Redding: On the third day he rose again from the dead. (Apostles’ Creed)
Reflection: A dear brother in the church often says on Easter, “Because the tomb is empty, heaven will be full!” As I was researching Jesus’ resurrection recently, I read a statement from the most famous theologian of the last century, Karl Barth, which caused a lot of controversy in theological circles. He said that “Christians do not believe in an empty tomb but in the living Christ.”
I like this statement very much, and I won’t explain here why it’s controversial. The empty tomb, by itself, doesn’t mean anything special. The foundation of the Christian faith is established by the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, which God the Father confirmed as the long-awaited Messiah of Israel and the Lord of the whole world.
Jesus’ resurrection also has witnesses, those who have encountered the Risen One. In the words of the Apostle Paul, which follow, there is also one of the first Christian formulations of faith: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that, He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Cor 15:3-8).
One of the most beautiful testimonies of encountering the Risen One was written by Luke in his Gospel. Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking home, disappointed and discouraged by what had happened the previous day when the one they believed to be Israel’s Messiah was shamefully executed as a rebel on a Roman cross. A stranger joined them on the road and began explaining the Scriptures to them, telling them that everything that had happened to Jesus of Nazareth had to happen to Israel’s Messiah. At the end of the day, while they were having dinner, they recognized that the Risen One had been with them all along when He broke bread with them.
An empty tomb by itself doesn’t imply that Jesus rose again, but Jesus’ resurrection, together with all the appearances to the first disciples, bears witness to an indisputable truth – the tomb was truly left empty.
The testimony of the appearance on the road to Emmaus shows us the way in which we too can experience an encounter with the Risen One. That way consists of hospitality/fellowship with Jesus’ disciples, listening/preaching of God’s Word, and Eucharistic bread-breaking.
Prayer: Father, thank you for all that you have done for this world by raising Christ from the dead. Christ, thank you for your incarnation, your sacrificial life, and voluntary death by which you redeemed us from the power of death, gave us new life, and bestowed a future for the New Age upon all creation. Help me to live worthy of the Good News of your resurrection, of your victory, and to be a faithful witness to all that you have done not only in history but also in my life.