The women, most notably Mary Magdalene, came to the tomb of Jesus before sunrise and discovered that it was empty. From that moment on, even in the face of much doubt, the disciples of Jesus believed and proclaimed that he had been raised from the dead.
The disciples experienced the first signs of the Resurrection.
Today this tomb of Jesus is enshrined in a labyrinth of a church in Jerusalem called the Holy Sepulcher. In what is the second oldest continually functioning church in the Christian world, there stands a small chapel called the Edicule and it is there that we believe that Jesus was entombed on Good Friday, the very tomb that was found to be empty on Sunday.
The current church dates largely to the Crusader period, though there are layers and layers of construction, destruction and reconstruction that lie both within and underneath. The Edicule is largely of 18th century construction. Due to the structural instability of the Edicule and its supporting structure, it was necessary to close the chapel and to embark on extensive archaeological and restorative work of the area. The more they dug the more layers of history they uncovered. Each layer took them closer and closer to the time of Constantine, the early fourth century, when the first chapel was constructed there. Many historians imagined that then was the earliest they could go. Sn.t Helen, Constantine’s mother, selected the site based on a legendary discovery of the Cross upon which Jesus died.
The Romans, in an attempt to squelch Christianity, constructed a temple to Jupiter over the site that the Christians preserved as the tomb of Jesus. It is over this site that the Edicule now stands. It is with a very high level of confidence that a Christian who has passed through and prayed in the Edicule can claim to be in the very tomb about which we read in the Gospel for Easter Sunday.
The tomb was empty. The tomb remains empty.
The power of the belief that Jesus is raised from the dead forms the core of our identity. If the tomb were not empty, then any encounter with the resurrected Jesus would merely phantom. Many people believe that they have encountered ghosts or apparitions that defy normal human experience. An encounter with a ghost does not a claim for resurrection make. While the appearances of Jesus to the disciples after the Resurrection stand to confirm the physical nature of the Resurrection, it is the fact that the tomb was first discovered as empty that places the subsequent experiences into context.
In an era when the scientific method demands proof, the emptiness of the tomb stands as a contradiction. We clearly believe that the absence of something is proof of it happening. There is no body in the tomb, therefore Jesus has been raised from the dead.
Yes, there are those who will and do speculate that a rouse was perpetrated upon the world by some wily Galilean fishermen who didn’t want Jesus to die and remain and ignominious martyr. Yet, that claim is even more challenging and less credible than is the claim that Jesus is raised!
We look into the tomb of Jesus, and we stand with the millions of pilgrims who have trekked there over the last two millennia, and we know that it is there that Mary Magdalene wept at Jesus’ burial and where she stood incredulous days later as the stone was rolled away. It is there that Peter and the other disciple encountered emptiness, while at the same time, their minds were being filled with the Holy Spirit who helped them discern what they were not seeing.
Jesus Christ is truly raised from the dead. The tomb is truly empty. As we encounter the emptiness we filled with the power of the resurrected one.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.[[In-content Ad]]