Truth Be Told

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Morning: An Empty Tomb (apparently is not enough)

We tend to think of Easter morning as a joyful, blessed morning as Mary and the other women visit the tomb, discover it is empty and run to tell the disciples the "Good News." We imagine scenes of celebration, and shouts of joy as his followers proclaim that "He is risen!!!" We have been lured into thinking that it was only Thomas who was the classic example of doubt and unbelief regarding the news of the resurrection when he said:
"Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
                                           
But, if we read the resurrection story in each of the Gospels we are find that fear, doubt and unbelief was pretty much the typical response of EVERYONE, including those who saw the empty tomb and spoke to the angles!


In the Gospel of John we are told that after seeing the empty tomb, the strips of linen and the folded up cloth John believed. But this belief was NOT that Jesus had risen from the dead, but rather he believed the report of the women who said "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where they have put him!" So (naturally) he and the other disciples went home. (John 20:9-10)

Even Mary, who saw the empty tomb and spoke to the angles did not believe that Jesus had risen, for she stayed behind weeping (after the disciples had left), and when asked by an angel why she was crying, said "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him."

In Matthew (28:8-10) the women run away from the empty tomb afraid, and with some joy, until Jesus appears to them and tells them "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

In Luke (24:11-12) it is reported that the women did return to tell the disciples, "but they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense."  Peter did go to the empty tomb,and saw the strips of linen, but he merely "went away, wondering to himself what had happened."

And in the Gospel of Mark (16:8), even after seeing the empty tomb and speaking to the angles we are told that:
"Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the (empty) tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."

According to all four Gospel accounts, Easter morning was not filled with triumph and blessing. Instead it was marked with fear and unbelief.

Apparently, by itself, the empty tomb is not enough. The empty tomb causes bewilderment, fear and even silence. What convinces people is not the empty tomb, or even speaking with Angles, but actually seeing Jesus himself risen from the dead.

On Easter, it is easy to focus our celebration on the empty tomb. But from the eyewitness reports recorded in the Gospels, it is not the empty tomb that causes people to believe. It is seeing the risen savior.

How much more true is that today, over 2,000 years after the fact. Our job as followers of Christ is not to tell people that the tomb is empty. Instead, we need to show people, through our actions, that Jesus is alive.

Happy Easter.


3 comments:

Mark Charles said...

Throughout history the classic example of doubt and unbelief regarding the news of the resurrection is Thomas, who said:
"Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

But, if we read the resurrection story in each of the Gospels we are told that fear, doubt and unbelief was pretty much the typical response of EVERYONE, including those who saw the empty tomb and spoke to the angles.

Kiersti said...

Wonderful point, Mark--thanks for sharing this!

Mairi said...

I loved this, thank you!