For many weeks now, the parking lots of places of worship have been empty, and for some that is disturbing, as if somehow because they are not gathered together once a week, they are not doing their Christian duty. As if those buildings define Christianity. They do not.
They are empty. And so was the tomb. The empty tomb became a symbol of hope, but it took a moment. At the end of that Sabbath day, as the women gathered the spices to tend to the body of their beloved Rabbi, not yet fully realizing He was the Messiah, they wondered who they would get to roll the stone away for them. It was a feat that would take more than a few women to accomplish. They did not know how it would happen, but that did not deter them in their mission to continue to tenderly love the One that had loved them so much. I wonder how agonizing the wait had been for them on that Sabbath, wanting so badly to go to Him, but unable to leave their homes to do so. The Sabbath ended at sundown, and out the door they went . They didn’t wait until the next morning when the sun would light the rugged path to the tomb, they had a purpose that was to be fulfilled. As they walked and wondered how they would open the “door”, their grief I imagine was great. How could it not be? He was taken so abruptly. There wasn’t time for goodbye or last words. He was tried and found guilty in secret. Presented as a criminal, viciously tortured, and nailed to a cross to die.
The impact of those traumatic events changed them forever, and they had plenty to talk about, so why does the Bible only relay to us that they wondered how that stone would be rolled away? Perhaps it is because that was the only thing that stood between them and their beloved Rabbi. Perhaps it is because in their physical strength they knew it was impossible for them to do alone. Perhaps it was to show that in the most impossible situations, He makes a way. Walking to that tomb I believe they were filled with sorrow and fear and worries that overwhelmed them, but they were not deterred. They didn’t know what to expect when they arrived, but I can guarantee you an angel and an empty tomb wasn’t what they expected.
That stone was rolled away and that tomb was empty. I wonder if all the spices fell to the ground. We know they were terrified because the angel told them not to be afraid. It’s what he said next that I imagine ignited a mixture of emotions and confusion. “He is not here.
He is risen!”
Now, putting myself in their shoes, I wonder how long they stood there in shock, processing what was before them, looking back and forth between that empty tomb and an angel. Looking to each other to make sure they were all seeing the same thing. To them he looked like a mere man, but in that moment realization and hope began to arise in them, and I believe they sprinted down that dark path that they had carefully navigated minutes before. For the first time in three days,these women had Good News and they were going to share it. Their news was met with disbelief by those that loved Him so dearly until they saw with their own eyes the burial clothes.
The tomb was empty. He was back and he was waiting to see them. When they met with Him after seeing Him die so horrifically, I wonder if that group of 10 or more rushed Him to embrace Him or talked over each other asking questions. Or did they simply stand in awe. The Word doesn’t say specifically, only that He gave them instruction on what they were to do in His name and told them “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
On this Easter Sunday, as many of you watch a church service, remember those words. He was not confined to that tomb. Praise God! And His Message is not confined to a building. It never has been.
He is with you now as He has been every minute of every day. Always.
In the good and the bad. Always.
In your joy and your pain. Always.
In your mourning and celebration. Always.
In your gatherings and your solitude. Always.
In His resurrection, Death was conquered once and for all. What do you need to conquer? What do you need to defeat and rise from?
There are accounts of that first encounter of the empty tomb in the Gospel, and I encourage you to read them all. The words and reactions, the human emotions of those that knew Him, loved Him, learned from Him are vital in learning who He truly was. The words He spoke to them are even more vital. I have combined the accounts, and added my musings, but see for yourself how the Resurrection changed the course of HIStory. Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20.
He is RISEN and with us ALWAYS.