Summary: beauty can be found in emptiness.
“The Beauty of an Empty Tomb”
At the height of operation Desert Storm, about 25 years ago, parents and loved ones received some of the worst news possible. I recently read the story of one family whose son had been sent into battle-and they received news that his life had been taken. Those kinds of calls are never easy for the Pentagon to make and of course for the parents who receive them they are almost unbearable. One of those messages came to a mom named Ruth. The message was that her son Clayton and stepped on a landmine in Kuwait and was killed. She said she wept for three days straight. She was angry. She felt empty. She said the loss was simply too much. Three days later the phone rang again-and the voice on the other end said, mom, it’s me... It’s Clayton. I’m alive. She could hardly believe it. She said, I laughed... I cried; I felt like turning cartwheels because my son who I thought was dead was actually alive.
This morning we come to a story that is similar. The disciples and family members and other followers had all witnessed the death of Jesus. There could be no mistake about it. He had faced 39 lashes at the hands of the Romans. Spikes had been driven through both his wrists and his feet. Some died from the beating alone. A spear was thrust into his side and he had hung on the cross for six hours. From 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock that day. After they made certain that he was dead, they took him from the cross and his body was prepared for burial. A tomb had to be borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea and a man named Nicodemus came and prepared his body for burial in the tomb. The body would then be washed. Nicodemus anointed the body with spices and the body was wrapped tightly, hands and feet were bound with strips of linen and his face was covered with a cloth. This was all according to the tradition of the Jews.
Some of you have faced the death of a loved one this year. Others will before the year is gone. It is a fact of life that we would like to ignore but we cannot. All of us will have to face death at some time. Our own or that of someone we love dearly. Solomon tells us in the Old Testament: Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a… But the fact that we will all face death offers very little comfort. The truth of the matter is this: one of the most common fears we face today is the fear of death. It has been that way for thousands of years; really since the beginning of time, man has feared death. Hebrews chapter 2 speaks to this. It was recognized 2000 years ago that man had this fear of death and some are held in slavery all their lives, because of it. But notice closer what the Scripture says-Jesus came to free us from that fear: one of the reasons Jesus went to the cross was so that you and I would not have to have this fear. Actually it’s not hard to imagine where this fear comes from.
1. The loss of family and friends close to us. We watch a loved one go through the process and we ask questions. Will they be in pain? Am I now going to be alone? What’s next for them?
2. The fear of the unknown. Death makes us feel that we are not in control and the truth is we are not. These things are in God’s hands.
3. Fear of what we will leave behind. Or not leave behind. Will our families be able to cope? Will they be able to handle the financial burden?
4. Fear of Regret. Have we done all that we could? What will we be remembered for? Or will anyone even care? Here’s the good news. The Scripture speaks to this fear.
So let’s look at some things we need to understand about death.
(1) We will not be alone when we die. Jesus said I will never leave you. He said I am with you always. The very one who conquered death will walk through the process with us.
(2) Actually we know more about death than we may realize. We don’t have to be in the dark about this subject. The Bible has verse after verse, chapter after chapter dealing with death and what life will be like after death. In fact I was going to list all the passages in Scripture where there is a reference to death-list them all the back of your sermon notes so I went to the concordance and I realized that it would take 114 pages print it all out. 114 pages. So you’ll just have to read the book.