They knew the facts.
They had heard with their own ears.
They had seen with their own eyes.
They had touched with their own hands.
They had tasted with their own tears.
They had experienced the death of their Friend and Savior.
For those who followed Jesus, especially the women, they were present for it all. The facts seemed to lead to a dismal and hopeless final ending of Jesus' life and ministry.
Like standing bedside as a loved one takes their last gasp of breath.
Like hearing the door of the hearse slammed shut as the pallbearers have just placed the coffin in the back of the car.
Like watching the casket being lowered down into the grave and tossing a hand full of dirt upon it.
IT SEEMED SO FINAL.
IT SEEMED FINISHED.
There was very little they could do now.
As Jesus was arrested and questioned, accused of inciting a rebellion against the Roman government, and eventually being charged with claiming to be the King of Israel, they could not speak in Jesus' defense.
As Pilate decided to turn Jesus' fate over to the crowds, fulfilling the tradition of letting the crowd decide which prisoner would go free, they could not appeal to Pilate.
When the crowds shouted for Barabbas to be set free and for Jesus to be crucified instead, they could not stand against the crowds.
As the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus, whipping him, placing a crown of thorns on his head, they could not overpower the Roman soldiers.
As they stood beneath the cross, watching Jesus bleed, crying out in pain, and taking his last breaths, they could not storm the Roman guards, climb up the ladder, and save Jesus from that agonizing death.
What could they do?
It seemed like they were without ANY POWER.
It seemed like they were without OPTIONS TO CHANGE THE PRESENT SITUATION.
It seemed like things were HOPELESS.
Maybe you, too, have been in that situation or circumstance?
Maybe you were in a dead-end job or just lost a job.
Maybe you were in a life transition in which you could not see or envision what might come next for you.
Maybe you were in a loveless relationship.
Maybe you were experiencing such isolation, loneliness or grief that you wondered if you would ever experience life again.
Or maybe you ARE in the midst of something right now that seems like you are without ANY POWER to CHANGE your present situation.
Maybe it seems like you are WITHOUT ANY OPTION
Maybe it all seems so HOPELESS, so DISMAL, so FUTILE, and so FINAL.
Yet that, dear friends, is what I call our Good Friday experiences.
This Friday, Christians around the world will observe Good Friday as we recall when Jesus died and was placed in the tomb. We call it good, not because it's something to take delight in, but because the word that has been translated to be "Good" also means holy, pious, and moment of fulfillment.
For me, what is so incredible on that first Good Friday is the way in which the women, especially, faced the reality of the experience of Jesus' death.
Yes, they waited.
Yes, they prayed.
Yet, they also acted in faith.
Even though it seemed like there was little they could do, they embraced what they could do.
They could wait while Joseph of Arimathea pleaded with Pilate for the body of Jesus.
They could help Joseph place the body of Jesus in the tomb.
They could prepare the body of Jesus in a proper and respectful way by anointing Jesus with burial spices and wrapping him in linens.
They could observe the Sabbath when it arrived by waiting and praying that God would act on their behalf and on behalf of all humanity.
This is what they did.
They did something.
They did not give up.
They did not walk away and throw up their hands.
They did not declare that all was lost and God was dead.
No...in faith, they did SOMETHING.
The best thing that we can do when it seems like there is very little to do...is to do something.
The best thing that we can do is wait on God and act in faith.
As Hebrews 11: 1 says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
It is the understanding that there are cosmic plans happening that we cannot see.
As the women saw the stone being rolled over the entrance of the tomb to seal it, their faith told them that surely this could not be the end.
It was their faith that led them back to the tomb to find it empty.
To see their Savior alive.
To hear Him speak their names.
To know that God was not finished yet.
When we think of the empty tomb, it is that ultimate reminder that God is NOT finished with us yet.
What may seem
Or FINAL in your life...is not!
God is in the background, working out the details of what, in time, will be revealed to you.
There are more chapters in your story.
The end is probably not what you fear or imagine, because God has a greater plan and more perfect story for your life.
This, dear friends, is what Christ's resurrection means for us.
If we believe,
if we trust,
if we wait,
if we act in faith,
we will see and experience that it is not finished yet.
This is the message of the empty tomb.
This is the good news for you and for me.
May this be what we celebrate and remember this Easter season.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, Conference Minister