Can You Imagine?
March 27, 2016 Easter
Can you imagine it? Can you, even for a moment, imagine what the women felt, what they thought, and what they themselves imagined when they got to that tomb on that first Easter morning and found it empty? What must have gone through their minds? Did they think they were dreaming? Did they think they might have come to the wrong tomb? After all, it was early in the morning, perhaps not even completely light outside. Of course their eyes were blurred with tears and from lack of sleep also.
But it had to be the right tomb. There was no confusing the tomb in which they had placed Jesus’ body. It was absolutely the right tomb. But the stone was rolled away and when they went into the tomb, Jesus’ body was gone. Luke writes that they wondered about this. I would think so! You know, this is another one of those examples of where the Greek simply does not translate well into the English. The Greek word used here is aporeisthai. Okay, on one level they were perplexed and wondering, but wondering doesn’t begin to express the emotions conveyed by the Greek. How would you feel if it were you were standing in that empty tomb? Would you be simply perplexed and wondering? It might be more accurate to say that they were looking around apprehensively and in fear. That’s what it was. Apprehension and fear. Jesus was dead. Everything they had dreamed of, all their hopes and all their joys, everything that gave life meaning, had been buried in that tomb and sealed up when that massive stone had been rolled across the opening. Jesus was dead. His body was supposed to be in that tomb. And now His body was gone. How was that even possible? No, wondered does not begin to express how they felt. They were probably terrified! They were probably on the verge of emotional collapse.
But then, and again try to imagine this, there were these two men standing there telling them that “He isn’t here, but is risen.” And to top it all off, both of these men were dazzling bright in appearance. If these women weren’t terrified before, they probably were at this point. They had to be wondering just what was going on and whether their minds were slipping.
Now, here’s what I find so amazing and so wonderful about this Gospel story. It didn’t take these women very long to figure things out. Luke tells us that once these men, these angels, had reminded these women of what Jesus had said about his own passion and death and resurrection they left all their doubts behind. They weren’t wondering, they weren’t apprehensive, and they weren’t fearful. They knew absolutely what that empty tomb meant, and they headed straight out to share the Good News.
What’s important here is to understand the meaning of the empty tomb, and that means you have to understand something that is beyond comprehension and even not imaginable.
What we’re celebrating today is what happened at the empty tomb. What we’re celebrating is that the tomb is empty, but most importantly, we’re celebrating what that empty tomb means. That empty tomb means one thing and one thing only. It means that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! It means that Jesus Christ has conquered death. It means that He has conquered death not only for Himself but also for every one of us. What we’re celebrating is our salvation.
You know, when you think about it, in Luke’s story of the resurrection the women at the tomb were amazing. Once they understood the meaning of the empty tomb, they left the tomb behind. They ran to tell others what had happened. They didn’t run and tell others, “go look at the empty tomb.” They ran to tell the Good News. They didn’t tell others, “the tomb is empty.” They said, “He is risen.” The men, the disciples, could not imagine the news was true. Luke writes that “the words seemed to them like nonsense, and they did not believe them.” But Luke writes that Peter ran to the tomb. When he got there and saw the empty tomb, Luke tells us that he “went home, amazed at what had happened.” Notice what Luke says! Peter didn’t go home amazed that the tomb was empty, he went home amazed at what had happened. Peter, like the women before him, understood the meaning of the empty tomb, and he left the tomb behind.
The Gospel, the Good News, leaves the tomb behind, and we need to leave the tomb behind also so we can imagine and understand what has happened on Easter. If we continue to gaze at the tomb, all we’ll see is darkness and emptiness. We’ll miss the blazing brightness of the risen Lord. If we continue to gaze at the tomb, all we’ll see is the reminder of death. We’ll miss the meaning of the empty tomb, which is the glory of salvation and the glory of life.
The women who went to the tomb and Peter had to imagine something that is really not imaginable. They had to believe something that was not believable. Jesus was not dead. Jesus was not in the tomb. Even though they had seen Him die, they knew He was dead, and they had put His body in the tomb and sealed it shut, Jesus was not dead and His body was not in the tomb. He was alive. He had risen.
Many tourists go to the Holy Land searching for the places mentioned in the Gospels. They want to see the stable in which Jesus had been born, the spot on the Jordan where He had been baptized, the site of the Last Supper, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, and they what to see the tomb. Some say that if they can find these places thy will feel closer ser to Jesus and closer to God. But what people who feel that seeing the tomb will bring them closer to Jesus and God fail to understand is what the angels told those women on that first Easter morning. “He isn’t here, but is risen.”
You know, we have to be careful. The empty tomb is pretty amazing. And when we hear about amazing things, we tend to find ourselves standing still in amazement. We find it difficult to tear ourselves away. But the empty tomb is empty, just as death is now empty for us, because that is the real meaning of the empty tomb. The tomb no longer holds a person who is dead, and death and the fear of death should not hold us.
So seal that tomb back up and turn your back on it. Walk away from the empty tomb and never give it another thought, because He is not there. He has risen He has new life, and because He has new life, we have new life also.
It’s hard to imagine in the middle of the struggles that life presents to us, but it’s the truth that can keep us going in all the ups and downs of life. The tomb is empty. Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior has risen. All our sins are forgiven, and we have new life, both in this life and the life to come.
The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive. And because Jesus is alive, we have new life also. Imagine it. Believe it. Amen.