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The Holy Entrance

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Here Jesus' Body was Annointed for Burial

Location – Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Map Coordinates - 31.778460, 35.229556

For the past 900 years this has been the entrance to this church. It is in this part of the church where worshippers recall the anointing of Jesus’ body for burial. In the original Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which was completed in 335 AD, this was the side entrance of the church, and this room used to be outdoors in a large open-air courtyard called the triportico.

The side entrance of the original Church of the Holy Sepulcher is now the main entrance.


The Bench.


The area of the Muslim money table.

This area used to have a stone bench that was put here in the twelfth century. Back then the Muslims were in control of the Holy Land, which means they were also landlords of this church. It is in this corner that Muslim guards would charge an admission fee to Christian pilgrims who wanted to come worship here. However, this fee was abolished in 1831.


The Holy Doors.


The entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

I took these pictures while I was locked in the Holy Sepulcher overnight between 8:00 PM and 5:00 AM. That’s why the doors are closed.

This is the only entrance to the church that tourists are allowed to use. It’s been proven to be a safety hazard because in 1840 a fire broke out in the church. This door was open at this time, but dozens of pilgrims were trampled to death trying to escape.

Six Christian denominations control the church of the Holy Sepulcher. They each have their own separate chapels, and there are also common areas where all of them are in control. One of those common areas is these doors.


The Blocked Door.


In the above photo, just to the left of this door there’s a staircase, and behind the staircase you can see on the wall a rectangular outline of an ancient door filled in with smaller stones. When the current Church of the Holy Sepulcher was first built there wasn’t a staircase here, and there were two exterior twin doors that provided access to the church. You can see this blocked door clearly when you are outside in the courtyard, However, shortly after the church was built, the Muslim landlords, who occupied the country at that time, blocked this door to restrict access to only one door – the one where people had to pass by the money table and pay an entrance fee to worship inside the church.


The Staircase.


These steps take you to the top of Mount Golgotha, which is where it is believed that Jesus died. Today those stairs lead up to the Chapel of the Nailing and the Chapel of Calvary. While these stairs offer a steep climb, in the first century this hill had a much more gradual ascent. The Golgotha hill was probably carved away by the emperor Hadrian in 135 AD, and perhaps even more by Queen Helena in around 325 AD. Also, remember that Jesus was not carrying the cross alone at this time. The cross was also being carried by Simon the Cyrene.


The Stairs to Calvary.

The stairs that lead up to the chapel of Calvary are made of marble, and for almost 800 years millions of people have walked on them - so much so, that the marble has been worn down by all of their shoes – the shoes of people who come here every day just to touch the spot where Jesus was crucified.

Jesus climbs to the top of Mount Golgotha.


Golgotha was well-known to the people of ancient Jerusalem. It’s because everyone in the city at that time believed that the first man, Adam, was buried here. If you think about it, the grave site of the first man would be a landmark in anyone’s city.


The Stone of Unction.

Merged Gospels story - 285


The process of taking Jesus down from the cross and bringing Him here is the 13th station of the cross. The marble slab that you see on this floor is called the Stone of Unction, otherwise known as The Anointing Stone – the place where Christian pilgrims remember how Jesus’ body was anointed with myrrh and aloe just before He was buried.


The Stone of Unction (Anointing Stone).

The original Church of the Holy Sepulcher didn’t have a Stone of Unction. In fact, we don’t even know where Jesus’ body was anointed. 2000 years ago Jesus was probably anointed on bare rock or topsoil, since this place was a garden at the time. The Crusaders were the first ones to put a marble slab here in the 12th century, but that was destroyed in the fire of 1808. The slab that you see here is its replacement. It is almost exactly the same distance from the altar of Calvary as it is from the Tomb of Jesus, which is probably why the Crusaders put it in this spot.


Each day this stone is anointed by the priests with fragrances. Pilgrims place their personal belongings onto it, as well as touching the stone and praying next to it. Because of what happened here, and because of its sweet aroma coming from this stone, it has become a popular spot for pilgrims to linger and pray.


In the first century the normal Jewish burial procedure was to first anoint a body with oil, and then to clean it. Nicodemus brought about 75 to 100 pounds of aloe and myrrh. Aloe is a plant that produces a thick oil, and when you combine it with myrrh, it makes the skin of a deceased person soft and aromatic.


Have you ever seen pictures of Jesus as he was being taken down from the cross? Sometimes you see pictures where there was barely a scratch on Him. Other pictures show Him to be quite wounded with blood and cuts all over His body. Which image of Jesus is correct? The Bible gives us a hint. You see, Nicodemus knew that Jesus had to be anointed before He was buried, so when he saw Jesus hanging on the cross, he went and purchased some ointment – a lot of ointment. Like I said, John 19:39 tells us that he brought about 100 pounds of the ointments myrrh and aloe. This was far more than we would expect - unless after seeing Jesus on the cross, he concluded that it would take this much ointment to clean and anoint Jesus’ body. The purchase of this much ointment suggests to us that Jesus was probably in really bad shape.

Joseph and Nicodemus were also moving very quickly because the Sabbath was approaching, and Jewish funerals were not allowed on the Sabbath. This is why they omitted the last step in their burial ritual – the final application of spices and perfume. Because of their time constraint, and because of the amount of work required to clean Jesus’ body, this final task was left for the women to complete on the Sunday after the Sabbath.

The Mosaic.


Just behind the Stone of Unction there is a large mosaic, created in 1990. This is called narrative art, because it tells a story with three events that occurred on the day that Jesus died – His death, His anointing, and His burial.


The mosaic showing Christ’s crucifixion, anointing and burial.

The events in this mosaic are not only told in chronological order from right to left, but they are in geographic order as well. You see, Golgotha, which is shown on the right part of the mosaic, is, in reality, to the right of the Stone of Unction. The tomb on the left side of the mosaic is, in physical space, to the left of the Stone of Unction.


Here is another mystery. On the right side, do you see the hill from which Jesus is being taken down? That’s the hill of Golgotha. Within that hill you can see that there is a skull in a cave. That skull represents Adam’s skull, because both Jews and Christians throughout the centuries have believed that Adam was buried in this hill – the hill of Golgotha, which is translated as “the place of the skull”. This is probably why it is called the place of the skull.


Here is something else. Adam and Eve are both hidden somewhere in this mosaic, and they are often overlooked. They are shown as two skulls just to the right of Jesus while He is being taken down from the cross. The devil is also in this picture, represented as a snake, just like he is in Genesis 3:1. According to Genesis, it was Satan who tempted Adam and Eve to sin, and because of that, both of them were condemned to die a natural death, and to be received by the earth, which is illustrated by showing you their skulls inside a cave.  Their actions, therefore, made the death of Jesus on the cross necessary.


In the middle scene, you can see Joseph and Nicodemus preparing Jesus’ body for burial. Four people in these illustrations have halos - Jesus, Mary, and in red you can see Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. The halo, in classic art is put there to show spiritual purity and holiness, radiating the glory of God. Even the angels have halos.

Finally on the left you can see Jesus being carried into His tomb.


All three of the events on this mosaic, Jesus’ death, anointing and burial, took place within a period of fewer than three hours, and all of them occurred under the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

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