Read Mark 16:1-8
Most often when a thing is empty, it isn’t cause for excitement. When the gas tank is empty, we’re desperate for a gas station or, worse, we’re stranded. When the pantry is empty, we’re scrambling to find food. No one throws a party for an empty bank account.
It’s not that these women at the Easter tomb wanted Jesus to die—especially so brutally, so unjustly. It’s not as if they relished the exercise of “putting lipstick on the pig,” so to speak… putting nice-smelling herbs and oils on a body that was, by every measure of experience, soon to be decomposing… But their dear friend Jesus—He was dead (“Jesus, the Nazarene, was crucified”). So they had a very basic, very normal expectation—to find His grave full. If you go to your loved one’s grave, though you didn’t want them to die, you also expect to find their grave undisturbed—as full as you left it at their burial.
These women expected their trouble this Sunday morning to be rolling the very large stone away from the very full tomb and getting through the emotions of embalming the very abused body of their very dear, very dead Jesus.
Instead, they are disturbed by the disturbed grave. They are alarmed by the white-dressed messenger and his news: The Jesus they were looking for, the one crucified on Friday and most certainly laid here, in this tomb, in death… “He is NOT here.”
The messenger appeals to the forensic evidence: “see the place where they laid him.” It’s empty. The evidence of experience argues loudly. Empty is bad. Empty isn’t how tombs are supposed to be. When we put death in them, death is supposed to stay put. That’s how death goes. This is the experience we all know, too—lowering a casket six feet down as tears well up—that’s the experience of death we know. The tears acknowledge experience… that there is a permanency to tombs we are powerless to change. We don’t get to expect them at Easter dinner…
And the Easter angel doesn’t require the women to dismiss experience. He simply requires them to take in ALL the evidence. You’re looking for the man, Jesus, who was 1) most certainly crucified to death and 2) whose body was most certainly laid to rest here. You experienced His death and His burial and that experience led you back here…
But there’s more! The emptiness tells the rest of the story. The crucified and buried One is NOT HERE. HE IS RISEN! The death that we have experience with—the death that claims our dying bodies and our loved ones’ bodies into graves—that death has no hold on the One who was laid here. Because that One is more than the Son of Mary. He is the Son of God—THE PROMISED CHRIST! This empty tomb is dripping with joy for you and me. The Devil’s spawn—sin and death and hell—they laid claim to the body of Mary’s Son, Jesus. But in doing their worst upon Him, they found God’s best—His own Son!
The empty tomb is full! Full of joyful news! It means the One who was crucified and buried is God’s Man—the Christ whose suffering and death were long promised—suffering death that is fully sufficient for your sins and mine.
It means the Father has accepted this sacrifice as payment in full. The Father wrote the test and called on His Son to take it. As Jesus died, He announced that the “work” was complete. And here, in raising Jesus from the tomb, the Father concurs!
WHAT’S DONE IS DONE. Your sins ARE forgiven you.
It’s full of joy! It means that the ravenous appetite of death and the grave has itself been swallowed up by Jesus’ death. O death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is your victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55). The tomb’s emptiness is full of life—full of fruit for you and me. Jesus is, as St. Paul proclaims, the first-fruits! (1 Corinthians 15:20). He is bringing every believer in Jesus with Him—through death of the body and the grave—to life! His coattails are long and broad, and He is bringing His own with Him!
Christ’s empty tomb means faith in Christ is NOT empty. Faith can be empty. In fact, faith in anything else except Jesus the Christ is empty. But Jesus’ shed blood and his stranglehold on death—that is the concrete footing of saving faith.
This is one time when emptiness is full of joy! “He is not here. He is risen.” The joy of that emptiness is for you!
Rev. Kyle Madson