This past weekend, we celebrated Easter.
Good Friday, a day of remembering Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sins and mine.
Holy Saturday, a day of waiting and anticipation of the third day coming.
Resurrection Sunday, a day of celebrating with joy that Jesus is risen.
He has conquered death. He has beaten the grave. The tomb is empty.
Sometimes, after the celebration, life can feel empty. Our hearts drained, the joy and peace seeping through the breaks and cracks as worry, loss, hardships, and insecurities hit.
Empty and dark and lifeless, like that empty tomb. Except the empty tomb really held something. It held joy. It held the fulfillment of promises. It held grave clothes that no longer wrapped the dead.
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember… (Luke 24:5-6)
Jesus promised His resurrection. That’s what the angels were reminding the frightened and mourning women of: Jesus had predicted His death and promised His resurrection.
Now, they saw an empty tomb. The place were His lifeless body had been laid. The place were His life-filled body had left the grave.
When our hearts are feeling empty, we need to remember the empty tomb. That place of promises kept. That emptiness that held something. So in those times when we feel empty, we too may hold something. In our emptiness, we may know we are full.
There is a passage in John about a heart broken woman seeing the empty tomb, who went from seeing only emptiness, to holding something truly beautiful. And from this passage, I think we can learn a lot from that empty tomb and that heart broken woman about living with a full heart even when we’re living on empty:
Mary Magdalene was a woman who had experienced the transforming, healing, freeing power of Jesus. He had cast seven demons out of her. (Mark 16:9) It seems from that point on, she followed Him with devotion. (Luke 8:2)
In the same verse that we learn of Mary being freed from demon possession, we also learn that she was the first to see Jesus after He rose from the dead. (Mark 16:9)
But before she saw Jesus, she saw the empty tomb.
Mary saw the empty tomb, but didn’t realize what it held. She thought Jesus’ body had been taken. They had already lost their Lord, would they now lose the chance to put spices on His body and give Him a proper burial?
She wept and looked upon the emptiness, her broken heart feeling the loss and the void.
When Jesus appeared, she at first didn’t recognize Him. She though He was the gardener. Maybe her eyes were so full of tears she saw only a blur, and her mind in disbelief told her it couldn’t be possible.
They have taken Him away. I don’t know where He is. Tell me where You have put Him. Mary was focused on finding the dead body of Jesus, and she didn’t see Him alive right front of her.
But then Jesus said her name, and Mary recognized Him. The angels told the women to remember Jesus’ promise. Jesus called Mary’s name to awaken her memory.
In times when we’re staring into emptiness, we need to look for signs of life, not dead remains. We need to remember the promises of Jesus; His promises to never leave, to renew, to strengthen, to provide, to always love, to give peace, to work for good.
As we remember, we recognize. As we remember the promises, our eyes are opened to see the hand of the Promise Giver in our lives. The working of the One who keeps His promises in our hearts.
Once Mary recognized Jesus, she clung to Him, not wanting to let Him go. She had lost Him once, she wouldn’t again. But Jesus reminded her of another promise: He would be going to His Father, and would send the Holy Spirit. She mustn’t hold onto this earthly Jesus, or else she would experience the emptying all over again, and miss out on the filling.
When we’re feeling empty, we must ask, What am I trying to hold?
Am I trying to hold onto perfection, control, expectations, my timing, what I think is best?
Jesus calls us to surrender these to Him. To submit our dreams and desires and plans to Him. Jesus empties us of the self-focused, self-gratifying, self-will to fill us will His very self.
Holding anything but Jesus will leave me empty handed and empty hearted.
Jesus told Mary to let go of what she thought was best, so that He could fill her with His best; with His Spirit.
Even as Mary let go of Jesus’ physical body, she still held something. Jesus told her to go and share the good news with His disciples. I have seen the Lord!
The woman whose eyes had beheld emptiness and whose heart had been broken now held a testimony to new life. The new life of Jesus resurrected. The new life He would give through His Spirit.
Just like the empty tomb held those empty graves clothes; a testament to new life.
So even when we’re living on empty, our hearts are really, truly full. For in all seasons of life, we are held by the nail-scared hands and we hold the nail-scared hands. We are filled with the Spirit of Christ and we have the promise and the testimony of new life in Him.