Whenever something is said to be empty there is usually a negative perspective attached to it. For instance: “Empty pocket!” “Empty house!” “Empty Classroom!” “Empty bank account!” On this day however, the word EMPTY takes up a new, triumphant, and victorious meaning. The tomb is empty because God has won the battle and the devil has lost out. We can now dance to God’s victory. Godwin!
From the Gospel Reading today (Luke 24:1-12), we are told that some women went to the tomb very early in the morning with some spices to anoint the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James and others not named. You could be as curious as I am as to why these women had to leave their homes at that time of the day and what they expected since a large heavy stone was used to close the entrance of the grave. The possible explanation one can give is that they were women of faith. Faith does not ask how this or that can happen but rather believes that it will be possible. Leaving their families at the wee hours of the morning was an indication of the importance and urgency of their mission.
Arriving at the tomb, they found out that the stone used to close the mouth of the grave had been rolled away and going in they found the tomb empty; they were confused and amazed at what they saw. But two angels were on the ground to tell them that the one they seek among the dead is alive and is now among the living. What this means is that the tomb is empty. The empty tomb further discloses the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is risen from the dead as he said. Alleluia!
From the discovery of the women, we understand emptiness from another angle. Here it speaks of a gain instead of a loss. It speaks of joy not sadness. It could be likened to a situation whereby one is said to have tested negative to a sickness. Before his death we tested positive of death and damnation, but now as the tomb is empty the result has instantly changed; the result of our test is now negative to death and damnation.
There is more to the empty tomb we need to understand. When humanity failed in Adam we became empty by losing our connection with God. To bring about our redemption, our Lord Jesus Christ emptied himself of his equality with God and took our human form (Phil.2:7-8).This he did so that we can be refilled. The tomb became empty so that our lives may be filled with the power of the risen Lord. So it was needful for the tomb to become empty.
Furthermore the emptiness of the tomb is an indication of the futility of life without Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ is absent from our lives, we become beclouded by abject emptiness. Life without God is no life at all. You can recall that when Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit they became not only naked but also empty (Gen. 3). The empty tomb is also an indication of the futility of the power of the devil. It shows that the promises of the devil are but empty promises (Luke 4:3-13). By his resurrection Jesus emptied our lives of sin and evil and filled us with good things. (Psalm 107:9; Rom.15:13).
A very significant thing happened when our Lord Jesus Christ was buried. And this is the descent into hell. In the creed we say: “…He descended into hell and on the third day he rose again from the dead” The hell referred to in this passage is not the lake of fire described in the book of revelation (20:14). Hell as used here refers to hades which in Greek means a place of the dead. We see this very clearly in the book of revelation (20:12) which tells us that the dead would first be judged before their fate is determined. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (4:8-10) further tells us that the one who ascended was the same person that descended. St. Peter further supports his view (I Pet.3:19) by telling us that our Lord Jesus Christ descended into hell to preach to the souls there.
It is our belief that nobody entered into heaven before Christ’s ascension into heaven. This means that those who died at peace with God before the resurrection of Christ were kept in the place of the dead. In the office of the reading today we have an ancient homily which describes how our Lord Jesus Christ went to wake Adam and Eve up from the sleep of death in the limbo of the fathers. He emerges with the tree of redemption (the cross) as contradistinguished from the tree of sin in the Garden of Eden. With the descent into hell our Lord accomplished the work of announcing the good news to all creation (Matt.24:14) because he alone qualifies to announce the good news in that realm.
At this point, it will be worthwhile to look into what the resurrection of Jesus Christ stands to effect in our lives. Put in another way what are the benefits of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the life of an active Christian or what is rising from the dead (Mk.9:10).
- In I Cor.15:14-18 St. Paul did say among other things that if Christ did not rise from the dead we have nothing to preach and you have nothing to believe. He also said that if Christ did not rise from the dead then our faith is meaningless. Hence the rising from the dead is a confirmation of suitability of our faith and that we are alive again.
- The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is a clear indication of the fact that sin and death have been conquered. We are no longer subjected to the law of sin and death, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free (Romans 8:2). The resurrection moved the stone of sin that covered us from receiving the light of God’s grace. There is a sense wherein we see the tomb as representing our hearts and the stone as sin covering it from divine contact. The resurrection of Jesus Christ removes this obstacle and we are given access again to God’s grace.
- It means that we have been liberated from the stranglehold of our enemies. Those who have been after us are now been pursued by God. God is now troubling our troubles and worrying our worries. Power has changed hands and we have been lifted to a new level. The tears of the passion have given way to the joy of the resurrection. In fact, we have been liberated from three conditions:
- a) From Stand-still: As children we have a game called “stand-still”. Those who play this game usually tell each other to stand-still and the person is expected to stand still or pause until the person releases you. There are actually many people out there who are standing still not because they want to stand-still but because the devil has orchestrated it in some ways. The power of the resurrection is releasing such people this night.
- b) Drop it for me: This is also another game we used to play as children as a form of a bet. In the game, if you are holding something and your partner in the game sees you the person will say drop it! And you are obliged by the rule of the game to drop it no matter what it is; no negotiation. There is no doubt that many people have been dropping things that should rightly belong to them by obeying evil suggestions. This situation is hereby reversed by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. From this moment you shall have what rightly belongs to you.
- c) Salute me: This is yet another game we played as children. Here you force allegiance and subordination from your partner in the game by being the first to ask your partner in the game to salute you. It is a fact that some people have been paying allegiance to the devil by failing to give God true and enduring homage and worship that pleases Him (John 4:24). With the resurrection of Jesus Christ this situation has been reversed. God alone deserves our attention and homage.
As the tomb lies empty, may our lives be emptied of evil and rot; as the stone was rolled away may the power of the resurrection roll away all known and unknown obstacles in our lives. As Jesus rose triumphantly, may we rise from all physical and spiritual entanglements.
Godwin! Alleluia. Happy Easter!