Sunday, 5 April 2015
The Easter Story: An Empty Tomb
The light was grey and ethereal; it was just before dawn. Strange shadows and shapes could just be made out. The cemetery, with gaping mouths cut into the rock gagged shut with stones, was usually quiet and empty. This morning, however, Roman guards stood watch. The great might of the empire sent to watch the dead.
Some women, carrying cloth and jars, silently moved amongst the graves. They walked past the guards and to the tomb they were visiting. But something was wrong. The women let out sighs and moans of anguish. Had their hearts not borne enough sorrow? One threw the linen to the floor, turned and began to run. "Mary!" the others cried, but too late for she was gone.
The light of dawn was creeping among the caves now. Everything was lit in orange and reds. Mary returned, this time with a group of men. She pointed at a mouth of a cave, one where the entrance was not blocked by a stone. One of the men looked inside. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the gloom, and he saw that it was empty except for a pile of linen. The other men rushed in, turning as if expecting to find something inside.
The men then left, as quickly as the came. They seemed disturbed by what they had seen, or by what they had not. Mary, the woman, stayed. She stood by the tomb, weeping. She had not yet gathered enough strength to look into the tomb again.
She bent to look into the low doorway of the cave. In the tomb were two figures, sitting on the slab for the body.
"Why are you crying?" they asked.
"They have taken the body of my Lord," she stammered. She was confused and exhausted. Who were these two men? Where had they come from? She looked back behind her and another man had appeared. He repeated the question.
"Why are you crying?" the man asked. "Who are you looking for?"
"Sir," Mary pleaded, hoping he would know something, "if you have put him somewhere, tell me."
The man paused. Then he said just one word.
This is perhaps the most important conversation to have ever happened and half those involved had little idea as to what was happening. Poor Mary Magdalene: she saw someone she loved die in a horrific manner three days before and then whilst trying to grieve she discovered his body had disappeared. But she was to be the first witness to the most incredible event in history. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.
But what does it mean for us? It means so much. It means that death has been defeated, the price of sin was paid, reconciliation with God the Father. It is a day of triumph and victory. Jesus knew, as he spoke his last words, what the significance of it all was.
It is finished.