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Rev. Dr. Douglas Liston

What does it mean to stand before an empty tomb?

In Jesus’ day, there were many understandings of just who Jesus was. In Matthew, Jesus asked this all important question of his disciples. “13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”

This side of the grave, Jesus was, to many, just another in the long line of good, God-fearing men sent to Israel in order to straighten them out, get them back on the straight and narrow. Too few saw Jesus for who he truly was. But Peter was one of the few: “16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.’”

This side of the grave, Jesus walked and talked, taught and healed. He was very much like many other great men: Aristotle, Plato, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. He ate with ‘sinners’, lived a moral and good life, and was ridiculed by society, murdered.

But then something spectacular happened. Something that sets Jesus apart – something that changes life - all life - forever.

We’re told that on the third day, when the women went to the empty tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. That the stone was rolled away – and the body was not there. Jesus is not there. The impossible has become possible. He is not dead, but is risen. Jesus is so much more than a moral, good man. So much more.

When the women arrived at the empty tomb that first Easter morning, they found something that shook their understanding of life and death to its very core. They raced away from there – not really knowing or understanding the full meaning of what they had perceived. Not seeing the true depth of the emptiness that was confronting them.

Have you ever read C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? In it, Lucy, her brothers and sister step into a wardrobe, a big piece of furniture that’s used as a closet, and on the other side of the cupboard, a whole new dimension of life exists. That's exactly what happens when we stand before that tomb and find that the body of Jesus, what we expected to find there, simply isn't there.

How would we react? How DO we react when we stand at the entrance of that tomb? What does it mean for us? What does the reality of the empty tomb mean?

It means suspending our understanding of how life works – about how God works. It means accepting that there is a bigger reality that what we can know, touch, see or sense. That God’s reality is much larger than what we can perceive.

It means believing in a God who can and does create all things. It means believing that God can raise life back up from death. It means believing that for God – all things ARE possible. It means having faith. The author of Hebrews writes: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Jesus’ resurrection changes and challenges our understanding of how life works. But guess what? - Christ came to earth just for that specific purpose – to turn our thinking upside down – to completely change our understanding of what is important. The poor are rich, the first are last, the least are most and what we believe is impossible… Well, nothing is impossible for God.

So, join me this Easter season, standing before the empty tomb. The fact that there is nothing inside – well, that’s where hope comes from.

Easter blessings,
Pr. Doug