My experience is that there are many times when God does things that totally surprise us. When we expect God to act in a certain way and bam, right before our eyes; God does something different – a total surprise. We hear it in the story of the Exodus – Why are you crying out to me God says to the Israelites as they are fleeing Pharaoh. The red sea is blocking them from going forward, the Egyptians are charging after them from the rear. Why are you crying out to me, go forward. It was an impossible situation wasn’t it but God surprises them as the sea parts.
How many times have we cried out; failing to understand God is always with us? How many times do we ask for a sign and when the sign comes in an unexpected way we fail to recognize it. How often are we overcome by the obstacles in front of us and as they do we fail to see God at work among us?
The empty tomb from our perspective of 2000 years of developed theology something we have accepted. It is what we celebrate each and every time we gather for liturgy – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But for those who followed Christ ; had believed in him; watched as he was tortured, crucified and buried; the tomb was the end of all they had hoped and longed for.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus said it best when they said, “we had hoped…but he was crucified.” All who walked with him had heard what he said about dying and rising but it did not register. Today we hear, the disciples when told by the women that he was not in the tomb respond by unbelief.
The women in the gospel of Matthew are frightened but overjoyed by the empty tomb. The women in Mark’s gospel are amazed at what they heard, perhaps stunned would better describe their response at the words of the angel, “he has been raised.” It is amazing for the empty tomb is for us a life changing event. Like the women who looked into the empty tomb that morning we should be overjoyed and announce it to all we meet. We should like them run to tell the story to everyone that Christ is alive.
For the fact, that he is raised is not only fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament but for us it was and is a promise of our own eternal life. His death and resurrection restored us to that place that God always intended for us to be and that is in his presence – not in fear, not in doubting, not concerned or worried that we are acceptable to him. But in the full and certain knowledge that because of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection we have the penalty for our sins paid.
How can I say this with complete confidence? I can because that promise comes from the words of Jesus himself and from the prophets who came before him. Jesus said …“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believesinme will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believesinm will never die. Do you believe this..” (Jn. 11:25-26). It cannot be much more direct than those words. This is what today is about. Jesus fulfilled his part in the plan of salvation. Now it is ours to accept and believe.
We hear these words and if it does not change hearts we are missing what God intended. If it does not fill us with joy we have missed what is given to us as gift. Our response to the empty tomb should be the same as those women who could not wait to tell someone.
But the empty tomb does not mean that we get to sit back and look in it and do nothing. The disciples were told to go to Galilee where they would see him – we as disciples should be expecting to see him in our lives. The disciples at that moment had many doubts about his resurrection. They remained confused until Pentecost when they were clothed with power from on high. So here we are 2000 years later and as believers we come together to worship and yet we have our own doubts about everlasting life.
Why are you crying out to me God says to us – go forward was his message to the Israelites and to the disciples. It is still God’s message to us? We need to go forward knowing God is always with us ….the seas will part, the dead will rise, the blind will see, the lame will walk, the sinners are redeemed.
What are we waiting for my brothers and sisters, this day we have before us the witness of the disciples, the testimony of followers, the truth of those who know that God is always with us. The empty tomb tells us a truth that we are not to stand here looking into the tomb but we are to go forward and live like believers. Today is about us claiming our kingdom and becoming zealous about spreading the good news. So let us go forth and with joy to give witness to the wonders that are part of the life as a disciple.