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The Message Of The Empty Tomb

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Wonderful Words of Life Radio Sermon
April 11, 1971

Luke 23:50-24:11

Easter is about an empty tomb. The tomb belonged to a wealthy merchant from Arimathea named Joseph. He
owned the tomb for he had prepared it for his own burial. It was located in a garden not far from Golgotha.

Soon after the soldiers had found Jesus dead and had pierced His side with a spear allowing blood and water to
escape, the body was given to Joseph by Pilate. Nic¬odemus came along to help. This good man was a secret
disciple of our Lord who allowed the fear of losing his position to keep him from ever declaring so publicly     to
his eternal shame. There were also some faithful ladies present to give some aid.

With hearts heavy and holding back their tears of grief, they cleaned and wrap¬ped the dead body. They
thought they were burying their last hope. They tenderly car¬ried the body down the incline to the tomb, placed
it on the stone slab in the tomb. The tomb was hewn from solid rock and a large stone had been prepared to
cover the op¬ening.

By the time they had the stone in place, a group of soldiers arrived to stand guard at the tomb. The Jews had
requested their presence because they were afraid His body might be stolen away by His disciples. They were
familiar with something He had said about coming out of death. They wanted to take no chances on some hoax
being pull¬ed off. They knew He was dead now, and they planned for Him to stay dead.

The body of Jesus was in the tomb through the night Friday, through the day Sat¬urday, and through Saturday
night. Just about the crack of the dawn on Sunday morning some faithful ladies were on their way to the tomb to
finish the preparation of the body for burial. They had prepared some ointments for the body. As they walked
along, they wondered to themselves who would roll the stone away. Just before they got to the tomb, they felt
the earth sway beneath their feet. There was a rumble like that of an earthquake. The soldiers who were
stationed by the tomb heard the noise. When they turned toward the tomb they saw a shining stranger roll the
stone away from the door of the tomb and sit down on it. The guards were frightened to death. When they were
able, they hastened into the city to turn in their report.

When the women arrived, they found the shining angel still there. He greeted them and invited them to see the
place where Jesus had been buried. He told them the dead Christ was now alive. He sent them away to tell the
disciples and Peter that He was alive.

In a while Peter and John came for a firsthand inspection. The tomb is empty. The clothes in which He had been
buried are there, but He is gone. Before the day is finished, they are confronted with even more evidence. They
have a face to face en¬counter with the Living Christ. These were the first of several encounters over the next
several days, until the day when He went from them on a cloud back into the hea¬vens.

We have four separate accounts of this incident found in the New Testament. When Paul wrote to the
Corinthians, He said there were at least five hundred brethren who had seen Him and could bear witness to the
validity of His resurrection. But what does it all mean? What is the message of this empty tomb? As I look into the
empty tomb this morning, I hear three great proclamations.

The world has always had a sin problem. Since the Garden of Eden, man has been a disappointment to Cod
and himself. The world into which Jesus had come less that thirty four years before was no different. It had tried

The ancient world had bathed the world in the blood of its sacrifices. The peo¬ple had taken the law and had
been frustrated unto despair in their attempts to live by it. When these had seemed to fail, they had gone on
pilgrimages to other gods. They were worse.

Jesus was announced by John the Baptist as the One who could do something about the sins of the world. John
identified Him as the "Lamb of Cod that taketh away the sins of the world". Jesus had talked to His disciples
about His being a "ransom for the world". The last night He spent with them He had talked of establishing the
New Covenant in His blood. Jeremiah had described this covenant as the One that finally did something about
the sin problem.

On that dark Friday Jesus offered Himself for the sins of the world. As the Great High Priest Ho presented
Himself on the altar for us. But did God accept His sacrifice?

The empty tomb declares that He did accept it. Paul later writes, "Who was de¬livered for our offences, and was
raised again for our justification" ( Romans 4:25). The resurrection is the visible evidence that God has
accepted Him in our behalf.

Dr. Donald Barnhouse illustrated this truth like this. He said it is like paying a bill. You walk up to the counter with
the bill in your hand and the money in hand with which to pay it. You lay both of them on the counter. The clerk
counts the money, tears the bill in two, writes on one part of it paid in full, and hands that canceled part back to
you. That bill can never be collected from you again. Anytime they would try to collect all you must do is present
your canceled stub. It tells the story.

So it is with our Lord! On the counter of Eternity, He presented our bill. He presented the cash of His own life to
pay our bill. On the first day of the week the Father gave us the canceled stub in the resurrection of His Son.

Based on this glorious fact, we declare that by faith in this Christ you can be eternally set free from your sins.
Paul declared, "But the Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we
preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath
raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved"
(Romans 10).

Look into that Empty Tomb! The One who was in here is alive. If you will call upon His name, and confess Him as
your Lord, He will remove all of your sins this morning. He will save you. He has paid your debt to enable Him to
do this very thing.

If the Cross is the symbol of weakness, the empty tomb is the symbol of power. Look into the tomb! It proclaims a
living Christ who is our contemporary. He is vic¬torious over even death. He lives now!

The early disciples experienced this power as His presence with them. He declar¬ed just before leaving for
heaven, "And lo I am with you always even unto the end of the age". He kept His promise. When Stephen dies in
loyalty for Him, Jesus is stand¬ing there to welcome Him into the doorway of the house of God above. Again and
again in some moment of trial, He comes to stand with Paul.

Paul wrote the Philippian letter from the Roman prison. Yet he notes, "The Lord is at hand". When telling
Timothy of his trials, he notes, "But the Lord stood with me". Samuel Rutherford who was imprisoned for Christ
wrote to a friend, "Christ came into my cell last night and every stone flashed like a ruby".

But even more they experienced Christ as a presence in them. It was the presence of the risen Christ in them,
made real by the coming of the Holy Spirit, that explained the strength and victory of their lives. Paul would write,
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me". Again He would write, "Christ liveth in me, and the
life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the Son of Cod who loved me and gave Himself for me".

In the last hours of his life Oliver Cromwell called for a servant to read to him from the Bible. He specifically
requested that he read the book of Philippians. When he came to the thirteenth verse of the fourth chapter,
Cromwell stopped him. He said "that is the verse that saved me in life. When little Oliver died, I was saved by the
strength of Christ. When difficulties of all kinds have come, it is the stren¬gth of Christ that has saved me. When
temptations have been thrown at me, it is Christ that has saved me".

This is the proclamation of the empty tomb     a Christ with us and in us as strength for our struggles. It matters
not the nature of the struggles, this Christ of victory can see us through.

Ever since the first born son died in the first home, the world has been weep¬ing over death. None have
escaped the sting of this king of terrors. The world into which Jesus came made the funeral a time of woe and
despair. Large companies of mour¬ners would march through the streets proclaiming publicly their sorrow. One
empty tomb has made a difference in this. We still know sorrow when death comes, but it is sorrow tempered by
hope. We sing at our funerals. We sing songs of hope. We say with Paul, "O death where is thy sting? O grave
where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin: the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God which giveth
us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Look into the tomb! It is empty! Just as this tomb is empty, every tomb in which there is the body of a believer in
Jesus Christ will be empty some day. "For I would not have you to be ignorant brethren concerning them which
are asleep, that you sorrow not even as others which have no hope. for if we believe that Jesus died and rose
a¬gain, even so them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him".
Will you not receive this message of the empty tomb? If you will embrace this Message, you will find eternal life,
victory over sin and death. What a Savior!

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