Summary: What one believes about the resurrection of Jesus is "the" most important thing in life.
“The Witness of the Empty Tomb”
In a unique way, Easter morning has always and will always bring us to a crisis of belief. We are introduced to one such occasion of a crisis of belief when upon the death of Lazarus, Jesus spoke some very prophetic words concerning his death and resurrection. Jesus turned to the sister of Lazarus and presented her with a crisis of faith by making a profound statement and asking a crucial question. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26) This question is the core of the Gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Nothing is more important than what you believe about this.
This morning I want us to examine one of the Bible’s eyewitness accounts of what happened on that first Easter – resurrection morning. Turn in your Bible if you would to Matthew chapter twenty-eight and verse one.
“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. (2) And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. (3) His countenance was like light-ning, and his clothing as white as snow. (4) And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. (5) But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. (6) He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (7) And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." (8) So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.”
This morning I want to share with you a very simple outline: two Indisputable facts, two imperative commands and one inescapable conclusion.
First, Two Indisputable Facts.
As one examines what the eyewitnesses discover-ed on the first Easter morning, there are two facts that cannot be disputed.
• The first indisputable fact is that the Tomb is Empty.
The borrowed tomb in which that they had lay the body of Jesus on that Friday evening is now empty. The King of kings, who owns all the cattle on a thousand hills, had so little of this world’s goods, if it were not for the goodness of Joseph of Arimathea, he would not have even had a place to be buried. But Nicodemus and Joseph had gone to Pontius Pilate and requested the body of Jesus be released into their care for burial. Surprised that Jesus was already dead, Pilate granted their request. I want you to note that the fact that tomb was empty seemed to surprise everyone.
The tomb is empty contrary to the Precautions of His enemies (Matt. 27:62-66)
“On the next day, which followed the Day of Prepar-ation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, (63) saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' (64) Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first." (65) Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how." (66) So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.” (Matthew 27:62-66)
His enemies at least seemed to remember that Jesus had say that would rise from the dead after the third day. So the enemies of Jesus went to Pilate and said, “We are afraid that his disciples will come and steal the body of Jesus and then tell everyone that Jesus has risen from the grave. So we would like to post a guard to make sure that does not happen.” I love the response of Pilate to these men, “Go make the tomb as secure as you know how.” I sure that Pilate did not realize how prophetic his words would be. Nevertheless guards were posted to make sure no one stole the body of Jesus.
The tomb is empty contrary to the Expectations of His Friends.
There were a variety of reactions among the friends and followers of Jesus to the news of His death. Some such as Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, and some of the women (Mark 16:1) made plans for and arrangements for his burial, apparently only concerned that His body be properly cared for. Others fled out of fear for their safely. Some gave themselves over to being depressed and sad (Luke 24:17). Some hid themselves and when they heard the news of His resur-rection they refused to believe (Mark 16:9-13).