The Tomb Is Empty
If the truth of Easter has eluded you, maybe the simple wisdom of this story will bring the wonder of the holiday into your heart.
An Episcopal Bishop once told me a story about Easter that has stayed with me for many years. It seems that a fourth grade religious education teacher in the Alabama church that he served was trying to explain the Easter story to her children and told them the story of the empty tomb. Then she gave each of them a plastic shell, the kind that pantyhose used to come in. She asked the children to return next Sunday with something in that shell that reminded them of the empty tomb.
On the next Sunday they opened their eggs. One had a flower, one had a tiny felt bunny, one had a small picture of Jesus. Eventually they came to a boy who was disabled.* He was older than most of the children because he had been held back for two years. He knew it and the other children knew it. They were uncomfortable with him and avoided him, occasionally mocking him behind the teacher’s back.
When his turn came, he opened his shell and there was nothing inside. The other children snickered. The boy said something rather incoherent, trying to explain his presentation, and the teacher listened carefully to him. Then she looked up to the others and said, “He means the empty tomb.” The boy, of course, had gotten it.
The empty place is the first site and symbol of Christian faith, an absence rather than a presence, and with that space and absence comes a sense that the world is not as simple as we imagine it. For all its laws and patterns, the world still has surprises.
Who could have guessed that a community of martyrs and witnesses would come out of this tiny ragtag group of confused, abandoned followers? Who would have guessed that a man who was choked to death on a stake would become the center of a worldwide religion? Who would have guessed that the power of his message lives today?
Who could have guessed what would come out of an empty tomb?
* Since Carl Scovel's essays in Never Far from Home were originally broadcast between 1979 and 1999, they include occasional terms that are no longer used today. We have changed this piece, using the term "disabled."