Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying.“Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. – John 20:11-13 (NLT)
That was the scene just moments before Mary became the first witness to the greatest miracle to ever take place – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But before that exact moment, Mary was having a bad day. In fact, her bad day just got a lot worse as Mary looked onward at the tomb that held her dear but now dead Lord. I’m sure she felt hopeless, defeated, and uncertain of what would be next.
But then it all changed. It all changed when she saw Jesus.
John writes just a few verses later that Jesus appeared to her and called her by name. She recognized Him immediately, and that was it. Everything changed.
Defeat turned to victory. Sadness turned to joy. Uncertainty turned to hope. That was a turning point for Mary, and really it was a turning point in human history. And it all took place in an empty tomb.
That’s why Christians all over the world will celebrate the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. In fact, if you look at all of the earliest creeds of Christianity, they emphasize three important facts – that Jesus died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and that he rose from the dead on the third day.
It makes sense why they’d stress on the Crucifixion and Resurrection – but why on being buried in the tomb? Why is the tomb so important?
Interestingly, in the Greek Orthodox church, they perform a special ritual at the end of their Good Friday services, which I think helps us understand why the empty tomb is so important. They take an icon of Christ being laid in the tomb, and they anoint it with sweet, fragrant spices and wrap it in a towel. That is their way of reliving the actual burial of Christ. Then, during their Easter services, they unwrap the icon showing that Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb and that He is risen from the dead.
I know we don’t really celebrate and commemorate the Easter story like that at River Valley or the church you grew up in, but I think that symbolic ritual is incredibly powerful.
Why? Because it serves as a special reminder that Jesus is alive and He is among us. As long as the tomb is empty, then the Savior of the world is alive!
As the angel said to the women, “He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.” (Mark 16:6).
So are you in a place of need? Are you losing hope or seeking a miracle? Are you uncertain about your next step. Well then, I invite you to see the place where they laid Jesus – look to the empty tomb.
Whatever your situation might be, go to the tomb of Jesus and as long as it’s still empty (and it is!), then there’s hope, there’s power, there’s direction. There’s always a future for you because that tomb is empty and our Savior, Jesus is alive and at work in our hearts and world! Death does not have the final word. That belongs to Jesus, and we celebrate that this Easter.