“But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (John 20:11-13)
That was the scene just moments before Mary became the first witness to the greatest miracle to ever take place – the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from dead. Try to imagine the scene – she is standing outside the tomb and sees the stone has been rolled away (a feat that no human could have done alone). She’s weeping. She’s sobbing. Her emotions are going from bad to worse – not only is He dead, but they’ve gotten rid of His Body too (something very disgraceful in the ancient Hebrew culture).
A bad day just became worse and you can imagine her feeling standing inside that tomb – that empty tomb. Crushed. Depressed. Defeated. Hopeless. The tomb was the worst place ever.
But then it all changed. It all changed when she saw Jesus. He appeared to her and called her by name, “Mary.” She recognized Him immediately and that was it. That changed everything.
Defeat turned to victory. Depression turned to joy. Hopelessness turned to hope…real hope…the kind that cannot be taken away, even by death itself! What a turning point.
And where did it all take place? IN AN EMPTY TOMB!
The tomb of Christ bears special significance in Christianity. All of the earliest creeds of Christianity stress on three important facts – that Jesus died on the cross, was buried in a tomb and rose from the dead on the third day.
It makes sense why they’d stress on the Crucifixion and Resurrection – but why on being buried in the tomb? Why is the tomb so important?
In the Orthodox church, we perform a special ritual at the end of our Good Friday service. We take an icon of Christ being laid in the tomb (like this one - you don’t see too many of these) and we do with the icon what they did with the Body of Jesus 2000 years ago. We anoint it with sweet fragrant spices and wrap it in a shroud. That is our way of reliving the actual burial of Christ. And then, during our Easter service, we unwrap the icon showing that Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb and that He is risen from the dead.
Somehow, that ritual was very powerful for me this year. VERY POWERFUL!
Why? Because the empty tomb stands as a constant reminder to me that Jesus is alive and He is among us. As long as the tomb is empty, then my Savior is alive. He is alive and He is working. He might not be doing exactly what I want Him to be doing, but there’s no doubt that He’s doing something glorious.
Try to picture the scene when you find yourself down and in need of hope. Stand by Mary inside the tomb and see that it is empty and the stone has been rolled away. The bad guys tried to kill Him and they tried to lock Him in there, but they couldn’t. No man or no stone or no nothing could keep Him in there!
As the angel said to the women, “He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.” (Mark 16:6).
I think we all need to take the angel’s advice.
Feeling down? See the place where they laid Him – look to the empty tomb.
Feeling defeated? See the place where they laid Him – look to the empty tomb.
Hopeless? Weak? In need of a miracle? See the place where they laid Him – look to the empty tomb.
Whatever your situation might be, go to the tomb of Jesus and as long as it’s still empty (and it is, I checked this morning), then there’s hope. There’s always hope! There’s always hope because that tomb is empty and our Savior is alive!
For discussion: what does the empty tomb mean to you?