Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on April 21, 2017
Last October I sat at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. The Garden Tomb is an alternate site to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the place for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Both sites have their merits and persuasive arguments. The Garden Tomb setting, however, invites its visitors to imagine and participate in the Easter story in a dramatic way.
The resurrection story leaps off the pages of Scripture at the Garden Tomb. It is not hard to imagine Roman soldiers guarding a rock sealed tomb, trembling in fear as the ground shakes and the stone door begins to roll away. In your mind’s eye you can see women strolling through the garden to the tomb with spices in hand. You can watch John stoop at the entrance of the tomb to peer inside; Peter running past him into the weeping chamber, peering to his right to see the empty linen wrappings in the burial chamber. Finally, there is Mary taking one last look into the empty tomb through tear-drenched eyes, turning to see a man she does not recognize, only to realize it is Jesus when he calls her name.
I am struck by the role of emptiness in the Easter story. The body of Jesus was removed empty of life from the cross on which He had been crucified. His empty body placed in an empty tomb, leaving an empty cross. Finally, on Easter Sunday the empty body of Jesus filled once again with the Breath of God, leaving the witness of an empty tomb.
Easter Sunday has passed, yet for many emptiness remains. The reality and emptiness of broken relationships, hopeless despair, and oppressive guilt have returned after the celebrations and rituals of religious activity. 1 Peter 1:18 simply says that we have inherited an “empty life” from this world.
And herein lies the mystery of Easter. It is only in recognizing the emptiness of our life that we can receive the life-filling breath of God. In Romans 6 the Apostle Paul writes that we must identify with Jesus in His death in order that we might be raised with Him in His life. The Easter tomb is the empty place where we lay down our empty lives. And in so doing, God breathes into us, filling us with new life, so that we may leave behind our own empty tomb. We are a new creation!
The empty tomb, however, is not just a promise for eternal life. The empty tomb offers healing and abundant life in the present. The empty tomb does not guarantee a life free from pain, trouble and disappointment. Rather, the empty tomb reminds us of the power of God to bring life in the midst of death, hope in the midst of despair, and faith in the midst of infidelity.
Easter Sunday will come again next year, but the Good News of Easter is that we don’t have to wait a year to encounter the empty tomb. Instead, we can experience the life-filling breath of Jesus daily, leaving behind our empty tombs, proclaiming that we are “Empty No More.”