This Easter sermon ‘Emptiness full of promises’ brings out three great promise of the empty grave of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We often come across people who are fast to promise but not serious in keeping their promises. We watch TV and read newspapers where the advertisements promise many benefits of a product. Eventually when we do the purchase, we understand a majority of their promises are blown out of proportion. The truth of the matter is that the world is full of empty promises. God never makes a promise that cannot be fulfilled. If God has promised you something it is yes and amen, it will be fulfilled. On the first Easter Jesus emptied many things he was contained in, yet this emptiness is full of promises.
This morning we are going to take a look at the first Easter see some of the promises of Easter.
On Thursday night before Easter Jesus was arrested by the Jewish chief priests and by early Friday morning he was handed over to Pilate for trial. Pilate the Roman official not finding any basis for a charge against Jesus handed him over to Herod, the King of the Jews. Herod too finding no fault in Jesus handed him over back to Pilate. Finally going by mob pressure Pilate sentenced the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus was led outside the city all the way to Golgotha to the place called Skull and crucified on a cross in-between two thieves. Jesus, the son of God died on the cross and was eventually buried in a tomb.
Luke 15:46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
Matthew 27:62-66 62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Saturday being Sabbath no work could be done on the tomb. On Sunday early morning, dawn, even before the sunrise a few of Jesus followers went to the tomb where Jesus was buried. Mark 16:1-2 %1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb.
They have been walking for sometime now. The conversation is subdued. The task before them is a sad one; they are going to anoint the body of Jesus. As they walk out of the city they come to the top of a rise in the path and they all stop. Motionless and quiet, they stare off in the distance.
As you look with them, just outside the city stands a gruesome reminder of the events of just a few days ago. Do you see it? Over there, silhouetted by the glow of the pink sky, on top of the hill there are three crosses. Yesterday was the Sabbath, so nobody had yet removed them. So, there they stand; an empty reminder of the horror of Friday. I want you to see the one that is in the middle, that’s where Jesus was crucified.
Let’s take a closer look at this cross. The cross is baked in blood from top to bottom by the previous day’s sun. The top bloodstains are from the crown of thorns that was crushed into Jesus’ skull. The stains on the ends of the crossbar are from the nails that were driven into his hands. The main beam was soaked in blood from his back – blood that was shed when the Roman soldiers flogged him. It also had stains from the blood that burst from his side when another Roman soldier ran a spear through his side to see if he was dead. Yes, Jesus died on that cross. The Roman soldiers tested and confirmed it. The Jews knew Jesus died. History says Jesus died. The Bible says Jesus died. Jesus died and was buried in the tomb on the very same day of his death. The cross was standing empty now.
1. THE EMPTY CROSS.
The first promise of Easter is an empty cross. Jesus died on the cross and the cross is empty now. The cross is empty of Jesus’ body, but full of God’s promises.
It was on that cross that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. The promise of the empty cross is that you and I stand forgiven. The fact is that we have all sinned and Jesus’ sinless life and blood is the payment for man’s sin.
Romans 3:23-24 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. The only person who has ever lived a sinless life is the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of our sins we deserve God’s punishment – death, “eternal death, also called the punishment of hell after death.” Jesus took our death on the cross. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. Therefore if we believe in Jesus we are saved from eternal death.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
There is no other man or god who has demonstrated this love to give us life. There is no one who died for his people. When Jesus Christ breathed his last, he cried out; “It is finished.” The penalty was paid. On that cross, that empty cross Jesus shed his blood for our salvation. The first promise of Easter is the empty cross – filled with the promise of forgiven sins.
Now, let’s get back to our ladies. After pausing briefly to view the cross, they continue on their way down the path to the tomb. As they go, they are going with questions. Mark 16:3 Just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
They have good reasons to be concerned; the stone that was placed in front of the tomb was a large boulder. Not only that, the Romans had sealed it, so no one was allowed to move it without their permission; moreover, the Roman guards were guarding the tomb. The women are walking with a burden, lot of doubts.
Suddenly, they feel an earthquake! Frightened, they look at each other, not certain what to do. Matthew 28:1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake. After a few minutes, things seem normal so they continue on their way. As they approach the burial site, they are still wondering about what had happened when they come upon something even more remarkable. The soldiers are all standing like statues. The stone has been moved. An angel glowing like lightening is sitting on it. Matthew 28:2-7 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Jesus had risen. Jesus was alive. The tomb was empty.
2. EMPTY TOMB.
The second promise of Easter is an empty tomb.
