Summary: An Easter message focused upon the veracity of the Easter story.
THE TESTIMONY OF AN EMPTY TOMB
Have you ever seen an old empty house in a deserted neighborhood? Perhaps the doors stand ajar, sagging on hinges, loosened by the ravages of weather and time. Have you noticed the vacant stare of glassless windows? If you paused to listen you could almost hear the loud and boisterous cries of generations of happy children that once echoed from its walls and filled its now silent emptiness.
If you pause and consider long enough, your mind’s eye might conjure up visions of familiar and nostalgic scenes of yesteryear. Of family circles unbroken. Of those that once gathered for joyous festive family feasts. Or of the tragic and traumatic events that changed things forever for those who once sheltered there. Of ordinary and natural happenings that led to its now sad and silent state.
If its walls could speak, what tales might be told of the terrible tragedies or thrilling triumphs that were played out there? What testimony could they give to the human conditions of sorrow and sadness and love, joy, happiness?
In a land faraway there is a tomb with silent walls as well. If that tomb could speak to us what would it say? What would it tell us of the terrible, tragic and thrillingly triumphant events that transpired there some two thousand years ago? What would its testimony be? What is the testimony of the empty tomb today?
THE EMPTY TOMB TESTIFIES OF A TERRIBLE TRAGEDY TRANSFORMED INTO A TREMENDOUS TRIUMPH. This is the testimony trumpeted by that grand old hymn of the faith:
"Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Saviour! Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord! Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
He arose a victor from the dark domain. And He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He Arose Hallelujah! Christ arose!"
There can be no doubt that those who were His closest followers were those most deeply and adversely effected by the tragic and traumatic events of His passion. We are repeatedly told in the gospels of the doubt, fear and perplexity that overwhelmed them. Even before the events truly began to come to pass, Jesus tried to prepare them for the shock and horror they would face on His crucifixion day. He reassured them that the power of God would turn the apparent tragedy into a glorious triumph. He said, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt. 12:40) " Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19)
But it seems as the fullness of time drew near, it became increasingly clear that they did not really understand His words. As their doubt and fear increased, He continued to lovingly ready them for their time of testing and tragedy. (See John 14:1-10)
On the evening preceding His crucifixion it became increasingly apparent that in the eyes of the world and even in the eyes of His followers, a great human tragedy was unfolding.
Mark 14:50-51 "And they all forsook him, and fled. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about [his] naked [body]; and the young men laid hold on him:"
Luke 23:48-49 "And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things."
It is clear that those of the watching and waiting world felt they were witnessing an unsurpassed tragedy. His disciples in particular were clearly crushed and confused. How could this happen to their Master? Had they believed in vain? Had such terrible evil evidently and ultimately triumphed over goodness and Godliness?
Then comes the triumphant cry of the angel, "He is not here, He is risen!"
THE EMPTY TOMB TESTIFIES TO THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL. Is the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ fact or fiction? Is the central tenant of the Christian faith an authentic and validated belief or is a fanciful figment of the imagination of those who yearn for immortality? If it is mere myth, then not only is the reason for this season a sham and charade, but those who are deluded by the grand hoax are of all people the most miserable.
Paul sums up the result of such a gigantic hoax in these words: "But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (I Cor. 15:13-19)