Ukraine Relief Fund

Christ's Fulness for our Emptiness

Easter is when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is described in all of the gospel accounts, and the startling feature of these descriptions is how fact-based they are. Rather than describing the mechanics of how Jesus was raised from the dead (which Paul affirms is by the power of the Holy Spirit – Rom. 1.4), the gospels describe how people encountered the resurrected Lord. That is, the focus is on eye-witness accounts.

As told by John, the resurrection of Jesus was encountered in two parts: first, the empty tomb was discovered; second, the resurrected Christ was encountered. Normally when we think of emptiness, it is an inconvenience. Like an empty milk carton. Or an empty toilet roll. Or an empty petrol tank.

But sometimes emptiness takes a darker form – like the emptiness of grief over something loss, the emptiness of fear about an uncertain future, or the emptiness of doubts regarding good news that can’t be verified. In the 20th chapter of John’s gospel we learn that the impact of Jesus’ resurrection was simply theological, but personal: in his encounters with Mary, the disciples, and Thomas, the fulness of Jesus fills the human emptiness he encounters.

Scene 1: DISCOVERY:  John 20.1-2

The discovery of the empty tomb happened early on the first day of the week, the third day after Jesus has been crucified and buried outside the walls of Jerusalem. Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons (Luke 8.2), had made her way to the tomb (with some other women, Luke 24.10) to finish preparing the body of Jesus for burial. But when she arrived, she saw that the stone in front of the tomb had been rolled away. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and John (the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved), and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him’.

Observe: The reason that Mary made the discovery of the empty tomb is that she was still looking for Jesus. The discovery of the empty tomb was not a sufficient condition to prove the resurrection, but it was a necessary condition. Mary wasn’t yet thinking about resurrection; she still assumed that someone had moved the body of Jesus.

Scene 2: CONFIRMATION:  John 20.3-10

Based on Mary’s report, Peter and John ran from where they were staying to the tomb and discovered it was as Mary said. John arrived first, and looked in the tomb; Peter followed, but pushed past and went into the tomb. Where the body of Jesus had been laid, they saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus's head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.

According to Luke, Peter went home marvelling at what had happened, but by his own account, John saw and believed. However, they did not yet understand that the resurrection had been prophesied in scripture.

Scene 3: CONSOLATION:  John 20.11-18

Meanwhile Mary made her way back to the garden tomb; having not just lost a friend and teacher, but someone who had healed her from the darkness of demonic oppression, Mary was weeping. She encountered someone she took for the gardener; it was Jesus but she didn’t recognise him. He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’. The answer to Jesus’s question is that Mary would not be weeping if she knew who she was really seeking, and that is, the resurrected Lord.  Mary, however, missed the point, and wanted to know if the gardener could help her find Jesus. “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” At this point Jesus revealed his true identity simply by saying, ‘Mary’.

But this is what we should notice. Jesus didn’t simply minister directly to Mary’s grief, he give her a hug and say, ‘It’s going to be OK’. Jesus ministered to Mary’s grief by giving her a mission, ‘Go to my brothers and say …’. And that’s what Mary did: went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Jesus dealt with Mary's grief by his personal encounter and sending her on a mission. When we give ourselves to doing what Jesus has given us to do, our personal grief rooted in past loss is evaporated in the glory of sharing with others God's good news.  

Scene 4: REALISATION:  John 20.19-23

Later that same day Jesus visited the disciples. They were hiding in a house behind locked doors, afraid that the leaders who had arrested and crucified Jesus might come for them next. Jesus ministers to their fear through his peace and his presence. He wishes them Shalom – the full blessing of God, and with that, is with them.

By showing them the wounds in his hands and his side, Jesus affirms to the disciples that He is in fact the same Jesus who had been crucified. The main point of this passage is that Jesus appeared to the disciples, and they believed – not only in Jesus who died, but now, in Jesus who was raised.

But also, we are all susceptible to fear, what we learn that Jesus doesn’t just wish us well but personally steps into our pain with us.

Scene 5: EXCLAMATION:  John 20.24-29

One of the disciples – Thomas – was not with Jesus when he appeared to the disciples. He made a resolute decision not to believe: ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe’. •             Thomas’ emptiness was the doubt that the reports about Jesus were too good to be true.

Eight days later the disciples were together again and Thomas with them this time, and Jesus appeared to them again. Jesus showed Thomas his hands and his side, but this time, rather than doubting, Thomas made a profound and poweful exclamation: ‘My Lord and my God’. Thomas finally understood that the Risen Christ was not only Lord, he was God in the flesh.

Jesus loved Thomas enough not to leave him in doubt; he alleviated doubt with his personal presence; Jesus filled Thomas’ emptiness with himself.


God’s fulness is greater that our emptiness; the resurrection of Jesus is not a theological concept but a fact that changes everything. But more than demonstrating Christ’s victory over death, hell, and the grave, the resurrection of Jesus changes things for us personally. Christ meets us in the place of grief, of fear, and of doubt and draws us into an encounter with the resurrected Lord.

In John 1.16, the apostle who looked in and saw the empty tomb writes: 'And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace’. The fulness of Christ fills the emptiness of his followers such that grief is transformed to mission; fear is transformed to gladness, and doubt is transformed into faith.




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