Looking into the Pit of Hell by Timothy C. TennentMay 5th, 2011
We are still basking in the wonderful good news of Easter. During this Eastertide, I am reminded afresh of the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This past January, my wife and I spent two weeks in the Holy Land. No words can really ever capture the power of walking this land. One of the most moving juxtapositions in the trip was the last two days. We were in Jerusalem and spent half a day at the Holocaust museum. I have been to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. and in Richmond, Virginia. Both are moving experiences, but nothing quite like the one in Jerusalem, especially being with our normally very loquacious Jewish guide, Mishi Newbach, who was reduced to silence and tears as we walked through the horror of the exhibits, documentary films and paraphernalia.
One of the highlights of the holocaust museum in Richmond, Virginia is the very clock which hung in the Ten Boom workshop. As you may recall, this was the one used to alert the Jews they were hiding of impending danger. Corrie Ten Boom was eventually arrested, along with her father, mother and sister. She witnessed the worst horror of Ravensbruck, including the death of both parents and her sister Betsy. In Jerusalem I was struck by a room which was filled with quotations about the holocaust. The one which really grabbed me was by Elie Wiesel, the famous Romanian born Nobel Laureate writer who is Jewish and one of the most well known survivors of the Holocaust. He is the author of many books but is especially known for his book Night. In Night he shares the horror of his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He movingly writes that he looked into the pit of the Holocaust and saw such unspeakable horror that God must be dead. The Holocaust put God to death for Wiesel.
The day after our trip to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem we went to the Garden Tomb, known as Gordon’s Calvary. There I was able to walk inside a first century tomb hewn out of rock outside the city gates and just below a massive outcropping of rock which looked like a gigantic skull (Golgatha is an Aramaic word meaning “skull”). It was a powerful place to be reminded of the central truth of our faith: Jesus Christ is Risen! He has born the sins of the world and is victorious!
This is what made Wiesel’s experience of the Holocaust so different from Corrie Ten Boom’s. Corrie Ten Boom looked into the same horrifying pit as Wiesel. However, she saw something even deeper than the pain, agony and suffering of the Holocaust. She saw the sufferings of Christ who bore the sins of the world. Wiesel looked into the pit of hell and declared, “there is no God.” Corrie looked into the pit of hell and wrote, “there is no pit so deep, that the love of God is not deeper still.”
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