Summary: The Resurrection of Jesus and His empty tomb are the hingepoints of our Christian belief system. Without them, it is all for nothing!
Empty or Full? It Does make a difference!
There are four major Religions and thousands of smaller ones in this world today. The four largest are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, & Hinduism. Of these and all the others, only one claims a living God, a living Savior, a Hope for Eternity, Sins forgiven…..Christianity. Only one boasts that its God came to earth, lived among us, died for the sins of humanity, and rose again…Christianity. Only one has the evidence to back such a statement/belief up. Only one is undeniably true…Christianity. So, it begs the question then, does it make a difference whether the tomb of Jesus was empty or full on that first Sunday morning after his crucifixion on Friday? You bet it does! 1 Corinthians 15 is a powerful, very powerful proclamation by a very powerful man (the Apostle Paul), declaring that if it was not empty…he and everyone else who believes this stuff are liars, charlatans, false, and everyone who believes them are lost, dammed, condemned and stupid. Now, I must tell you that the Christian faith and message is based solely on this reality…that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, just as he said he would. All other factors connected to this Palestine peasant preacher/prophet/carpenter, are superficial in comparison, and in fact worthless, without this one truth. In our postmodern, post-christian, post-belief era, many seekers after truth, are not all that concerned with this one. Oh, they are quite concerned with Jesus…great teacher, healer, etc., but even among Christians, only 72% believe he actually rose from the dead…how can 28% believe that it doesn’t matter? Listen, your relationship to God is attached irreversibly to this event we call Easter. It cannot be any other way. In fact, without it, the whole Christian faith/believe system comes crashing down like a house of cards. There are many things about this Jesus that we could argue over, and which really don’t matter…what he looked like, his skin colour, his hair length, his exact date of birth, etc…but this one thing is unarguable! This is the hinge-point, the corner-stone, the focal point of our faith, hope and security in God. John, the beloved disciple is absolutely meticulous about getting the facts right, providing extensive descriptions of the events of Christ’s death and burial and resurrection. He leaves no stone unturned, nothing out. It must be convincingly told and retold as he remembers it happening. He knows the importance of all of this. We have remembered on Good Friday, by revisiting and retracing the steps of Jesus on his journey to the Cross in John 18-19. From crossing the kidron valley to Judas’ betrayal with a kiss and a bag of coins, to his arrest and appearance before Annas and Caiphas and the kangaroo court he endured, to Peter’s denial, to his appearance before Pilate who washed his hands of him, to the flogging, to the carrying of his cross all the way along the via dela rosa up to Golgotha, to being brutalized as he was hung on tat cross to die between two thieves, to his final words and eventual death, to his burial in a borrowed tomb by Joseph of Arimathis and Nichodemus and others, to his tomb being guarded by Roman soldiers….and there we left the story…unfinished, incomplete! The end of the road for Jesus…some thought…no more traveling these dusty Palestinian roads stirring people up with God talk…so we think. But we must finish the story this morning…it cannot be left incomplete…no half-truths will do…we can no more leave Jesus in the tomb than we can claim to have a relationship with God without him. That would be a lie as Paul says so emphatically in 1 Cor. 15. These two events separated by the Darkness of a Friday night, a Saturday, and an early Sunday morning must be joined. Paul the great apologist/defender of the faith, makes this an argument worth fighting over, and winning. It cannot be taken for granted. It cannot be overlooked. It cannot become unnecessary; it cannot be left to speculation. It must be a reality. We cannot become indifferent because God certainly is not indifferent about it.
God is not indifferent because sin is alive and well on planet earth, fully engaged in the destruction of his best work, and every single person alive, ever born, will ultimately die of this dreaded concoction, this disease. Dr. Karl Menninger, a noted Psychiatrist wrote a ground-breaking book back in 1973, entitled “What Ever Became of Sin?” The sub-title reads, “In this classic volume, a world-famous psychiatrist offers HOPE for our troubled times.” “Ethics,” he says is once again a burning issue…beginning with ourselves.” And here I thought all along that this was the Classic volume (BIBLE) which offers HOPE for our troubled times. Dr. Menninger does an excellent job of outlining the nature of sin…as h says, its not a mistake we make, it is not someone else’s fault, it is not poor upbringing, or bad education, but the fallen nature of a sick humanity…Hell bent on destroying itself. But his conclusions on how to overcome this sin problem are all wrong. We can pull ourselves up…we can take responsibility and make ourselves better, he says…and you know what, all of the OTHER major religions of this world believe just that, as well as Oprah and Dr. Phil. If that were true, then why on earth did God send his one and only son down here? Why Good Friday? Why Easter? Does the Resurrection of Jesus really matter then? Interestingly, 20 years before Karl Menninger wrote this “ground-breaking” book on SIN, Billy Graham, the young Evangelist, wrote “Peace With God”. In it, be too talks about sin…a terrible Fact is what he calls it. But, unlike Karl Menninger, Buddha, Muhammed, Oprah, or Dr. Phil, he says the answer lies in Jesus Christ, his coming to earth, his death, and and his Resurrection. Luke 19:10 says, “The son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”…you and me. Isa. 53:1-6…. Romans 5:38…