He is not here (Mark 16:6)
When Jesus died on Calvary, darkness covered the earth and at the same time, darkness filled the hearts of his beloved disciples. The light of their very lives had gone out. As Jesus had foretold, they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 14:27). Probably they were hiding somewhere in the city of Jerusalem, afraid for their lives. What should they do now? Where could they go?
The experience of the disciples of Jesus following his death upon the cross is similar to the experience of every man and woman today. On Calvary, the only message that the hearts of the disciples could read was: “Christ was defeated.” But, on the first day of the week, the day when Jesus came out of the grave, the true happy message of the Gospel came through: “Christ defeated death.”
If the central message of the gospel could be summarized in two brief sentences, they could well be these: “Christ died for our sins,” and, “Christ has risen from the dead.” The cross has long been recognized as the symbol of our Christian faith, but the empty tomb has a more significant message. Paul summed up the matter when he wrote: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead means that his body was lifted out of the tomb by the power of God and that he lives again. Someone has said that the gospel story of Jesus began with a miracle-the miracle of the virgin birth, and ended with a miracle–the miracle of his bodily resurrection. This is what the New Testament clearly teaches.
The resurrection of Jesus, therefore, is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. To quote Paul again: “If you confess with your mouth: ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” ( Romans 10: 9 ). Not to believe in the resurrection of Jesus means not to believe in Christ as Savior. And indeed, not to believe in the resurrection of Jesus is to have no assurance of your own resurrection from the grave.
In their bereavement, the women came to the tomb where Jesus was buried but when they arrived there, they saw that the stone was rolled away. The women were greeted by an angel with this startling announcement: “He is risen; he is not here.” Good news is often as difficult to accept and to comprehend as is bad news. This was certainly the experience of the women at the tomb. They received the announcement of the angel with mixed emotions. Their hearts rejoiced at what they heard, but they were at the same time filled with fear and fled from the tomb.
Jesus is alive today. He is not in his tomb for he has chosen to live in the heart of each person who by faith believes the message of Easter: Jesus is Lord and Savior. He is risen and he is no longer in his grave.
Christ is Risen.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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