Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Empty Tomb Changes Everything

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 20:11-18.
Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.  And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. 

And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him." 

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. 

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him." 

Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher.

Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and what he told her.
Copyright © Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, USCCB

The Empty Tomb Changes Everything
The Guelph Mercury, April 3, 2010

by Royal Hamel

Imagine with me that on Easter Sunday morning 2000 years ago when Mary reaches Jesus’s tomb she finds its mouth still covered by a stone, and the soldiers there, alert and still on guard. And when she finally finds someone to roll away the stone she discovers the body of Jesus, still wrapped carefully in the linens, and in exactly the same place he had been lovingly laid after being taken down from the cross. What difference would such a scenario have made to modern Christianity?

Well according to the liberal branch of Christianity that largely rejects the supernatural, it would make no difference at all. In this view Jesus didn’t literally rise from the dead, but he did so in spirit, and in the end that’s all that counts. But according to the Bible and historic Christian belief this liberal non-belief is a mockery of true Christianity. It is, in fact, a form of unbelief that makes the cross into a monumental tragedy, plunders any hope for our lives after our own death, and pretty much leaves man in the same lost state that he was in before Jesus came. For if it’s only in this life that we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all other men.

But if Jesus did not rise from the grave it would mean that he was just a man like any other man. He lived, he spoke inspiring words, he drew some followers, but in the end he was no different from the rest of us. And all of his talk about forgiving sin, all of his talk about a future hope in heaven, all of his talk about his coming back, would have proved to be just talk or even worse. For it was the contention of C. S. Lewis that he was either, “liar, lunatic or Lord of all”. Yes he might have attained some kind of hero status that would have lasted for a few years, but it’s very unlikely we would still be talking about him today. Indeed to paraphrase scripture, our faith is useless if Jesus has not been raised.

If Mary had found Christ’s dead body on Easter morning there would have been no resurrection appearances to the disciples. None would have seen him, none could have put their hands into his wounds, none would have heard his voice of encouragement and hope, and no one could have heard his call to mission.

If Jesus body had remained in that tomb there would have been no Christian church. The apostles were charged with the mission of proclaiming a risen Saviour, but it is beyond belief that these men would joyously go to their deaths preaching the truth of Jesus’s resurrection if in fact they knew it to be a lie. They had nothing to gain by their itinerate preaching across the Roman Empire except persecution and death. This they gladly accepted because they had met their risen Lord face to face.

When Jesus rose from the dead he vindicated everything he ever taught and proved that he was not a mere talker, but a Saviour with power to deliver himself and his followers from the grave. Tim Keller who pastors one of America’s most influential mega churches comments, “If Jesus rose from the dead you have to accept all he said, if he didn’t rise from the dead then why worry about anything he said…If Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything.” After all the founders of all the major religions are still in their graves, all, except for one. Jesus Christ is the only one who came back from the dead.

The cross on which Jesus died and its significance has always received much attention. But oddly enough in virtually all branches of Christianity the resurrection has received much, much less focus and attention. Indeed, some churches only hear about his rising from the dead on Easter Sunday which is but once a year. This is a tragedy of no small order. Most of the sermons recorded in the New Testament have a clear focus on Jesus as a risen Saviour who is now at the right hand of the Father. Church leaders have plenty of biblical content to speak on this amazing truth from Easter Sunday right through to Pentecost. Indeed that’s exactly what they should do.

Mary found no body on Easter morning; the tomb was empty. That simple fact changes everything. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.