Our stories are rarely about tragedy turning to triumph. That’s the stuff sappy feel-good movies are made of, but real life rarely bares that storyline out.
Our real stories far too often run the other way around. We tell of a great night out having dinner with friends, only to come home and get the phone call we never wanted to receive. We tell of taking a drive on a beautiful day and never seeing the car that came out of nowhere and changed everything. We tell of getting a promotion at work only to come home and find a message from the doctor that we need to call…it’s important.
We all know, in some form or another, about triumphs that turn to tragedy. We have all lived, at one time or another, the story of a triumphant entry into Jerusalem that somehow goes terribly wrong.
We can understand why the women who went to the tomb that morning to care for the body of Jesus weren’t expecting anything good. They were numb with grief. The kind of grief that sort of blurs out the future and makes one unable to see past the huge stone in front of you. They had come to the tomb to minister to Jesus body, motivated by that same compelling force that hits us all when we lose someone we love—the need to DO something. Anything.
They get to the tomb and find the enormouse stone rolled away and tomb, empty. Instead of celebrating the risen Christ, they are perplexed. “Did Peter say anything about moving the body?” “Is this some kind of sick joke?” “Girl, did you take us to the wrong tomb?
Then these two guys in dazzling white show up and proclaim very first (and possibly the shortest) Christian sermon: He is not here, but has risen. Then these guys could see that the women are kinda freaked out, and they’re like: Don’t you remember? He told you this was going to happen?
The words seem to have a snap out of it effect on the women and they DO remember
Oh, yeah. He said this would happen. But Jesus was always talking about things like wheat and grapes and seeds when he was really talking about something else. And all that talk about death and coming back from the dead, just sounded so far fetched. Beyond anything they could imagine. But now…now with this empty tomb and shiny angels standing by, it started to seem like it could all be true. So the women tear out to go and tell the other disciples. That mus of been a scene. Showing up to the place where all the disciples are sitting shiva and mourning the loss of their beloved leader, these women arrive, sweaty and out of breath and babbling about emty tombs and men in shiny white costumes. The men decide they are telling idle tales—or nonsense as it is translated other places.
But Peter must have remembered what Jesus said to. He even remembered getting chewed out that one time when he tried to contradict Jesus, so he tore off to the tomb to see for himself. And the Bible says that he was astonished. He, too, had heard Jesus predictions. But just like the women before him, he heard the story, but he couldn’t imagine what it would look like…until now.
What about us? Do we think the empty tomb is just an idle tale? What do we imagine the empty tomb means for us? Can we imagine all the possiblities?
The truth is that we really blow it when we limit the meaning of Easter to that which we can imagine. And unfortunately, life takes us to all sorts of places that suck the life right out of our imaginations.
We get so broken that we can’t imagine being fixed
We get so lost we can’t imagine being found
We hurt so badly we can’t imagine ever being healed
We are so anxious that we can’t imagine we will ever be calm and content
We get so lonely we can’t imagine feeling loved
We cause so much pain that we can’t imagine ever being forgiven
We screw up so badly we can’t imagine being given a second chance
We are so afraid of death that we can’t imagine life beyond it
But the empty tomb exceeds all of our expectations and goes beyond our wildest imagination. It is the story of tragedy turned to triumph and it can be OUR story if we just let it. It has been said that the world offers promises full of emptiness and Easter offers emptiness full of promise
And that promise starts here and now. It’s not merely a voucher for the hereafter. The promise of the empty tomb is that God is bigger and stronger and more powerful and more loving than we can ever imagine. And the life in Christ God calls us to is richer and fuller and more grace-filled than we can imagine.
Because the tomb was empty,
We can never be so broken that God can’t fix us
We can never be so lost that God can’t find us
We can never be so sick that God can’t heal us
We can never screw up so badly that God won’t forgive us
We can never be so dead that death has the final word.
The tomb is empty. It is the story of tragedy turned in to triumph. Go ahead and believe in all that it means, knowing that it means more than any of us can ever imagine.