I have made more trips to the cemetery than the vast majority of people. I can tell you with all certainty that people do not go there to seek the living. A dear friend of mine who works in a cemetery always jokes with people by quoting that famous line from “The Sixth Sense,” “I see dead people.” Joking aside, that is what people expect when they visit a cemetery. It is a place where we take our deceased loved ones to their final resting place.
The women who set out to visit the tomb of Jesus that Sunday morning had the exact same expectations as anyone else who would visit a tomb. In the world that they inhabited, there would be no other reasonable expectation. It is the same for you and me; we approach tombs with the expectation that has been conditioned by the reality of our world. Anything else would be extraordinary.
I think that Luke downplays the astonishment of the women who found the tomb open and the body missing. He simply says that they were “perplexed.” I am trying to imagine what my feelings would be were I to visit my father’s grave and find it open and his body missing. Perplexed would be on the list of emotions, but it would be way below the shock, anger (rage) and sadness. I would want some answers, and I would want them quick!
The women got their answers before they even asked the questions. Angel messengers said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Before they could ask, “Who did this?” they were told that Jesus had done it. Before they could ask, “Where is the body?” they were told that Jesus is alive, risen from the dead. They had the answers to the unasked questions of their hearts, but there is no way that the answers could have made sense to them in that moment.
They had been the faithful ones, and had stood at the foot of Jesus cross and watched him die. They knew that he was dead. Along with Joseph of Arimathea, they had wrapped the body in a shroud. They had seen the wounds made by the whip, the nails and the spear. They had his blood upon their own hands. They knew that he was dead. Now, suddenly in this moment they were being asked to believe that Jesus is alive. This is a shift into an entirely new reality. This moment changes everything.
Imagine how hard it was for them to wrap their brains around the reality of what was transpiring. Death had been defeated by Jesus. The power of the grave had been overpowered by Jesus. Mourning had turned into overwhelming joy. Jesus is alive!
Today, in our world which is filled with the darkness of warfare, disease and all manner of death, it can be hard for us to wrap our brains around the reality of the resurrection. Like the disciples who heard from the women in our text today, sometimes it “seems like an idle tale.” The resurrection creates an entirely new reality, one that flies in the face of life experience.
In our hearts and our minds, we need to go with the women to the tomb and look inside. The stone was rolled away, not for Jesus to get out, but for us to look in. The tomb was empty that Sunday morning, and it is still empty today. Listen again to the angelic voices saying to you, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” This changes everything!
Handel’s “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” from “Messiah” seems appropriate for today’s text. Lynne Dawson has a most beautiful voice!