This is where it all begins. This is where we begin as a people. This is why we become Christians. The empty tomb: Jesus risen from the dead. It is in the empty tomb that we find our hope. Nothing can be simpler than that.
Jesus’ execution was sudden, and the release of his body for burial was almost unheard of: bodies normally hung on the crosses until they rotted, or were thrown on a dung heap. With all the unexpected events and twists of Fate, with the Sabbath coming on, things were done in haste, only the essentials; the rest would wait until the Sabbath was over. So Mary Magdalene expected to see a dead body. So did Peter; after all, dead people generally stay that way. Sure, they heard a lot of talk, they heard Jesus talk about what would happen to him, but it’s very believable in the aftermath of the Passion, they would have forgotten what Jesus said. People who die stay dead: that would stop most people. If I was talking about my future and got around to talking about my death, I expect that you’d all let your attention wander off a bit. We don’t like to talk about death at all, so we walk away from it, we stop listening.
But the tomb was empty. There are lots of theories about what might have happened, but the Gospels are pretty clear. The tomb was empty, and there was no way Jesus could have survived the Crucifixion: they were sure he was dead. Things were neat and orderly, with no trails of blood or evidence of grave robbers ransacking the place. Mary saw Him, many people saw him alive after that, Peter and the rest of the disciples after that.
Now is the time to start listening. Now is the time to start remembering; to remember the life of Christ and the story that’s brought us here as a church. Now is the time to start thinking about who we are and where we’re going. The empty tomb demands us to see life differently; calls us to reconsider how we look at life and death and afterlife.
Christ calls us to live as he lived. It isn’t about re-enacting life in ancient Galilee or pretending that we’re a small group of wandering believers taking on the world. It is about how we live our lives, right here, right now. Jesus accepts us as we are, just as He accepted a rather ordinary group of people as his disciples, just as He accepted people were on the fringe of acceptability. People like Matthew the Tax Collector, Mary Magdalene the possessed, Peter, John and James the fishermen. These folks weren’t on the honor roll or have alphabet soup after their names. They did ordinary things while they were together.
But Jesus Christ transformed their lives. He fed them, He taught them, He spent time with them, He came back to them even after they abandoned him. He accepted their fear and their doubt and their exhaustion and their betrayal and He gave them the strength to overcome it. His acceptance of them transformed them to be the people that God had created them to be.
Jesus fed his disciples. Jesus feeds us today the same thing he fed them. Jesus calls us into his life, his death, his resurrection with every passing day, every passing year. The empty tomb calls us to believe. The empty tomb calls us to reprogram our thinking. The empty tomb calls us to see life different, value things differently, live life differently, free from the fear of Death. The empty tomb calls us to enter the life of Christ. The empty tomb calls us to the table, where we are transformed, where we are strengthened, where we are made whole.