When I think about Christ’s tomb, it reminds me of times in my life where hope is stopped dead in its tracks by catastrophe, where brightest hopes are dashed, where highest dreams come crashing down.
It reminds me of breaking points, of giving up after giving so much, of the final sigh of resignation to impossibly irreparable situations.
These emotions are what the disciples experienced in the wake of Christ’s savage death – and with it, the shattering of their hopes and dreams. Put yourself in their shoes. All they are left with is the confusing mess of picking up the pieces of their lives, trying to make sense of all that they had been through – asking themselves whether it had all just been one horrific con.
Which is why I am so moved when I put myself in the shoes of his followers discovering the empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Once emptied, the tomb speaks to the heart in an utterly different way.
From desolation, grief and surrender… a miracle, a phoenix.
From ashes, there is the surprise of victory. The surprise of joy.
Against all odds, there is triumph over darkness, life and restoration – made all the sweeter by the fact that moments before, there was complete resignation to hopelessness.
And unto the future, the empty tomb becomes a symbol for everyday men and women to hold onto in hard times, a shining hope that God has the power to turn their impossible situations into empty tombs.
This is something that God has been putting on my mind this past week.
I went to see Jesus Culture who were playing in Adelaide last weekend when I was struck by the lyrics of one particular song they sang. They were singing about the empty tomb.
In that moment, eyes closed, my head bowed in prayer, I felt God say to me:
I want to make your life an empty tomb life. I want to demonstrate empty tombs in your life.
But there has to be tombs in your life before I can make them empty. Would you say yes to that?
As I think about this question in hindsight, I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul said in the Bible:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)
Paul sounds crazy – intentionally inviting God to do whatever it takes that we may know the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings?
I didn’t answer God immediately. I didn’t answer him lightly, nor without the twinge of fear.
But in those moment I asked myself – was this not the God who had been so faithful to me in my short life, who had grown me and refined me in every trial, who had carried me through every storm with a love so strong?
We can give no other answer when he asks of us.
For if the love of God is for us, who can be against us?
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?… 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.