Mary's Tomb

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Mary's Tomb




The Tomb of Mary (mother of Jesus), also known as the Church of the Sepulchre of Saint Mary, is located just a little north of the Garden of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley.


Historical Background


1. The New Testament is silent regarding the death and burial of Mary, but strong Christian tradition places her tomb at this site.


2. The church is in an underground rock-cut cave in the shape of a cross. It has a wide staircase leading down to the church. It is dimly lit and has blackish ceilings due to centuries of candle burning. 


3. The church began as burial caves that were cut into rock in the 1st century.


4. These caves were later expanded in 455 AD into a cross-shaped church with the tomb of Mary in its center. 


5. The large crypt containing the empty tomb in the church is all that remains of an early 5th-century church.


6. In the 6th century, an octagon shaped church was built on the upper level, covering the tomb. However, it was destroyed in the Persian invasion in 614.


7. During the Crusader period (1130), the church was rebuilt and included a Benedictine monastery called the Abbey Church of St. Mary of Jehosaphat. Virtually everything was destroyed by Saladin in 1187 with the exception of the south entrance and staircase.


8. After the Crusaders left, the site was taken over by Franciscans. Since that time, it has been shared by Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Abyssinians, and Muslims. 


9. Muslims also worship here, and in the wall to the right of the Tomb of Mary is a mihrab niche giving the direction of Mecca. It was installed after Saladin’s conquest in the 12th Century.


10. According to Catholic tradition, Mary ascended into heaven. Her tomb at this church is empty and is a shrine honoring this event. However, there is no proof of Mary ascending to heaven and Protestants believe Mary died a natural death.  


Places of Interest


1. The modern upper level of the church.


2. Forty-seven steps leading down to the dimly lit church.


3. On the way down the steps, there are 2 chapels. On the left side is the chapel of Joseph, Mary's husband, and on the right side is the chapel of Mary's parents, Hanna (Anna) and Joachim.


4. Mary’s Chapel


5. Mary’s Tomb


6. Copt altar


7. Garden of Gethsemane


8. Kidron Valley (Valley of Jehoshaphat)


9. Temple Mount

The Life of Mary in the Bible


1. Mary was a godly woman who had the privilege of being the mother of Jesus.
Luke 1:26–31: Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.


2. Mary treasured the privilege of being Christ’s earthly mother.
Luke 2:19: But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 


3. Being the mother of Jesus would come with a high price.
Luke 2:34–35: And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”


4. Mary was an obedient woman, submitting to God and her husband in all things.
Matthew 2:13: Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”


5. Because Christ’s earthly father, Joseph, is not mentioned after Christ was 12 years old, and because Christ entrusted the Apostle John with her care at His death, it appears she became a widow at an early age.
John 19:25–27: But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.


6. Mary did not remain a virgin as she had 4 other sons and several daughters after Jesus was born.
Matthew 15:55–56: Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? 


7. Mary witnessed the crucifixion of her Son on the Cross.
John 19:25: Therefore, the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.


8. Mary continued to support the apostles and was part of serving the cause of Jesus after His resurrection.

Acts 1:14: All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.


Faith Lesson from the Life of Mary


1. Mary was a deeply devoted woman to be honored, but nowhere in Scripture is she worshiped or are we commanded to worship or pray to her.


2. We could learn a lot from the life of Mary and should emulate her faith and devotion to God.


3. Mary was highly favored by the Lord because of her obedience to Him. When we obey and seek the Lord, we are favored by Him as well.


4. Our obedience doesn’t earn God’s love, but it does bring blessing and favor.


5. Contrary to what many believe, Mary did not stay a virgin. The Bible says she had 4 sons and other daughters. We should believe the Bible over what any church or religion teaches.


6. What is your highest authority in life, God and His Word, or what people say?

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