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 Vol. 4, No. 3 

 

March, 2002

  

~ Page 12 ~

 

Have You Been to Calvary?

By Hugo McCord

Hugo McCord The late and esteemed Foy Smith preached a moving sermon entitled, "Have You Been to Calvary?" The word "Calvary" (Luke 23:33, KJV) or "Golgotha" (Mark 15:22) means "the place of a skull," referring to the site of Jesus' crucifixion. Where was Calvary?

Jesus died in 30 A.D., but in 70 A.D., when General Titus' soldiers had demolished Jerusalem, "It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground . . . that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited" (Josephus, WARS 7, 1, 1). Not a stone was left on top of another (Matthew 24:2). Where was Calvary?

A rebuilt Jerusalem again rebelled against Rome under Bar Kochba in 135 A.D., but again Jerusalem was destroyed, this time by Emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.). Where was Calvary?

On the old site, Hadrian built a pagan city, naming it "Aleia Capitolina," and erected there a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus. Under pain of death, no Jew was allowed in the city, nor even to stand at a distance to view the place of old Jerusalem (Albert Henry Newman, A Manual of Church History, I, 154). Where was Calvary?

Constantine, the first emperor to be converted to Christianity, determined in 325 A.D. to find the site of Calvary, ordering Bishop Macarius of Aelia to locate both Jesus' death site and his burial place. Macarius prayed, and allegedly the exact locations were miraculously revealed.

Constantine's mother, the Empress Helena, on sending a large number of workmen to the areas pointed out by Macarius, found the place of the skull, and the three crosses buried in the ground, and Joseph's tomb (David S. T. Izzett, The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, p. 9).

In 335 A.D., Constantine had churches built on both locations (Melville Bell Grosvenor, Every Day Life in Bible Times, p. 372). But, the evidence indicates that in 325 A.D., no one knew where Calvary was, and no one had a way to find out its location. The alleged heavenly direction pointed to a place that had "remained unknown for so many years," and was "contrary to all expectations" (Eusebius, The Life of the Empress Helena, ch. 3:28-30; David S. T. Izzett, op. cit., p. 9).

Besides the site of the present day Church of the Holy Sepulcher as containing Calvary, several other locations have been suggested (David S. T. Izzett, ibid., pp. 15-16). In 1738, a book was published selecting an area on the west side of Jerusalem outside Jaffa Gate. In 1812, evidence was gathered pointing to a south side location, outside Zion Gate. In 1842, a place to the north outside Damascus Gate was discovered. A General Gordon in 1882, deeply impressed with the northern location, entered into such a research about it that even until today it is called "Gordon's Calvary."

As one stands in the bus station on Jericho Road, or as one stands on top of Jerusalem's north wall between the Damascus Gate and Herod's Gate, a rocky prominence eerily reminds one of two eye sockets and a nose bone and a mouth. Today on top of that place where the three crosses would have been located is a Moslem cemetery. Immediately adjoining the ugly gray place of a skull have been found a cistern and a winepress, indicating an ancient garden, which agrees with Scripture: "Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden" (John 19:41). Also, within a few yards, is an old sepulcher cut from a rocky ledge, which agrees with Scripture: "the tomb was near" (John 19:42). Moreover, the sepulcher cut from a rocky ledge agrees with Scripture that Jesus' body was placed "in a tomb that was cut in the rock" (Mark 15:46). Competent archaeologists (Conrad Shick, Sir Flanders Petrie, Sir Charles Marston, apud David S. T. Izzett, op. cit., p. 22) have agreed that the sepulcher is a Jewish tomb of the Herodian period.

Where was Calvary? No one knows, and it is a blessed fact that its precise location is of no significance. Only two things are significant: (1) that Jesus went to Calvary, and (2) that I go there in my heart. As to Jesus' going, what matters is that he went in my place, for he "loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). As to my going, I could spend a lifetime searching around Jerusalem, and I could walk on the exact spot of Jesus' death, and still never go to Calvary in my heart! Only when a sinner personally crucifies his "old self" (Romans 6:6), his "old man" (Ephesians 4:22) with "the passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24), only then has one been to Calvary!

A pilgrimage to ancient Jerusalem, therefore, is not necessary. Here in America, or anywhere, if the story of Jesus' Calvary has gripped, yes, has broken a sinner's heart, so that he personally makes up his mind that he will "no longer serve sin" (Romans 6:6), and asks to be "buried" (Romans 6:4) in a watery grave (Acts 10:47) as his Lord was buried in a rocky grave (Mark 15:46), only then can he arise and say "I have been to Calvary."

An eloquent preacher was heard to exclaim: "I would not be ashamed to travel 8,000 miles to old Jerusalem, and, finding the very tomb in which my Lord lay, I would be unashamed to lie down in the exact spot, to put my head where his was, to put my feet where his were and so tell the whole world of my faith!" The eloquent preacher had only been sprinkled!

Image Deciding to Grow: Church Growth
Perspectives from 2 Corinthians
by Evertt Huffard
paperback, 95 pages
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An Album of Bible Characters
by John Waddey
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