THE POWER OF THE EMPTY TOMB IN THE EASTER STORY: AN EASTER REFLECTION Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

THE POWER OF THE BIG EMPTY TOMB - APRIL 1, 2018 - EVANGEL WORLD OUTREACH  CENTER Morris County Church

We start by looking at a word we use often, and that is “empty.” It could indicate something positive or negative depending on the context. When you say that someone is empty, people would quickly conclude that the individual lacks certain qualities may be common sense. On the other hand, when you say that an individual emptied his or her heart to you, it positively indicates that the person was docile and did not hide anything.

The word empty is immensely powerful in the Easter context, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is impossible to talk about Easter without the empty tomb. If the tomb was not empty when Mary of Magdala came to the grave or when Peter and John arrived after hearing about the resurrection (John 20:1-9), Christ did not rise from the dead.

Another fact that explains that Jesus Christ was nowhere in the tomb on that third day is the presence of the burial clothes dumped by the side and the napkin that covered the face of the Lord, which was carefully rolled up to a separate corner.

In the Jewish culture, a servant would know whether the master is done eating or not from how he arranges the eating napkins. If he leaves it unrolled, it means he is done, but when it is carefully rolled up, the master would be coming back to the table to finish his meal. The positions of the clothing materials in the tomb showed that Jesus was not there. He has forever risen, and on the other hand, he would come back again (Matt. 24:44).

The Empty Tomb and The Power of the Easter

The joy of Easter begins with the empty tomb; that is where the story begins. The account of John (20:1) starts by telling us that Mary of Magdala saw the stone removed from the tomb. That sight made her run to inform Simon Peter and John that the Lord had been taken away, which means he was not there.

The empty tomb tells us that the Lord fulfilled his promise of rising from the dead. Earlier in Mark’s Gospel (9:31), he said: “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days, He will rise.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ celebrates victory over sin and death. We could recall that the sin of Adam brought death (Romans 5:12), but through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, that sin cleared (John 19:30), and his resurrection restored us to life.

The joy of the Easter season is not just that Jesus has Risen; it is also about the resurrection effect. Put in another way, the resurrection, just like the death of Jesus on the cross, is all about us; our Lord Jesus Christ did not gain anything by dying and rising; we are the gainers.

Easter tells us that the sting of death due to sin has been removed; victory is ours. Now the promise of eternal life in the Gospel of John (10:10b) comes to fulfillment. Easter assures us that no matter the limitations we might face, they are temporary because we shall rise again. We shall regain more than what we lost; the joy of the rising is more than the pain of dying. All the pains and the passion are now in the past.

Moving Forward: The Gift of Easter

Easter is an amazing gift from God that has all we need to go through life’s challenges as we journey to God. If you look at the word EASTER very attentively, you will discover that it has a message from the resurrected Lord who Emptied All Satanic Threats and is Eternally Risen.

The challenge is for us to start living the resurrected life. St. Paul advised us in his Letter to the Colossians (3:1-4) to change our focus from seeking things below to searching for realities above where the risen Lord sits at the right hand of the Father. We cannot have a risen Lord while still living like those in the grave of sin and damnation. This is the time to rise from all spiritual, material, and mental limitations, and you can do it because it is a choice.

From the narrative of the empty tomb, we learn how to empty ourselves of all the dispositions and attitudes that negate our spiritual life. We need to come to God empty to be filled. St. Paul reminds us that Jesus emptied himself though he was in the form of God and became obedient unto death, even on the cross (Phil. 2:6-9)

Whoever runs without God runs a race, but when God is involved, it becomes grace. It is not about who runs faster, but who runs with God, and remember that God runs at his pace and not how we want it. John thought it was all about youthful strength and outran Peter. But coming to the tomb, John had to wait for Peter to arrive and lead him inside.  a lesson about waiting on God, which is what Easter celebrates. God’s word is always fulfilled at His time and pace.

Happy Easter, and may God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

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