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The Empty Tomb - Reflection and Discussion Questions

This lesson plan for youth ministry invites participants to embark on a guided reflection based on the resurrection account from the Gospel of Mark, read during the Easter Vigil Mass. It challenges youths to imagine themselves as disciples of Jesus, experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions from His death to the discovery of the empty tomb.

The reflection begins with the disciples' despair following Jesus’ crucifixion and burial preparations by Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. Participants then journey with these women to the tomb, grappling with fear and loss, only to find the tomb open and Jesus’ body missing. Confronted by an angelic figure in a dazzling white robe, they hear the astonishing news: Jesus has been resurrected.

The reflection encourages youths to immerse themselves in the disciples' initial fear and amazement, culminating in a profound realization of hope and joy at the resurrection. The lesson ends with quiet prayer, allowing participants to personally connect with the transformative power of the Resurrection story. This reflective exercise aims to deepen youths' understanding of the Easter story's significance, encouraging a personal response to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Guided Reflection on the Empty Tomb

Imagine you are one of the disciples of Jesus. You had followed him for three years and had been energized by his message. You had been filled with joy at his explanation of God as a loving Father. And you had believed that the kingdom of God could be real. And you even thought he might be the Messiah.

But then it all fell apart. Jesus had been arrested and executed like a common criminal. God had not saved him after all. Your hope turned into despair.

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.

Some of the women are going to the tomb to complete the burial ritual. They invite you along. You hesitate. What if the officials start coming after Jesus’ followers also?

The morning air is cool. You put on your jacket and pull the hood over your head. That way nobody will recognize you if there is trouble.

You help carry the spices. They smell good. But they are the spices used for burial, so they also remind you that Jesus is gone. You start to get emotional, but you try not to think about it. It would be best just to focus on this task and get it done quickly.

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.

What a beautiful sunrise! The earth seems so alive this morning. The sky is a vibrant pink and orange. The grass is a bright green. You have a memory of sitting on a hillside on a beautiful day, soaking in Jesus’ words. But that will not happen again.

How can this be such a lovely morning? It is like the earth doesn’t know that Jesus has died. It seems so alive. But you feel nothing but emptiness.

They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

You are getting closer. The tomb is just around the corner and you still don’t know how you will get it. A huge stone has been rolled in front of the door. Maybe if you all push on it, you can move it just enough to squeeze in. But that doesn’t seem likely.

When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large.”

This is a mystery. Who moved the stone? It is not just moved a little. It is all the way to the side. It must have taken at least half a dozen strong men to do it. But who has been here? Why would somebody else have gone into the tomb?

On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. 

You are stunned! Jesus’ body is not here. The strips of linen which had wrapped the body were neatly folded up.

And the young man is just sitting there, as if he had been waiting for you. He wearing a bright white robe which doesn’t have a spot on it, even though the empty tomb is dusty. And the man himself almost seems to shine.

It as if he embodies the “aliveness” of the beautiful morning outside. He shines like the sun. You’ve heard of angels. Could he be one? And what does that mean? How are you supposed to act in the presence of someone so otherworldly?

He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.

But you are amazed! Jesus had spoken of resurrection, but that just seemed like a fantasy.

But you are sure now that this is an angel speaking to you. And he is right. Jesus is not here.

Could it be true? You saw him die. And it was such a brutal, ugly death. But through it all, Jesus never stopped trusting in the love of the Father.

You cry tears of joy at just the hope that Jesus is alive.

But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”

This is where the gospel which is read at the Easter Vigil Mass ends. But there is one more, very surprising, verse:

Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Spend a few minutes in quiet prayer at this point.

Small Group Reflection Questions

We know that eventually they did overcome their fear. Disciples began to report that Jesus had risen. But it took more than one person to tell the story. The others did not believe until they heard it from several people. Break into small groups for further discussion.

