Easter Reflection – the Empty Tomb

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Do you remember the poem about the six blind men and the elephant? Each one encountered a different part of the elephant – the side, the tusk, the trunk, the knee, the ear, and the tail – and determined in their own mind that the piece they found was defined the aspect of the entire beast. Rather than consider that they might not see the whole picture, they argued with one another, insisting their view was the correct one. Much the same way, Christians are often guilty of putting limits on what the Lord might be, and refuse to see beyond that.

I think this is part of what we see in our Easter reading as Mary Magdalene faces the empty tomb. Like the apostles, she has encountered only a partial aspect of Jesus, and is not able to see past that limit she has imposed on her thinking. As she looks into the empty space, she can only wonder where the body was taken to.

Mary Magdalene wasn’t the only one who tried to put limits on God. Judas convinced himself the true Messiah would be a political revolutionary. His disillusionment led to his downfall. On the road to Emmaus, we meet the two disciples who lost their faith when Jesus was crucified, and were returning to their old life. Thomas, faced with the news of the resurrection, refused to believe. He wasn’t ready to see Jesus living beyond the limits he had set.

Faced with the empty tomb, I also stumble over the limits I try to impose on God. The rational, scientific part of my mind says it couldn’t really have happened that way. The spiritual side of me wonders why Mary Magdalene and the Apostles were so blind to not anticipate the resurrection. And the emotional part of my being can’t understand why a loving God would allow his son to die like that.

I want an all-powerful, all-knowing God to take charge and not allow evil to happen. I want my God to watch over every little detail in my life – to let me win the lottery, to not let me make stupid mistakes or bad judgments. If He doesn’t do what I want, when I want, does He care about me or the world? Is He even real?

Faced with the empty tomb, I suddenly see I’m not ready to believe in a god that works outside of the limits I have set.

How can I get beyond these self-imposed limitations? What did Mary Magdalene do? The Gospel tells us she went back to the apostles and relayed to them what she had found. They boldly went inside the tomb and saw the evidence of the resurrection. They saw the valuable linen wrappings folded up and set aside as no grave robber might do. Only a living being who had no more use for the trappings of the dead would do that. They saw and they believed.

Can I do that? Can I put Faith over logic and believe in the resurrection as completely as did those first disciples? Can I set aside my prideful independence and seek spiritual guidance? The empty tomb is before me. What will I do now?

Linda Crowley