Outside the Empty Tomb
Some think the story was made up to fit ancient
prophecies and make believers out of people who were not witnesses. And then
there are those who truly believe in the empty tomb. We believe that Mary and the
others recorded in the Gospel did go to the grave that morning and found the
tomb of Jesus empty. His body was gone.
We regard the story as the central event of our faith and it rests at the core of what we believe. For us the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best hope we have. His story is the best gift we have to offer the world. By faith, we can believe in the unseen and even the unbelievable because faith offers us hope. We can still question and we can even have doubts, but faith hangs onto hope even in the midst of unresolved questions.
As we listen closely to the Gospel we hear that questions and doubts about the Resurrection occurred first among those who were closest to Jesus. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb while it was still dark and found that the stone was rolled away. She ran to the disciples and tells them that someone must have stolen the body. Mary does not yet believe Jesus rose from the dead. Peter and another disciple take off running to the tomb and they see the cloth that Jesus had on his head folded in a place by itself. The Gospel says they believed. They didn't understand it, but they believed it none the less.
Mary stood outside the empty tomb weeping. Her curiosity gets the best of her and she goes in and meets two young men sitting there. She asks them what has happened to the body of her Lord. Then she senses someone behind her. The person asks her why she is crying. She doesn't recognize him. Then he calls her by her name and she is overcome with joy. She makes a move to grab him but he stops her for the time being.
walking to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus until He broke bread with them at
dinner. The fishermen didn’t know Him until He shared food with them on the
beach. Thomas didn’t believe until Jesus invited him to examine His wounds.
Even as He ascended to His Father in heaven, some of His closest friends
doubted what they were experiencing.
Jesus' appearance was different in each circumstance and at first people didn’t recognize Him. When He invited them, then they knew Him. They knew that the Lord stood before them. A promise was kept. He rose from the dead. A new life was open for all.
The empty tomb is a mystery. The Gospels don't exactly agree on the events surrounding it. However, something happened with Jesus at that tomb. The details are a bit fuzzy, but something did happen. Because on that day the tomb was empty and hope was born.
We have faith in this story. We stand outside the empty tomb and believe that Christ is with us, that He is alive and that we recognize Him. The empty tomb is the continuing experience of God’s presence in and through Jesus and it is at the heart of Christian faith. Christ is Risen, let us all Glorify His third day Resurrection. Amen.
Blessings at Pascha, Fr. +Timothy
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