Sitting in Front of the Empty Tomb

I’ve never spent much time focused on the resurrection narrative found in the various Gospels. I’m not sure about you, but I am just so happy to get past Palm Sunday and Good Friday that I kinda blend all the stories into one, not quite sure who it is that sees Jesus first. I have been so focused on His Seven Last Words, that I never really paid attention to His First.

In preparing to write one of the final lessons in my new study, I read all 4 accounts and was struck by the unique details each author includes. This morning, Matthew’s version of the burial and resurrection struck a chord with me. You can follow along if you want, Matthew 27:57-61, 28:1-10.

Good Friday was good.

We all are familiar with what happens after the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea wraps Jesus’ body in clean linen and lays Him in the tomb that Joseph, himself, cut out of the rock. This tomb he thought would hold his own body, was now a sanctuary for his Savior. As He rolled the stone across the tomb, I would like to imagine Joseph touching his head, heart, and then each of his shoulders in the comforting ritual we now use. But, when Joseph walks away, he does not yet understand the significance of what he has just done.

We can wait together.

Two women remained at the tomb, just as they remained at the cross. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (probably the mother of James and Joseph) sat facing the rock covering the entrance, the rock that separated them from the One they loved most. The rock so big, they could not move it themselves. With scenes of the last three or so years playing through their minds, they sat on the hard ground. As night fell and the darkness enveloped them, tears turning the dirt around them into little pools of mud, they allowed their weariness to carry them home.

And then they waited through the Sabbath, according to the Jewish custom. On this day when they could not work, they had no way to distract themselves from the questions and their sadness. But, they had each other which helped as they shared memories back and forth throughout the day.

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As the sun began its slow crawl across the horizon the following morning, these two friends headed out once more, possibly with the intention of sitting at the the tomb. Other Gospels say they arrived with spices and oils to finish preparing Jesus’ body for burial.

It is not always what you expect.

When they arrived, they discovered two guards in a state of shock facing an angel who is sitting upon the rock. The rock no longer covers the opening. Inside the shadows, the tomb is now empty.

The angel speaks and his first words remind us of the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, “Do not be afraid!” He explains to the girls what has happened and gives instructions about what to do next. “He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said.” (Matthew 28:6)

Just as Mary went to share her good news with Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary “went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to His disciples.” (Matthew 28:8) They could not contain themselves and so they ran. I have to imagine that this was the first time they had run in a long while.

As they were carrying the Good News, who did they meet along the way? The resurrected Jesus. Unlike in the other gospels, the women recognized Him immediately.

What do they do first? They fall at His feet and do Him homage. With all of the questions in their minds, the pain and confusion of the past three days— they fall at His feet.

Where are you today?

Do you feel like you are running on swift feet to share the Good News of the resurrection? You have seen the empty tomb and believe His promise. Jesus conquered death and has the power to forgive all sins. All you want is for everyone else to come and sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His loving message.

Possibly, you are confused. You feel like you are at a crossroads in your life, holding on to what you have done in the past like the spices the Marys brought to prepare the body of the One they loved most. You are standing still, not quite sure what to do. Can you drop the spices because they are no longer necessary and not part of what the Angel or Jesus asked you to do now? Will having empty hands make it easier to run toward Jesus and embrace His feet?

Or, do you feel stuck sitting in front of the empty tomb? Not quite sure if what Jesus said is true. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring, you sit with your memories and dashed hopes for the future you imagined which is now all but hazy.

Wherever you are today, Jesus repeats the words of the angel:

“Do not be afraid.”

Whether Jesus is asking you to wait, empty your hands, or run— He is with you.

That is the beauty of the resurrection, He is with us.

Let’s reach out to Him, fall to His feet.

Adore Him, He loves you.

You are never alone.

His love endures forever.