What do you want, for goodness sake?
‘SINCE ALL THE CHILDREN share the same human nature, he too shared equally in it so that by his death he could set aside him who held the power of death, namely the devil, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death’ Hebrews 2:14.
No doubt controversy will rage again over Easter in press and in broadcasts on whether or not the Tomb was empty that first Easter morn. That it was, I have no doubt – and that is not just from some biblical fundamentalist standpoint, but because without an empty tomb I do not seem to have the saviour I need.
In the first place, as the writer to the Hebrews explains I need a complete sharing by Christ of my human nature (and that must include body as well as soul and mind). Without this identity I have not been fully set free from the power of the devil and the fear of death. And it is all of this nature that must be resurrected to perfect my salvation. Only Christ’s real death, and his real resurrection, will have any effect on my life in all its aspects.
Secondly, and most crucially, I need a resurrection of his broken, bruised and crucified body; for my life too, in its own way, is deformed and damaged, crucified in my case by my own sins. If Christ has come to offer anything to my fractured humanity it is that there is hope even within its deepest flaws and imperfections. More than that, I need the Christian assurance that just as it is through his wounds that I am healed, so too it is from within my very weaknesses and sinfulness that salvation can well up and flow. It’s part of the paradox of our faith, that in death there is life, from hatred can flow love, that brokeness is a but a mask for deep integrity and perfect harmony – all through the power of Christ’s resurrection.
So what do I want, for goodness sake? I want a Saviour who can take all of my experiences and turn them to God, who can go through the gate of death and assure me there is no need to fear, who can present my human nature to the Father. I also want a Saviour who will make sense of my own fallibilities and who has the power to redeem them for his good purposes. I don’t want to be shown what a good life is; I want my every experience to be redeemed and to be turned to serve his goodness.
This is why the tomb must be empty for me. It is the whole of my humanity which God raised from the dead. It is my real, compromised life which I want to offer as a vehicle of his grace. For goodness sake, give me an empty tomb!
Christopher Collins is Vicar of S Aidan’s Church, Grangetown, Sunderland