Summary: The women didn't expect an empty tomb. The empty tomb not only surprised them but it also transformed them.
Luke 24:1-16 “Discovery”
Over two thousand years ago a group of women walked somberly and quietly from their homes to a burial site. Their purpose was to find Jesus and finish their hurried burial preparations, which they were unable to complete two days ago. When they arrived at the burial site, though, they discovered an empty tomb. Their discovery, so long ago, changed their lives—and changed the world forever.
LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACE
When the women discovered the empty tomb, they also discovered that they were looking for Jesus in the wrong place. The stone, which had been at the entrance of the tomb, had been rolled away. The women entered the tomb and when they did so, two men in dazzling clothes (angels!?) stood beside them. The two men poised a question to the women. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” they asked. Truly, the women were not going to find Jesus in that empty tomb.
The angels’ question caused me to think about where we look for Jesus. Where do we look for Jesus in today’s world?
If you are like me, you sometimes find yourself thinking anxious thoughts and repeating mantras of worry. I do not know why, but those of us who feel called to worry and anxiety believe that somehow such thoughts will discover a solution—Jesus. They do not! Worry simply raises our blood pressure and anxious thoughts pull us down into a pit of despair. Rather, we find Jesus and discover that he is with us through verses of the Bible, the words and presence of family and friends, and by looking up rather than down.
We continually fall into the trap of thinking that we will find Jesus in the items of this world. We fool ourselves into believing that we will climb to the top of the mountain and see God with enough success, possessions, comforts, and security. Again, this is not the place to look for Jesus. Jesus is found in relationships—with him and others. We find Jesus in prayer, meditating on scripture, worship, fellowship and service. We discover Jesus in the lives of others—family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
We long to have our faith confirmed and to experience God’s power and presence. We look for miracles: answered prayers, healings, the overcoming of obstacles, and making the impossible possible. We want to see Jesus walk on water, still the storm, find the five thousand, cast out demons and raise the dead. This isn’t where Jesus is, though. Jesus is in service; sharing our time and treasures and serving others with our talents. We find Jesus in the homeless, hungry, grieving, troubled, struggling, lonely people around us.
Perhaps you are tempted to think that your faith would be so much stronger if you would have seen Jesus like the women did that first Easter. As Luke records the events of that morning, the women didn’t see Jesus. It wasn’t until that evening that Jesus appeared among them and then it was only a fleeting glimpse. In reality, the women had exactly what you and I have—the testimony that “He is not here, he has risen.”
The Christian faith is not based on Jesus sightings, supernatural miracles, and beatific visions. It is not focused on piety and religious actions. Our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ are founded on the truth that the tomb was empty and that Jesus is not dead, but alive. Because Jesus is alive, we have relationships with a living God.
Christianity is experiential. We find Jesus in the here and now. Jesus doesn’t demand that we believe a bunch of theological statements, rather he invites us to “come and see.” Jesus longs for us to bask in his steadfast love, unconditional forgiveness, and overwhelming grace. The testimony is true. Jesus is not in the tomb. He has risen, and we live in that reality every day of our lives.
When they found the empty tomb and discovered that Jesus was alive, the women also received a commission—a purpose in life. That purpose was to, “go and tell.” They went and told the disciples what they had discovered. The women’s words didn’t make much of an impression on the disciples. Luke writes that the words seemed like and idle tale to them. But, the women still followed their commission and lived out their purpose.
As the disciples and the early Christians discovered the empty tomb and realized that Jesus had risen from the dead and was alive, the commission to “go and tell,” became their purpose in life. As the early Christians followed their purpose, the kingdom of God was spread one life at a time.
Today we have the same commission as did the women, the disciples, and the first Christians. Our purpose is now to, “go and tell.” We tell with love and forgiveness. We tell with acceptance and inclusion. We tell with words and actions. When we go and tell, God’s kingdom is spread on life at a time.
Today we celebrate! Jesus has risen and he lives. The discovery made by the women two millennia ago is a discovery that molds, shapes and changes us today. Amen