A Dramatic Empty Tomb Retelling

Based on Luke 24:1-12

Let us prepare to hear the story. 

We enter the story on a gloomy Friday evening. Jesus has been placed in a borrowed tomb. The disciples are aimless. Deflated. How could this happen? They had entered the city with a king and now they are preparing to bury a criminal. Some of the women are preparing oils and spices to anoint the body, according to tradition. But tomorrow is the Sabbath and they will have to wait until the first day of the week to visit the tomb. The best they could do was wrap Jesus in linen and lay him to rest behind the safety of a large rock. Time stretches out before them. Empty and meaningless. What will they do now? 

The Sabbath day is a long and somber affair. Usually, a day of feasting and celebration but a cloud of misery hangs over this Sabbath day. They go through the motions; prayer, scripture, feasting; but bread is like sand in their mouths. The wine is bitter. They listen for the word of God to find them through scripture but they hear only static. Can there be a way forward without Jesus? What is their mission now? And finally, lost and broken they sleep, seeking comfort in Ecclesiastes: 

“There is a time for everything,
A season for every purpose under heaven:
A season to be born and a season to die;
A season to plant and a season to harvest;
A season to hurt and a season to heal;
A season to tear down and a season to build up; 
A season to cry and a season to laugh;
A season to mourn and a season to dance;
A season to scatter stones and a season to gather them;
A season for holding close and a season for holding back;
A season to seek and a season to lose;
A season to keep and a season to throw away;
A season to tear and a season to mend;
A season to be silent and a season to speak;
A season to love and a season to hate;
A season for hostilities and a season for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (The Inclusive Bible)

But, what season is this? They wonder.

Now, I invite you all to journey into the story with me. Prepare yourselves! The drama begins.

The next morning dawned bright and glorious! How dare the sun rise in such splendor at such a time of despair! 

The disciples woke up on the first day of the week. They yawned. They stretched. They rubbed their sleepy eyes. Rolling out of bed, they cry out in surprise! The chill of the night still clings to the earthen floor. 

Some of the women are already up. They wrap a jar of oil and packets of spices in a cloth to carry with them to the tomb. The city was just waking up as the women walked to the tomb. They made their way carefully in the early morning light. Waving to neighbors and carefully avoiding animal droppings. As they walked along they asked each other “Who will roll the large rock away from the entrance to the tomb?”

The women arrived at the tomb and were shocked to see the large rock had been rolled back from the tomb. The women shouted in surprise “What is the meaning of this?” The women rushed into the tomb and looked around but they did not find Jesus’ body. They looked at each other and said “Where have they taken the Teacher?” And “How will we find him?”

Suddenly, the tomb was filled with light and 2 figures appeared in dazzling garments! The women shielded their eyes from the light and fell to the ground. The women were afraid and trembled at the sight of the figures. 

The first figure said to the women “Don’t be afraid! Jesus is not here; Christ has risen. Remember what Jesus said to you while still in Galilee.”

The second figure said to the women “The Chosen One must be delivered into the hands of the sinners and be crucified, and on the third day would rise again.”

At the words of the 2 figures the women remembered what Jesus had said to them. 

By now the city was bustling with activity. The women hurried back to the other disciples. They made their way quickly through the streets. Waving to neighbors and carefully avoiding animal droppings. As they hustled along they exclaimed to each other “What glorious news is this!”

Excitedly, the women burst into the house where the disciples were staying. They said “It is a miracle!” “Jesus has risen!” “We have seen the empty tomb and heard the message from the angels!”

The disciples looked at the women in disbelief. The disciples said “That is impossible.” “Have you fallen and hit your head?” “Surely, you are imagining things.”

The women answered “All that we have said is true.” The women continued telling others about what they had experienced. But no one would believe them. Everyone thought the story was too far-fetched. 

But when Peter heard what the women were saying he jumped up and ran out of the house. He ran all the way to the tomb. Through the busy streets of the city. Waving to neighbors and carefully avoiding animal droppings. When he got to the tomb he was shocked to see the large rock had been rolled back from the tomb. Peter said to himself “What is the meaning of this?” Peter ducked his head inside the tomb and he saw only the linen wrappings. Peter looked to the left. Peter looked to the right. He did not see Jesus. Peter was amazed. Slowly he walked back to the others. Waving to neighbors and carefully avoiding animal droppings. Almost.  (With a look of amazement on his face.) 

From that day forward the Good News spread from person to person, even to this day! And even when people sometimes question or doubt the message, we remember the women who discovered the empty tomb and would not be silent about the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. (And! who were always careful about animal droppings…)

Read Luke 24:1-12. What words, phrases or images stand out to you? With whom in this story do you identify with? What does the empty tomb mean to you? Write your own retelling of the Empty Tomb story or draw a picture that represents one of the words, phrases or images that stood out to you.

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