What images and memories does the term Easter bring forth in your mind? For many of us, we can remember fondly events like Easter Egg hunts, gift baskets, and the like. Or perhaps less fondly, you remember being forced to take pictures with people in creepy giant rabbit costumes. Maybe you grew up in a home that went to church on Easter, so you remember singing songs, participating in reenactment plays as a child, and family meals after service.
Whatever your religious affiliation is or your exposure to Westernized Easter events has been, I think all of us have some sort of idea of the Christian resurrection story that Easter is based around. While you might not know or remember the details of this story, you know that there was a man named Jesus who died on a cross and three days later was raised to new life. At the root of this resurrection story is one central image: a large, incredibly heavy rolled-away stone and the empty tomb that it revealed.
What is the purpose of this empty tomb? Why was the stone rolled away? The answer for most of us is probably something like this: Jesus came back to life, got up, used miraculous strength to roll away the stone, and walked out of the tomb.Hence the rolled away stone and the empty tomb. But is that what really happened? Is that why the tomb was empty?
Immediately after the discovery of the empty tomb in John 20 we read of the first time Jesus appears to the disciples. Eight days later, Jesus again appears to the disciples in the same house. Both times, the author John goes out of his way to tell us that the doors of the house were locked, and yet Jesus suddenly appeared among them. Let that one bake your noodle for a second. The doors are locked, you’re surrounded by solid walls, and Jesus just physically appears amidst a group of people. We can debate the physics of this all we want – but the point is, solid objects couldn’t stop him.
So that begs the question, was the stone at the empty tomb really rolled away so Jesus could get out? Physical objects obviously were not a barrier for him. Had he wanted to, Jesus could’ve gotten up and left the tomb without ever having to roll away the stone.
When Simon Peter and John first showed up to the empty tomb, we read of how Simon Peter went in to the tomb and saw the grave cloths and the empty tomb for himself. You see, the stone wasn’t rolled away so that Jesus could get out, but so that we could get in.
When I asked you what images or memories the term Easter brought to your mind, what were they? Were they fond memories of celebrating with your family – memories such as church services, meals, holiday events, or dying eggs together? For many of us, there are no fond memories. Maybe it was just another day as any. Maybe you have sad and haunting memories of hypocritical parents who put on a good face at church but then came home and lived a life completely opposite of what they showed on Sunday morning. Maybe you didn’t have family meals and events because your family was so broken that a meal together was the last thing you ever would have done.
The first words of Jesus to his disciples after the resurrection were “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Peace is a loaded term in our culture, but what Christ is talking about here isn’t a non-violent state of being between two or more parties. Peace is with us because his resurrection is proof that he alone has the power to bring true restoration, true healing, true beauty, true hope, true comfort and true love. Wherever you are this Easter Sunday, the empty tomb is for you. It is an invitation: come in and see that Christ has defeated death – just as he said he would. He has taken our shame and our guilt for us – just as he said he would. He has brought hope, comfort, and joy eternal – just as he said he would.
The tomb is empty, will you come in and see?