What does emptiness look like? Can you touch it? How do you measure it? “Why does the feeling of emptiness occupy so much space?”1
When emptiness creeps into our lives we look for a way to fill that void, little knowing Jesus has an entirely different solution, as Mary Magdalene found out that Resurrection morning.
The Emptiness of Loss
Jesus is dead. Mary Magdalene is desolate as she takes spices to His tomb.
Sometimes we feel like Jesus has abandoned us. A tragedy shakes us. Or we’ve slowly lost purpose and meaning in our lives. We despair at what feels like Jesus’ silence when it may be a step to something greater. But if we have everything we want, we wouldn’t realize how desperately we need Jesus. That leads us to begin our search for Him.
The Emptiness of a Dead End
Mary reaches the tomb. It’s the most logical place to find Jesus. That’s where they laid Him. It makes sense. But the tomb is empty, and the body is missing.
Perhaps we’ve hit rock bottom in our relationship with Jesus. He’s not where we expect Him to be. We sit in church and open the Bible, but we’re drawing up a blank. While those are great places to find Jesus, what happens if we don’t find Him there? Well, the God who created the entire universe is not limited to one building or one book, no matter how inspired and holy. God is not absent. He finds a way to reach our heart. When there’s a dead end in front of us, we’re forced to look up.
The Emptiness of Disillusionment
So Mary Magdalene turns away from the tomb and out of the garden, then a voice speaks to her. She doesn’t recognize Him; instead, through her tears she begs Him to help her find Jesus!
As Elijah can tell us, we don’t always find God in the earthquake or thunder. Sometimes we find Him in the unexpected. In the stillness. In the emptiness. In the garden. In a neighbor, a song, a friend, a mountaintop, a warm hug.
Our eyes are blurred by disappointment, even when we’re looking directly at what we were looking for. We almost miss it because it’s not what we wanted. And we’re upset. Imagine if Mary got what she expected—Jesus dead and lying in a tomb.
But then Jesus calls her name, as He calls our names. Despair turns to hope. Instead of death and decay, life is found. Mary recognizes Him. She runs toward Jesus, leaving the emptiness behind.
The Significance of Emptiness
Then she remembers what Jesus had promised earlier, what the angels had told her. The evidence piles up. The tomb is empty because Jesus is standing before her. Alive.
Sometimes emptiness is required for a miracle to happen. Like the widow whom Elisha instructed to borrow many jars. Those jars had to be empty.
We come to Jesus with our cup half empty/half full, asking Him to fill it so we can say with the psalmist, “My cup runs over” (Ps. 23:5, NKJV).2 But Jesus patiently explains that He can’t fit an ocean into a cup, and that we must get rid of our notion of the cup altogether in order to fully receive what He longs to give us—an ocean of love.
As the English author C. S. Lewis put it, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”3
When we recognize our emptiness, Jesus doesn’t merely fill us, He utterly changes us.
The Miracle of Emptiness
Mary believes and rushes to tell the disciples. With the empty tomb came not only Jesus’ resurrection, but the promise of Mary’s own resurrection, and the best part—an eternity with the One she loved most.
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:14, NKJV). When Jesus comes, we will leave behind our empty graves—never to be filled again.
Is Mary’s hope ours too? Are we searching for Jesus because we want Him or because we want blessings and a reward? “Gaining heaven, being delivered from sin, and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.”4
As I contemplate the resurrection of Jesus, I sing this song with Mary Magdalene:
“I see a miracle in an empty grave The One we thought was dead has come to life again I see a miracle in every chain You break The power of heaven roaring within me.”5
1 James de la Vega, https://whatsmyquote.com/quote/why-does-the-feeling-of-emptiness-occupy-so-much-space.
2 Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright ã 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
3 C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory: and Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins Pub., 2001).
4 Oswald Chambers, “March 12: Total Surrender,” My Utmost for His Highest (Uhrichsville, Ohio: Oswald Chambers Pub. Assn., 1995).