- David Schrader, PhD
An Empty Tomb Proves . . .
When the women who followed Jesus arrived at the empty tomb, they found to their amazement that his body wasn't there. The stone had been rolled away and only the grave clothes of Jesus remained. Upon seeing the empty tomb, some Bible translations describes the women's reaction with the words, puzzled, or greatly perplexed.
I cannot imagine what these women must have been feeling but puzzled or perplexed might be putting it lightly. They must have been devastated. They must have wondered, "Was this a cruel ruse by the Romans"? Was the Roman government trying to add insult to injury by removing his body? It was bad enough that they witnessed his crucifixion, now they couldn't even pay their respects at his tomb. His body was gone, and no one knew where it was!
It wasn't until two angels spoke up, that the message of the empty tomb became clear. The angels asked them, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” Then they remembered that he had said this." (Luke 24:5-8).
It must have been an illuminating moment when they remembered the words of Jesus. An empty tomb had been his plan all along. No, it wasn't just the cross that was his purpose – Jesus came to conquer death – and an empty tomb was proof that things would be eternally different.
So, what does the empty tomb of Jesus really mean to all of us in the 21st century?
An Empty tomb proves …
Sin doesn't have the last word in our lives.
We are all guilty of sin. That's the plain and simple truth set out in the Bible – "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). But because Jesus was executed on a cross for us, the full penalty of our sin has been absorbed. The Apostle Peter described it like this, "He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right"(1 Peter 2:24).
Because Christ took our sin upon himself, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). No longer haunted by the guilt of our sins, and no longer condemned, we can be free and forgiven in Christ.
Paul makes an important connection between our forgiveness of sin and Christ's empty tomb. In 1 Cor. 15:16-19 he says, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still guilty of your sins."
Thankfully, the empty tomb proves that we no longer have to bear the guilt of our sins.
Wrongs don't have the last word.
At some point in our lives, we have all known what it feels like to be wronged. We all know the sting of an injustice; and the longing for any restitution or justice we deserve. From the time we were children, no one has ever had to teach us the words, “That’s not fair!” We all knew an injustice when we saw it, especially if we were on the receiving end.
Thankfully, God never gets used to injustices. The empty tomb is his promise that he will overturn every evil intention by bringing true justice into the world. The Apostle Paul said that God would right all wrongs through the resurrected Jesus. Listen to his words in Acts 17:31. "For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”
The empty tomb proves Jesus will have the final word on all injustices.
Suffering doesn’t have the last word.
Many have suffered from the debilitating pain of a chronic illness. Others have watched their loved ones suffer with diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. And there are those who have felt the deep void and pain of losing a loved one.
We cannot escape suffering on this earth; it’s a reality of our fallen and sinful world. But while we suffer here on earth, something better is in store for us – to those who have chosen to follow Jesus. Paul said in Romans 8:18, "The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us."
A little girl was walking with her father in the country. As she looked up into the star-studded sky, her eyes were filled with wonder. Turning to her father she asked, “Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what do you think the right side will be like?”
The resurrection shows us that pain and suffering have an expiration date. The Bible reminds us that, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone" (Rev. 21:4).
The empty tomb proves that Jesus will bring us to a place of great glory and splendor.
Hopelessness doesn’t have the last word.
It was a dark night after the Son of God had been murdered. And while the disciples were hiding in fear from the Roman authorities, God’s plan was already at work. When the disciples went to bed feeling like all their dreams and hopes were gone – the next morning brought a surprising hope – a hope that continues to this day.
The world's hope is temporal. It will not help us. The Apostle John said, "For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave" (1 John 2:15-17).
The things of this world will pass away. We need something greater, something more lasting, yes, something eternal to put our hope in. That hope is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, "God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory" (Col. 1:27)
The Bible says, "We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed" (Titus 2:12-13).
The empty tomb proves a better day is coming, a day when we will see Jesus, face to face.
Death doesn’t have the last word.
When Jesus died, his enemies thought they had spoken the last word over his life, but his empty tomb proved otherwise. Because of that empty tomb, the Apostle Paul was able to look death in the face and say: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? . . . "But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15: 55; 57).
The empty tomb of Jesus proves that the last word in our lives no longer belongs to the powers of darkness. Not our guilt, nor our injustices, not our pain, nor our despair, not even our death can ever separate us from the power and love of Christ revealed on that resurrection morning.
Jesus said to a grieving Martha after the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?" (Jn.11:25-26).
The empty tomb proves that if we live in Jesus and believe in Jesus we will never die but have eternal life with him. Do you believe this reader?
Let me pray for you:
Dear Heavenly Father, the empty tomb proves that your Son is the only one who can break our bondage to sin and calm our fear of death. He is the only one who can give us an everlasting peace. He is the only one who can turn our sadness into joy, our loss into a confident hope.
He accomplished all of this through his death and resurrection. We can take hope in his words that he spoke to his disciples, "Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."
Today Father, I pray for all of those who are reading this blog and to all who haven't placed their trust in your Son. May the empty tomb prove to them that you are the way to forgiveness, the truth that can trusted and the life that will give them eternal hope and life. Amen