Not the Empty Tomb, but the Risen Christ

The true sign of the Resurrection is not the Empty Tomb, as we often say.  Rather, it is the Risen Christ.

That’s the point our pastor, Rev. Ned Moerbe, made in his sermon yesterday, on the Second Sunday of Easter.

In the gospels, the empty tomb made people afraid or confused.  Did the gardener take Jesus’ body away?  Did his disciples steal His body?  What has happened?

But then the women, the disciples, and others saw Jesus.  The man who was brutally killed came back to them, physically, in the flesh, saying, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

The Apostolic testimony is, we saw the risen Christ!  We talked with Him!  We ate with Him!  We put our hands in His wounds!

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  (1 John 1:1-3)

The sermon was on Jesus’ appearance to Thomas (John 20:19-31).  Thomas wanted tangible evidence, and Jesus gave it to him.  To be sure, as Jesus told him, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).  We Christians today believe because the Holy Spirit creates faith by means of God’s Word, the apostolic testimony.

But that testimony is not anything as open ended as an empty tomb, which people can respond to as they choose, whether taking a leap of faith to believe, or positing some other explanation in unbelief.  Rather, the testimony is far more sure, having a specific and very tangible content and meaning.  The Apostles’ witness is to the risen body of Christ, who comes bearing the Word of peace, forgiveness, and absolution, and who bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

 

Painting:  “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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