The Empty Tomb
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. (John 20:1-10 NIV)
Here we are, 2000 years later, reading the historical accounts of Jesus’ death and I wonder, “Do we get it?” I mean, we have written proof of what happened all those years ago, and for some of us, the only thing that makes Easter any different from any other day, is that we get to eat candy before we eat lunch. Instead of cold cereal and a cup of coffee before heading out, there are Easter baskets and egg hunts, and creme filled eggs. But take away the baskets, the bunnies, the creme filled eggs, and it’s just another day.
But Easter is not like any other day. Easter is the day we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise; His great promise. You know what His promise is right? The promise is the found is Genesis 3:15.
“And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 niv
You see, the promise that God makes to man after he disobeys God’s command is the promise of a Savior. That though the evil one will scheme, connive, twist and distort the truth, he will not win. In the end, all that Satan wants is to destroy you; to feed you the lies that tell you his way is better than God’s way. To lead you away from the gift of life and into a place of death. But the promise remains, after all of this, the Promised One will crush the head of the serpent.
Easter is that day, because the Savior is no longer bound by death. He has defeated death. He has crushed the head of the serpent, and the tomb is empty because Jesus is not dead, but He is alive!
And so I read this Biblical account of these events and I have to ask, Do we get it?
Do we get it?
Do we see and understand all that these words are saying telling us? Because at the time, his own followers missed it. Jesus was dead, now his body is missing, and they don’t understand what is happening.
And I wonder, can we look through the colored grass and candy eggs and see what Easter is really all about?
Life to the fools, Death to the wise…
You know the Bible’s makes a pretty powerful statement about the cross and it’s impact. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, a man named Paul, a follower of Jesus wrote these words.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who have been saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV
In other words, what Paul is saying is, some of us, when we hear the story of Jesus and his death and his resurrection will think, This is nothing more than crazy talk. Words of rebels and zealots. The crafting of a system of empty beliefs. Stories created to inspire and provide the hopeless with something to hope for. All the while saying, logically, this doesn’t make sense. A God, born as a baby, grows into a man, to die of a cross, only to leave and empty grave; this is a Savior?
No, it doesn’t make sense. In fact, it’s ridiculous. Absolute foolishness!
Funny, Paul goes on to say that some would say something like that. To the so called wise, it is foolishness. 1 Corinthians 1:23 says that the message of the cross is a stumbling block. That because it sounds so ridiculous it can’t possibly be true.
But for those whom God calls, the foolishness of Jesus’ story, from his stable birth to his crucifixion death to the empty tomb is what leads the believer to life.
And so here I am, a fool, because I have placed my life into the hands of the One who is no longer in the tomb. Why? Because I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and that He came and died for my sins, so that through His resurrection I too may have life.
It’s All About the Gospel…
You see, this Easter is more than the cultural traditions of baskets and bunnies. Easter is about the gospel message of Jesus Christ, and what His death and resurrection means for us. And so what I want to do is to share with you what a man named Peter said when the men of his day thought the story and actions of those who followed Jesus when they appeared to be acting like fools.
About 40 days after Jesus left the tomb, He visited with His followers, then He was taken up into heaven. But He told His followers to stay in Jerusalem and wait because He would be sending someone to them. So they did, and in Acts 2, we read the arrival of the Holy Spirit and what it meant for the followers.
In Acts 2, Jesus’ followers in a room together when the Holy Spirit came upon them. He caused a supernatural event that that startled those in Jerusalem. Those who were in the city heard a great commotion so they went like nosy people do, to see what was happening. But what they saw they couldn’t believe. Jesus’ followers spoke in words and languages that everyone understood regardless of where they were from; all while they were excited about what was happening. But for those watching, it looked more like a spectacle of foolishness, and they assumed that they we drunk.
Then Peter stood up and spoke and said, we’re not drunk, it was only 9:00 in the morning. No, what was happening was from God. And he said, “Let me explain…” Then he told them who Jesus was and is.
Look at these selected verses from Acts 2.
“22 Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22-24 NIV)
“29 Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:29-33 NIV)
“36 Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36-33 NIV)
Peter makes it very clear to the people around him that Jesus, whom they crucified was the One sent by God. And that while they were the ones who screamed for his death, God raised Him from the dead. Jesus was the One God promise to send to the people.
Paul, who I mentioned just a minute ago helps to give us a little more clarity. Not only was Jesus the Messiah, the One God promised to send, but that His death and resurrection had purpose. He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3. “3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins…”
Jesus came to die for the sins of the world.
What was broken in Genesis 3, because of man’s disobedience, is now fixed because Jesus dies.
But its not just that He dies. He is risen. Paul goes on to say, in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22. “20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
You see, if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, death would be the end of the story. That’s it, no more. You die, it’s over. But no, God raised Him from the dead, giving for us a example of what will happen to those who believe and follow Jesus, we too will be raised from the dead. That means, we will be made alive, for ever and ever, with God.
It’s because of Jesus. Easter is all about Jesus. And Jesus is all about the Good News.
The Good News…
So let me break it all down into what I hope is a simple way of saying all of this.
We were created to be in a love relationship with God. But we broke the relationship when we decided to do our own thing. And since that day, we have been continuing to do our own thing. The Bible calls that sin. Any time we seek to do things our way and not God’s way is sin. And the Bible says that the consequences of our sin is death. We will have to die because we sinned.
But because God still loved us and wanted to have a relationship with us, He determined that He would make a way to once again have that relationship. So He sent the one person who could do what God wanted, Jesus.
Jesus lived a perfectly obedient life, doing everything that we couldn’t. He lived the way God wanted Him to live. God made it so that His Son would die in our place. Even though He never did anything wrong, he became the substitute for everyone who did. And instead of you and me dying for our sins, He took upon himself our punishment.
But death was not the end. Because God wants us to live with Him, he had to make Jesus live again. And in doing so, the punishment of death was satisfied and through the risen Jesus life is possible.
But how do we get there?
Well, that’s the easy part. Believe.
Believe that Jesus really is who He says He is. Believe that out of God’s great love Jesus died in your place. And now, there is forgiveness.
Then Receive Him. Receive Him as your Lord and Savior. What does that mean? It means that you no longer live the way you want to live, but instead, you live the way Jesus did; the way God wants you to live.
Do You Get it?
You see, you might be one of the wise guys who thinks, “Ah, I don’t need Jesus. I’m doing just fine on my own. Church? Nah, that’s for the weak and the foolish. I’m good.” And if that’s you, well then, I’m not sure that there is anything I could say that would change your mind.
But if you have been wrestling with a feeling like there has to be something more to all of this, that maybe life has to be more than just this vain existence. That there is an emptiness inside of you and no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to fill it. Then let me just say to you, Get to know Jesus.
Get to know the One who died on the cross for your sins. Get to know the only One who can fill the emptiness you feel in your life.