Summary: The empty tomb is the first sign of Jesus' resurrection.
April 4, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
An Empty Tomb
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
The tomb wasn’t supposed to be empty. After the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene and her friends went to the tomb early in the morning. They expected to find it in the same condition when they left on Friday. They were there when Jesus’ body was laid inside. They saw the big, heavy stone rolled in front of the entrance.
As they made their way in the early morning light, they wondered about that stone. How could they possibly roll it open? It was too big for them to move.
But when they arrived, there the stone was, already rolled away from the entrance! What had happened? They peered inside the tomb. Jesus’ body was gone!
No, this is not what they were expecting. They couldn’t make sense out of an empty tomb. Dead people simply didn’t get up and go!
The empty tomb is the first and most fundamental sign of Easter. Nothing – the absence of Jesus’ body – that’s the first indication of the resurrection. Jesus wasn’t where they left him!
The empty tomb is all about absence. Something is missing, and that something is DEATH. Death went missing on Easter morning. The one thing that was supposed to be there was gone. Death and its assorted circle of lonely-hearted friends went missing: despair went missing, grief went missing, sorrow went missing. All of them should have been there in the early dawn.
The grave was transformed on Easter. When Jesus was placed in his tomb on Friday, the grave sealed him in. It was a final resting place. But Easter tamed the tomb. Jesus’ grave and all other graves were transformed on that morning of new light.
Instead of holding his spent and broken remains, Jesus’ tomb became a vessel for new life. The grave became like an egg shell. What was meant to contain the decaying remains of an exhausted life now held the embryo of a new creation.
On Easter morning, the once-sealed tomb was broken open, and there the resurrected Christ emerged. The tomb was broken open, just like a hatched egg. All that was left to be seen was its emptiness!
The shell of Jesus’ tomb is the ultimate sign of new life. It tells us that something completely new has emerged.
Easter reveals the reach of God’s love and the unquenchable power of eternal life. This tremendous, divine love extends and encompasses all that God has made. It reached out through Christ to dwell in the very world God so loved.
But when that world rejected him, Christ’s love pursued even further. He allowed the current of the world’s rejection to carry him to the cross. And from the cross, his lifeless body was placed in the grave. Jesus took on and absorbed the world’s hostility and violence. He took it into himself and carried it with him to the grave.
And there, there in the tomb, he revealed the full power of eternal life. It’s a life that cannot possibly be extinguished! It has the power to make all things new. When Christ stepped from the tomb early on Easter morning, he became the first fruits of a new creation. He demonstrated that our graves have no more ability to contain us than his did. We, too, will be transformed, just as he was. For the light that came into the world through Christ cannot be extinguished. It’s the light no darkness can overcome.
For the three women that morning, it was too fantastic to comprehend. They were confused and frightened. The tomb stood open and empty. What did it mean?
We’ve had plenty of time during this past year to feel trapped in an empty void. This pandemic has left all of us isolated and separated from humanity. We’ve had more than our share of death and suffering. For those of you who have personally lost someone during this past year, whether to COVID-19 or any other cause of death, it has been a very lonely time. Death and grief are never enjoyable, but when we can’t mourn together it’s even more difficult.
It’s been a year of emptiness, of void. Faces are rendered empty behind masks. Houses that normally ring with company now echo from emptiness as we self-isolate. Our six-foot radius of space leaves everyone alone.
We do these safety precautions now because this is our cross. We’re asked to carry this COVID cross for the sake of the world. We do these things, we enter our tombs of human isolation because this is how we will be able to defeat this virus and how we show love to our neighbor.