the empty tomb
In our post-modern, post-Christian world I think everyone believes that Jesus’ tomb is empty. What they don’t agree on is why it is empty or how it became empty.
What does the word believe mean?
Google says: Believe means to accept something as true; to feel sure of the truth of it.
There are different opinions among those reading this blog about why the tomb is empty. It is easier to believe that Jesus was a good teacher and a prophet, than to believe he was the Jewish messiah. It is easier to believe that his body was stolen from the tomb than to believe that he rose from the dead. Let’s face it, in our experience when people die, we don’t expect them to come back to life.
The global impact of Easter on humankind doesn’t depend on what we believe about the empty tomb. It depends on the reality and the truth of what happened on that first Easter. The personal impact of Easter on an individual depends very much on what we believe about the empty tomb.
For a narrative of that first Easter Sunday morning, consider John’s gospel (John 20-1:18).
Jesus lay in the tomb from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, and the grief of his followers was overwhelming. Mary and the other disciples all assumed he was gone forever.
The only time they had seen someone raised to life from death was Lazarus two weeks before, and Jesus had performed that miracle. But now Jesus was gone. Who would bring Jesus back? None of his disciples were up to the task. Their hopes and dreams of a messiah to save them from their suffering died with Jesus.
So early in the dark of Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene came to the garden alone, the place where her Lord was buried. This is the Lord who had treated her—along with all women—as a person of worth, as a part of the community, as a full-fledged disciple.
It is not surprising that when she saw the stone rolled away from the tomb entrance she assumed the worst – that Jesus body had been stolen. She didn’t consider that Jesus had risen from the dead. We would all have probably thought the same thing.
When she told Peter and John, they ran to the tomb and believed, but they didn’t believe what you might think. They believed not that Jesus was resurrected, but that his body was stolen, as Mary had said.
Mary stayed at the tomb and grieved. She saw angels (that somehow were not visible before) and then recognized “the gardener” as Jesus when he called her by name.
When did she believe? When Jesus called her by name! She recognized his voice and fell down to worship him.
To experience the hope of Easter we must not just believe that the tomb is empty, we must believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
Easter is about bringing dead things back to life. But this comes with more than just believing. More than accepting something as true. This requires faith. Faith is belief followed by action.
Jesus is not only resurrected, but he also breathes resurrection into the world, taking the broken, rotting, dying places and causing new life to grow.
We can accept this as true, but it doesn’t make a difference for us until be put our belief into action – confessing our sin and our need of Jesus and allowing God to rescue, to restore, and to enable us to follow Jesus.
Do you have situations, relationships, personal demons or addictions that bring death to your spirit and to your well-being? I have some good news. Jesus can bring new life from these things in our lives. Sin and death do not have the final word: Jesus’ resurrection does!
The Gardener is still at work, and we get to cooperate with Jesus as he breathes life into dying places, as he brings light into dark places. This can be our new future.
Have you heard Jesus calling you by name? I encourage you to respond and believe, through faith. Allow God total access to your inner life and heart.
May we all consider the true reason the tomb is empty and believe!