Summary: The promise given to the disciples so many years ago is available to you this morning, too. And that is the Good News of all eternity. (audio at www.sermonlist.com/2007.html)
MATTHEW 28:1-10 [Read passage]
All around the world this morning, Christians are proclaiming one message, and that message is; “HE HAS RISEN!”
We have been raised in our world to believe that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Most of us have been taken in by “empty promises” and we ended up being suspicious of anyone who tells us we can get something for nothing. After all, we know that there is nothing free in this world, right?
The truth of the matter is the world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and all the commercials tell us we can be happy, or rich, or famous, or good looking if we will only purchase whatever it is they are trying to sell. It never ceases to amaze me at how many people actually send in good money to people they have never met, just because they promised you something in return.
God is the complete opposite of this world, isn’t He? The world says we can pretty much do whatever we want to do, but God says we should only do that which He wants us to. The world gives us promises that are full of emptiness, but on Easter, God gave us emptiness that is full of promise.
This morning is Easter Sunday. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the three promises of Easter. Each promise is marked by emptiness: An empty cross; empty burial clothes; and an empty tomb.
It is the very fact of these being empty that gives us the absolute assurance that God’s promises are very real indeed. Our whole belief system is based upon the fact that Jesus arose from the tomb to defeat death and sin. If Jesus had not come out of that tomb, we would be like every other religion in the world – we would be following a dead leader.
There is the story of a Muslim who came to receive Christ, and when he went back to his friends and family, he found them very upset at him. They demanded to know why he did such a terrible thing.
He asked them, “If you needed to get to a town, but did not know the way, and you were walking down a road that split into two roads, and you found a man standing at the beginning of each road, one dead and the other alive, which one would ask directions from?”
Buddhism was founded by Buddha, but Buddha has died. Judaism was founded by Abraham, but Abraham has died, too. Islam was founded by Muhammad and he also died. But Christianity, the only religion to worship the one true God, was founded by Jesus, and He came back from the grave. And in so doing, He set us free from sin and eternal death, giving us the hope of glory in Heaven for eternity!
1. THE PROMISE OF THE EMPTY CROSS
In your mind’s eye, I want you to look at those three crosses on that hill. Focus in on the one in the middle. That is the one Jesus gave up His life on, for you and for me. Think about what Don told us about a few minutes ago of what they did to Jesus that Friday.
I am not trying to be morbid on this beautiful morning, but I think it is necessary for all of us to be intimately aware of just what Jesus went through for us. We will never appreciate exactly what He did unless we know exactly what He did.
It never ceases to amaze me how we can go to so much trouble thinking up things that could have happened instead of just being honest and accepting what actually did happen. There have been all kinds of stories made up over the centuries so somebody could keep from having to acknowledge the truth of Jesus.
Now, the Roman soldiers were very good at their jobs. They were masters of torture and death. It was their job to break the legs of those hung on the cross so they could not support themselves and they would hurry and suffocate.
Do not think for a moment that they did not have absolute knowledge that Jesus was very dead when they took Him from the cross. The soldiers knew it, the Romans knew it and so did the Jews.
These men were glad Jesus was dead, but when they found out He arose, they needed to keep it quiet from the rest of the people so they wouldn’t realize that Jesus was Christ. So, in MATTHEW 28, we see where they came up with a lie. A lie that covered up the truth about Jesus, and we have been listening to that lie in one form or another ever since.