Have you ever pictured it? Pictured the empty tomb on that glorious Sunday morning? What wonder and awe it held. Inside, the body of Jesus had been laid to rest after His crucifixion. But on that joyous and triumphant morning, the stone that sealed the tomb, though heavy in nature, was rolled aside and a bare tomb revealed!
And yet, a few days earlier, it was just a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who secretly believed in Jesus. After Jesus’ crucifixion, placing himself in danger of social and religious exclusion, Joseph requested the body of Jesus so he could properly bury Him.
Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mark 15:46
What did the tomb look like? Well, in the days of Jesus, tombs were carved-out areas in the stony parts of the city or surrounding hillside. According to past records and historical analysis, the tomb where Jesus was laid is believed to have been in a garden previously owned by Joseph of Arimathea and is within the city of Jerusalem. Inside most tombs, multiple shelves on which to lay several family members were chiseled out. The tomb of Jesus contains two.
You can see the actual tomb that is believed to be the burial site of Jesus HERE.
When I think of the lavish ways in which we now bury our dead in cushioned coffins and fancy dress, the tomb of Jesus seems extremely cold and dark. His body was laid out in the openness of this miniature man-made cave. Only linen cloth would be wrapped around Him. There would be no funeral, as the lateness in the day would have required quick action to complete the initial work of preparing the body according to Jewish custom.
I can almost hear stone scraping against stone as Joseph would roll a rounded stone in front of the tomb entrance to close it off. And then there would be utter silence as night fell.
One night would pass, then two, and then three…
For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Matthew 12:40
Unlike our traditional view that Jesus was buried on Friday and raised on Sunday, the scriptures tell a very different story. Jesus was very clear that he would be buried 3 days and 3 nights. To understand what day Jesus was crucified and buried on, you must account for Jewish tradition. The events in scripture, when reviewed carefully and in the order they occurred, revealed that Jesus was buried on Wednesday, lying in the grave Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night. He arose on Saturday! Remember, Saturday is considered a Sabbath day in Jewish tradition, and it ends at sunset. In other words, the start of Sunday is in the evening.
Mary and the other women went back to Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning around sunrise, having purchased spices the evening prior after sunset (start of Sunday) to complete their burial ritual, but Jesus had already been raised from the dead the day before! Here are two sets of scriptures that support the events as described above:
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. Mark 16:1-4
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. John 20:1
To see all the evidence that backs up this timeline, read this ARTICLE.
However, what is most important about the story is the fact that the tomb was found EMPTY! (Well, except for an angel that is!)
When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Mark 16:5-6
And that, my friend, is the basis of our belief! HE IS RISEN!!!
Our Savior lives! There was no body to find. He has defeated death, He sits at the right hand of God, and He is coming back again!!!
I hope you enjoy this Easter Sunday with your family. I hope it is filled with joy and laughter. But most of all, among the food and the consumerism of the day, I hope you take some time to contemplate the emptiness of the tomb and all that it means!! Easter is about our wonderful, amazing, powerful, holy, and LIVING Savior!!!
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Do you remember getting up Easter morning and finding that basket of goodness waiting for you? My Easter basket was always at the entrance to our living room. Probably like most kids, I was ecstatic. I would take everything out and examine it, and then put everything back. Finally, I would make my selection on what I would try first. As a kid, having grown up watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, a mystical rabbit delivering that basket as I slept wasn’t too far of a stretch for me to believe. But as I grew older, and the relevance of the holiday came into focus, I quickly moved away from this secular tradition and onto the real celebration of events behind the day.
Oh don’t get me wrong; when my son came along, I had a little fun with the Easter bunny again. But as he grew older, we quickly let that aspect of Easter fade into the background. Today, I am a little saddened by the wealth of commercialism that has taken over both Christmas and Easter. Kids now days get their picture taken with both Santa and the Easter bunny. But my soul longs to sing out above this noise and reflect on the true glory of it all.
Can you imagine that first Easter morning? Just three days earlier, Christ’s followers had witnessed his brutal and gory execution on the Cross. That scene etched in their minds forevermore. How bloodstained the ground around him must have been as the blood dripped from His beaten and broken body. How many tears must have flowed in those 72 hours.
And all his acquaintance and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. Luke 23:49
I have to tell you, the first time I saw the Passion of the Christ in a local theater; I almost became violently ill as I watched how He was beaten and whipped, and then nailed to that cross. When I watched it again in my home a few years later, my stomach begin to turn again. But sitting and watching a movie doesn’t even start to compare to how it must have been to be there and hear all the sounds, see the disfigurement, and smell death in the air.
