Did Mary have trouble sleeping? We all know how hard it is to sleep when your heart is broken, or when your mind is racing, trying to make sense of all that’s happened. Maybe she came before dawn because she knew what would happen if someone saw her there. Like a thief in the night she went to the graveyard, only to discover someone else beat her there. The stone to his tomb had been moved. And Jesus’ body was missing!
To the 21st century Christian, this is our Good News. The Easter present we long for. We’re not afraid of an empty tomb because we know God has raised Jesus from the dead. To us it’s like an empty rabbit cage, we know it’s not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of something greater.
We can celebrate today because we’ve had two thousand years to make sense of it all. But for Mary, it was just one more disappointment added to her weary heart. No wonder she runs away, to go be with someone who can relate to what she’s feeling. That person is Peter, who perhaps out of guilt or excitement, raced to the tomb with the other disciple. When they get there, they too are stupefied. Like Mary, they have no idea what to make of the emptiness that they were seeing and feeling.
Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
According to John, they saw but didn’t understand what God was doing. They had no idea this is what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. Who could blame them? The cross has robbed them of their joy. And now, the empty tomb has robbed them of what little hope they had left. When I put myself in their shoes, all I can think about is how empty I would feel without Christ in my life. Something would be missing for sure.
It’s safe to say Jesus, in more ways than one, has saved me from myself. He has taken on my burdens. And tended to my deepest wounds. He fills my darkest moments with his divine light. He continues to calm the storms around me and in me and gives me peace. How blessed are we to know that this empty tomb is just another way God is revealing to us who Jesus really is. Just as it was in a dirty stable, God comes to us in places we least expect.
Even though they have spent years traveling with Jesus, witnessing the Kingdom of Heaven firsthand the disciples can’t see that God’s finger prints are all over this place. That God is the mastermind behind it all. The one who robbed the tomb of death. In the coming days, Jesus will reveal himself to them and make sense of everything. But for now, Peter and the other disciples run and hide. They’re smart enough to know that you don’t want to be at the scene of a crime when the cops show up.
Yet Mary stayed behind. She wasn’t afraid, nor did she give up hope. Instead she poured out her heart out to God. When Jesus heard her weeping, he moved to comfort her. That is so much like Jesus isn’t it? Always there, putting the needs and wellbeing of others first. Still, it’s not until Mary heard him speak her name that she really got what’s going on. In one gesture of kindness Mary was able to see Jesus in a new light. And to comprehend what God was up to.
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Easter is the dawning of a new day, where we wake up to a new reality. God is revealing God’s self once again to the world. A proclamation of God’s love for you and me. Jesus is the visible presence of God’s love and the empty tomb is the proof of how far God will go to love us...and to save us. Not from our sins per se, but from ourselves. Jesus is calling you by name so that you might recognize God’s love for you in him.
Moreover, Jesus comes to you, to show you how to be that love in the world.
Just as Jesus told Mary to go and tell others, He is calling on us to do the same. To go and proclaim God’s love in such a way that others will see and understand. And be comforted and cared for. Some call this salvation. Others call it healing. I call it Easter.
Because this tomb is empty, we live. And can proclaim the good news with a joy filled heart - without fear or worry. Because this tomb is empty, we can walk through the darkest nights, we can walk through the shadow of death, knowing Christ is illuminating our way.
Because this tomb is empty, our hearts can overflow with God’s love, and we can share that love knowing there is plenty to go around.
Because the tomb is empty all who mourn will be comforted; the merciful will receive mercy; and the hungry will be fed. Our pain and suffering, like the tears and anguish they bring, will be no more. Death has lost its sting! Christ has risen...and it is Christ who will raise us up.
This is what the kingdom of heaven is all about. Healing and restoration. Living in the fullness of God’s love. This is salvation. This is Easter. The tomb is empty. Christ is alive. Because he lives, so too can we.
Like the bunny, Christ cannot be contained to a cage. Instead he lives inside us, through us, and all around us. Once we see how God reveals himself to the world in him, then we can understand why God sent Christ in the first place. As it is written, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that those who believe will have life...everlasting.”
Easter is about living forever in Christ. Today is a day to turn our hearts and our whole being towards Christ the visible presence of God’s love and righteousness. It is Christ who calls out to us. And gives us the assurance that there is no boundary to God’s love for us…not even death. Easter is the day we are called to abandon our dark tombs. And run after the One who loves us unconditionally.
As you move from this day into a new week, I hope you will remember this. It’s not just an empty tomb that we celebrate, but the everlasting life that flows from it.
If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to open the cage of your heart and run free with Christ now and forever, Amen.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”