Summary: Because of the Resurrection of Jesus we have an open tomb, open gospel, open witness, and open Heaven.
A few weeks ago I saw this cartoon in a Christian newspaper, and it jumped out at me that this would be my Easter sermon! I didn’t know how I would use it, but I knew the Spirit would give me a sermon to go with it. For our radio listeners who can’t see the cartoon on our multimedia screen: Cartoonist Joe McKeever has drawn a group of tourists looking at the Garden tomb in Jerusalem. It’s an open tomb where the stone door has been rolled away. Their guide says, "The angel moved the stone to reveal an empty tomb and a risen Christ. Ever since, man has been trying to roll that stone back!" How true that is!
Our world today denies and scoffs at the idea that Jesus arose from the grave. The miraculous stories of the Bible that were our forefathers’ foundations of faith are now considered myths by an "enlightened" society. Satan must really be gloating as he thinks he has undermined the Bible, after God said his Word will stand forever. But, I remind us that the Almighty has the last word!
Listen to what Jesus said in Revelation 3:8, and then turn to Matthew’s account in 28:1-2. You’ll want to stand in honor of God’s Word.
"Maybe it’s time we reconsider what it means to be intelligent," says David Brooks of the Weekly Standard. After the Presidential election was so close that it had to be decided by the chads from Florida ballots and confirmed by the Supreme Court, many people questioned the experience and intelligence of George W. Bush to lead our country. Many so-called political experts called Bush the "simple-minded president." Now, commentators are saying Bush has something the pointy-heads can’t understand: It’s his faith! George Bush said in confident humility, "Maybe God has chosen me for this moment in time....A lot of (our soldiers) told me they had been sustained by prayer, (and had) been comforted by the Almighty during what had to have been very difficult times....Prayer is powerful." So, if faith seems unintelligent to you, remember that the Bible says, "The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men."
I call my sermon for Easter Sunday, 2003, "God’s Open Door." Follow my outline and the various texts I mention. I want you to notice four things that are still open today because that first Easter was real.
I. THE TOMB IS OPEN, Matthew 28:5-7
First, after viewing this year’s wonderful 13th season of the Petersburg Passion Play, you know the tomb is open. Listen to Matthew 28:5-7, "The angel said to the women, ’Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him.’ Lo, I have told you."
The angel who rolled back the stone didn’t open the tomb to let Jesus out. Jesus is God against whom no locked door can stand. He later proved he could pass through walls when he materialized before his disciples in the Upper Room that same night. The angel opened the tomb to let us see inside!
If you visit Gordon’s Calvary in Jerusalem today, you’ll seen an unfishished tomb. It was obviously a rich man’s tomb set in a garden; but, for some reason, he didn’t finish his tomb after only one burial slab was cut out of the rock inside. Could it be because someone so important was buried in that tomb that the owner never finished it and never used it for his family? On the side of that tomb today you can see a small cross that was chiseled into the tomb’s rock face hundreds of years ago.
That tomb is near a place outside the city wall where the rocks take the shape of a skull. The tomb of Joseph was said to be very close to Calvary. So, all the evidence points to the fact that the hill and tomb British General Gordon discovered are the true sites. If that’s so, I wonder if the angel who originally rolled the stone door away is still sitting invisibly on that stone to keep the tomb open today.
The Jewish leaders who crucified Jesus tried to roll the stone back over the empty tomb by bribing the soldiers to say his disciples stole his body away while they slept. Not only is that a lame excuse, since no one would dare tamper with the Roman seal on that tomb, especially with a centurion and 100 men nearby. But, also, if the soldiers were asleep; how did they know who stole the body?