Summary: The power of the empty tomb
Easter Sunday is a day when preachers have mixed emotions. First, it’s an easy day to preach because you already know what you’re going to speak about. Second, it’s a day of stress and pressure. You know that there will probably be people in your audience who are just there for the day. They’re not quite sure about all of this Jesus stuff. Maybe they’re in attendance because a relative or friend has pressured them to attend.
Whatever the reason for you being here today, I just want to tell you that we are glad you are here. Some of us have been praying for everyone who would be here today. We probably didn’t know your name or who was inviting you but we prayed any way. My prayer has been that the message you are listening to right now will point you to Jesus and relationship with him.
To those early followers into whom Jesus poured his life and work, to those who walked with him and talked with him, his death was the worst thing ever. Their hopes and dreams seemed shattered. They were distraught. They were in despair. They felt empty.
“Empty” when it’s used in reference to these feelings of despair is defined as “meaningless, hollow, vain, feeble, worthless.” Maybe that’s how you feel today. You’re wondering about what life is all about. You’re wondering if there really is a meaning to this earthly existence. You’re skeptical of “quick-fixes” or that there is any true substance to life at all.
I want to share with you today the power of the empty tomb. “Empty” as used in reference to the tomb in which Jesus was laid means “not occupied; vacant; unoccupied; uninhabited.” That’s exactly what happened in 1st century Palestine. Jesus’ tomb was empty – crucified on Friday; raised on Sunday morning.
The first people to the tomb were women who came early Sunday morning to complete the embalming of his body. What did they find? An empty tomb. The news was shared with the eleven remaining men of Jesus’ closest circle. Peter and John ran to tomb and found it empty.
The only thing they could ask themselves was, “What does this mean?”
Jesus appeared to these men in the upper room of a house in which they were hiding. The tomb was empty and Jesus is alive! Luke summarizes the time following Jesus’ resurrection in Acts 1:3 – After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
Following this period of 40 days, Jesus appears for a final time to his disciples. Following a conversation concerning God’s kingdom, Jesus instructs them as to their mission. Acts 1:9-10 –
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come backin the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Like those early followers, we wonder, “What does all of this mean?” To find the answer to that question, we turn to a passage in the Bible written by one of those early followers. How else do we understand the power of the empty tomb except through someone who has “been there, done that?”
His name is Peter. Simon Peter. The man who lived as close to Jesus as possible on this earthly plane. Yet when confronted by others during Jesus’ trial, he denied even knowing Jesus. Between Friday and Sunday, Peter was a miserable man. But the empty tomb brought hope and meaning to all of life.
1 Peter 1:3-9 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.