Illustration: I heard the story of a Sunday School teacher who gave each of her students plastic eggshells. She asked her students to go and find a symbol of life and put it inside the egg and bring with them on Easter. Enthusiastically every child responded and on Easter the eggs were opened with each child explaining the meaning of what they collected to be a symbol of life. In the first egg was a butterfly, second was a flower, third green grass, fourth a seed and so on. The children were curious to see all eggs and would laugh and welcome each symbol of life. In one such egg was a rock which prompted a lot of laughter. Finally, the last egg was opened. It was Philip, a differently able boy coming with his eggshell. As the teacher opened it, there was nothing inside. The teacher upset with Philip as he did not take any interest for the project said to him, “Could you at least not find an ant to put in it?” Philip said. “Madam my symbol of life is an empty tomb. The tomb was empty and so is my eggshell.”
The empty tomb is the promise of the resurrection and the promise to every one of us is that even if we die we too will be raised to life by the resurrection power of God. For all those who trust in Jesus Christ, death is not final because the resurrection power of Jesus will raise us up in the coming of the Lord and we will continue to live with him. There is life after death and those who believe in Jesus will live even if they die because Jesus lives and took the sting of death on him.
Illustration: A father and son were traveling down a country road on springtime when suddenly a bee flew in through the window. As the bee buzzed all round inside the car the boy began to panic as he was scared and allergic to beestings. Seeing the horror on his child’s face, the father covered the son with his jacket and caught the bee in his hand. Within seconds the bee slipped out of his hand and started buzzing again. The son was still terrified of the bee. The father comforted his son telling, “Son, do you know that honeybees can sting only once.” He showed him the bee sting in his palm and said, “Relax, don’t be afraid son. I took the sting; the bee can’t hurt you anymore.”
The empty tomb is God’s way of saying to us; “Relax, my child, I took the sting, death can’t hurt you anymore.” Jesus took the sting of death and sin. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The promise of Easter is that death is not final and we will live in him even though we die.
Let’s get back to our story. After the Angel had spoken to the women, they immediately went back to the Apostles and reported what had happened. With this incredible news, Peter and John immediately raced back to the tomb to see the open tomb for themselves. John 20:2-8 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.
3. EMPTY BURIAL CLOTHES.
The third promise of Easter is the empty burial clothes.
Empty burial clothes could only mean one thing, Jesus was alive! If someone had stolen his body, they wouldn’t have removed the burial clothes and folded them up neatly and left them. Truly, Jesus was resurrected! Jesus then appeared to Mary Magdalene, to all of the Apostles, and eventually to over 500 people before he ascended back to heaven. Jesus sat down with them, walked with them, talked with them, and ate with them.
Once again, they all had fellowship with their Lord Jesus Christ. You see, the promise of the empty burial clothes is that Jesus is alive and wants to have fellowship with you.
Listen, Jesus is not a force influencing people. God has not given just his scripture for us to relate to Him. In Jesus we have a God who desires to have a personal relationship with each one of us, just as he did with his disciples 2000 years ago. The third promise of Easter is the empty burial clothes.
Think about that – the cross couldn’t hold him, the tomb couldn’t contain him, and the burial clothes were unnecessary, because Jesus is alive! The resurrected Jesus talked with people, touched people, loved and healed people and he does it still today. He wants to relate to you today.
Let me ask you do you know Jesus Christ? I am not asking whether you know something about him. Do you know Jesus Christ personally? Knowing Jesus is having a personal, intimate relationship with Him. To know him personally is to invite him into your hearts and living everyday with Jesus, pleasing him. The promise has been made, we have to receive it.
Illustration: Bill was about to graduate from high school. He demanded his dad a car on his graduation day and specified the make and model to dad. Bill was very hopeful that his father would give him a car. On graduation day when he came back home his father handed him a gift. Bill opened it and was very angry with his dad because it was a Bible. He threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again. Bill married and settled down in another state always hating his dad. It was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill back home again. After the burial as he sat one night going through his father’s possessions that he was to inherit, he came across the Bible his father had given him. He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cheque, dated the day of his graduation in the exact amount of the car he had asked his dad.
I wonder how many people in this world have done the same thing to God. Literally tossed aside God’s promises, because they didn’t understand it or they didn’t believe that it was possible. God is not a man to promise and deny it. God’s promises are yes and amen.
Let us see one great promise found in: John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. This morning, if you have never accepted God’s promises for your life, He is waiting for you to receive Him and His promises. Don’t wait another day, do it today, and know the joy of eternal life in Jesus Christ. I trust the Lord will truly bless each on of you this Easter. Happy Easter!