Summary: On the first Easter Sunday, instead of promises full of emptiness, God gave us emptiness that is full of promise. There are at least three of them—an empty cross, empty clothes, and an empty cave. It is the very fact that each of these is empty that assures us that God’s promises are not.
EASTER: EMPTY PROMISES
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 3/27/2016
I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for choosing to spend Easter morning with us here at the Grove. Whether you’ve been coming to the Grove all your life, or this is your first time visiting, or you just haven’t been back since last Easter—we’re glad you’re here because Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and it’s the capstone in the arch of Christianity.
I heard about a little boy sitting next to his friend at church one Easter Sunday. His friend asked, "How did you get that bruise on your arm?" The boy replied, "I ate some Easter candy." His friend said, "Eating Easter candy won’t give you a bruise." The boy quipped, "It will if it’s your big brother’s candy!"
I heard another one about two brothers who were getting ready to boil some eggs to color for Easter. "I’ll give you ten dollars if you let me break three of these on your head," said the older one. "Promise?" asked the younger. "Promise!" Gleefully, the older boy broke the first egg over his brother’s head, then another one. The younger brother braced himself for the last egg, but nothing happened. "Ain’t ya gonna break the third egg?" the boy asked. His brother replied, "Nah, if I did that I’d owe ya ten dollars!"
Life is full of empty promises like that. Often, if something sounds too good to be true… it probably is. Marketing experts create commercials and advertisements that tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. The government promises that if only we’d support this bill or elect this representative, then everybody would be healthy and wealthy. It doesn’t take long before we have been fooled enough to know that the world’s promises are full of emptiness.
Some people may wonder if the same is true of God. Our God is a God of promises. In fact, the Bible records over seven thousand promises from God to his people. We live in a world of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. We make commitments and don’t follow through. We make plans and promises that we never even intended to keep. Not God. God is different. On the first Easter Sunday, instead of promises full of emptiness, God gave us emptiness that is full of promise.
This morning, I’d like us to think about the promises of Easter. There are at least three of them. Each promise is marked by something empty—an empty cross, empty clothes, and an empty cave. It is the very fact that each of these is empty that assures us that God’s promises are not. First, let’s examine the empty cross.
• THE EMPTY CROSS
If you were to return to the scene of Christ’s execution that Sunday morning, you’d find relics of his death. A braided crown with scarlet tips. Three iron nails covered in dirt and blood. And an empty cross tinged red with the blood of God.
Bizarre, isn’t? The thought that this blood is not man’s blood, but God’s? To think that these nails held your sins to the cross? But that’s what they did.
Sin led Jesus to the cross. Lies. Jealousy. Anger. Betrayal. Not the lies of his accusers, not the jealousy of chief priests, not the anger of the crowd, not the betrayal of Judas. But our sins—our lies, jealousy, anger, betrayal.
A while back my wife noticed our daughter, Sarai, sitting at the table in our living room with a pencil and paper and a look of deep concentration on her face. After several minutes she sat her pencil down, picked up her paper and walked soberly toward her mother. In all seriousness, Sarai said, “Mom, would you like to see my list of sins?” Curiously timid, Ashley took the paper and read the list: “Jacksin, Jaysin, Maysin, Simsin, Carsin…” Sarai giggled uncontrollably.
We all have a list of sins, don’t we? Only our sins aren’t a part of someone’s name. What sins make your list? Is it anger or maybe addiction? It could be pride or prejudice. Perhaps lustful eyes or a lying tongue. Maybe it’s selfishness or sexual promiscuity. My sins may be different from yours, each of us a rather long list.
Every sin on your list comes with a price tag. A lifetime of sin is enough to rack up some major debt in heaven.
You yell at your kids, cha-ching.
You covet your friend’s car, cha-ching.
You envy your neighbor’s success, cha-ching.
You lie, cha-ching.
You lose control, cha-ching.
You give in to temptation, cha-ching.
You doze off during my sermon, cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching.
Further and further in debt. Initially, we might try to repay what we owe. We figure our account balances as long as our good deeds outnumber our bad. But that isn’t the way it works. The Bible tells us: “The payment for sin is death” (Romans 6:23 NCV). Simply put, the cost of your sins is more than you can pay. But the grace of God is more than you can imagine. Do you know God did with your list of sins? Listen to what Paul writes: