Dearest Rachel –
One of the problems with relating someone else’s story is that you can’t always expect to get all the details right. Indeed, if the characters involved are too far removed, you can’t even be necessarily sure that the interaction even happened. But sometimes, as the saying goes, you can’t let facts get in the way of a good story (especially if you also aren’t aware of any facts that prove such an interaction didn’t happen). Besides, the words allegedly spoken are true, regardless of who said them – or if they were said at all.
My best guess that it involved the famed apologist Josh McDowell, but it could well have been any one of a number of notable evangelical speakers of my youth. He was talking with a non-believing friend, who if I recall the story correctly, was likely Muslim. Said Muslim was expressing sympathy with the preacher that he had nowhere to go to honor the founder of his religion. “After all, we Muslims visit the tomb of the Prophet, Mohammed. And, of course, there are the tombs of the Buddha and Lao-Tzu; we even know where our mutual father Abraham is buried. But if you go visit the tomb of your Founder…” at which point, he trailed off, noting the face-splitting grin on the preacher.
“That’s right, go ahead! Say it! It’s… EMPTY!!”
It is the event upon which everything we believe rests. It’s not just that Jesus, as the sinless Son of God, died to pay the penalty we owed for all our rebellion against God, in order that we might be reconciled to Him – although all of that is absolutely important, it’s not enough. It’s that He didn’t stay dead. Which means that, neither will we.
It’s this fact that turned the cowering disciples from mice into lions. There was nothing the Sanhedrin, nor the Romans, nor anyone else could do to them that would be permanent. One day, they would all be back at their Master’s side, in paradise forever. Of course, it’s also what drove them to spread their faith far and wide, because if this was the only way others would be able to do so (and that’s what Jesus Himself had told them in the upper room mere days before this event), others had to be told about it, and brought to the same saving knowledge, in order to join them, and Him.
It’s the same thing that drives us, even today, and while there were times when Jesus instructed His disciples to ‘shake the dust from your sandals’ when their message was rejected in a given town, we haven’t been given that same option to give up on certain people.
You and I have been there, honey. We have seen the empty tomb – indeed, it’s the photo of you standing inside of it that serves as the main image of this site:
When we were there, we found ourselves amazed at the fact that for all the knowledge of our guides throughout Israel, they do not seem to dispute anything that was written in scripture, regardless of the testament. None of them deny that Jesus was real and walked the earth. All of them agree that the crucifixion took place, and they even admit there’s too not evidence to deny that He rose from the dead.
And yet, with all that being said, being surrounded by undeniable physical evidence that continues to mount every day as new locations (such as Magdala, Mary’s hometown) continue to be uncovered, they cannot seem to accept that He was – and is – the Messiah.
There are none so blind as those who will not see.John Heywood, 1546, summarizing Jeremiah 5:21 “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.”
It makes one wonder what they expect the Messiah they’re looking for to do.
Of course, His people had to reject Him in order for Him to be able to be offered to the world as a whole. They had to reject Him – violently – in order for His sacrifice to take place. And to be fair, how would we react to a fellow walking about in our day and age, claiming to be God, when we know that God is One and Only, indivisible and unchanging?
But then, when He came back… wouldn’t that count for something?
But Abraham said to him, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not ·listen to [L be persuaded/convinced by] someone who comes back from the dead.’”Luke 16:31, Expanded Bible
Yeah, no. And Jesus knew it even before it happened. But then again, He’s God; of course He’d know that.
Still, for all that, the tomb is empty so that heaven won’t be. And, I guess, isn’t; you would know, although you can’t tell me.
And, thankfully, neither is the church. Sure, it was empty when I got here this morning…
…but that’s what happens when you’re part of the worship team; you have to show up early. Between services, it’s getting chaotic:
It’s even gotten to the point where we need people to park back over at Euclid School; I’ll probably be writing you about that on another Sunday, if things continue as they are. But it’s good to know that, thanks to today (or rather, what today commemorates), heaven won’t be empty.
Thanks to it, I’ll see you again someday, honey. Until then, keep an eye out for me. Talk to you later.