Lessons from an Empty Tomb

by Marjorie George

Tomb of Jesus


“They’re depending on you,” says the letter that came with my Neighborhood Volunteer kit from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My assignment is to address, stamp, and mail solicitation letters to neighbors on my street. Sure, I can do that.

The faces of three beautiful children smile at me in the literature I received with my Volunteer kit. “They’re depending on you,” I am reminded. Of course I will do that.

A few years ago there was a tv commercial, I don’t remember for what, in which a man kept getting assignments and kept saying, “I can do that.” After several agreements to do such-and-such, he said, “How’m I gonna do that?”

Christ is depending on us; how’re we gonna do that?

Christ’s last words to his disciples were, “Go and make more disciples” (Matt 28:19). They were “Go and proclaim the good news” (Mark 16:15). They were “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). “Yes, Lord,” we respond.

But how are we going to do that?

I think the Gospel stories we read during the Easter season tell us exactly how we are going to do that. We have taken these stories of post-resurrection encounters with Jesus as proof stories – evidence that the resurrection really happened.

But perhaps they are also sending stories. Perhaps Christ is gathering up all that He taught during His active ministry and giving us an executive summary of how the mission is to be carried out. In these stories, I see five helps, five things without which we cannot go, proclaim, and feed. The five are these: learn to recognize his voice, go forth in peace, believe, depend on the Scriptures, do it all in humility.

1. Learn to recognize his voice. “I know my sheep, and my sheep know me . . . they listen to my voice,” Jesus had told his disciples (John 10:14-16). Now, at the empty tomb, weeping, Mary sought the body of Jesus. Encountering a man in the cemetery and supposing him to be the gardener, Mary asked where the body had been taken. Then Jesus spoke to her – “Mary!” – and she immediately recognized Him as her beloved Rabbi (John 20:15-16).

Put 10 babies and 10 mothers in a nursery and listen for one baby to cry. Immediately the correct mother says, “Oh, that’s mine” and moves to comfort the child.

I have been wakened from the soundest of sleeps by one of my children coughing in the night. One cough, I listened; two coughs, I got up.

I watched my one-week-old granddaughter smile up at her daddy from his lap when he spoke to her because he had done it so often when she was in her mommy’s womb.

Learn His voice; learn to separate His truth from the cacophony of bad advice that surrounds us these days. Spend time with Him, and listen.

2. Go forth in peace. Later that day, in the evening, the disciples were gathered behind locked doors because they were afraid. Then Jesus appeared among them: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

Three days earlier Jesus had had to admonish Peter to put down his sword (John 18:10-11).

Lay aside you weapons, your anger, your need for revenge. This war will be fought and won through love, not hate; by unity, not division; by acceptance, not ridicule. The disciples were at the beginning, not the end, of their ministry – and only the peace that passes understanding would sustain them, and us.

3. Study scripture. On the day of the resurrection, Cleopas and another were walking on the road to Emmaus, discussing the strange events of the day, when Christ joined them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him, Luke tells us. As the two told of their perplexity at the unfolding events, Jesus “interpreted to them” the stories of scripture, revealing how it had all been foretold.

Later, after the two walkers had recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they remembered how their hearts had “burned within them” as Christ “opened the scriptures” to them on the road (Luke 24:13-32).

What will we feed His sheep? What we have been fed – Scripture.

4. Believe. Thomas had not been present with the disciples on the day of the resurrection, and he was taking no one’s word for it. Thomas was an evidence kind of guy. On the Meyers Briggs he was an S-J; first the facts and then we will talk about it.

And Jesus obliged. A week after the resurrection, Thomas was with the disciples when Christ again came and stood among them. “Here, Thomas,” He said. “Touch my side, feel the nail marks in my hands, believe,” adding, “but blessed are those who have not seen but have come to believe”(John 20:26-29). That would be us.

If you are in doubt as to what we believe, read the Nicene Creed.

5. Do it all in humility. It was in doing the only thing he knew to do that Peter found his mission. And in that, he had to be taught anew. It was at the Sea of Tiberias; Peter and some of the others had gone fishing. But after a night of it, they had caught nothing.

In the morning, Jesus stood at the shore, though they did not recognize Him. “Have you any fish?” he asked. “No,” they replied wearily. “Cast your nets to the other side,” He said. And they caught so many fish they could hardly draw in the nets (John 21:4-8).

Bishop Lillibridge has the best definition of humility I have ever heard. Humility, says the bishop, is being teachable. It is setting aside the arrogance of “I know all that,” and being open to a new way of seeing it, a new explanation, a new direction, fishing on the other side of the boat.

At the end of his Gospel account, John says that Jesus did many others things. “If every one of them were written down,” adds John, “I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written ” (21:25).

But never mind; what has been written is sufficient for our Easter learning. Now, it is left to us to obey.

Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

4 thoughts on “Lessons from an Empty Tomb”

  1. Oh, as always, Marjorie, what you say is simply true and so well stated. xoxo

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