Gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. The recent crises in our world turn my mind back to the tomb of Jesus. New Testament scholar N. T. Wright writes about the significance of the resurrection: “Jesus was raised from the dead to inaugurate the final chapter of God’s renewal of the cosmos so that one day heaven can come to earth.” That is, God brought life from death and restored wounded flesh and bones at the tomb as the ultimate illustration of what he’s doing with the entire cosmos. Jesus’ story is the climax of a much larger story that starts in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve and their rebellion throw the entire universe off center and decay and death and evil start to reign. Ever since that moment, God’s been recreating and renewing us and the world. He’s been taking dead things and breathing life into them. This work climaxed at the resurrection. And according to Wright early Christians believed that “God [is] going to do for the whole cosmos was he had done for Jesus at Easter.” The resurrection was God’s announcement that this is what he intends to do to the entire world.
In Col. 1:20 Paul writes about this. He says that through Jesus God is reconciling to himself all things. One definition of that word “reconcile” is this: “to bring back a former state of harmony.” In other words, it means to bring everything back to the way it was created to be. To bring everything back into its right relationship with God and with others. To bring everything back to its right function and role in the world.
Just think of this: There was an ideal way that governments were to function (the opposite of gridlock), an ideal way in which economies were to operate (the opposite of free-fall), an ideal way in which people were to relate to one another (the opposite of riots and looting), an ideal way in which families were to live, an ideal way in which marriages were supposed to thrive, an ideal way in which friendships were to be rich and rewarding, an ideal way in which work was to be fulfilling, an ideal way in which companies were supposed to operate, an ideal way in which churches were to function, an ideal way in which nations were to relate to nations, and an ideal way in which people everywhere related to God.
Through Jesus God is working to bring back everything to that ideal state. And the resurrection was God’s way of demonstrating that even when things look dead and broken beyond repair, he has the power to breathe new life into them and restore them to their original and intended state. That’s what the empty tomb was about.
The tomb thus comforts me. It reminds me that although things look dead and broken beyond repair, God has the power to renew and restore. God can fix what appears unfixable. Nothing that hits the headlines is beyond God’s glorious Easter power.
Even more, the empty tomb calls me to action. The story of Jesus and his people did not end with the tomb, as if we’re all just waiting around for God to do now what he did then. Instead, the story continues with a band of Jesus’ followers spreading out across the world joining in God’s renewal efforts. The story moves into its next chapter as the people of God partner with Him in repairing, restoring, and recreating. The empty tomb reminds me to play my part in that work. It calls us all—Congress, citizens, families, administrators, diplomats, economists, business owners, etc.—to join together and participate in the ongoing Easter activities of God.