This pandemic has emptied churches across the world and shuttered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the site of the first Easter two millennia ago. But all Christians around the world are adapting and finding ways to worship and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jesus was dead, but now He is alive. Watch this retelling of the good news of Easter from Gospel Foundations, a 6-volume small group study from The Gospel Project.
The Video Transcript
Jesus was dead.
The Son of David, the Promised Seed of Abraham, the Messiah in whom all the hopes of God’s people rested, was buried in a tomb, wrapped in cloth and spices.
A group of women walked along the path that led to the tomb, considering all that had happened just days before. How could Jesus be dead? What did this mean for God’s promise to restore His people? Was all hope lost?
Arriving at the tomb, they saw something unexpected: the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. Jesus’ body was missing. Two men in dazzling white clothes stood by them and said,
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you…”
And they did remember. From the moment Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah, He had told them that it was necessary that he be betrayed and crucified. But this wouldn’t be the end of the story. Though He would die, He would rise on the third day.
But none of them understood. Peter had even denied that it should happen at all. But Jesus had been arrested. He had been crucified.
Jesus was dead.
Now the tomb was empty.
Could He really be alive?
The women ran to tell the others.
Later, a stranger appeared to two disciples while they walked along a seven mile stretch of road out of Jerusalem toward the town of Emmaus.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“Jesus of Nazareth, who was handed over to be crucified. We were hoping He was the one to redeem Israel…
Some women from our group told us they had a vision of angels who said he was alive. A few of us went to the tomb, but didn’t see him, only the cloths he had been wrapped in.”
The Stranger spoke up:
“Why are you so foolish? Why are you so slow to believe what the prophets said would happen? Don’t you know that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into His glory?”
And this stranger began to explain how sin, death, and the curse would be defeated, and God’s people would be restored by the death and resurrection of their promised Rescuer.
The son of Eve’s heel would be bruised, even as he crushed the Serpent’s head.
The Lord’s Servant would suffer and die for His people, bearing the iniquities of His people, but would live.
The Son of David would rise from the grave on the third day as Jonah was released from the belly of a great fish.
The Seed of Abraham would bless all the nations of the earth because He laid down His life and took it up again.
From the books of Moses through writings of the Prophets, all Scriptures foretold of this event. Of this moment in which they now lived. This moment they were slow to believe.
The disciples hearts burned as they heard the stranger speak. They invited Him to eat with them. When the bread was broken and thanks was given, their eyes were opened: the stranger was no stranger at all.
He was Jesus, the resurrected Messiah.
They ran to tell the others—seven miles back to Jerusalem in the night—to tell them all they had seen, their hearts rejoicing. Jesus is alive! Death had been defeated! Their Redeemer lives! And as they shared this news, their joy spread into the hearts of the other disciples. And as Jesus appeared to them, their joy intensified and exploded out into the world as they began to proclaim this good news.
The good news that transforms the hearts and minds of sinners, redeeming and restoring them, bringing them from spiritual death to new life. The good news we proclaim today because the good news is still true:
Jesus is alive!
Death is defeated!
Our Redeemer lives forever!
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre lies in the northwest quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Constantine the Great first built a church on the site. The Church has long been a major pilgrimage center for Christians all around the world, but not this Easter due to the pandemic. According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, “the place of the skull” (Matt. 27:33–35; Mark 15:22–25; John 19:17–24). This has been identified as an area of abandoned stone quarries just outside the city of Jerusalem’s wall of the time.
About 10 years after the crucifixion, a third wall was built that enclosed the area of the execution and burial within the city, and this accounts for the Holy Sepulchre’s location inside the Old City of Jerusalem today.
The first Church of the Holy Sepulchre was approached by a flight of steps from the Cardo, the main street of Jerusalem. Then pilgrims will go through a narthex; a basilica; and an open area, the “holy garden,” which had in it the rock of Golgotha, finally reaching the Holy Sepulchre itself.
It was dedicated about 336 CE, burned by the Persians in 614, restored by Modestus (the abbot of the monastery of Theodosius, 616–626), destroyed by the caliph al-Ḥākim Bī-Amr Allāh about 1009, and restored by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus. In the 12th century the Crusaders carried out a general rebuilding of the church. Since that time, frequent repair, restoration, and remodeling have been necessary. The present church dates mainly from 1810.