As Good Friday and Easter approaches, I have been swept back to Israel and the trip of a lifetime I was blessed to take in September of 2014. My heart races as I look at these pictures and recall the memories gained while in the Holy Land! Once again, today, the pictures above has been heavy on my heart, not because of the finality typically associated with a burial place, but because of the hope permeating from and around the empty tomb.
Matthew 27:57-61 – When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
Most people at the time of Jesus’ burial thought it was the end of the potential new kingdom as they believed Jesus was to become the earthly King of Israel, ushering in peace to a land of turmoil. The peace they were seeking was a fleeting peace; one that ends with our time on earth. However, He had a much bigger audience in mind! This kingdom Jesus spoke of is one in which He would become the ultimate King – the King of Heaven and Earth! The Kingdom in which He spoke of pointed to eternity…His heavenly Kingdom which is available to anyone who believes in Jesus and that He is who He said He was!
Matthew 28: 1-7 – Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
Can you picture the Mary’s faces upon hearing this news and seeing that He was gone? Can you imagine the emotional responses of the disciples when they first heard the girl’s story? Maybe a bit of disbelief, but I bet they all had a hope inside of them wanting to believe it with every fiber of their bodies. And then that moment when they saw the risen Jesus…that had to be the most amazing moment of their lives! I can envision His inner circle going through a series of Aha moments recalling the many times Jesus spoke about His death and resurrection and they simply did not get what He was saying! I can envision the disciples walking by the empty tomb for years after this; they had to be shaking their heads with a smile saying, “Jesus, that was awesome! You got me! Thanks for including me on this amazing journey! I have to go and tell everyone about this!”
The empty tomb and the resurrected Christ, as witnessed by so many people and recorded for all of us to read, is screaming to a lost and dying world – death has been beaten, Jesus is risen, and you can rise too!
As Resurrection Day approaches, I pray we will all reflect on the moment when we died to our own selfish desires and became alive in Christ. As you do, share your story with others along this journey as you never know if you could be the beginning of someone else’s resurrection story!
If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet, you can take care of that right now. There is no magical prayer or even anything specific you need to recite. You simply need to believe that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, took the sin of the world upon His shoulders to the grave and left it there as He rose back to life! This is His amazing gift of grace that He offers to us so that we can spend eternity with Him – we just have to believe! His gift of grace is really that simple and available to anyone who believes!
John 11:25 – Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying
I will close with this beautiful song by Casting Crowns…I love this song as it tells His story:
“Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)”
One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin
Dwelt among men, my example is He
Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealed
Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me
One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore
Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him
From rising again
One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my Beloved One, bringing
My Savior, Jesus, is mine
Glorious day, Oh, Glorious day