Summary: the empty tomb proves death is not the end
HE IS RISEN!
Have you ever heard of a man named Harry Houdini? He died in October of 1926, but Harry Houdini’s claim to fame was that he was a magician and an excellent escape artist. Houdini was said to have the flexibility of an eel and the nine lives of a cat. They did all kinds of things to trap him; they would seal him in coffins and he would escape. They riveted him in a boiler and he would escape. They sewed him up in canvas bags and he escaped. They locked him into a high security, maximum prison and somehow, Old Harry still got out. He had once told his wife, when he was talking about death, “If there is any way out. I will find it. If there is any way out, I will find you and I will make contact with you on the anniversary of my death.” After Harry’s death, for 10 years, his wife kept a light burning at the bottom of his portrait. And after 10 years, she turned out the light. Death had laid its hands on Harry Houdini and he could not escape.
Death also laid its hands on the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth after an excruciatingly painful torture, He died and was laid in a rock-hewn tomb. And today, we celebrate the reality that on the third day, Jesus arose from the sleep of death and was resurrected. Jesus left those grave clothes behind and passed through the walls of that tomb.
Harry Houdini was an ordinary man; although he was an escape artist, he could not escape the inevitability of death. None of us can, even Jesus of Nazareth.
But Jesus was different – not only was He human, but He was also the anointed and enlightened Son of God. He had come into the world to teach us, to show us how to cast off our destructive and hurtful actions and choices and to live a life that will never die. He was not an ordinary man.
And because He was not an ordinary man, he could suffer crucifixion, die and YET rise from the dead. That is one special person, and He did it all for us.
What he taught and then did for us was prove that Death is not the end. There is something wonderful and beautiful after our deaths. We came from God and we shall return to God.
DEATH IS NOT THE END - His empty tomb gave hope to the world; we will not have to die into a bottomless pit, where there is nothingness.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And maybe a little hard to fully comprehend.
If so, you are not alone. Lots of people, good Christians, have a problem with the concept of the resurrection. In our physical world, anyone who has been dead for three days without any embalming would begin to putrefy and stink. Yet the Scriptures say nothing about that; they just say that
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. (Luke 24:20-3)
When the heavenly messengers first announced the news of Jesus' resurrection (Luke 24:4-5),
no one said, "Praise God" or "Hallelujah," let alone, "I knew it -- just like he said!" Not a single one of Jesus' disciples at first believed the report of his resurrection. They didn’t remember that Jesus had told them:
"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19)
In one Gospel the women flee the tomb in terror and silence, and in another when the women do tell what they've seen, the men dismiss their testimony as "a crazy story." In all four gospel accounts, it appears that the natural response to the resurrection was doubt, fear, and bewilderment.
Why were they afraid, or worse, not believing?
Living beyond death is, quite literally, incredible -- that is, not believable. Resurrection isn't simply a claim that Jesus' body was resuscitated; it's the claim that God created a new reality all together. Which, quite frankly, can be frightening.
Resurrection from the dead breaks all the rules we know about life. The reality that death is not the end of life threatens the powers-that-be, the authority figures. Think about it: power and authority usually exist by the fear that they can take away life. If their "victims" live beyond death, the whole power-through-fear manipulation has no effect.
I also think we have glamorized and misunderstood the nature of religious faith. While some religious leaders may expound that perfect faith conquers all doubt, biblical authors believed that faith and doubt are actually woven closely together. Doubt, questions, even downright skepticism, these aren't the opposite of faith, but an essential part of faith. Faith isn't knowledge; rather, faith is