Summary: With the empty tomb, God demonstrated that he was doing something new. We live out the reality that God is doing something new as we walk in faith in the relationship that God made with us at our baptism.
John 20:1-18 “The Start of Something New”
It was near dawn on that first Easter, when Mary Magdalene approached Jesus’ tomb. It was probably a morning that was not all that different from this one. Mary expected to find a tomb with a stone rolled across its entrance. She assumed that Jesus’ body would still be there. She envisioned encountering the normal and the ordinary—shedding a few tears and grieving alone.
Mary was surprised to see that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. She immediately came to the normal, ordinary and logical conclusion that someone had removed the body of Jesus. Perhaps the religious authorities wanted to hide it so that Jesus’ followers couldn’t make the tomb a shrine. She ran and told the disciples. Peter and another disciples run to the tomb, peer inside and discover that it is empty. They don’t know how to interpret what they saw—no body, an empty linen shroud, and a folded napkin. Confused they did not understand that God had broken into the ordinary and had done something new.
Later, when the early Christians reflected on the events of the first Easter morning, they decided to gather at sunrise on Easter Day and baptize the new converts to Christianity. As the sun was starting to peak over the horizon, they converts would enter the water. They would be immersed, which symbolized not only being cleansed from their sin, but also killing the old Adam so that a new person could live a new life. As the new day began, the converts would come up out of the water and begin their new life. It was the start of something new.
THE EMPTY TOMB
The empty tomb is a fact. Other disciples and followers of Jesus came and saw that the tomb was empty. The religious leaders had to deal with the fact that the tomb was empty and contrived the story that the disciples had stolen the body. During the weeks that followed that first Easter, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people. The tomb is empty and Jesus has risen from the dead.
For two thousand years the church has been forced to address the skeptics who cannot accept a risen Christ. These skeptics have come up with all sorts of explanations for the empty tomb: the Jesus didn’t really die, a look alike died in Jesus’ place, the disciples stole the body and hid it, and that the religious authorities stole the body. The recent “revelations” of the Jesus Papers, the Judas Gospel, the De Vinci Code, uncover nothing new. The only newsworthy item that comes from all of the recent controversies is that people continue to prefer to believe in convoluted explanations for the empty tomb, rather than the simple truth that Jesus was raised from the dead. And, they never question the primary fact that the tomb was indeed empty.
The tomb is empty. Jesus has risen from the dead. These facts proclaim the good news that death has been overcome. Death is no longer the overpowering force that it once was.
The tomb is empty. Jesus has risen from the dead. This is a powerful truth, but how does this truth transcend the ages and impact our lives today. In other words, what difference does it make in our lives today?
Mary remained confused an oblivious to the new work that God was accomplishing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ until she returned and met Jesus. Peter and the other disciple returned to their homes. Mary tarried in the garden, weeping, grieving, not really sure what how to understand the events of the morning. While there, she encounters Jesus. She doesn’t recognize him, for some reason, at first. But, Jesus says her name and she immediately realizes that Jesus is alive.
Like he did with Mary, Jesus comes to us and calls out our name. Jesus invites us to more than a comfortable believe that there is a god somewhere who created heaven and earth. Jesus invites us to live in a relationship with that God, creator of the universe, who loves us, forgives our sins, and want to have a personal relationship with us. Because of Easter, we are able to have a “one on one” with God rather than a group audience, or a belief in the Primal Mover.”
Because Jesus rose from the dead and is now living, we are able to be strengthened by his presence in our lives. God is with us and there is nothing that can separate us from God’s presence and love.
Because Jesus rose from the dead and is now living, he is able to guide and direct us. When we decide that our lives are to be lived out in service to God and to the accomplishment of God’s will, we can ask God’s guidance and receive it. God will lead us along the path that God chooses for us.