  • Personal Connection: How would you have felt if you were one of Jesus' disciples visiting the tomb and found it empty? Can you relate this feeling to any experiences in your own life where you faced disappointment or loss that turned into hope?
  • Faith and Doubt: The disciples experienced a range of emotions from despair to joy upon discovering the empty tomb. Have you ever experienced a moment in your faith journey where doubt turned into belief or hope? Share your experience.
  • The Angel's Message: Reflect on the angel's message, "Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here." What does this message mean to you personally, and how does it impact your understanding of God's love?
  • Witnessing to Others: The angel instructed the women to tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus was going ahead of them to Galilee. Why do you think it was important for them to share this news, despite their fear and amazement? How can we, as modern disciples, witness to the resurrection of Jesus in our own lives?
  • The Response of the Women: The Gospel mentions that the women fled from the tomb, "seized with trembling and bewilderment," and initially "said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." Why do you think they reacted this way? Have you ever felt overwhelmed or afraid after a profound spiritual experience or realization? How did you overcome those feelings?
  • Resurrection Today: How does the story of the resurrection inspire you to live out your faith today? In what ways can you bring the hope and joy of the resurrection into your family, school, or community?
  • Quiet Reflection: After hearing the resurrection story, what emotions or thoughts are you left with? Spend a few minutes in silence, reflecting on what the resurrection of Jesus means to you personally.

These questions are designed to foster deep reflection and meaningful discussion within your small groups, helping participants to connect personally with the Easter story and its significance in their lives.


In our journey as Christians, we're called not just to live out our faith, but also to share it with others. It's a mission that can't be left to a few; each one of us has a role in spreading the Good News to the world. This is crucial because, for the whole world to come to believe, they need to hear from us—ordinary people living out extraordinary faith.

This week, let's challenge ourselves. Reach out and have a conversation about your faith with someone. But here's the twist: try to find someone who doesn't necessarily share your beliefs. This might seem daunting, but it's an opportunity to grow in confidence and understanding. Approach the conversation with respect and kindness, keeping in mind that this isn't about winning an argument. It's about sharing the love and hope you've found in Jesus.

Remember, it's not just about speaking; it's also about listening and understanding where the other person is coming from. Your faith is a powerful part of who you are—sharing it can open doors to meaningful dialogue and deeper connections.


Close with this or a similar prayer:

Loving Father, we thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus, whose resurrection from the empty tomb brings us hope, joy, and the promise of new life.

Help us to carry the message of His love and light into the world, especially to those who have not yet come to know Him. Grant us the courage to share our faith, the wisdom to speak with kindness and respect, and the humility to listen and learn from those around us.

May our hearts always reflect Your love, and may our lives be a testament to the power of Your grace. Guide us as we go forth, to be bearers of Your Good News in our world. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

More Resources

Themes for the Empty Tomb Reflection

  • Despair and Hope: The reflection delves into the disciples' initial despair and sorrow following Jesus' death, juxtaposed with the transformative hope that arises when they encounter the empty tomb, realizing the possibility of resurrection and eternal life.
  • Resurrection and Faith: At the core of the reflection lies the profound theme of resurrection, where the discovery of the empty tomb solidifies the disciples' faith in Jesus as the risen Messiah, reinforcing their belief in God's power over death.
  • Emptiness and Fullness: The stark emptiness experienced by the disciples upon Jesus' death is contrasted with the overwhelming sense of fullness and joy they encounter as they come face-to-face with the empty tomb, realizing that death has been conquered.
  • Overcoming Fear: The initial fear and bewilderment of the disciples when encountering the empty tomb give way to courage and conviction as they gradually overcome their apprehensions and share the Good News with others.
  • Angel as Messenger: The presence of the angel at the empty tomb serves as a celestial messenger, bringing assurance, comfort, and guidance to the disciples, emphasizing the supernatural nature of the resurrection event.
  • Faith Sharing and Evangelism: The reflection underscores the essential role of faith sharing and evangelism, stressing that it is the disciples' responsibility to spread the transformative message of the empty tomb to the world.
  • Transformation: The encounter with the empty tomb marks a profound transformation in the disciples' emotions and outlook, as they transition from grief to hope and from fear to courage, becoming witnesses of Christ's resurrection and eternal life.

Background Material for the Empty Tomb Reflection

In the heart of the Easter season, we turn our gaze to the pivotal event that forms the bedrock of our Christian faith—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament's Gospel of Mark recounts the powerful moment when the faithful women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, approach the tomb where Jesus had been laid. Little did they know that this encounter with the empty tomb would forever change the course of history and ignite the flame of hope in the hearts of believers.

In Mark 16:1-8, we witness the scene as these devoted followers, after the Sabbath, bring spices to anoint the body of their beloved Lord. Their hearts heavy with grief and uncertainties, they wonder who will move the large stone barring the tomb's entrance. It is in this moment of vulnerability and questioning that they experience a revelation that surpasses all human understanding—the stone has been rolled back, and the tomb is empty.

