Empty tomb or risen Jesus?

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If you go to Jerusalem and want to visit the tomb where Jesus was buried, then, curiously, you will find that you have two options, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or The Garden Tomb.

The contrast between the two sites is dramatic, one is a very old church with parts dating back to the fourth century, the other a modern garden. One dark, enclosed in the hustle and bustle of the Old City, with a sense of history and religious gravitas, and the other open and light, peaceful and quiet, situated just outside the city walls.

But they also have a lot in common.  I visited them a few years ago, and must admit, found the whole experience quite depressing, mainly because both sites felt contrived and unreal, like something fabricated for the punters, or more specifically, I suppose, designed for the pilgrims. More Disney than disciple, more Hollywood than holy.

But there is another major thing they have in common – they are both empty!  Not empty of visitors – because believe me they see plenty – but empty of a dead body, or remains of a dead body.

Ironically, this is what is expected. The pilgrims go and pay their money to see an empty tomb.

Because Jesus is risen. His body doesn’t lay in any tomb. He is alive!

Today is the day we remember this fact. Easter Sunday, Easter Day, Resurrection Day. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Today is the day when we remember that Jesus rose from the dead – death could not hold him, because there was nothing about him that deserved to die.

On Good Friday we remembered he was crucified, hung on a cross along side common criminals. Then after death laid in a borrowed tomb.

But on Sunday morning, the tomb is empty. The body is gone. Not stolen, but risen!

Death beaten. Sin conquered. Payment made.

The testimony of his friends and disciples proves it. He met them, walked with them. Talked with them, ate with them. He was back to be with them, and their despair and fear was immediately replaced by hope and purpose.

And he is still alive. Death couldn’t hold him then, and it will never hold him again.

He had fellowship with his disciples on that first Sunday, and he continues to have fellowship with his disciples today. He was there with them then and he is here with us now. Don’t look to an empty tomb for Jesus, because he’s not there, rather meet afresh today with a risen Saviour. Don’t mourn for a God who is dead, but rejoice in a God who is alive.

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