The Empty Tomb
By Marty Norman –
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” Matthew 28:1
I just love this passage. I can see it in my mind’s eye. Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb to minister to Jesus’ body, a shawl wrapped around her shoulders as protection from the morning chill. To her surprise and dismay the tomb is empty.
I try to think of all the things that might have gone through her mind. Someone has come and stolen the body … did I miss my turn…am I at the wrong tomb… am I dreaming….something’s not quite right here. Perplexed she sits down to ponder and meets the risen Christ himself.
I identify with Mary. At first she doesn’t recognize Jesus. Isn’t that how we are? An opportunity comes our way, and we have an encounter with the risen Christ. We are bewildered. In our confusion we almost miss the whole thing.
I love that the first person Jesus encounters after his resurrection is Mary Magdalene, a woman of note. I love that as she ponders his disappearance she also probably ponders her own life; in that evaluation Jesus meets her where she is. I suspect that in her heart of hearts she had wondered if she were truly forgiven, if Jesus could have loved her, so great a sinner. Surely her mind raced as she sat on the rock by the tomb. Was she really one of the disciples? Had she been accepted by the group? Was she truly forgiven?
But when the risen Christ comes to her, in all his glory, suddenly she is filled with joy. She feels vindicated. If not vindicated, surely awe.
Yet the risen Christ comes to each of us in our quiet times, in our darkest hour, our deepest despair. Sometimes we are too busy, sad or distracted that we miss him altogether. But when he calls our name, “Mary,” then we recognize his voice. We know it is him.
Lent is the time we take stock and examine our lives. Upon reflection we repent and grieve for ourselves and the sins of the world as we take note of the ways we have hammered the nails into his hands and feet. But on Easter morning, a new day has dawned. He has risen. Our salvation is secure.
This year as we approach the cross of Christ, let us put our sins and weaknesses, our hopes and dreams and lost opportunities, at the foot of the cross. As the day dawns, on Easter morn, let us remember that this is the day that the Lord has made. All the promises made to man have been fulfilled in this moment. If the tomb were not empty, there would be no resurrection. Let us celebrate the day with joy and thanksgiving as, like Mary, we run to tell the world, “He is risen; he is risen indeed!”