The empty tomb

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2021 - 12:00am

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus… behold two men stood by them in shining garments… they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” – Luke 24:3-7

Some years ago, my wife and I joined a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the highlights was visiting the tomb said to have held the body of Jesus after he was crucified.

The tomb was far from empty that morning. There was a long line of tourists wanting to get in or just take a peek. My wife went in, but I don’t like crowds. I believed, even then, in social distancing. So, I just took a peek.

It was a room carved out of solid rock in a garden. I later found out there are other tombs people point to as the place Jesus was originally laid to rest. The tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is the most widely accepted burial site of Christ.

We may not know for sure which one was the real tomb of Christ. But that’s not important. What matters is there was an empty tomb that Sunday morning reported in the four gospels.

As Christians, we have learned to associate Holy Week with the cross. That is as it should be since the suffering and death of Christ on the cross paid the price for our eternal salvation. The empty tomb completes the Good News. When Jesus rose from the dead, He broke the power of sin for all time. (1Corinthians 15:55-56).

Indeed, without the resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith might still be considered a good way of life. But Jesus would just be another great teacher who lived his life and returned to dust. That falls short of Christ being God.

How do we know He rose from the dead? The earliest disciples testified they had witnessed Jesus of Nazareth alive after his death and burial. They spent time with him, ate with him, touched and listened to him teach.

As biblearcheologyreport.com puts it: “For them, the empty tomb and their experience with their risen Lord formed the foundation of their belief in who Jesus was (God – John 20:28) and what he had done (died to pay the penalty for the sins of the world – 1 John 2:2).  The resurrection of Jesus was at the very heart of the gospel they preached (Acts 2:32-38) and remains the central teaching of Christianity 2000 years later.”

What do all these mean for us today?

St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:14: “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” The cross and resurrection clearly belong together.

Kelly M. Kapic, a professor of theological studies, explains what these all mean in an article for Christianity Today.

“By leaving out the empty tomb, our understanding of the cross itself becomes distorted. It opens the door to seeing forgiveness of personal sin as the only element of the gospel. It can lead us to believe that eradicating private sin is the only activity of our lives. This resurrection-less understanding… leaves Jesus in the past, on the cross…

“It becomes too easy for us to conclude, ‘There was a problem. He fixed it. Now it’s up to us to set our lives straight.’ This leaves the activity of grace in the past…”

The empty tomb, Kapic says, is about our present reality: “The risen Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. He is present with us by his Spirit, empowering and reshaping our lives... The resurrection demonstrates that he is present and he is Lord…”

For the apostle Paul, the resurrection informs our present. He moves from the empty tomb to our lived experience: ‘as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life’ (Rom. 6:4)…

“The gospel is, chiefly and primarily, the news that Jesus is Lord, that he is the Savior who rescues his people, that he reigns over heaven and earth (Acts 2:32–36). The King and his kingdom are here.

“The gospel, proclaimed in a Christ-centered Christianity, moves us from simply avoiding sin to actually loving God and our neighbor… Christians are not simply interested in ceasing to do ‘bad’ things, but in experiencing the full fruit-bearing life instructed and empowered by the Spirit of Christ.

“The Christian life is shaped like a cross and liberated like an empty tomb… It is animated by the gift of God’s love so that we might become channels of God’s transforming love through us.

“Our radically individualistic culture can easily reduce the gospel to sin-management therapy, concentrating on external behavior modification and internal psychological changes. We feel caught in a cycle of sinning, repenting, finding forgiveness, and then looking for ways to deal with the feelings of guilt and shame.

“If we proclaim the cross in a way that ignores the resurrection, then we forget that Christ is present with us right now.”

Happy Resurrection Sunday, everyone.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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