So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. Matthew 28:8
Jesus was not a victim of circumstance. He was not swept up by the events around Him. Every moment of His entire life was part of a divine plan laid down before time began. Each stop on the journey to Easter was purposeful and planned. We’ve stopped at the upper room, the garden, the chamber, and the judgment hall. Today’s stop is the empty tomb.
All four gospels tell us the tomb was cut out of a rock and stone was laid across the entrance. Matthew, Luke, and John tell us that it was a new, unused tomb. The Jewish leaders knew Jesus would rise in three days. He said as much during His trial. So they convinced Pilate to set a guard at the tomb. However, the guards were only capable of keeping regular people out. They had no power whatsoever when it came to keeping Jesus in.
In fact, when Pilate boasted of his authority, Jesus informed him that the only authority he had was what was given to him by God.
The empty tomb displays the stark contrast between the power of men and the power of God.
And if God only wielded power, fear would be our only response to Him. More like the guards. The empty tomb proves that His power is wielded out of His great love for us. The empty tomb proves God’s character and His promises as he vindicates Himself before the universe and for all of eternity.
That adds the great joy.
At this stop at the empty tomb, what is our own response? Jaded indifference because we’ve heard it all before? Muted skepticism? Obligatory celebration? Parroted catchphrases? Or do we realize this is holy ground? This is a glimpse into the heart and will of God. This is a place where our unworthiness meets His grace, where our failure meets His victory.
Reverential fear that clearly Jesus is not like us. Great joy that He chose to be one of us.
Fear that He is so much more than we will ever know. Great joy that He reveals Himself to us.
Fear at the dreadful cost of sin. Great joy that is was paid in full.
The evidence of our response is in what happens next. Do we, like the women, run to tell others? Do we go with fear and great joy?
If not, maybe we should stay here a little longer.
Next stop: the locked room