Early in his ministry, Jesus asked the crowds a question in regards to John the Baptist: “What did you go out into the desert to see?” In other words, what were you hoping to find, to get, to have? The same questions, I suppose, could be asked of us in regards to the resurrected Jesus. What are we hoping to find, to get, to have? To answer these questions, maybe the best starting place (as it usually is) is with the people of Scripture.
Like Mary of Magdala, she went to Jesus’ tomb to pray and to honor her friend — the same reasons we go to the gravesides of our loved ones today. Mary, however, discovers a problem: the tomb is empty! Had someone stolen the body of her Master?
To get answers to our questions about who Jesus is for us, we might also ask Peter and John. They run to Jesus’ tomb after being alerted by Mary of Magdala that his body was missing. When Peter discovers that, indeed, the grave is empty, he assumes that Jesus’ body was taken by religious or political authorities to serve their own purposes. Like Mary, Peter sees a problem.
John, however, doesn’t see a problem; he sees a mystery. John doesn’t venture into the tomb, but stays outside and reverently falls to his knees. Somehow, he sees and believes. For John, the empty tomb doesn’t indicate “absence” but “presence” — the presence of the Lord (just as Jesus promised) with his disciples and with the Church for generations to come.
Maybe pretty obviously, I think John must be our model. When we get perplexed, confused, doubtful, angry, lost — in other words, no matter the negative emotion we may be felling — we are asked to trust that Jesus has not abandoned us. No, we can’t see him anymore, but we can from time to time feel him.
The Lord’s presence with us is often what we hope to find, to get, to have — especially during this season of Easter.