Often our familiarity with Biblical events and truths causes our wonder to fade or be lost entirely. Unfortunately, the two greatest events in human history are the ones that suffer the most from this casual indifference. The birth of Christ is so well known; even ten year olds glaze over at its retelling. The resurrection elicits the same response. We need to remind ourselves that the story is not about the empty tomb, but really about the Risen Lord.
Consider John 20, which begins with the account of Peter and John running to the tomb to check out Mary Magdalene’s claim that Christ was gone. They investigate things carefully. The Greek words translated “saw” or “looked” give the idea that it was a thorough examination of the scene. John even says that he saw and believed. Jesus was gone. They could not deny that. However, verse 10 is the kicker. After seeing, verifying, the truth of the empty tomb, they went home! They were convinced Jesus had risen from the dead, and it was no big deal. Nothing changed. Their lives were not affected by that knowledge or belief.
Mary Magdalene hung around the tomb after Peter and John left. She was privileged not only to see angels, but also to be the first person to see the glorious, resurrected High Priest on His way to atone for all our sins. He spoke her name, assuring her that He was the same Jesus she had known, the Jesus that loved her in spite of her sins, her past, her very self.
Christ was on His way to establish our full access to the Father. We can now approach God, as one of His children, just as Christ does. Atonement means reconciliation, theologically speaking. The covering of our sins by Christ’s blood means a restoration of the broken fellowship of man with God, which came after Adam sinned. Christ’s resurrection means that the offering was accepted, the price paid, the wrath of God appeased.
After seeing the risen Lord, Mary became the first to proclaim the Good News of Christ and her listeners were the disciples themselves. Later that evening Jesus appeared to them. Once they saw Jesus, their lives changed as well. Eleven simple, small-town boys became world changers. Not because of a hole in a rock, mind you, but because of the Lord who rose again.
When the fact of someone rising from the dead becomes a little mundane, I have to stop and think, not about the tomb left behind, but about the Christ who went to His Father and your Father, to His God and mine. Rising from the dead was the easy part. Reconciling me to God… now that was something!