On February 16th 1923, the celebrated archeologist Howard Carter stood in front of a knotted rope that had been sealed with clay securing two wooden doors. No one had laid a finger on it for more than 3,000 years. Carter broke the seal, untied the rope, pushed open the doors and walked into the burial chamber of the Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun. The well-travelled historian had spent the previous three months examining the treasures that lay untouched in the outer chambers, but this was what he had been waiting for all his life. Imagine walking beside the footprints of the original builders that were still there preserved in the dust. Howard Carter was now staring at the sarcophagus. Inside was a solid gold coffin containing the mummified remains of the 18 year old ruler wearing that iconic death mask.
The tombs of 65 other Egyptian rulers had previously been located in that region on the banks of the River Nile, known as the Valley of the Kings, but most had fallen foul of the ancient tomb raiders and were now minus their treasures. Not so in the case of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the untold riches would be worth billions and take 10 years to fully recover. A thousand years after the young Egyptian pharaoh was laid to rest in this ‘City of the Dead’ another king was buried 600 miles down the road in Jerusalem. A man who had been accused of blasphemy and then sentenced to death by the Roman governor as a political threat. His name was Jesus Christ and they called him the King of the Jews.
Like Tutankhamun, the body of Jesus was placed in a tomb, not surrounded by the gold and glory of ancient Egypt, but in a borrowed hole in the wall because he had died penniless. This hero of the ordinary, this storyteller of the street, this friend of the discarded who 2,000 years on, would be the cornerstone to civilisations and the foundation stone to the lives of billions of people across the face of the earth. Similar to the ancient pharaoh, museums contain historical relics linked to the death of Jesus. Everything from the crown of thorns that was pushed into his skull as he died on the cross, to the nails that pinned him there and even the cross itself. But the most famous relic is the Turin Shroud that some say is the burial cloth bearing the imprint of the face of Christ. An ancient nod, perhaps, to the mask that bears the likeness of the face of Tutankhamen, but without the gold.
Who knows what’s true and maybe who’s really bothered about a few Indiana Jones style artefacts? So what’s the connection between the death of Tutankhamun and that of Jesus? Well not much if the truth is really known, the real story is what happened next. Tutankhamun’s mummified body lay in his tomb for 3 millennia but Jesus was only in his for 3 days. The crux of this story is not the intellectual debate about whether Jesus lived and died, that debate was settled a long time ago. Neither is it about the scientific process of carbon dating a selection of ancient items of interest. The real questions are these “Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead, is he alive today and does he have any relevance to my life?” The answers to those questions change everything.
Like I said a few moments ago, most of the tombs belonging to the pharaohs of Egypt were broken into thousands of years ago and some of the bodies were even stolen. Many believed that’s exactly what happened to Jesus until he appeared to his followers in bodily form, on one occasion to 500 at the same time. Now, if that’s true and it is, Jesus Christ is the Great Tomb Raider, the eternal Son of God who laid down his life for the penalty of human wrongdoing and then broke the ancient seal allowing each of us to exit the grave of a meaningless life for 80 or so years if we’re lucky.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ‘Access All Areas’ pass, not to a glass-fronted display of golden relics from the tomb of a forgotten king, but a ticket to ride the great adventure of life. An invitation from the Creator God himself to be reborn into the eternal life Jesus spoke of. It will carry you through this existence and on through the sealed doors of death to our final resting place in Heaven.