The Empty Tomb

Immediately after his death the body of Jesus was placed in a rich man’s tomb in a fashionable place outside the city of Jerusalem. A grand tomb and whatever it contained might easily become a site of remembrance and reverence for the disciples of Jesus and a rallying point for his followers in time to come. This shows quite clearly that the Roman governor who had him executed had not taken him seriously as a threat to Roman authority. There was however the small group of unpopular Jewish rulers who would have been very displeased and even alarmed at this outcome. They had a good motive for wanting to desecrate the tomb and remove the body but that possibility would give those who placed the corpse there an even stronger motive for taking it away again and hiding it where it has never been found. Whatever happened, and miraculous Resurrection or not, the empty tomb was no longer of special interest to anyone and it’s site was forgotten.

Looking for a site 250 years later and building a place of worship there was the political act of a new and triumphant religion. The first disciples of Jesus has been overcome buy a new exciting experience. They were told ”…he is not here (in a tomb)…he is going ahead of you to Galilee where you will see him just as he told you.” Mark 16:6/7. The few who then saw Jesus again exactly as he had been in his lifetime were the individuals who were closest to him. We need not doubt it was a real experience for them because it still happens that some see and hear a departed loved one in this way although it is a very private experience and they do not like to talk about it. Nor can they share the physical aspect of the experience with anyone else in an objective way. Over the centuries people have also seen and heard Jesus in what seems to be a very physical way but as no one knows what he really looked like they can only see him as each one imagines him to have been. The really astonishing thing that might be called miraculous is that very many had a deeply personal experience of Jesus that transformed their lives. This may or may not have been accompanied by a physical sensation of some sort but it led to the creation of loving and sharing communities. This has been happening ever since, sometimes encouraged by but more often opposed by the formal development of what is called Christianity. Galilee was home to the first eyewitnesses but Jesus is waiting for any one of us wherever we are truly at home in ourselves so the particular geographical location is of no importance. In the same way as a mere physical object, the original tomb ceased to be of any significance, but finding it empty has become an inner experience with life changing consequence for millions.

This is just the conclusion what of could have been a long article or even a book, so questions and comments would be welcome.


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