This was a tough weekend for the disciples. It’s as if it has been one string of bad events after another. First, the arrest of Jesus; next He doesn’t resist; He is treated like a criminal; condemned to death; then crucified on a cross among some of the worst in society.
His close friends forsook Him for fear and apprehension. For the disciples, all their hopes and dreams, appear to go up in smoke. They had invested all their lives in this Man, in this movement. Now, it appears to be coming to an end.
For His burial, He had two rich men who thought that the least they could do, is to give Him a decent burial (Nicodemus and Joseph). They took Him down before sunset; buried Him in a nearby tomb (on that Joseph owned).
The ladies, before they went off to keep the Sabbath, they came to mark where the tomb is, so that they can return on Sunday morning to complete their preparation for His burial. You can imagine how anxious a Sabbath that was—for them, the darkest Sabbath since creation.
Early Sunday Morning. They probably didn’t have breakfast, before daybreak.
The Marys are on their way to the tomb to see their Lord. He has done a lot for them; He gave them meaning to life. So, despite that they do not understand all that has happen, they are still going to do their duty to Him. As they approached the tomb, they wondered, “who is going to roll away the stone for us?”, but they still went on.
As they got closer, lo and behold, the stone is rolled away, and when they went to look inside, the Lord is not there. This empty tomb, to the Marys, was adding insult to injury. In their minds, they are thinking, “first they crucify Him; now they have taken His body away.” Their interpretation of the empty tomb is that some mischievous person is seeking to embarrass them.
In their mind the last time they saw Jesus He was powerless; He was dead. Therefore, if the stone is rolled away, if He is not in the tomb, then it must be someone who took Him out. They left Him helpless and dead, He could not lift Himself. Therefore, someone must have taken Him away. This was the overwhelming thought on Mary’s heart, so much so, that when Jesus asked her, “why are you crying?” she said, “they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
It was such a point of distress, that Mary was found crying at the tomb. But, later Mary and the other disciples would come to understand, that like the crucifixion of Christ, the empty tomb is nothing to be worried about. The empty tomb is no tragedy for the believer in Jesus.
What the empty tomb means, is that, “I serve a risen Saviour”. It means our Saviour has conquered death, and by faith, we can conquer too (Revelation 1:18, 19). It means Satan is defeated, sin does not have dominion over us, death will die one day, and we have a resurrection morning awaiting us (1 Corinthians 15:50-55). The empty tomb is the foundation of our faith in the resurrection of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Mary came and thought it was a tragic event to find the tomb empty, so tragic that she began to cry. But she would later learn that the empty tomb, is not something to cry about, but to rejoice in. What it means, is that the Dragon failed to devour the Man Child. He is caught to God and to His throne (Revelation 12:5). What a tragedy it would have been for Christianity, if that was the end of it for our Leader? What embarrassment it would have been if Jesus did not rise from the dead? What the empty tomb means, is that, if my family is in trouble, if I am in trouble, I have a Saviour to call on. Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” John 20:17
It means that I have a merciful and faithful High Priest. If I need forgiveness, I can find it (1 John 2:1). It means that one day, those of us who believe in Jesus, will leave an empty tomb behind. It means that what Adam lost has been restored in Christ. There is a second chance to life. The empty tomb also means, that the hope of Abraham, Job, David and Daniel are not in vain. One day, God will keep His appointment with them to raise them from the dead. May God help us to experience the power of the resurrection in our lives, so that we might have hope, even in the face of apparent tragedies.