The stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, not so that Jesus could get out but so that believers would be able to see for themselves and know that the tomb was empty. The first person to learn of the empty tomb was a woman named, Mary Magdalene, likely from the village called Magdala, along the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had removed spirits besetting Mary and she faithfully followed Jesus thereafter. Mary was at the cross throughout Jesus’ ordeal and she followed those who carried Jesus’ body to the tomb. Now Mary had come to the tomb of Jesus in the hope that somehow, she could care for his body in proper burial. But…there is always a but. But the tomb was opened, and Jesus’ body was not there. Mary, like the guards was overwhelmed. The response of her body could have been to fight, except there was no one to fight, or freeze, but the unbelieving guards had done that, or Mary could flee. Mary, a believer, choose to flee and share the news that something had happened to Jesus’ body. In her grief, Mary could only think that someone had taken Jesus’ body, but for what reason?
Mary told her story of the empty tomb to the apostles who were huddled in fear. Peter, the impetuous disciple, and John the deeply thinking disciple, overwhelmed by Mary’s news ran through the streets and alleyways of Jerusalem to Jesus’ tomb. Peter and John found the tomb as Mary had said, the stone rolled back, and Jesus’ body was gone. The tomb only contained the linen used to shroud Jesus’ body and the cloth that had been placed upon Jesus’ face.
What did it all mean? What was the meaning of an empty tomb? Peter and John must have wondered who would have taken Jesus’ body and for what reason? Wasn’t it enough that Jesus was crucified but now his body had been disturbed? Scripture tells us that the disciples still at this point did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. The grief the disciples felt over Jesus’ death was now compounded by the theft of his body.
Peter and John made their way back to the other disciples. But Mary lingered near the tomb believing there must be an explanation or opportunity to return Jesus’ body to rest in the now empty tomb.
Mary and the disciples were living these moments on a timeline going from left to right. They had been through the ordeal of Jesus arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial. Now they were in that small moment of time in which the tomb was empty without explanation. Every minute seemed like an hour. There was not just the searing pain of grief, but Mary and the disciples were thinking about living each moment with the searing pain of grief. The empty tomb just made things worse for them. We know something Mary, Peter, and John did not know at this point. The empty tomb would soon shake their entire world to its very foundations because the empty tomb was there to prove their savior lives. What does the empty tomb mean to you?