Cemeteries and graves, as a general rule are not places people enjoy visiting, unless of course you are into archaeology or genealogy, looking for treasures or family connections. But most of us are just ordinary folks, and we have had our experiences with graves and cemeteries – none of it very pleasant.
Tombs represent finality. Graves represent loss. Cemeteries represent death. We go there to bury those we love and to mourn. Everyone knows that, including those who buried Jesus after His crucifixion.
But the story of Easter morning visit to a tomb is a celebration of a greatest story twist in history, a great reversal that changes everything for all time. What those dedicated women didn’t know then is that this tomb was a source of unimaginable joy – because this tomb was empty.
Jesus’ friends had been on an emotional roller coaster since Passover began on Thursday. After a wonderful, sweet time in the Upper Room, things began to move at a dizzying pace. They climbed the Mount of Olives, went to sleep from exhaustion as Jesus prayed in the Garden. Then they were shocked into reality by torches and Temple guards who took their Lord – arrested – for what? And what was going on with Judas, one of their own? Then the accusations from the authorities, the beatings, the fearing if they were next, the denials.
Then in the midst of blatant legal irregularity, illegitimacies, and corruption, the Roman procurator allowed him – for no cause under the law – to be executed as a criminal – executed by nailing! And the insults he took on the cross! And what was with the darkness between noon and three? And someone said something about an incident of cloth tearing at the Temple that afternoon.
But the one they called Lord had died so quickly. And goodness, everything had happened so quickly; what about burial? But then one of the men from the Jewish ruling council which had condemned him and pushed for his execution, one who was rumored to believe in Him too, offered to pay all the burial expenses. It had gotten so late by the time they got the body in the tomb. Sabbath was beginning and no work could be done to the body. They would have to wait until Sabbath Saturday was over to anoint it.
On Sabbath, the deep darkness of loss. The Lord had liberated Lazarus, Mary’s own brother, from the dead. But the grave had captured Him. There was the widow’s son and Jairus’ daughter. They were stunned. It seemed like the arrogant Pharisees at Calvary were right. “He saved others. Why could he not save himself?”
By the time we reach Luke 24, the morning of the first day of the week was completely baffling. They were totally desolate in their hearts. The women are completely confused. Nothing has gone according to their plans. All the men were in hiding for fear they were next. Nobody paid attention to women, so they would go early and tend to the body.
What a jolting shock, when the weeping Marys walk up on two calm angels dressed in white, sitting like the cherubim over the mercy seat of the Holy of Holies, overshadowing the news of an incredible victory of redemption, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.”
The fullness of the depth and preciousness of those words. And they continued, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered His words.
When they ran and told the Eleven, they didn’t believe them, but Peter and John ran to see for themselves. They saw the strips of linen, but Luke says “he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”
It would take some time and the Messiah’s post-Resurrection instruction for them to understand that the grave was not at all an interruption to the progress of His work. Instead, the grave was the straight street to His triumph and glory. For the joy set before Him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame. Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose the Victor from the dark domain, and He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, thereby becoming not only the Author, but also the Perfecter of our faith.
So we set our eyes on Him. Glory to the Holy One of Israel. Glory to the Son. Glory to the King. For the Son has Risen with healing in His wings.