Faith and the empty tomb of Jesus

BREAD FOR THE JOURNEY

Mary Magdalene, Peter and the other disciple were not sure what to make out of the fact that the tomb of Christ was empty. “The tomb is empty,” they said. The body of Jesus was nowhere to be found. Since, seeing is believing, they immediately concluded and said, “Christ is NOT risen.” The empty tomb of Jesus did not give new life to their wavering faith. Peter went home and brought bad news for their fellow believers. Later, Mary broke the good news to them. “I have seen the Lord,” she said. But Peter and the other disciple were incredulous. For them, that news was too good to be true, incredible. For them, the glory of Easter could not dispel the gloom of Good (Holy) Friday. In their eyes, God was defeated; sin and death had triumphed when Jesus was crucified and buried.

The examples of Peter, Mary Magdalene and the other disciple give us hints on how to respond to the issue related to the empty tomb of Jesus.

1. Mary Magdalene. She was the woman of ill repute from whom Jesus exorcised seven demons, and was one of the “blessed women” who personally witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus on that first Easter morning undoubtedly with mixed emotions – of grief, fear, love and hope. Mary was preoccupied primarily with the body of Jesus. As she approached the cave, she was startled to see that the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus’ tomb was empty. She hurried back to inform Peter and the other disciple of what she had discovered. Mary seemed to have a very logical mind. She may have said to herself, “Dead bodies do not simply disappear. The tomb is empty, therefore someone must have removed the body of Jesus.” But she was a poor investigator. She jumped to conclusions that were not there.

2. Peter. Soon after receiving Mary’s report, Peter and the other disciple both ran to the tomb of Jesus. He outran Peter and arrived at the tomb first. But he did not enter. It was the impulsive Peter who went in and examined the cave for himself. He found the linen clothes neatly arranged as they were when the body was in them. Peter stood face-to-face with signs pointing to the fact that Christ had risen. But he did not believe in it right there and then.

3. The Other Disciple. After hesitating for a moment, he too, entered the tomb and saw what Peter had seen. Then “he believed” (John 20:8). Believed in what? Not that Jesus had risen, but in Mary’s report that the tomb was indeed empty. His investigation confirmed what Mary had said.

The responses of Mary, Peter and the other disciple have one thing in common: a closed world view which has no room for something that is unnatural, illogical, miraculous, mysterious and inexplicable.

It would be wonderful if we could get hold of some hard physical evidence to prove that Jesus did rise from the grave. But in saying this, we only ignore the fact that a religion that is based on fabricated lies cannot survive the test of time. If Christianity, which is about ultimate issues of life and death were founded on lies, fraud and deception. It would have died a natural death a long, long time ago. The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is indeed overwhelming, but why do people cast doubt upon it? It is because it is so unique and so stupendous. Its nature and meaning is beyond finite minds to comprehend. (To be continued)