Yes! In a historical occasion, the [empty] tomb of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was opened for a 60-hour period (October 26th to 28th, 2016). The protective marble slab placed over the limestone rock on which the actual body of Christ was laid by Joseph of Arimethea (before HIS resurrection) in the year 1555 AD was temporarily removed for restoration and cleaning. This tomb is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.
WHY THE HOOPLA?
This is a once-in-a-lifetime-event! This tomb may never be re-opened until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most revered site in the Christian world. The limestone rock that was revealed (when the marble slab was temporarily removed) was the very place where Christ’s body was laid.
Those who were in the tomb were enthralled, “"I'm absolutely amazed. My knees are shaking a little bit because I wasn't expecting this,” said Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic's archaeologist-in-residence. "We can't say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades."”1
It seems to be an archaeological marvel that the location of this tomb has not shifted over time. Notwithstanding that, viewing the Holy Rock upon which the Lord was laid would indeed be a glorious moment for every Christian who loves the Lord.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY?
Considered a brilliant and a morally serious public intellectual, Eric Metaxas, who is a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at Large for the King’s College in New York City, offers a glimpse of the history surrounding this tomb, “According to the historian Eusebius of Caesarea, the Roman emperor Hadrian, about 100 years after Jesus' death and resurrection, had a temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite built over the site of Jesus' tomb. This was not by accident.
Two centuries later, the emperor Constantine had the pagan temple demolished and in the process, discovered what was believed to be the tomb of Jesus. Constantine ordered a church to be built around the tomb.
The church we see at the site today is not the original. That one was damaged by earthquakes and fires. It was repaired but later demolished by a Fatimid caliph in the early eleventh century and then rebuilt again and damaged again, so forth and so on.
Yet the pilgrims kept coming, so much so that in the 16th century the burial bed in the tomb was covered in marble to keep people from taking home souvenirs.”2
WHY SHOULD WE BE SURE?
How sure are we that this is the [empty] tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Dr. William Lane Craig presents a compelling defense blended with history to demonstrate the credibility of this tomb, “…how credible is the claim that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre does contain the very tomb in which Jesus was laid? The site was identified in the year 326, when the Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of relics from the time of Christ. She asked the residents of Jerusalem where the site of Jesus’ tomb was, and they directed her to a spot where a pagan temple now stood. We might be justifiably sceptical that the people in Jerusalem at that time would have known where Jesus’ tomb once was and suspect that out of deference to the Emperor’s mother they pointed to some site. But, in fact, there are pretty good reasons to think that the historical memory of where Jesus’ tomb had stood still persisted in Jerusalem.
In the first place, the site they identified stood within the city walls of Jerusalem, whereas the Gospels state that Jesus was crucified and buried outside the city walls. In contradiction to the Gospels, the residents in Jerusalem pointed to a site within the walls. It was later discovered that the walls of Jerusalem had been expanded a couple hundred years earlier, and when the original walls were excavated, it was found that the identified site did, in fact, lie outside the original walls of Jerusalem!
Second, the pagan temple that stood on the site had been there since 110, when it was built by the Emperor Hadrian. So the memory that this was the site of Jesus’ tomb appears to go back to within 80 years after Jesus’ crucifixion in the year 30. Helena commanded the temple to be razed and the ground to be excavated. And digging down, lo and behold, what did they uncover but a tomb! The memory that the temple had been built on the site of Jesus’ tomb seemed to be historical.
Coincidence? Maybe; but a good number of scholars think that the tomb which lies enshrined within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is, indeed, the tomb of Jesus.”3
WHAT NEW REVELATIONS?
The very fact of the tomb’s survival of the 1927 earthquake is a great revelation. The tomb “survived centuries of damage, destruction, and reconstruction of the surrounding Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City,” says Nat Geo.4
The original limestone bed was found intact, “When the marble cladding was first removed on the night of October 26, an initial inspection by the conservation team from the National Technical University of Athens showed only a layer of fill material underneath. However, as researchers continued their nonstop work over the course of 60 hours, another marble slab with a cross carved into its surface was exposed. By the night of October 28, just hours before the tomb was to be resealed, the original limestone burial bed was revealed intact.”5
Even the original limestone cave walls were intact, “In addition, researchers confirmed the existence of the original limestone cave walls within the 18th-century Edicule, or shrine, which encloses the tomb. A window has been cut into the southern interior wall of the shrine to expose one of the cave walls.”6
The opening of Christ’s tomb revealed an aspect of peace - although we hold to different religious worldviews - we could still live in peace and respect those outside our religious worldview, “Outside the Edicule, Thephilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, stood watching the events with a serene smile. "I'm glad that the atmosphere is special, there is a hidden joy," said the patriarch. "Here we have Franciscans, Armenians, Greeks, Muslim guards, and Jewish police officers. We hope and we pray that this will be a real message that the impossible can become the possible. We all need peace and mutual respect."”7
WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE?
So what if Christ’s tomb was opened? How does it matter to us now?
The greatest significance is that the opening of the tomb is a reminder to every Christian that Christianity is a faith rooted in human history, “It is just one more manifestation of the fact that when it comes to the life of Jesus we are dealing not with fairy tales or legends but with history,” said Dr. William Lane Craig.8
The tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ was empty! The empty tomb represents salvation of those who believe in the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus lived among us, died a gory death on the cross, and was raised again to save those who believe in HIM, “The events that began on Good Friday and culminated on Easter Sunday took place, not in some mythological time, but in human history.
Think of Luke's gospel and its companion volume, the Book of Acts. Luke names specific Roman emperors and governors, not Zeus and Hermes…his description of the riot at Ephesus in Acts 19 included details that only someone intimately acquainted with the city could have known.
It could hardly be otherwise. We are saved by a historical act: the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.
And one day, that history will culminate in his return in glory. We know this because the tomb that was opened last month was empty.”9