3/30/2013 Easter Vigil homily: Inside the empty tomb

Location: Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria, VA
Text: Luke 24:1-12
Easter Vigil, Year C

Inside the empty tomb

Can you imagine what the first Easter Day was like, when the women went inside the empty tomb and found no body there?

Well, they didn’t find Jesus’ body there; instead they met two SOMEbodies in the tomb. And these two SOMEbodies were quite strange. Luke doesn’t say that they were angels, as some of the gospel writers identify them. Like the women who encountered these two beings, we don’t quite know who or what they are. But we understand their message quite plainly:

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” these beings asked. Then they added, “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”

What these two SOMEbodies told the women inside the empty tomb was that Jesus was no longer dead. We understand the words, but the concept of Resurrection eludes us. HOW can Jesus be alive? How, scientifically, is this possible? WHY is Jesus alive again? Why, theologically, was his death necessary?

These are important questions to ask….. for scientists, philosophers, or theologians. But they are not our questions, right here and now. Confronted tonight with the empty tomb, our question is this:

“Why do we continue to look for the living among the dead?”

These women had gone to Jesus’ tomb looking for a person who—unbeknown to them—was and is no longer dead. These women had good reasons for being inside the empty tomb: they had seen Jesus die, and they loved Jesus. But they were there because they had forgotten what Jesus had told them: “On the third day I will rise again.”

I know that you, too, are in search of Jesus, simply because you are here tonight. But, all too often we ALSO are inside the empty tomb, inside the dead zone of our lives. All too often we are in the tomb with our denial, deceit, depression—in there with whatever we fill our living deaths with. So I ask you tonight: who or what is inside that empty tomb with you?

Sometimes we also forget what Jesus has told us. We go to the tomb, we get stuck there with the “dead things” of our lives, and we forget that Jesus has the power to change whatever paralyzes and keeps us inside that tomb. Jesus can bring to life whatever we think might be dead, dead, dead. The two SOMEbodies in the tomb had to remind the women who visited the tomb that they did not have to stay inside the tomb, any more than Jesus had stayed there.

What I want to proclaim tonight is that the Son has risen, and that Jesus’ Resurrection gives us new life, too. Our future is not determined by our past. Today is Resurrection Day!

I confess that I come to that tomb tonight to remind myself that new life always begins with death. Why do we Christians seek the living among the dead? We seek the living among the dead because this is where our hope and our faith in eternal life rests—not just on the cross, but in the empty tomb.  As long as we don’t get stuck inside.

Alleluia! The tomb is empty; Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen, indeed.

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