Summary: The empty tomb can not bring peace. Only the resurrection of Jesus bring peace to the human heart, assuring us of forgiveness and eternal life.
In Jesus Holy Name
Redeemer Lutheran April 30, 2006
Text: Luke 24:36-38 Easter III
“Can An Empty Tomb Bring Peace?”
Can an empty tomb bring peace? Technically the answer is “NO”. All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tell us that the grave, where the body of Jesus was placed after his death, was empty on Sunday morning.
Mary Magdalene’s first reaction to an empty tomb was overwhelming grief. In the Gospel of John we read: “Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look in the tomb. . . .” When the angels asked her why she was crying, she said– “they have taken my Lord away. I don’t know where they put the body”. (pause) She thought the gardener had taken the corpse and placed it elsewhere.
Both Peter and John ran to the tomb. They, too, had looked in the tomb but only saw the linen shroud that had been covering the body of Jesus – but there was no body.
Even the enemies of Jesus admitted that the tomb had been robbed of its body and it was empty. They spread the rumor that the disciples had absconded with the body of Jesus during the night. (pause) The opponents of Jesus did not deny the body gone. They did not see the empty grave as an action of God.
An empty tomb, a burial shroud left behind, can not in and of themselves bring peace to one’s heart regarding humanity’s basic two (2) problems:
1) How can I find peace with God? broken commandments bring alienation. 2) Is there life beyond the grave?
The tomb is empty! This is not the message of Christianity. He is risen! He is risen indeed! This is the experience and message from the disciples. If there was no resurrection from death there would be no Christian church today.
The Apostle Paul writes: “Jesus our Lord was put to death for our trespasses, raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). When the women who were near the cross on Friday arrived at the burial plot of Jesus, they experienced an earthquake and an empty tomb. They also heard an angel say: “He is not here” – He is risen.”
In the New Testament, the empty tomb proves nothing. The view of the empty tomb only resulted in fear, trembling and worry. It is the appearances of the risen Jesus that are most important.
In I Corinthians 15, Paul writes: The risen Jesus appeared to Peter, James, to all the apostles, to me and to more than 500 at one time, most of whom …..were still alive when Paul wrote this letter 25 years later. The Gospel of Matthew reports the appearance of the risen Jesus to the women and to the apostles. Luke reports the appearance of the risen Jesus to several women, to Cleopas, Peter, and the eleven disciples.
In spite of all the centuries of human experiences, that death was the end of human life, the Christian message from the lips of these disciples was clear. “Do you believe that there is a God who has power over death? And God raised Jesus from death. Of course we know that when Paul spoke of the resurrection from the death in the streets of Athens, many people laughed.
Luke tells us that the Jewish authorities were really upset “greatly disturbed because the apostles were proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. The heart of their sermons was “you killed him. God raised him, and we are witnesses” ( John Stott, The Contemporary Christian p. 70)