“The Empty Tomb is Not an Idle Tale”
Easter Sunday – March 31, 2013
Have you ever heard a story that just seemed too good to be true? You listen intently as somebody describes incredible events and in the end you go, “Yeah, right, like that really happened!” Some might call it “an idle tale,” others might simply label it as “nonsense.” I imagine that’s what the Disciples were thinking when the women came and told them what happened at the Lord’s tomb on that first Easter morning.
The story of the Resurrection is not a convenient fable concocted to explain the Christian faith. The story of the Resurrection is the report of an event that actually took place, with witnesses, who continue to give us their testimony through the gospel writers. My guess is that some of you may be prone to listening to Bible stories with a bit of an incredulous mindset…These are just idle tales…You may be mildly interested in the story; one of the characters may vaguely remind you of someone you know; maybe the story happened to somebody – a long time ago; but it’s not your story. You wonder if the storyteller is exaggerating, or if the story is completely accurate, or if it’s just presenting some good ideas through creative symbols – Nice story with no historical basis. You may even wonder what difference it makes as long as you live a pretty good life.
Whether or not you believe Jesus Christ actually rose from the dead makes all the difference in the world. The story of the Resurrection is interesting, but it’s been met by skepticism since the very first time it was told…And, why not…? It’s a pretty incredible tale, when you think about it…Jesus was crucified and everybody in town saw it…He died and was buried in a tomb covered by a stone that took three men and a boy to move…After three days, the tomb is empty and these “heavenly messengers” tell his friends that he’s risen from the dead…No wonder the Disciples thought it was nonsense and didn’t believe. There are even different versions of the story told in the Gospels…But, why not? The event is reported from different perspectives by different people…In spite of the differences, however, we note these consistencies:
- First, no human being saw the Resurrection as it happened…
Jesus’ followers watched him suffer and die…
On the third day they saw him alive again…
But no one watched him rise from the dead
- Second, women were the first to be told that Christ had risen…
- Third, heavenly messengers appeared at the tomb to tell the Good News
- Finally, the news was initially met with fearfulness and doubt.
Nobody anticipated that this story would turn out the way it did…It was dark when Mary and her friends set out for the tomb…They went sadly, with no great expectations about what they’d find. They were worried about who might roll the stone away so they could get inside to anoint the body. In their time of greatest sorrow, they found some comfort in doing something – however small – to honor the memory of the One they mourned. Now, imagine how confused and frightened the women were when they reached the tomb and found the huge stone rolled away. The tomb was empty…The guards were gone…Then they’re blinded by the light of the heavenly messengers who bring them the good news and remind them of their Lord’s own words…They must have been babbling like overly-excited children by the time they got back to tell the Disciples what they’d seen…Is it any wonder the men thought the tale was nonsense? They just couldn’t bring themselves to believe it at first. It was interesting, but not convincing…They were curious, but not persuaded…Peter didn’t believe it even after he saw the empty tomb…It wasn’t until Christ stood in their midst that they truly believed.
We see in the Bible how Christ’s Resurrection transformed the lives of his Disciples…No “idle tale” could have changed them from humble, insecure, frightened fishermen into the greatest evangelists in history…Nothing but the truth could move them from timidity to shouting the Good News of Jesus Christ to everyone within earshot. I’m glad the Bible tells us that these first disciples were fearful and hesitant to believe…It makes them seem more human and real to us…not so different from people today…If the risen Christ could transform them, then the same transformation is possible for us…More than that, it’s good for us to be reminded that the power and love of God cannot be thwarted by shaky beliefs or low expectations. If we come to him, questions and all, Jesus can take our little faith, our uncertainty, and our fear and exchange it for more life, more beauty, and more love than we can possibly imagine.
This is incredible and wonderful and beyond our understanding…
But, it’s no idle tale – It’s the Gospel truth. On Easter Sunday morning, when we stand and say those historic words, Christ is risen; he is risen indeed, we join those first witnesses with our own testimony. We have experienced the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our own hearts and we are able to affirm that the Empty Tomb is Not an Idle Tale.
Christ is risen; he is risen indeed! Alleluia! Thanks be to God!