What did Jesus mean when He said “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” Many think it is about the reality of non-believers singing Christmas Carols and others feeling the urge to attend church on Christmas and Easter….reminding us that no matter how hard the world tries, it will never succeed in totally squelching the Gospel message. Some believe it refers to the fact that if those of us with a natural ability and reason to glorify God are lazy in our praise, then someone or something will take up that cause and spread His Gospel message…even rocks, stones, ruins, excavations, archaeologists and scientists…whatever it takes, Christ will be praised!
Biblical Archaeology Cries Out
Many Biblical passages and accounts have been proven to be true through archaeology. The magnificent Pools of Bethesda where Jesus healed the blind man. The incredible Dead Sea Scrolls that show the Bible to be perfectly handed down to us. The Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus spoke the “I Am The Bread of Life” message and many others. Now the rocks have cried out again to verify John’s account of Jesus’ burial.
1st Century Crucified Man Cries Out
In 1968 archaeologists were called to a group of tombs discovered near Jerusalem. Inside they found several 1st Century ossuaries (bone boxes) of a Jewish family that appeared to be quite well-to-do, although had obviously experienced hardship. One of the ossuaries contained the bones of a 28 year old young man named Yehohanan, son of Hagakol, who, sadly, had been crucified. Why hasn’t more evidence of crucifixion surfaced in all these thousands of years? Apparently, there are a number of reasons:
- Wooden crosses don’t survive, as they degraded long ago or were re-used.
- Victims of crucifixion were usually criminals and therefore not formally buried, either thrown into a river or trash heap, thus exposing them to scavenging animals and making it difficult to identify them as victims of this terrible death.
- Crucifixion nails were believed to have magical or medicinal properties, so they were often taken from a victim. Without a nail in place, it becomes more difficult to tell crucifixion from an animal’s puncture marks.
- For the most part, crucifixion involved soft tissue injuries that can’t be seen on bone. Only if a person had nails driven through his bones or was subject to crurifragium (breaking the victims legs) would there be significant bony evidence of the practice.
An Ankle Bone Cries Out
But back to the discovery of Yehohanan. His ankle bone, which can be seen in the Israeli Museum, was pierced through with a long, square nail that had bent after being hammered into an impenetrable olive tree knot. Lucky for us, the nail was so deformed it couldn’t be removed from the victim’s ankle when he was taken down from his cross.
A Burial Cries Out
Why was this discovery so important? There are several reasons, not the least being absolute evidence of Roman crucifixion and all that it entailed, but more importantly, it is proof that sometimes there were exceptions to the Roman way of doing things. The discovery that the body of this rebel, a young man who had obviously crossed the Roman authorities, was not thrown into a common grave with other criminals, dumped into a river or worse, flung into a trash heap, sheds light on the Gospel accounts of Christ’s burial.
A Family Tomb Cries Out
The fact that Yehohanan’s family was allowed to bury him in the family tomb with the dignity that befits a 1st Century Jewish family gives credibility to John’s account of Jesus’ burial. Citing historical accounts of how Rome handled those who died from crucifixion, scholars have long questioned the account of Joseph of Arimathea being allowed to retrieve Jesus’ body and, with the help of Nicodemus, place it in the Arimathea family tomb.
Another Tomb Cries Out
Joseph was a wealthy Jewish man, a member of the Sanhedrin and a vineyard owner. His family tomb apparently was in a garden vineyard near Golgotha and this proximity allowed the two men to quickly inter Jesus without running afoul of the Sabbath laws. Today, you can visit a Jerusalem garden that includes a winepress, is in close proximity to a place many view as Golgotha AND contains a tomb that matches the Gospel of Mark’s description of Jesus’ tomb. [Mark 16: 5] The Garden Tomb, a beautiful place to celebrate communion and reflect on the fact that the tomb is empty!
Memories Cry Out
So, if Yehohanan could be buried in a family tomb, why not Jesus? Scholars have long posited that the Bible, like other documents of antiquity, contains more propaganda than facts. But this does an injustice to Biblical faith. Central to anyone’s faith is history and memory…those of us who have a history with God can look back and say “He was with me then….He will be with me now!”
The Holy Land Cries Out
We know that God has acted, and continues to act, in history. So, while these discoveries in the Holy Land may come as a surprise to some skeptics, they are no surprise to believers. While archeology alone cannot bring a person to faith, these discoveries are a persuasive argument for not dismissing the truth of Scripture before at least examining the evidence, because, as we are learning every day, Jesus meant it when He said, “The stones will immediately cry out.” [Luke 19: 38 – 40]
Join Rich and Cheryl on their December Holy Land Tour and discover your own evidence of faith.