(From my CaringBridge site in honor and memory of our grandson Sully. Written on Easter Sunday, 2010.)
Sunday had come. The Sabbath was over. Women who had followed Jesus went to the tomb to finish the traditional anointing of the body of Jesus for entombment. To their surprise and concern, the stone at the door of the tomb had been rolled to the side. The tomb was open. Entering the tomb they found the body of Jesus missing. What happened? Did his enemies steal his body to add further shame to his death? While they were standing and wondering two men suddenly appeared beside them with clothes brightly gleaming. Angels? The women bowed down before them in fear. The men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:1-5). The darkness and grief of the Sabbath gave way to the sunshine and joy of Sunday morning, of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their hope was not dead but very much alive. He is risen and he is exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33).
The faith and hope of all who believe in Jesus Christ is in the empty tomb. His resurrection is our confidence of our resurrection and the resurrection of all who have died in Christ. The promise of God is that Christ “will come down from heaven…and the dead in Christ will rise.” Those who are alive will be gathered with the risen to be with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58). This is our hope, our confidence, the day will come when we will be reunited with our Sully and your child or grandchild or brother or sister or spouse, with your loved one for whom your heart now aches and grieves.
The timeframe for the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection was so compact, three days. The disciples didn’t believe the women. He was dead. What was this nonsense of seeing him alive? The empty tomb left Peter confused. Only when they saw the risen Christ did they believe. This is the picture of our experience, of our grief and confusion.
Now is our Sabbath, the day, the third day, the month, the year, the decade, after the funeral. Time continues. The grave is not empty. The place he or she created for us is still empty and lonely, no other can fill it. Each day is another day without him or her. Like the disciples we doubt. We question. Yet imagine grief without hope. Imagine a reality without the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of the resurrection of all who have died in him. We continue in the time after the funeral and before the resurrection, a difficult time. Hope, the hope the resurrected Christ brings, does comfort and encourage. Death has not won the victory. Yes, even the cruel and senseless death from pediatric cancers, cannot rob our children or us of the victory over death that is theirs and ours in Jesus Christ. Sunday morning is coming. The Son will shine brightly. The graves will be empty. Resurrection life will be the reality of the people of God. Then, when we see Him and them, all grief and doubt will be gone. The faith and hope we now hold on to, sometimes barely, will be reality. Encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18).