And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). (Mark 15:22)
If I mention the “place of a skull,” might think I’m talking about a Mexican restaurant! There, the decor often includes ornamental “Day of the Dead” skulls. In their culture, that is a day of celebration. Golgotha, however, is a place of death.
Golgotha is a place of crucifixion. Criminals were executed on this hill outside the city of Jerusalem. Some think this hill was a rock formation that actually looked like a skull. Given that most who were crucified were not buried but simply tossed down the hill, there may have been a lot of old skulls lying around, too.
When friends and family come to visit us, we take them to fun and interesting places nearby. We want them to experience life in our little corner of the world. We like to give them a taste of our favorite restaurants, too.
Where would you take Jesus? Jesus comes to town and the synagogue crowd takes him to the edge of cliff, hoping to push him off. Jesus tries to go to another town in Samaria, and they won’t let him in. Jesus shows up in Bethany after Lazarus dies and hears, “Where were you four days ago?” Now he comes to the holy city of Jerusalem and they take him to Skull Hill to kill him! These folks clearly lacked the gift of hospitality.
When we toured Israel a few years ago, we hit all the important places, from Galilee to Jerusalem and from Cana to the Jordan River. Most of the locations were educated guesses as to where moments in Jesus’ life took place. Jesus would be the ultimate guide for a tour like that. He could definitively say, “This is where I met Peter, Andrew, James and John. This is where I was born. This is where the disciples and I fed the 5,000. This is where I met the ten lepers.”
When he said, “And this is Golgotha,” I can imagine everyone – including Jesus – getting very, very quiet. Jesus knew the people he came to visit would bring him here. He knew this would be the place of his death.
It’s always a privilege to bring people to Golgotha. We do that any time “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). That’s where we see God’s love most clearly. That’s where we see his love for us.
Heavenly Father, thank you for taking us to Golgotha in Mark’s gospel. Thank you for your great love. Amen.