross.

Beneath the altar in front of the cross is a white stone base with a hole in it about 250mm in diameter, believed to be the hole where the cross of Jesus stood.

People clamber over each other just to touch that stone.

When I first visited Jerusalem as a young pastor, our guide said he wanted to show me something.

He took me into a crypt under the altar and pointed at a crack in the ceiling.

“Do you see that crack?” he asked. “It came from an earthquake at the time of Jesus, and that crack goes all the way up to the hole where the cross stood.”

We know in Scripture that when Jesus died there was a mighty earthquake (Matthew 27:50-54).

To tell the truth, the ultra-religious atmosphere in that place ruins the experience for many people.

There are custodians who bark at people to keep them moving along.

It all leaves me feeling a bit unmoved, but for me this was Calvary.

Throughout Scripture none of the disciples ever mentions going to the place where Jesus died and rose again.

They didn’t need to – they had Jesus back from the dead. And I don’t think that it is God’s priority to sanctify ‘holy places’. He came to sanctify us.

The true place of Calvary is not seen with your eyes (Luke 17:20).

It is an experience that every born-again believer experiences in their hearts.

In my spirit I stand in wonder before the cross of Jesus.

I can hear the lash of the cat-o’-ninetails and hear the sound of the hammers nailing his hands and feet.

I can hear his words as he proclaims, “It is finished!” And I know afresh the love and forgiveness of the One who paid it all.

I have found the very hill where Hell was defeated, and it costs me nothing to go there!

Dennis Niziol is the retired pastor of Elim Bicester and now volunteers as a chaplain with Thames Valley.

From Direction Magazine

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