The Endless Opportunities Of The Empty Tomb
Published: April 1, 2010
Something happened to Jesus. Something happened to his disciples, too.
After the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples went into hiding. The evangelist John describes some of the events that occurred “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark.”
Mary Magdalene first came to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus. But the stone had been rolled away and that frightened her; that confused her. She ran to tell Peter and the other disciple. Mary Magdalene still recognized Peter as the leader even though he denied knowing Jesus just days before. Both Peter and John ran to the tomb to see.
John outran Peter and bent down to look inside. He saw the linen wrappings but would not go in. When Peter arrived he immediately went inside and then John also went into the tomb. Something happened to Jesus. Something happened to his disciples too. They came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. The tomb was empty.
According to Scripture, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrived early at the tomb on the first day of the week, an angel informed them that Jesus had risen from the dead. (Photos by Michael Alexander)
We have been in that tomb. Do you remember? Do you remember going into that tomb? It was not that long ago. We went into that tomb with Peter and John at our baptism. All of us must first go inside that tomb before we can experience the resurrection. St. Paul tells us that we are baptized into Jesus’ death and just as we are baptized into his death, we believe we shall also share in his resurrection.
We have to go into that dark, damp tomb before we can share in the eternal warmth and brightness of the resurrection. Easter is all about new life and eternal life.
Resurrection is not resuscitation. We do not return to the same old life. Resurrection is a new presence of life. We share in that new resurrection now, in this life, through baptism. We are an Easter people.
The hope of the resurrection dawned on that Easter morning and was witnessed by Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, the others apostles and many others who testified to Jesus’ rising from the dead. Something happened to Jesus. Something happened to his disciples, too.
Our celebration of the great mystery of Easter challenges to look deeply into the empty tomb and consider what it really means, not just for Jesus but for us, too.
He is risen; but are we? Do we live as a redeemed people? He is no longer to be found among the dead. Is the same true for us? Sometimes it is easier for us to remain in the tomb, depressed or anxious, no matter how painful. Sometimes it is just easier to remain in the tomb than it is for us to straighten up or settle down or to do something to help ourselves.
Sometimes it is easier for us to remain in the tomb; trapped in a job, a lifestyle or an addiction than it is for us to break free. Sometimes it is easier for us to remain in the tomb and be a victim and be preoccupied with our own needs than it is to take responsibility for ourselves, for others and for the world. Quite frankly, it is easier to roll over and play dead than it is for us to get up and get out.
The empty tomb presents us with endless opportunities to look ahead, to move forward, to live, to be grateful for all of God’s blessings and to look hopefully to the real possibilities of our own resurrection into eternal life. These are the real possibilities that Easter presents to us each year. But some of us just do not get it.
Easter calls us to a brand new vision. God did not make us to lie in a tomb or be burdened by a gloom and doom view of the world. God is not to be found in the evil that entraps us. He is found in the love, compassion and forgiveness he raises in the hearts of those men and women whose lives reflect God’s presence in their midst.
God has raised up his crucified Son, who today walks among us in all that is good and holy and in everyone and everything that transforms the world from darkness to light, from despair to hope, from death to life.
The empty tomb is the sign of perfect hope. In the resurrected Jesus all things are possible and we can become the people God created us to be. The empty tomb presents us with endless opportunities to look ahead, to move forward, to be grateful for all God’s blessings and lo look hopefully to the real possibilities of our own resurrection into eternal life.
On that Easer morning, something happened to Jesus. Something happened to his disciples. Something happened to us, too.
Father Hartmayer, pastor of St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, is a member of the Conventual Franciscan religious order and a priest for 30 years.