I was eight when Voyager 1 launched into space in 1977. The NASA mission opened the universe and provided the world with a whole new view. Human kind was now able to peer through the eyes of a spacecraft deeper into the stars. Our planet never looked the same to us after the probe sent photos of our solar system back to earth. One particular picture moved anyone who saw it. In it earth looks like a tiny speck of dust in a huge ray of sunlight. The “Pale Blue Dot” became a sobering reminder of our place in space. Even the apostles of the natural world, like astronomer Carl Sagan, had a hard time concealing bewilderment.
Around that time, my mother worked as an assistant at an observatory. My grandparents lived at the foot of the hill on which the domes and buildings set. When I visited my grandparents in the summer for the day, I was sometimes allowed to walk to the observatory to meet my mom at the end of her workday. I climbed the hill for about a mile through grassy fields and woods. When I eventually entered the building, I instinctively went silent. I tiptoed through the corridors, past the offices of professors who worked diligently at understanding the mysteries of space and time. I walked by different vitrines holding ancient wooden and metal engineering tools. Large prints of far-off planets and stars spread across the hallway walls. I felt like the only person in my own museum as I meandered past pictures of distant galaxies, drawings of constellations, and photos of famous astronomers. I knew I would never be able to wrap my mind around the Universe. Even as a child I experienced an awe, a sense of incredible smallness, not just in stature but in my inability to comprehend. I believe it was here, my love for space and microscopic details were ignited. I had found my love for looking closer at my world.
I am thinking about the Easter story and wonder if John felt a similar awe and amazement, a paradigm shift in his thinking, when he took a glance through the opening of the tomb. I wonder if his heart pounded with excitement when he finally saw and understood for the first time.
On the morning of the third day, after the crucifixion of Jesus, the women return to the disciples and tell how they found the tomb empty. According to John 20, Peter and John set out on a race toward the grave. John arrives first. He stoops at the opening and looks inside the tomb. He does not enter, but views everything thought the safety of distance. He sees the linen which Jesus left behind. When Peter arrives he pushes past John. He has no problem walking right in. The empty tomb and folded linen not only prompt John to finally enter, but they convince him of the resurrection and he believes. Up to that point, both John and Peter had not comprehended Christ’s power over death and what He had taught during the weeks prior.
How often do I stare at the obvious and cannot comprehend? It seems easier to keep looking, to dig for answers, to go deeper, than to simply believe what I see.
The empty tomb provides us an incredible tool to see the reality of life after death. It’s an opening to view all else in the light of the resurrection of Jesus. Like a giant telescope it becomes a lens for things of the Spirit.
If you have never trusted in the simplicity and yet the most incomprehensible event in history, I want to challenge you to stop looking and walk into the obviously empty tomb. Walk in and believe. For even if you were to comprehend the greatest mysteries this world holds, it is this single fact, that Jesus died for your sins and rose again, which helps you to see all else in the right perspective … even the Universe itself.
“You cannot go on seeing through things forever. The whole point of seeing through some thing is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to see through first principals. If you see through everything then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To see through all things is the same as not to see.”
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
1 Corinthians 15:16-19
“For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
(First photo by nasa.gov,
second, third photo, and essay by Heidi Viars, 2021)