Dr. Bill Atwood

The tomb is empty

This Saturday’s Full Moon means that Sunday the 5th is Easter. Easter Sunday moves around the March and April calendars due to the ancient method of selecting which Sunday will serve as Easter. The method involves simply selecting the first Sunday following the first full moon following the Vernal Equinox. March 20 was the first day of spring on which there occurred a new moon so we had to wait until this Saturday for the full moon and the very next day being the Sunday became Easter.

The importance of Easter, however, isn’t how the Sunday is selected and why they chose to select it that way. The importance of Easter is simple. To Christians around the world, Easter is the most important day of the calendar because it celebrates the Empty Tomb. The scriptures and the teachings foretold prior to His crucifixion and death that Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. The documented facts show that the tomb was empty and the witness accounts from many who saw Him in the area, spoke with Him, prayed with Him and even touched Him create the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

No Easter? Then there would be no reason to celebrate Christmas. In the limited space of this column I cannot retell the events leading up to His death but realize that Jesus had the attention of the powerful leaders in His area as well as the top authorities in Rome. Jesus scared the rulers when He spoke of His Kingdom and His Father’s Kingdom that were not of this earth.

Rome wanted Pilate to handle his problems in a manner that would eliminate Jesus as a threat to Rome without creating any additional problems for Rome from this itinerant preacher who was being hailed as the Messiah.

No matter how hard the government pressed they couldn’t find any real evidence against Jesus and finally went with trumped up false charges, tried Him, convicted Him, and sentenced Him to death all in one evening.

He was ordered to be killed and Pilate tried to duck his responsibility by offering to release Jesus as part of the annual celebration festival which was taking place at that time. The crowd had been peppered with shills who shouted out the desire to have Pilate release Barabbas rather than Jesus. Pilate washed his hands of the affair and hoped that within three days the entire incident would have faded into history.

What happened was exactly the opposite of what Pilate wished to occur. The crucifixion is the focal point of most of the history of western civilization. After Jesus was taken down from the Cross, His body was claimed by a man named Joseph who hailed from Arimithea.

This man had a new tomb already hewn from the rocks, offered to cover the expenses of the burial and took charge of the remains. Jesus was placed in clean linen, washing of the body and the rubbing of oils were done following the customs of Judaism, and Jesus was laid in the Tomb.

A huge rock was moved in place to sea. The tomb and further measures were taken, as was the custom, to seal the tomb completely so that odors and diseases did not get out to infect the still living inhabitants of Jerusalem. Pilate ordered small groups of soldiers to make sure the tomb was completely sealed and guarded to ensure that the followers of Jesus could not steal the body and create a falsehood legacy. When the empty tomb was discovered the entire government of Rome went on alert to find Him to lay the rumors to rest once and for all.

Two thousand years later Christians will unite in different churches or outdoor venues to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Evergreen Conference Center (ECCO) hosts this area’s Sunrise Service at 6:30 a.m. as they have for longer than the past decade. All are welcome but remember to dress warmly as it is outside.

Other churches will have Easter Services and each pastor and their congregation will happily greet you whether you are a regular member of the congregation or this Sunday will be your first visit. Trust me, no reservations are required.

Last week a dear friend lost his dad when he died at age 93. Death of a family member is always hard to deal with but my friend’s dad, as well as that man’s family, are devout Roman Catholics and as such they can celebrate their patriarchs passing in the sure and certain knowledge that Richard will be spending eternity in the loving presence of Almighty God. For beyond the miracles performed by Jesus and the teachings He shared the fact remains; with great documentation by Rome that had everything on the line, we of the Christian faith know that the tomb was empty and as such Jesus had conquered death.

His death was done to take away our sins and His rising from the grave proved He was who He said He was. The Son of God.

He is risen. The tomb is empty. Happy Easter.