Last week, with my son, I went to Science World. And there was a special exhibit, The ‘Ripley’s Believe or Not!’. When I was a kid, it was one of my favorite TV shows. “The tallest man in the world is Robert Wadlow. When last measured on June 27th 1940, he was 2.72m tall. Can you imagine? Believe or Not!”
One guy is saying, “Can you believe it?” And another guy, “Believe what?” “You know, the man from Galilee?” “Who? Oh! That guy. Yes, I know, but, he was dead. Why?” “Yes, he was, actually, and technically. But, . . . ” “But what?” “He Is Not Dead!” “What!?” “He Is Not Dead. They told me, he is alive.” “But, we saw him dead on the cross.” “Yes, we did.” “But, you said, He Was Not Dead.” “No, He Was Dead. But, I said, He Is Not Dead.” “Wait! He was Dead or Not” “He Was Dead. But He Is Not Dead now.” “How?” “I Don’t’ Know. But, they told me, the tomb is empty, and they said, He said to them before his death, even though He is Not Dead, anyway, He said, ‘I will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn me to death; then they will hand me over to the Gentiles; and they will kill me, and after three days I will rise again.’ (10:33-34) And, now, he is risen as he said.” “O. K. But, I cannot believe it. Let’s go to the tomb and see, it is empty or not.”
However, it is not a ‘Believe or Not’ story. The young man, the angel, in the tomb, is not saying to the women, “Can you imagine? “Can you believe it?” “Is it amazing?” But, he is saying, “Go! Tell Them, He Is Not Here.” The narrative of the empty tomb is not a ‘Believe or Not’ story, but, a new Genesis. It is about a new beginning, and a life-changing and transforming story, and a liberating moment. The tomb is empty. He is not there.
However, the empty tomb in itself does not confirm the truth, the reality of ‘He is not here.’ (from Mary Healy’s The Gospel of Mark commentary, p. 330) Mathew is saying to us, “while the women were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. But, the chief priests gave money to them, telling them, ‘You must say, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’” (Matthew 28:11-15) The empty tomb is not a proof of his resurrection. The empty tomb is not a testimony to what we Christians believe. The empty tomb is not a ‘Believe or Not’ story.
But, . . . it is “a sign received in faith” (p. 330), and a gift given to us in faith. The empty tomb was confirmed by the women and disciples and those who came up with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, and went back to Galilee to see him, and then became his witnesses to the people. (Act 13:30-31) And, for last two thousand years, the empty tomb has been confirmed by the people, his followers through their faith and through their faithful lives and ministries.
‘What we believe’ is the proof of his resurrection. ‘What we do in faith’ is the testimony to the empty tomb. “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” “When you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 34-36, 40), and “you will be the proof of the empty tomb, and you will become the testimony to my resurrection.” “Love one another. Love your neighbor. By this, they will know what you believe, what the empty tomb is, and what the resurrection is.”
The crucified Messiah, who we remember. The risen Lord, who we proclaim. And His resurrection, that we live, awaiting his coming in glory. The resurrection, the holy mystery, should be fully made known to the people of the world through his disciples, his witnesses, and through us.
“Go! Tell the people, He is not here. Go! Tell them, Christ is risen!” Amen.