Episode 1. An Empty Tomb
Easter – done and dusted. Chocolate eaten. Back to work. But – are we missing something. Do we dismiss Easter too easily. So the tomb was empty? So what?
Join Berni Dymet today/tomorrow – as he looks at the empty tomb from A Different Perspective.
It’s great to be with again for a fresh new week when most of us are enjoying a day of rest on Easter Monday. But two thousand years ago it wasn’t a long weekend they were celebrating in Jerusalem, it was a brutal crucifixion, burial and then, then something nobody expected. Imagine you have a friend or a relative who’s just died, tragically killed and you watched them die, you go to the funeral, you see them buried, and you get what you think is closure.
Now closure is one thing, but the mourning process goes on. And then a few days later you go down to the grave to leave some flowers, to reflect on the life that was so tragically taken, and the grave’s been dug up, the coffin’s up on the ground, the lid’s off and the coffin’s empty. What would you feel, what would you do?
A friend of mine recently was interviewing Barry McGuire for a radio program in New Zealand. Now Barry McGuire was a well know rock protest singer from the 1960’s. It’s when it was all about drugs and make love not war, and you know that whole flower power thing was happening in the 1960’s, which I have to say I only just barely remember! I wish! Over a period of ten years Barry was saying in the interview he lost more than 20 close friends to drug overdoses and sexually transmitted diseases in the music industry.
Isn’t it sometimes the case that TV stars and movie stars and rock stars and politicians try to commit suicide, isn’t it so often the case that these personalities of promise turn out not to be what they promised? From Marylyn Munroe right through to Michael Hutchins of INXS, there’s a litany of fallen stars. And it’s sad because we place our hope, to some extent, in these people, we do we look at them and think I’d love to be like them. Love to have that sort of success or fame or money. And we do we project ourselves on them and we place our hope in them, and as we so often see, drugs and attempted suicide so often claims those people. Fallen stars are really very sad.
In a sense, Jesus was in that place, at least from the perception of the people who were looking at Him. Jesus was a star; Jesus Christ was a superstar as the musical goes. He attracted crowds over three and half years that were unprecedented, crowds of four and five thousand people, in rural settings where maybe that was the whole population or a very large percentage of the population.
So here is this Jesus Christ who’s doing amazing things, amazing miracles, healing leapers and the blind and the lame. who’s caring for the little people, the widows and the prostitutes. A man with passion and profound teaching with a wisdom about God that none of the religious leaders of the day had. He was so relevant, and yet so wise and so deep, He touched people deep inside. He had a wisdom that confounded His religious critics who were constantly trying to trap him. That’s why He drew the large crowds, that’s why in His day, Jesus Christ was a superstar. He promised so much.
It was an oppressed land, here was Israel who but for a short period in their history had almost always been either in slavery or an occupied land. Right now they were under brutal Roman occupation; they were oppressed, most of them were poor subsistence farmers, they needed someone to believe in, someone to hope in, someone to promise them something. And Jesus was that someone.
And then, then the events of that first Easter long weekend, the Passover festival for the Jews, all the crowds were in Jerusalem the lynching mob that was baying for Jesus’ blood. All of a sudden this man of hope became a man of despair, and as He wandered blooded and beaten down the Via Delarosa carrying His cross, He was nailed to that cross and buried in a tomb. Hope becomes despair. Jesus Christ the superstar becomes Jesus Christ the looser!
Then He’s buried, it’s the Sabbath when nobody does anything because that’s the day of rest. And the next morning some women, (Mary Magdalene among them), devoted followers, go down to the tomb with some spices to embalm His body. There were no funeral parlors in those days or undertakers, it just had to be done and they were going down with the expectation of wrapping Him in spices and preparing His body finally to being laid to rest.
Amidst pain and fear and tears and lost hope which was probably the worst of it all, they go to the tomb and it’s empty! What’s their first reaction? Well they run back to the other disciples, to Peter and the others and they say, “They’ve taken His body from out of the tomb”. Don’t know quite who ‘they’ were but that was their reaction. And Peter runs down there and sure enough the stone’s been rolled away. The linen wrappings are lying folded neatly on the floor and it tells us that the disciples saw and believed.
Jesus had been telling them he’d be crucified and He’d rise again. Jesus had been telling them He would rise from the dead. And in this mix of pain and fear and tears and confusion a glimmer of hope! But there it was, just a glimmer. And over the next few weeks it took them a while to come to grips with what had happened, to understand it.
The biggest thing, if I put myself in their shoes would be loosing hope. A time in my live ten years ago, where I lost almost everything I’d ever hoped for and you know the worst thing for me was the things that I was dreaming of for the future, my hopes for the future they all lay on the floor shattered. These disciples had been looking at Jesus and seeing His miracles and His wisdom and believing He was the one, believing He was the Messiah and all of a sudden that hope was lost when He was nailed to the cross. But the empty tomb, the empty tomb, no Jesus, spelled hope for them.
I wonder whether we just brush over Easter too casually, you know we’ve heard the Easter story dozens of times through the years and we miss out on what’s going on in the hearts of His followers, all hope was lost on Good Friday. And yet when they came to the empty tomb there was new hope of a new life. Years later Paul the Apostle said that the hope isn’t just in this life, the hope that we get from the resurrection of Jesus Christ it’s a certain hope for an eternal life. Because Jesus was raised from the dead so we will be raised from the dead.
I wonder whether in our day and our time and our society whether the things that we hope in are to here and now. We hope that tomorrow will be a fine day, we hope that we’ll get a better job, we hope that we’ll be able to buy that new whatever it is we want to buy. It seems to me that those are the things that these days we place our hope in.
And then we rush through Easter and we brush it aside and we forget about it, but that day when the women went down there, that empty tomb, that is hope. It is the hope of an eternal life, it’s a certain hope, it’s a knowledge that one day there’ll be glory and joy and peace, no pain, no disease, no fear, no poverty, no hunger for ever and ever, and it began on that morning with an empty tomb.