Summary: Three promises of Easter: Empty Cross - the forgiveness of sins, Empty Tomb - eternal life, Empty Burial Clothes - personal relationship with Jesus.
Tomb, You shall not hold Him longer,
Death is strong, but life is stronger
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and hope triumphant say; Christ will rise on Easter Day.
While the patient earth lies waiting
Till the morning shall be breaking
Shuddering beneath the burden dread
Of her Master, cold and dead,
Hark! she hears the angels say; Christ will rise on Easter Day.
And when sunrise smites the mountains
Pouring light from heavenly fountains
Then the earth blooms out to greet
Once again the blessed feet;
And her countless voices say; Christ has risen on Easter Day.
(Author: Phillips Brooks)
I recently came across this story, it was told by “Dear Abby” in a response to someone’s question.
A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. "Bill’ and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car.
On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house.
He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill home again.
As he sat one night going through his father’s possessions that he was to inherit, he come across the Bible his father had given him.
He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier’s check, dated the day of his graduation - in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together.
As I thought about this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in this world have done the same thing to God. Literally tossed aside a wonderful promise, because they didn’t understand it, or they didn’t believe that it was possible.
In our world, we are taught that; “if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.” So many of us have been taken in by “empty promises,” that we are leery of anything or anyone that tells us we can have something for nothing.
THE WORLD SIMPLY DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY!
But, you know what – God does – God never made a promise that was too good to be true.
The truth of the matter is, the world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and the advertisements tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. It doesn’t take long before we have been fooled enough to know that the world’s promises are full of emptiness. But, God is different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, on Easter, he gave us emptiness that is full of promise.
This morning, I would like us to think about the promises of Easter. There are three of them. Each promise is marked by something empty. An empty cross, and empty tomb and empty burial clothes. It is the very fact that each of these is empty that assures us that God’s promises are real. Because they couldn’t hold Jesus, because he couldn’t be contained by the cross, the tomb, or even his burial clothes, we can be sure of the fullness of God’s promises in our lives.
1. The Empty Cross.
Let’s begin with the empty cross. Because the cross was empty, we have the promise of forgiven sins.
Let’s go back, if we can, to that 1st Easter Morning. It is early morning – dawn – but the sun has not risen. A few of Jesus followers – women – are on their way to a tomb. It is the tomb where Jesus was buried. They have been walking now for about ½ hour. The conversation is subdued. The task before them is a sad one. They are going to anoint the body of Jesus. As they come to the top of a rise in the path, they all stop. Motionless and quiet, they stare off in the distance.
As you look with them, look off to the right, just outside the city stands a gruesome reminder of the events of just a few days ago. Do you see it? Over there, silhouetted by the glow of the pink sky, on top of the Hill the locals call, “The Skull.” 3 Crosses.
Yesterday was the Sabbath, so nobody had yet removed them. So, there they stand, an empty reminder of the horror of Friday.
The one in the middle, that is the one that I want you to see. That’s the one that Jesus hung on.
Take a close look at it. Look up at the top – those bloodstains are from the crown of thorns that was crushed into Jesus’ skull. The stains on the ends of the crossbar – they came from the nails that were driven into his hands. The main beam – it was soaked in blood – blood from his back – blood that was bled when the Roman soldiers beat him with a cat-of-nine-tails. It also has stains from the blood that poured from his side when another Roman soldier ran a spear through his side to see if he was dead – HE WAS.