Based on: John 20:1-8
Place yourself into this scenario: It is early in the morning and sadness overwhelms you. Your heart aches because a few days ago a close, personal friend died. It was all very unexpected. He has been buried now and you are mourning the loss. The fact that you will not see him again is still sinking into your mind.
Suddenly, someone comes to you and tells you that your friend’s grave has been disturbed, vandalized in a way. And not simply desecrated, but someone has taken the body of your friend. The cemetery isn’t far away so you go to see for yourself. You walk at first and then start running.
As you go you start to think about your friend’s death. You start to think about others who have died. The idea of death strikes you in a way it never has before. You realize that you don’t know anyone who was around much more than 100 years ago. All the people that have lived on this earth since creation have died. Even when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead it wasn’t permanent. He only got a short reprieve from death. You realize how the odds are not in your favor. The chances are pretty good that your body will one day end up in a casket or urn – cold and still. In fact, the chances that your body will be emptied of its soul are exactly 100%.
The cold reality of your own death hits hard and you shudder on the way to your friend’s grave. Your death may come violently or peacefully, soon or far in the future, but it will come.
Then what happens? The doubts come flooding through your mind. Are you going to meet your creator? Will someone judge the life you have lived here on earth. Have you, all your life, been ignoring the one person to whom you must answer for your life?
The thought of facing someone who has seen your entire life and will pass judgment on your entire life is terrifying. Or, at least it should be! There is something inside of you that tells you that he will not be pleased with some of the things that you have done.
Before the death of your friend you did not think about death. In a way you have lived as if you would not die. You went about your life, setting your priorities, doing what you wanted to do. Yes, yes, perhaps you also helped family and friends along the way, but for the most part your life has been focused on you. Perhaps you gave little thought to the priorities your creator wanted – the one who would one day judge you. No, death is just not on your mind most of the time, but sometimes God forces you to think about it, as he does with the death of a loved one.
It is a truly terrifying thing to know you are going to die and to realize that you are not ready for what comes after death.
Finally, you get to the grave and the rumor you heard is true. The grave is open and the body is gone. Why? Why would anyone take a dead body out of it’s grave? Perhaps you can think of some reasons, but none of them are good ones.
How selfish and self-centered people can be! They desecrate this grave to satisfy their own desires, not thinking or not caring about the people they hurt. People being selfish, that’s all it is. That’s really the root cause of so much of the suffering in this world – people satisfy their own needs and wants and sometimes don’t think about how they hurt others in the process.
As you think about the many ways people have hurt you, your mind opens and you begin to see how you have hurt others. Maybe you didn’t intend to, but you were so wrapped up in what you needed or wanted that you didn’t think about the pain you caused others. To think that you will be judged for all the hurt you have caused in this world is suddenly more terrifying.
But look again at where the body of your friend used to be. The strips of cloth that were wrapped around his body are all there! Why? If someone wanted to take the body they wouldn’t waste time unwrapping the body here. And look at the cloth that was around his head. It was folded, neatly folded, separate from all the rest. Would a thief take time to do that? No, something quite different happened here.
It comes back to you slowly at first, but then more quickly. You remember that this person you loved, Jesus, said some things before he died. It comes back to you that Jesus even said he was going to die and it happened just as he said. There was something else. You didn’t understand at the time, but he said he would come back to life. That, too, happened just as he said. No thief, no disciple, no enemy of Jesus took the body. Jesus himself took back his own body. He is risen. He is risen indeed!
Standing at the tomb that Sunday morning, you notice the sun growing higher in the sky. The morning light gets brighter you begin to see more clearly. The darkness is leaving.
You remember that just last week Jesus handed out bread and said “this is my body” and passed around some wine and said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” He said this was for the forgiveness of sins. It was all very confusing at the time, but now you see. He was going to offer his body and blood as payment for your sins. The empty tomb means Jesus succeeded in paying for your sins. He made you right with God. Now whenever you celebrate that meal of Jesus’ body and blood you receive the forgiveness he paid for. And not just at that meal, but by faith in Jesus as your Savior you live in that forgiveness.
All those selfish sins are wiped away. The hurt you have caused others is forgiven by God. You will not be judged on the basis of your sin because Jesus was already judged for your sins. He took your sins to the cross and to the tomb and when he left the tomb your sins stayed behind. God looks at you and he sees a perfect life. There is no need to fear death. There is no need to fear an angry judge or fear your creator after death.
Jesus even said, “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.” You have eternal life even now. Your soul lives with God and will always live with God. You now know that one day your soul and body may separate. Some call that death, but you realize that even if your body dies death can not hold on to you. It must let you go. On the last day Jesus will give life to your body just as he came back to life. It is his sure and certain promise, “Because I live, you also will live.”
You believe. You believe that the empty tomb means Jesus kept his promise to come back to life. You believe that his resurrection means your resurrection will come. Certainly, some things still aren’t quite clear. It will take a lifetime, an eternity in fact, to fully understand all this empty tomb means for you, but because the tomb is empty you will have that eternity. He is risen. He is risen indeed!