The Empty Tomb
The celebration of Easter as an annual celebration is actually older than Christmas. There are no references in the first century of celebrating Easter as an annual event. It appears that the date of Easter was established in the 600’s. So the powers of the church decided that it would be the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox (March 21).
For the literalist Easter means that when the women came with their spices to tend to the body of Jesus for burial, he wasn’t there. That would mean that either his body was moved as Martha thought in the Gospel of John or that Jesus was raised bones and all. The stress is on an empty tomb which makes Jesus’ resurrection a factual event in the midst of history.
But it was Paul who wrote first about the resurrection. Paul had written I Cor. 15 before the Gospels were written. In chapter 15 of I Corinthians Paul says Christ was raised a spiritual body. Paul wrote “I tell you this, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” I Cor.50. What the scriptures are saying to us is that we worship the One who is always present.
We are also saying that Jesus is Lord which is the first confession of faith. To say that Jesus is Lord is to say that death does not have the last word. At that time in history, the Sadducees believed that when you’re dead, you’re dead. One does not live anymore. Everyone goes to the abode of the dead called Sheol. So, the resurrection of Jesus simply says that is not true. There is life after death.
Thus the empty tomb’s focus is not focusing on the atonement of Jesus, or a factual physical raising of the body but rather on the presence of Jesus who is always present filling our life with peace and love. Jesus’ first words to the disciples when he met them in the upper room following his death on the cross were, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19). It’s that peace we the Church proclaims to the world today.
Russ Brandt, Author