Three days later, an empty tomb
When I was about eight years old I was sitting with my friend Matthew on the back seat of our school bus, staring out of the rear window.
In the car that followed behind the bus, two punks started sticking two ﬁngers up at us and so, giggling, we returned the favour. Little did we know that the deputy headteacher had heard about what we had done, and when we arrived back at the school, he asked both Matthew and I if we had done the dastardly deed.
I confessed. And so the next morning, in the school assembly, I was made to stand and be publicly shamed in front of everyone. As a punishment, the headteacher asked all my fellow pupils to ignore me and not to speak to me for a whole day. It hurt deeply, however I was, after all, guilty.
Think for a moment. If your whole life was on trial, do you think that anyone from any period in your life could come up with a single thing that you had ever done wrong? Yet, when Jesus stood trial for his life, no one could think of a single thing he had ever done wrong. Nothing. They could not come up with a single charge, apart from one, and this was that Jesus had suggested that he was God.
In first-century Palestine, such a claim was considered to be blasphemy and a crime punishable by death. Therefore it is because of this one thing – and because of nothing else – that Jesus was tortured and cruciﬁed. He was nailed to a cross and left to die.
Jesus’s friends and his followers completely deserted him – they decided that he was not the saviour that everyone thought was going to free the people. Some of his disciples were ﬁshermen and they went back to their boats; even Peter, who said he would follow Jesus anywhere, eventually ﬂed when he was recognised as a buddy of Jesus. Yet three days later, the tomb in which Jesus’s body had been laid, was empty.
God had been putting another plan into action that was bigger and better and more exciting than anyone had imagined; so much so that even Jesus's closest disciples had not fully understood what was going on. At his trial, some of them still thought that Jesus was going to lead a physical revolution – that the Romans would be overthrown and that God’s Kingdom or rule would be established by force. Their hopes were crushed when Jesus, their leader, was executed.
However, when the tomb was found empty, they started to put things together – especially things that Jesus had said. The temple was where God resided and Jesus had mentioned that “the temple” would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days. Jesus's disciples finally clicked that he was talking about himself.
God’s plan was, and has always has been, about restoring and renewing this world – and his plan has always involved us. He promised that the chosen people of God would bring about change in the world, that they would be his agents or ambassadors and that through them the reign of God would be established. To truly fulﬁl this calling, God needed to be connected with humans in such a way that we would see the world through his eyes. And so, God’s plan was to set the people free; not as they expected, from the bondage of the Romans, but from sin itself.
Sin is that which separates us from God and his plan was to close the gap between himself and humans so that we could work together to restore and renew the world. Jesus lived and died so that God could come and live in human beings – make his home in us, be friends with us, help us, guide us – for the very purpose of bringing order out of chaos in the world – the chaos in our own lives, in the lives of those around us, and in the environment.
God’s plan was to make everyone holy so that God could literally live in us, and this is what Jesus came to do and he achieved it. This is why it mattered that he had done nothing wrong. If Jesus had been guilty of a single crime then he, himself, would have needed to be saved and he could not have saved anyone. He would have been in the same boat as everyone else. It was only because he had never sinned – never been separated from God – that he could break the power of sin. Jesus’s life, death and resurrection had made it possible for the gap of sin to be closed. It shifted things in the spiritual realm – for the whole world – for everyone, for ever.
There was this thought that physical death in human beings was the result of being separated from God because of sin. Jesus’s tomb was empty because death could not hold a person who had done nothing wrong. Jesus’s resurrection was a sign that things had changed – for ever.
This Easter, how would I sum up the gospel? Like this: Jesus Christ died for our sins that we might be made holy; that God may come and live in us; that we may be helped and guided as we work together to restore and renew the whole world.
Have a blessed Easter.
• Reverend Gavin Tyte is the pastor at St Mark’s Anglican Church. Visit stmarks.bm