On the day that Jesus died on the cross, it seems that the hopes and dreams of His disciples were crushed. Their teacher had been killed. Judas, one of their own, had betrayed Him and now he was also dead. The crowds that once had flocked to Jesus were no longer around. The events of the last few days had been traumatic, perplexing, and trying for the disciples. And yet on the first day of the week following His death, word began to circulate among the faithful few that certain women had gone to Jesus’ tomb and had found the stone rolled away, an empty tomb, and the burial clothes lying on the floor (Luke 24:22-23). Most the disciples felt that the words of the women were nothing more than nonsense (Luke 24:11). But two of the disciples wanted to see for themselves and so they ran the tomb and there they found it to be just as the women had said it would be… empty (John 20:1-10).
The empty tomb of Jesus holds great promises for us. A promise is simply an assurance that statements that have been made are sure and true. By faith we are assured of the promises of an empty tomb:
1. An Empty Tomb Promises Fulfilled Prophesy – An empty tomb promises to compel us to trust Jesus’ claim that He is the Messiah (Luke 24:44; Psalms 16:8-11). No other person can make this claim. Mohammad’s tomb in Medina is not empty. Buddha’s ashes are still in various temples thought Asia. Lenin’s body is still in Red Square. And Madelyn O’Hair is still somewhere in Austin, TX. And yet the tomb of God’s chosen is empty because He is the Messiah, the Christ.
2. An Empty Tomb Promises Jesus Is Deity – An empty tomb promises that Jesus is deity. Only deity can raise themselves from the dead. In John 10:17-18 Jesus says that He had the power to raise Himself from the dead. Beginning with Acts 2:32 the apostles (15 times throughout the epistles[i]) said that God raised Jesus from the dead. When we couple these two passages together we see that the empty tomb promises us that Jesus is deity.
3. An Empty Tomb Promises Hope Of Being With God – An empty tomb promises to comfort us with the hope of being with the Lord. In John 13:31-35, Jesus tells His disciples that He will be leaving them soon. You can imagine how this troubled them. But He comforted them with these words, “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3) In his letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18), Paul urged them to comfort one another with the hope of the resurrection of the dead and the ascension of the living to meet Jesus in the air. Even today it brings us great comfort that the promise of the resurrection remains because of the empty tomb.
4. An Empty Tomb Promises Death Has Lost Its Sting – An empty tomb promises to relieve our fears of death because death has lost its sting. “The sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56). Without sin there would be no death. Without death we would not feel the sting that comes with dying. When I think about the sting of death I think about the fear that people have of dying. I think about the anxiety that comes with separation from loved ones and the panic of crossing the bar into the unknown depths of eternity. But Paul says that death has lost its sting because Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:55) and if Jesus was raised from the dead then we will be raised also. Because we are raised in the same manner as He was (1 Corinthians 15:15-19) then the Christian has nothing to fear because of the empty tomb.
5. An Empty Tomb Promises Victory Over The Grave – An empty tomb promises to give us victory over the grave. Paul reminds us that “Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) My friends the grave could not contain the Savior, and it cannot contain us. The power that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that will raise us from the grave at the last trumpet call (1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:52).
The promises of an empty tomb are only for those who by faith partake of the grace of God through baptism. Paul teaches us in Romans 6:3-5 that through baptism we unite ourselves in His death and as we arise from that water grave we unite ourselves in His resurrection. And in Romans 6:13 he says that we should “present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead…” as being resurrected to walk in the ways of righteousness, not in lives of sin. Let’s do that together starting today that we all may enjoy the promises of an empty tomb.
[i] Acts 2:24, 2:32, 3:15, 3:26, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40, 13:30, 13:37; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:15; Galatians 1:1; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 1:21