05 April 2015

The importance of where the young man sat in the tomb

Inside the empty tomb
My own recent experience of the empty tomb of Jesus the Nazarene is still very fresh in my mind. So it was that as I proclaimed last night the account of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded by Saint Luke, I was particularly struck by one simple detail he provides for us:
And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed (Mark 16:5).
Notice where the young man sat.

The first thing you notice on entering the tomb of Christ is that it is very small, so small, in fact, that taking pictures of the entire tomb is very difficult (if even possible). Four people can stand shoulder to shoulder in the tomb; you might possibly be able to squeeze in a fourth person.

The second thing you notice is that on right side is a stone slab on which the body of Jesus was laid. The slab extends the length of the wall. Consequently, if the young man was "sitting on the right side of the tomb," he was sitting on the very stone on which Jesus was laid in the tomb! There is simply no other possibility.

As I read that passage of the Gospel, I imagined the young man almost reclining on the precious slab, as if to mock death with Saint Paul: "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting" (I Corinthians 15:55)? I also imagined the young man laughing as he said to the women, "He has risen, he is not here; see the place where the laid him" (Mark 16:6).

Had I not made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the importance of this seemingly obscure detail of Mark's account would have been lost on me. This is why the Holy Land itself has been called the fifth Gospel.

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