“But the angel answered, saying to the women, ‘Do not fear, for I know that it is Jesus who was crucified that you seek. He is not here, just as he said. Come, look in the tomb where he was laid.’”
“But he said to them, ‘Do not be perplexed, you seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. Behold the tomb where he was laid.’”
“‘He is not here but has risen! Remember how he told you when he was in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day he would rise.’”
In seminary, I had a professor who used to say that the five most important words in the English language were: “In the beginning God created…” His point is that if we begin there (where the Bible begins), then all things that we know and believe and everything that we love and appreciate points us back to God.
Yet, as important as those words from Genesis are, I would hold that the words we have recorded here by the evangelists are even more important still: “He is not here but has risen!” The bottom line is that without the resurrection of our Lord, nothing that we love or appreciate in life would be of any value. We would indeed be, as Paul writes, people “most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Indeed, as Paul writes in the previous verses, if Christ has not been raised then the dead will not be raised and our faith is in vain. Why in vain? Simple. Christ’s resurrection is the sign that death was defeated. If Jesus did not raise from the dead then death still reigns over us — and the end of our lives can only ever bring us despair.
Yet, the angel assures us through these women that we shall not fall in despair and that our faith in Christ is not in vain. He has raised from the dead! And those words, beloved, become the words that all hope in life is built upon. Jesus was victorious over the grave.
We also have a reminder in these words that faith is grounded in things that we know to be true. So, not only is there the reminder of what Jesus had previously told these women, there is also the invitation to enter the tomb and examine it for themselves. As the author of Hebrews writes: “Faith is the essence of that which is hoped for, the proof of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Here, proof is being offered to them. Their belief in the resurrection is not based simply on the word of the angels (though the angels are credible witnesses), but their faith will also rest on their eyewitness experience at the Tomb. Isn’t it interesting that, when Peter and the rest of the Apostles were seeking a replacement for Judas, they sought for one who had been with Jesus since his baptism and who was a witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22)? Why? The answer is again that the witness be based on personal knowledge.
Some might be tempted to say, “but where does that leave us?” Do we have to have personal knowledge of the resurrection to have faith in it? Sort of. No, we do not have to go back in time and examine the empty tomb, that we cannot do. Yet, the information we have is given through multiple credible witnesses. Further, the events surrounding the resurrection can be verified through historical research. As John indicates toward the end of his Gospel, he writes these things that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name (John 20:31). He views his writings as another layer of case evidence for the hope that he shares. And finally, there is an experiential aspect to it, for the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirits that we who believe are indeed children of God (Romans 8:16).
So, “behold the tomb” the angels say to the women, for it was empty and that empty tomb testifies to us that all of the promises of God are indeed “yes and amen!” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).