The Empty Tomb

April 20, 2014

On October 21st, 1999, we were in Jerusalem with a group of Christian brothers and sisters. We looked at a number of tourist attractions in the morning and had a chance to do some shopping, and after lunch, we went to see the Garden Tomb. There is some controversy as to whether or not this is the actual tomb where Jesus was buried, because there is also the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where tradition says the tomb was, and a church was built over it many centuries ago. But I liked the Garden Tomb site, and the people who maintain this garden are sure that this is the place where Jesus was buried.

After Jesus died on the cross on what we now call Good Friday, a rich man by the name of Joseph of Arimathea asked Pontius Pilate for permission to take the body of Jesus, and he agreed.

Matthew 27:59-60 – When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. (NKJV)

Our whole group went to look at the tomb in the garden. Most of them went inside and listened to the guide tell them all about it, but I only glanced in through the open door, and then, I went away by myself to a garden bench just a little distance from the tomb. I wanted to be alone, to gather my thoughts, and to absorb the events which had taken place there. There were trees all through the garden and birds were singing. It was very peaceful away from the group for a few minutes. I looked at the entrance of the tomb, and my mind wandered.

I could see Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" sitting opposite the tomb, probably not too far from where I was sitting, the women in deep sorrow, unwilling to leave the Lord, wanting so desperately to spend some quiet time at the grave site.

And then, I imagined the scene just a couple of days later when they were there again, very early in the morning, even when the sun had just risen. They wanted again to be near the place where Jesus was buried. But much to their surprise, they saw that the heavy stone had been rolled away, and when they looked into the tomb, they saw a man in white clothes. When he saw the fear in their eyes, he said, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." (Matthew 28:5b-6 NKJV)

Suddenly, the spell was broken. The group came back out of the tomb, and I took another look inside. There were the stone walls hewn out of the rock and the slab of stone on which the body had lain. The Lord is risen indeed! The tomb is empty—it is now, just as it was that morning when the two women were there.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we thank You for those wonderful words of Scripture written so many years ago, those words which have so much meaning to us even here and now. We pray that many may hear and believe. We ask it in the risen Lord's name. Amen.

About the author:

Joel Jongkind <austria67@bmts.com>
Meaford, Ontario, Canada

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