The joy and jubilation over Christ’s resurrection fills churches throughout the world. We Christians live in awe over the fact that Jesus Christ came to earth as the God-Man to live a human life and breathe as a human being. We know that Christ suffered, felt pain, and humiliation as a human being, in ways we cannot even imagine — he carried a heavy wooden cross to his crucifixion, perhaps to symbolize the immense burden of the world’s sin upon his shoulders — every wound and slice of flesh and every drop of blood could have been our punishment, yet he took it all upon himself. Accordingly, our Christian faith begins at the Cross. The Cross is where we come broken, rebellious, and undone. It’s at the Cross that we begin to understand the significance of the empty tomb.
Mary Magdalene, the first to see that the stone no longer covered the entrance to Christ’s tomb, ran quickly to Simon Peter and John (the disciple whom Jesus loved). Frightened, she exclaimed, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him” (John 20:2). The scene unfolds with the two disciples seeing Jesus’ burial clothes lying empty in the tomb, and running home — a somewhat abrupt response to the empty tomb.
However, before we judge, let’s remember that during the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate [Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:5-7). The disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ words then and they didn’t understand them when they saw the empty tomb. They were unaware that when Jesus said, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (John 13:36) meant that Jesus had to rise.
Mary Magdalene wept profusely outside of Jesus’ tomb. Once she looked inside, she “saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot” (John 20:12). After she explained to the angels why she was weeping, “she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus” (John 20:14). Thinking Jesus was the gardener, she asked him where she could find Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:16-18)
Skeptics question the details of the empty tomb, but for Christians it is the epitome of our faith. Without the empty tomb, our faith would stumble and become a figment of our imagination.
However, our Christian faith prevails every time we remember and proclaim the acclamation and approval of Christ on Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the cheers turning to shouts of “crucify him,” the crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the ascension of our Lord and Savior.