I say all this because it is so important to remember the mood of the disciples, and the women who traveled with them, just prior to that Sunday morning. Probably no time in their entire life had they experienced such deep emotional turmoil. We cannot begin to understand the depth of their anguish as they contemplated what the future might hold.
I know you remember that little children’s rhyme regarding sticks and stones. It went something like this:
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
I think we would all agree, that phrasing certainly helped us in some tough situations to look strong, but its wording is entirely untrue. I believe Christ felt it all during his trail and crucifixion. Certainly, the physical abuse left its mark, but the emotional cuts were no better. Don’t misunderstand, I know He was above the insults thrown at Him because He knew who He was; but the hatred that was behind them must have saddened Him deeply.
Yet, as final as the Cross may have seemed, we must remember it was only made of wood. Though our Savior hung on it, He was not bound by its power. He remained on the Cross in His own power to pay for our sins once and for all. Death was imminent, but victory was just around the corner!
“…But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:64
As Christians today, knowing the outcome of those events, I believe the most amusing thing about the Easter story is the placement of the stone in front of Jesus’ grave. Here were men, who had just roughed up Jesus to the point of being unrecognizable and who had physically nailed Him to a cross, using the biggest, heaviest stone they could find to seal the tomb of a corpse (or so they thought). And then, to seal the deal, not a few soldiers, but many soldiers were placed outside the grave to guard it.
The irony is astounding!
But the good news of Easter is that no stone on earth was going to hold Him in that grave. HE AROSE! And without an ounce of effort, the angels rolled that pebble from in front of the grave to prove it.
And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” Mark 16:5-6
Let’s do a happy dance right now!!!
Oh, how joyful the disciples, both man and woman, must have been once it all sank in days to weeks later. And that joy has been carrying us for over 2000 years!!!
This Easter, among the festivities, food, and family; take some time to remember the real meaning of it all. HE IS ALIVE! Death has been conquered. Our sins have been atoned for forever. And He is coming back for us!
This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Consider reading John 11:17-44 prior to reading this post.
So as we move on with our story – Jesus has arrived in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. It has been 4 days since Lazarus’ death. Take note of the number of days. 4 days leaves nothing to chance, 4 days means finality, 4 days means only He could be the Messiah, because only the Messiah could cause death to retreat in its tracks.
As Jesus nears the city, word gets back to Martha He is coming. Being the assertive sister, she goes to meet Jesus just outside the city.
When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:20-22*
Martha has faith, but has limited the options it can produce. Even after Jesus tells her Lazarus will live again, she continues to misunderstand the gravity of Jesus’ remarks.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Today, consider reading John 11:1-16 prior to reading this post.
As chapter 11 begins, we see that Lazarus is sick and his sisters, Martha and Mary, have sent word to Jesus (verse 3). Surely, their friend, but more importantly their Messiah, would come quickly. However, instead of leaving immediately, Jesus stays where He is, not just for the moment, but for two whole days. His only remark:
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4*
Imagine the disciples listening to Jesus calmly state Lazarus’ illness would not end in death. Several things could have been assumed:
1. Jesus did not feel compelled to leave the city He was in due to bigger, more pressing priorities. Sure, Jesus loved Lazarus, but did Lazarus’ family really expect Jesus to just drop everything and come to them? Thousands of people wanted the Messiah’s attention. How could Jesus show such favoritism to one when He was needed by so many?
I remember as a little girl in Sunday School some really terrific Bible stories. I had some great teachers who knew how to make Bible stories just jump off the page. One of the stories told over and over was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As a kid, it was the coolest magic trick Jesus did. Now that I am older and wiser, I know the story of Lazarus coming back to life was much more than a trick, it was proof of the power of Jesus.
But, who the heck is Lazarus anyway? And doesn’t the names Martha and Mary sound familiar?
Before we get to the ‘good’ part of the story, let’s step back a little and gain some perspective on the characters in this story: Jesus, the disciples, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Most especially, we need to understand the relationship between Jesus and Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
As we are coming off the Easter celebration, I am grateful for all that transpired that fateful day 2000 years ago –the day Jesus conquered death and set us free! However, I feel a little inquisitive about the various people Jesus appeared to once He was resurrected. For instance, who were the two men walking to Emmaus? Were they new to the faith or had they followed Jesus the entire 3 years He preached? How many times had they heard Jesus speak? Were they healed by Him?
Earlier in Chapter 24 of Luke, we are told it is early Sunday morning. That would be the same Sunday morning the tomb was found open and empty. Then the discussion turns to these two men, and we are told it is “the same day,” meaning resurrection Sunday. We are also told the two men were headed away from Jerusalem.
Why would Jesus appear first to someone outside His inner circle, and why outside of Jerusalem? We may never know the answer, but can you imagine being one of the first He appeared to?