Beyond an Empty Tomb

John 20: 11-18
Acts 2:36-41 / Psa 33

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
(John 20:14)

When I sought Him with love in my heart
God came near and He called my name.
Though a sinner I was from the start
I will never again be the same

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put Him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward Him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)


If Mary Magdalene had only remembered what Jesus had said before He was taken by the authorities and crucified, she would have been filled with rejoicing than grief upon being confronted by an empty tomb. Instead, she ran to tell Peter and the other apostles what she saw, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him!” (20:2), and they in turn went to investigate. Only John, the apostle closest to Jesus, who had arrived at the tomb ahead of Peter, believed that the Lord had indeed risen when he saw the burial cloths.

There are two common “blinders” that prevent us from seeing the truth, even when it is right there under our very noses, or in the case of Mary Magdalene who was looking for Jesus, even when He was standing right in front of her. The first is our mindset. When we have been preconditioned to expect the familiar and ordinary, we fail to find or “see” the unusual or extraordinary. Mary Magdalene had witnessed the brutal crucifixion and death of her Master, and in her mind He was already dead. Her grief had made her forget that Jesus had said He would be killed but would rise again on the third day. The second are the worldly and unnecessary distractions. Women are usually more susceptible to this because of their preoccupation with detail and their emotionalism. Mary Magdalene had prepared the spices, and was early at the burial site. In the Gospel version of St. Mark, the ladies had even worried about who would roll back the large rock covering the entrance of the tomb (Mk.16:3). Her immediate reaction upon seeing the empty tomb was that their enemies (the henchmen of the Pharisees or the Roman soldiers) had stolen the body of Jesus. This had so upset her that she started weeping, and only recognized Jesus when He called her name.

Our human limitations always confine our vision to unimportant things. Most times we are incapable of “seeing the big picture.” Often it is our petty concerns or worries that hamper our ‘visual development’, and make us forget our loftier quest or nobler purpose in life. The loss of what we’re seeking may actually turn out to be a greater gain.

Grant us the grace, Lord, to discern the good that will come out of a tragic situation,
just as an empty tomb is not a loss, but rather the gain of eternal life. Amen.

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