The empty tomb stands as a sacred threshold between death and life, darkness and light, despair and hope. As the women entered the tomb, they were met with a sight that left them utterly amazed—a young man clothed in a white robe, the angelic messenger, who proclaimed the astonishing truth: "He is not here; He has risen!" (Mark 16:6).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Paragraph 641) sheds further light on this encounter, recognizing the significance of the women being the first to encounter the Risen One. Their faithful presence at the tomb made them the heralds of Christ's Resurrection to the apostles themselves. From Mary Magdalene to the holy women, their encounter with the empty tomb marks the dawning of a new era—a time of grace, redemption, and divine love.

Pope Francis, in his inspiring Homily on Easter Vigil 2019, beautifully expounds on the profound significance of the empty tomb during the Easter Vigil Mass. He emphasizes that the resurrection brings a message of hope and joy to our lives, reminding us that Christ's love and transformational power are present even in the darkest moments.

For Catholic youth, the empty tomb is more than a historical event; it is an invitation to encounter the living Christ. This encounter offers us hope beyond human comprehension, a hope that banishes all fears and doubts, a hope that assures us of our salvation through Christ's Resurrection.

In our journey of faith, the empty tomb beckons us to embrace this profound mystery with open hearts and minds. Let us approach it with the same wonder and awe that Mary Magdalene and the women did on that momentous morning. Just as the disciples received the Good News from the women, we too are called to be messengers of Christ's Resurrection to the world—heralds of hope, love, and divine transformation.

Let the empty tomb be a constant reminder that Christ's victory over death is our victory. As we encounter the risen Christ in our lives, may His love and grace transform us from within, renewing our hearts and empowering us to be bearers of His light to a world longing for hope and salvation. Embrace the empty tomb as a sign of God's unfathomable love for you, and let this love overflow to all those you encounter on your journey of faith.

Youth Ministry Lesson Plans
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More Youth Ministry Lesson Plans and Reflections

Lesson plans are meant to give a framework for introducing information to youth. This Empty Tomb reflection is part of a larger set. Most of these also include reflection questions for small group sharing. These help youth think about how to apply what they have learned to their everyday lives.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Empty Tomb Reflection

What is the significance of the empty tomb in the Easter story?

The empty tomb is a central symbol of Easter, representing Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. This event is foundational to Christian faith, as it signifies Jesus' victory over sin and death, offering hope and the promise of eternal life to all believers. The discovery of the empty tomb by the women and the disciples underscores the reality of the resurrection, challenging us to believe in the transformative power of God's love.

How can I explain the importance of the empty tomb to young people?

When discussing the empty tomb with young people, emphasize its role as evidence of Jesus' resurrection, a miracle that confirms His divine nature and the truth of His teachings. You can relate it to themes of hope, renewal, and the promise of new beginnings, which are concepts that resonate with the experiences of young individuals. Encourage them to see the empty tomb as a symbol of how light can emerge from darkness and how faith can lead us to unexpected and joyful discoveries.

What are some challenges youth might face in understanding the empty tomb, and how can I address them?

Young people might struggle with the concept of the empty tomb and resurrection due to doubts about the miraculous or supernatural elements of the story. Address these challenges by encouraging open dialogue about faith and doubt, providing historical and scriptural context for the resurrection, and sharing personal testimonies or experiences of faith. It's also helpful to connect the story to their own lives, discussing how themes of hope, change, and new beginnings are relevant to their experiences.

How can I make the story of the empty tomb engaging for youth?

To make the empty tomb story engaging, use creative approaches such as role-playing, visual arts, or interactive discussions that encourage youth to imagine themselves in the story. You could also incorporate modern technology, like video storytelling or social media, to create relatable content. Invite them to express their thoughts and feelings about the story through music, art, or journaling, fostering a personal connection to the message of resurrection and hope.

Can the empty tomb be a theme for youth group activities beyond Easter?

Absolutely! The theme of the empty tomb can inspire youth group activities throughout the year by focusing on themes of renewal, transformation, and hope. Consider service projects that embody the spirit of bringing new life to communities, discussions on personal growth and overcoming challenges, or retreats that focus on spiritual renewal. The empty tomb’s message of life triumphing over death can offer meaningful reflections for any season.

How do I handle diverse interpretations of the empty tomb among youth?

Embrace the diversity of interpretations as an opportunity for rich discussion and learning. Encourage respect for different perspectives and foster an environment where questions are welcomed. Use scriptural references and the teachings of the Church to guide the conversation, while also highlighting the core message of hope and resurrection. Facilitating a respectful dialogue helps youth understand the depth of the Easter story and its relevance in a diverse world.

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