But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (Luke 24:1-9 NASB)
The worst of a possible outcomes has come about. The Master has been killed. In mourning, spices have been prepared, and aromatics collected. The Sabbath was less a day of rest, and more a day of deep sorrow and despair. Joy has been turned to sadness, and hope to hopelessness. The expectations of a small group of followers have been dashed, and the enemies of God sleep in peace. It isn’t just a tomb that defines a hollow space in the earth. Jesus’ followers feel one in their souls as well.
But the stone is rolled away. It’s not just the cool morning air and mist. The heavy stone is no longer before the door. The problem they discussed on the way is found already solved. But who? Has someone come to do as they have come to do? Or has something awful, on top of the unimaginable which has already happened, come about? Has the worst of all possible outcomes just gotten unbearably worse? They rush to the open tomb to find out.
They enter the open door. It is, and isn’t as they expect. While it’s true that His body is gone, the wrapping is still there. Who would take the corpse without the linen? And why isn’t it “unwrapped”? It’s simply…empty. Their hearts beat faster as their minds try to grasp what they see. It makes no sense, and fears rise within them.
Then the semi-darkness of the tomb is suddenly lit by the presence of two “men”. Their clothes shine as if they are clothed in light. The details of the scene are brought into stark, sharp clarity. But it’s too much for the women, already shocked by what they have seen. They collapse, bowing toward these two terrifying figures, probably trembling, and crying in layers of fear.
But then the voice, deep and gentle, the sound of a smile in the tone and timbre, fills the tomb. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Now their minds race, and their pulses quicken. The hope, destroyed and scattered by witnessing their Master tortured to death, breathes deeply within them. “He is not here, He has risen!” No, but, please, yes! It can’t be, but let it be. The hope within them struggles through the gloomy shroud of death they have wrapped it in, struggles to be free and in the light once more. “Remember…”
It comes flooding back; the confusion, the fear, the struggle to grapple with Jesus’ as Messiah, the Anointed, the Christ! The Messiah doesn’t die! Yet He did. The Messiah can’t be hung on a tree, cursed! Yet He was, they saw it happen. But He had kept saying something like this would happen. It was impossible then, shoved from their minds by the terror and incomprehensibility of what was happening this Passover. The frame Jesus had built, in which to understand the Messiah of God, began to slip into place, shoving the frame, used by their culture and traditions for centuries, roughly to the side.
The old frame collapsed, crashing into a heap of trash, and joy ignited, lit by hope, now free from the shroud of despair. They remembered His words. Something new had come, much more brilliant than the two men’s clothes. These women, wrapped in grief that morning, now emerged from the tomb, now more alive than they had ever been! Their own resurrected lives began by running, ignominiously for such women, through the streets of Jerusalem, to tell the people who needed this hope the most!
My hope lives. It hasn’t always. Even as a “believer”, I have, at times, lost my hope. I have taken my “eyes off Jesus”. There have been times when my circumstances ruled my view, and all I could see was the defeat. I’ve been there, as I said, even as a believer and follower of Jesus.
And, in those times, my Master calls to me, asking why I mourn what lives? The shroud of despair around my hope is actually empty. The tomb in the depths of my soul is not where my hope is found, that hole has nothing inside. Why do I look for the living among the dead? The question penetrates the fuzzy emotions of my depression. Why am I looking here for my hope?
The old frame crumbles as Jesus’ new frame slides into place. The new window is clear, the images I see crisp, and the truth floods in like light. My hope is kept by my Master, and can never be found in holes in the ground. I don’t define my hope, for my hope is a gift, a treasure, held in safekeeping by my Master. Jesus, my King, holds my hope, and His Spirit is my redemption ticket. I am forever connected to the One who has saved me.
Because the tomb is empty, I too live. Because the grave could not hold Him, hopelessness cannot hold me. What do I have to fear if death itself is dead? I cannot die, since death is to be separate from my Master. And now, nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus!
What do you learn from the empty tomb this morning? What is your view through the knothole?