What Wonderous Love – When Taking Back His Life

Based on: Matthew 28:1-10

Dear Fellow Recipients of God’s many blessings, made certain for us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Perhaps it has happened to you before. It was late at night or a holiday and there was something you needed—medicine or groceries or maybe your gas tank is close to empty.  You go from place to place hoping to find what you need but every store you go to, but they are closed.  Finally, you come to a store and the neon sign that says “OPEN” is lit up or maybe it is a plastic sign in the window – in either case you can finally get what you need.  That “OPEN” sign can bring joy or at least a feeling of relief.

Think of those women on their way to the tomb.  These women weren’t really expecting the tomb to be open, nor did they expect to find anything at the tomb that they needed, but the open tomb did bring them great joy as they found exactly what they needed most.  

As God reveals to us through the pages of Scripture, that tomb was opened for all the world to see that it was empty.  And because the tomb was open and empty now the gates of heaven are open for all the world to enter.

In the early hours of the morning, the women came to the tomb of Jesus. What were they thinking as they walked along the dusty path?   Imagine the doubts and fears they must have had?  Think of how they must have been in low spirits, even depressed.

Jesus was their friend.  They called him teacher and Lord.  They believed he was the Messiah.  Now what was going to happen?  The future seemed uncertain.  And what about the past?  Was the time they spent with Jesus a waste?  On Friday they watched as the rulers of Israel and the Romans slowly drained the life out of Jesus.  Now on top of all that they had to worry about who would roll the stone away from the tomb so they could finish the process of preparing his body for burial.  They were not expecting the tomb to be open.

However, the Bible tells us: “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay’” (verses 1-6).

Yes, the tomb was open. The angel had come to roll back the stone. It was not to let Jesus out but, rather, to show that Jesus was not there. He was gone. He had risen from death.

An open, empty tomb is not what the women expected to see. However, the empty tomb and the message inside was exactly what they needed. They got more than a neon sign that said, OPEN. They were met by the angels of heaven themselves—angels who brought them the news “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (verse 6).  What do you think that news must have done to their doubts, fears, and their low spirits?

Dear Christian, do you ever have doubts?  Are you ever afraid?  Do the cares of life bring you down – even cause you to be depressed?  Then go to the tomb!  God calls everyone to come to the tomb – the weary, the lost, the frustrated, the discouraged, all who wander on this earth searching for the meaning to life or for shelter from the storms of this earth. As we read Scripture we travel to the open tomb and we go inside; here we find that our Savior is not dead, but alive.  This good news is the answer to all of our problems.

But Satan and this world do not want you to go to the open tomb.  They try to seal the tomb and post guards so that you cannot go there.  They don’t want you to have this joy.  The world world will try to convince you that work or money or hobbies or other pleasures are the answer to your problems – not God’s Word.  Satan will lead you to believe that reading the Bible is boring – that you can get along just fine without it – that you have better things to do with you time.  Don’t let them fool you.

We want to hear the Easter message over and over again.  We want to go to the open tomb and hear those precious words, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”  We know what that means!  We know that because the tomb was open and empty,  the gates of heaven are also open for all to enter.

At the open tomb of Jesus, God says to sinners, one and all, that he has accepted the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. Every person who ever lived, or ever will live, is invited to the open tomb to be assured that Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, has now risen from death to prove that God has accepted the death of his Son as sufficient payment for all sins. He proved that everything he promised is true.

Those women were carrying the grief of the crucifixion and the seeming loss of all they hoped for in a Savior, they were weary and discouraged. They were ready to settle for anointing the dead body of the man they had come to love. Instead, they were filled with unspeakable joy in the hope of their risen Savior. All the blessings they thought had fled from them suddenly were theirs. In their astonishment it did not all become crystal clear in a moment. But as they were able to ponder the words of the angels and to reflect on the promises Jesus had made before his death, they found everlasting hope and comfort. They were able to lay down the burden of their sin and embrace the eternal joys set before them. For Jesus had not only left the tomb wide open for all the world to see, but he also opened the gates of heaven for all the world to enter.

You see, that is what the resurrection is all about. The open tomb teaches us that heaven is now open to us. By rising from death, Jesus shows us that the grave cannot hold us any longer.

By paying for our sins, Jesus has also freed us from the curse of sin, which is death. He promises that just as he rose from death, so shall we. On the Last Day, when he returns, the Lord Jesus will call our bodies forth from the grave. What’s more, Jesus promises that even here and now, through faith in him, we have been raised from spiritual death to spiritual life. Jesus promised, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). He also says: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). We have eternal life, which began the moment we became children of God through faith in Jesus. We have been reborn spiritually. And this eternal life, which begins here and now in this life, will last even into eternity, where someday it will be accompanied by a physical resurrection. And we shall live with Christ, body and soul, in heaven forever.

The angel at the tomb told the fearful women: “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you” (verse 7). Suddenly the plan was put into motion. With the first proclamation of the news at the tomb, the women went on their way to begin the task of proclaiming the message: Jesus Christ is risen!

That is a privilege that we have today – having seen the open tomb and having heard the incredible message with all that it means for us, we can go and tell a family member, coworker, neighbor, friend.  They too have doubts, fears, questions,

We are all looking for something today. That’s why we are here. We seek assurance, comfort, and hope. Therefore, today Jesus invites us, one and all, as weary souls to come to the empty tomb. There the message for all the world to see is that the tomb is OPEN! It is empty, because Jesus Christ has risen indeed. And because he has risen, heaven’s gates also stand wide open for us all.

What joy will be ours in days to come. Jesus Christ is risen, just as he said. He has gone ahead of you into heaven. There you will see him.  

Amen.

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