It was still dark when Mary Magdalene made her silent, mournful way through the streets of Jerusalem. Passing through the gate in the city wall, she walked the short distance to the grotto where Joseph of Arimathea had provided a tomb for the burial of Jesus.
Approaching the tomb, she stopped short. Was this the right place? In the dark, everything looked different from when the tomb was sealed two days earlier. This couldn’t be right. She was standing in front of a tomb that was open, a tomb whose sealing stone was rolled to the side. Clearly, this was a tomb waiting on its eternal resident, not the tomb where Jesus had been laid. How could it be? How could Jesus’ tomb—a tomb she saw sealed with her own eyes—now be open?
Inching closer, Mary looked in and gasped. The light of dawn was enough for her to see that Jesus’ body no longer lay on the stone shelf inside the tomb. The tomb was empty—Jesus’ body was gone!
Fleeing the grotto, Mary ran to the home where the disciples of Jesus were staying and told them of her discovery. Peter and John leapt to their feet, dashed out of the house, and ran for the grotto, Mary trying to keep up. By the time Mary arrived, Peter and John had entered the empty tomb and verified her report. The burial cloths in which Jesus had been wrapped were there, but His body was gone.
The disciples walked away silently, heads down. But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. (Based on John 20:1-11.)
What an image the apostle John gives us of the confusion and despair the followers of Jesus must have felt: Mary standing outside the empty tomb of Jesus, weeping (John 20:11).
Seeing Jesus crucified two days earlier was bad enough. But now someone had stolen the body? Or, had He been raised from the dead—a possibility as they recalled things He had said (John 2:19)? To their despair was added confusion; to their grief was added the loss of all hope.
Would we not have felt the same way? The Christian life—following Jesus as Lord and Savior—is a real-life event. It comes with joy and sorrow, grief and grace. This snapshot catches the followers of Jesus at a critical moment, a crossroads of faith. Would they trust that answers would come? Would they trust that the One who had not failed them for three years would not fail them now?
Will we? Will we trust when Jesus seems invisible to us, nowhere to be found? What does it take to live the REAL Christian life? What does it take to be a REAL Christian when the valleys seem darker and deeper and the dawn looks like it will never break through the night?
It is possible, of course. If we continue reading the four Gospel accounts, and the beginning of Acts, we find a changing story. Over forty days, Jesus met with the disciples (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). He ate with them, walked and talked with them, and commissioned them to take the Gospel into all the world (Matthew 28:19-20). And then He left them and returned to heaven (Acts 1:9).
Jesus was with them for three years, taken away for three days in the grave, then was with them for forty days, then was taken from them again. They were up, they were down, up again, now down again. In that final down state, they huddled together for ten more days, praying about what to do (Acts 1:14). They had been given a mission, but Jesus had told them to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). They waited out of obedience, not out of understanding.
When the Holy Spirit came at the end of the ten days, at the feast of Pentecost, the disciples’ lives were changed. They launched into REAL Christianity: Ready, Expectant, Authentic, and Loving. They set out to fulfill the commission Jesus had given them—and they never looked back, not because their faith became suddenly easy, but because their faith, by the power of the Spirit in their lives, became REAL.
By David Jeremiah