“Otherwise his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people he has been raised from the dead. The last deception will be worse than the first”. Matthew 27:64

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to tomb”……”Why do you look for the living among the dead?  Remember how he told you, ….’The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and then on the third day be raised again.'” Luke 24: 1,5,7

“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you'”. John 20: 19

Jesus is dead.  Just the day before Jesus was tortured and then crucified, dying horribly on the cross.  His body is taken down and laid in a new tomb in a garden; a tomb hewn out of solid rock.  The disciples knew where the tomb was.  The Jewish leaders knew where the tomb was.  What they weren’t sure of, is what would be in the tomb.  A body was placed there, but would it stay there?

The Jewish leaders desperately feared that the tomb would be found empty after three days.  However, they did not fear this out of some dread that they had been in error when they killed the man who claimed to be the Son of God. The Jewish leaders had no doubt that they had rid themselves of a nuisance, possibly deranged man, who was upsetting the people and leading them astray. No, their fear was a purely human, earthly fear.  The tomb would be found empty, not by the hand of God, but at the nefarious hands of Jesus’s disciples.  They seemed to remember what the disciples did not, that Jesus claimed that He would rise from the grave after three days.  The Jewish leaders were afraid that the disciples would indeed remember Jesus’s claim and make it seem to come to pass by stealing the dead body and claiming Jesus had indeed risen.  They feared this deception would be an even greater lie than Jesus had told while alive and convince even more gullible, ignorant people of the truth of Jesus.  With their guards they took all the steps they could, to see that lie didn’t happen.

The disciples were in shock and fear.  The maddening events of the last few hours and their contrast to the triumph of the last few days had left them drained and stunned. Jesus had been cheered, hailed as He who comes in the Name of God; by the crowds.  Then, just a few days later, those same crowds were screaming; “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”. Perhaps worse yet, one of their own cherished group, one who had been with Him many years, Judas Iscariot, had been His betrayer.  They had witnessed so many miraculous things that Jesus did.  To see Him broken, nailed to a cross, slowly, agonizingly die was beyond their comprehension.  Yet He did die.  They saw it.  They heard that Joseph of Arimathea had taken the lifeless body and buried it in a tomb.  They knew were the tomb was, they knew where the body was.  There was no expectation on their part or Mary Magdalene’s, that the body would not be there to be properly anointed for a proper burial.

Two reactions; the world fearing an empty tomb, made empty by purely earthly, human means. The disciples not grasping how that tomb, how in fact any tomb, any circumstances could have led to the murder of their Master, whom they believed to be the Son of God, and His body, devoid of life being in need of a tomb.  In their understandable, shock and profound grief, they had forgotten the prophesy, the promise Jesus had made to return.

Today, much of the world rejects the truth of the empty tomb.  The rejection comes in many different shapes and sizes; Jesus is just a fable of a make believe character, Jesus was a good man, even a wise man, but only a man, the resurrection never happened. God does not exist, ergo it is impossible that any Son exists. There is still an underlying fear and hatred. Those who do believe in Jesus are delusional.  Those who do believe are racist and haters of anyone who does not believe, wanting to force all to accept their dogma or be totally shunned. They can look to history to see very real examples of when Jesus’s believers have not acted in the faith and love that Jesus asked of them and us.

How about we believers? How do we see the empty tomb? Does the shock, worry and desperation concerning daily, earthly events, rob us of impact of the gloriously empty tomb?  Do our endless pursuits of earthly gain or simple existence leave us too exhausted to grasp the importance of the very living, resurrected Jesus Chris?. Does the overwhelming cacophony of earthly noise drown out the precious greeting that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives to us this very day: “Peace be with you.”?

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, we have a benefit today, that the disciples and Mary did not have, that day after Jesus’s crucifixion and burial.  It came to them a few days later.  Because Jesus Christ returned to His and our Heavenly Father, we also have that benefit without waiting; the Holy Spirit.  You see once the Holy Spirit came to the disciples at Pentecost, He taught the disciples about the true meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.  With that deep understanding, the disciples went out, in the Power and Grace of God, spread the word and changed the world.

That same Holy Spirit resides in us.  The difference is, we don’t have to wait for a Pentecost moment.  We don’t have to have a time where we have a relationship with Jesus, He is ripped away and we have to wait for His resurrection. The living, loving Jesus Christ is always with us and the Holy Spirit is right here to guide us and show us the way.

The tomb is empty.  Death and sin have been defeated for all time.  Jesus Christ lives! How do we show that we believe that? Jesus taught us.  The world will know that we believe in Jesus Christ when they see that we love Jesus Christ and love one another. That we love one another; the another not just being the few who are our friends or who we share worship with; but the another like Jesus loves.  The another who the world rejects, the another who is hurting, hungry and/or oppressed, the another who does not know the Lord but needs to, these are all the anothers we need to love.

May you have a blessed Easter.  He is Risen! Jesus Christ lives!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, may our thanksgiving be endless and our shouts of praise overwhelming.  Thank you for Your Son Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who seeks to bring understanding and truth to our beings.  Forgive us when we fail to live into the glory that the empty tomb represents, instead living as if the empty tomb doesn’t matter at all.  Through Your Grace, lift us above the darkness of earthly matters that we might share Your Light of Love to Your creation so desperately in need of Your Light. That into the promise of the empty tomb and the ever present life of Jesus Christ, we may bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.