When I was a kid my father had this pocket knife that he carried with him wherever he went. He always had it. Over the years it sloshed around in his pants pocket for so long that its sides were worn smooth like a pebble on the beach that has been tossed around by the waves.
I was crazy about that knife and often I would ask my Dad if I could hold it. He would dig around in his pocket pull it out and hand it to me. I was always awestruck as a little boy to have it sitting in my hand. I was never allowed to open it because it was very sharp and I could have easily cut myself. But while it was closed he would let me hold it for a few seconds and that always made me feel very special.
Once a year my Dad would go away with his buddies for about ten days of hunting and fishing and camping in the mountains. He had all kinds of gear he took with him but he never took his pocketknife. He said he was afraid he would lose it, that it might fall out of his pocket in the mountains and he would never see it again.
So, when I was little he would leave it with me. He would put it in a little box and let me keep the box on my bedside table. It was my job to keep an eye on it for him while he was gone. I could open the box and look at it but that was all. My job was to keep it safe.
Every morning when I woke up and every night before I went to bed I would open the box and check on Dad’s pocketknife. I liked this job. It made me feel important and having the knife in my room helped me not to miss him so much when he was away.
The first year I did this I remember waking up one morning after my
Dad had been gone for what seemed like a long time and opening the box to check on his knife. It wasn’t there, the box was empty. I couldn’t believe it. I looked under my bed and behind my dresser. I looked in my closet and my toy chest but the knife was nowhere to be found.
I was really upset. It had disappeared and I couldn’t figure out how. All I could think about was that I had let my Dad down. I was so sad. I immediately began to cry and ran downstairs to tell Mom. Bursting through the kitchen door I couldn’t believe my eyes – there was my Dad sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast. He was home I couldn’t believe it. With a big smile on his face he reached out his arms and gave me the biggest hug.
He had gotten home the night before after I had gone to bed. His pocket knife wasn’t missing he had just gotten up before me and gotten it out of the box while I was still sleeping.
All of a sudden all my tears turned to joy. The box was empty but my Dad was home. I hadn’t lost anything, instead I had found my father, he had come home. It was a great day.
I tell you that story because it reminds me of what Mary Magdalene and the other women must have felt like when they came to the tomb on Easter morning. Jesus had been killed. The man they loved was gone and it was their job to care for his body. But when they got there the tomb was empty, his body was gone and they were very upset. But they hadn’t lost him, he wasn’t missing he was alive. He had risen from the dead and they would see him and touch him, talk with him and even eat dinner with him.
What the women thought was a terrible day was in fact a great day. Jesus was alive, he was right there with them, and he promised them that he would be with them forever.
They were frightened by the empty tomb just like I was frightened by the empty box. But the empty box meant that my Dad had come home and the empty tomb meant that Jesus was alive.
And so today we celebrate the empty tomb and we give God thanks for resurrection of Jesus. Because God loves us so much that he sent us his Son and nothing can take him from us – not even death. He lives forever and he promises us that we too will have life together with God in heaven. Life with all those we love who have gone before.
The tomb is empty but that’s a good thing because Jesus lives. Happy Easter.