But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:1–6)
It’s a hard scene to imagine. Not only has Jesus been violently ripped from their lives, but they had to watch him be nailed to a cross and die there. Then, just days later, they come to care for the dead body and it’s not there. Mary and the women were shocked, confused, and probably angry. Then angels appear, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5–6). Why do you fear? Why do you weep? Why are you surprised? You’re Lord is alive. He is risen!
In the account in John 20, Mary actually meets her Savior. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher)” (John 20:16). The Mary who had been devastated by his death — side pierced, lifeless, wrapped in linens and laid in a tomb — had been given new hope and life in an empty tomb and a risen Christ standing right before her eyes.
Mary had waited and waited for him to reveal his power and authority, to prove that he was the Messiah, the coming King, and at the cross that hope had vanished. But seeing the inside of that empty grave, picking up the cloths that had been on his body, hearing the voice of the angel, looking into the face of Jesus, hearing him say her name, all of her hope and faith and joy came back. He’s alive! Jesus is alive! He is risen.
What the Resurrection Really Means
The cross wasn’t the end. He didn’t leave us. The resurrection preaches that Jesus’s death had a purpose. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a surprise. It wasn’t a failure or a defeat. Jesus said of himself, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again”(John 10:17). Every moment that he was being mocked, beaten, and nailed to the tree, he had every ounce of divine power at his disposal.
Jesus is saying,I didn’t flee. I didn’t leave you to die with the wolves. No, I stood against the powers of evil, of sin, of death. I laid my life down so that my sheep could live, so that you would have life and have it abundantly. You were enslaved to sin, condemned to die apart from me forever. You all turned away from me. You were not worthy of me. But I am the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd that dies to pay an infinite price for a rebellious people, a people that I love.
While Jesus’ body fainted under the beating and exhaustion, he was standing strong and able against Satan and against every claim he had made over us. He satisfied sin’s demands completely. When the world thought that he had been defeated, Jesus was establishing his kingdom, defeating death, redeeming his people, and protecting his sheep. At the moment that he seemed most vulnerable, he was using every bit of his power to carry out a plan that had been laid before the foundation of the world.
Eyes More Full Than Mary’s
I wonder if you’ve fallen into the trap of wanting to be Mary, of thinking that might solve your doubts or fears or temptations or weaknesses. I want to see the boulder rolled away, and step into the tomb where they laid him. I want to pick up the linens that wrapped his body. I want to see the angels and hear them say he’s not dead. I want to see Jesus’ face and hear him say my name. If I just saw and felt and heard what Mary did, I wouldn’t have all my doubts and fears.
But God has not left us without evidence. No, the greatest evidence to the risen Christ is not some empty cave thousands of miles away. We know that Christ is alive today because he lives in us. Before his death, he promised, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:18, 19). Even though we can’t see Jesus standing before us, we see him because he’s in us. If we trust in him, the Spirit is in us, and we are witnesses to his resurrection as much as Mary or Peter or Thomas or any of the others that saw him.
The Empty Tomb in You
See the empty tomb inside of you, the Holy Spirit giving you different desires, desires for God, for holiness, desires to worship him and to tell others about him. He is risen! See the empty tomb all around you, how God has created a world and moved throughout history to constantly point us back to him. He is risen! See the empty tomb in your relationships with one another. Marvel that the living God is at work in other believers, changing them, enlightening them, humbling them, and equipping them. He is risen!
And because he is risen, one day you and I will rise with him.