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God: A Convicted Grave Robber

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“A Convicted Grave Robber!”

John 20:1-18

It was dark as they arose that Sunday morning...

The two got up and put on their garments grabbed their spices and headed out on the dirt road that lead out of the city.

As they headed out on the road and as the sun began to rise the path was lined with many dark shadows...

but no shadow or darkness could compare with the darkness that hovered over their soul.

As they walked up the path towards the tomb...

thoughts and sights of the last week –

ripped through their minds like violent tornados..

They had been there when Jesus rode in on the colt before thousands shouting His praises,

what an incredible moment that was.

But unfortunately their minds and the events of last week didn’t stop there.

Try as they might they couldn’t stop those other thoughts,

those terrible scenes from playing out again and again in their minds.

They saw Jesus tied to a post:  

a Roman scourge filled with broken pieces of pottery, glass and bones ripping across His back.

As they recalled the purple robe –

the beatings,

the cruel mocking

and the crown of thorns,

the tears began to flow again. 


They had seen it all –

they had seen Jesus, their teacher,

their friend,

their Lord.  

They had witnessed everything that Jesus endured and suffered.

And these 2 women, these two Mary’s

(Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of James)

were there at the cross... 

They saw Jesus hanging there on that rough cross of wood...

they saw His body struggle and wince with pain with every breathe that he took... 

They were there when Jesus cried out,

"ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI -- MY GOD MY GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME"

-- and they saw his head fall as he cried,

"IT IS FINISHED."  (Mark 15:34)

They were there when Jesus died,

and when He died they died too. 

Oh they were still alive physically

but their hopes and joy died on that cross with Jesus,

on that dark Friday nearly 2,000 years ago..

Their Lord was dead...

And their hope was gone.

So what are they doing up so early on this Sunday morning?

Why aren’t they lying in bed wallowing in their misery...?

What was it that drove them from their beds before dawn, and put them on this dark up hill climb?

The thing that drove them, was their love for and devotion to Jesus

someone had to prepare the body for burial and no one else had volunteered;

Peter didn’t,

James didn’t,

neither did John –

So it was up to these 2 faithful followers,

2 women who had never left the side of Jesus,

who were with Him until the end

-- it was up to them to do it, and they did..

The task they were going to perform was a somber task, a difficult task...

They would be the ones, who would wipe the blood from the brow, from the legs, from the sides,

They would be the ones, to clean the blood from the body of Jesus...

they would be the ones, to remove the blood that had matted in his beard,

They would be the last ones, to touch his face and close His eyes. 

And as they were nearing the tomb -- suddenly a problem -- something they hadn’t thought of until now, entered their minds and they said to each other, 

"MARY, WHO IS GOING TO REMOVE THE STONE -- HOW CAN WE GET INSIDE TO JESUS IF THE STONE IS IN THE WAY?"



AND SUDDENLY “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.(Matthew 28:2)[1]

The grave is empty!

       The body of their Lord was no longer in the tomb!

Mary accused the one she thought to be the gardener of taking the body away – that is until the Lord Jesus Christ met her outside the empty tomb.

The guards who were the high priests’ first witnesses were paid to say: 

“The disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were sleeping.”

Who robbed the tomb that first Easter morning of its victim?

Stand as judge yourself.

       Examine the evidence.

Watch as the evidence mounts up.

Decide for yourself who is guilty of robbing that grave.

I’m convinced.

       My verdict is in.

              I believe that God is the guilty one.

He is the One that stole the body from that tomb.

How?

       By giving life back to His Son.

When the stone rolled away it was not to allow Jesus to step outside – as in the case of Lazarus.

The stone rolled away in order for us to look inside.

       The tomb is empty, not because of grave robbers,

              Of a disciples carefully planned conspiracy,

Nor because a gardener wanted to clean the area.

The tomb is empty because God declared victory over Satan – over sin – over death – over the grave.

That morning Satan was given the decisive blow.

Death which had been the sentence for all mankind was now Satan’s sentence.

That Day Death Died.

55 "Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?"”

"Death has been swallowed up in victory."

(1Co 15:54-55 NIVUS)

For death to die, death must have had life and power.

Death was ‘conceived’ so to speak in Adam & Eve’s temptation.

“By one man (Adam) [Rom 5] sin entered into the world and death by sin.”

The parent of death is sin and the grandparent of sin is Satan.

“He who does what is sinful is of the devil.” 1John 3:8a

On the day that Adam fell to temptation and sinned,

there was a bouncing baby boy born into the household of the devil in the name of death!


Death has been active ever since:

       Turn the page in the Bible to the first sons – brothers:

-        Cain and Abel – and the ground drank the life-blood of Abel as death reigned.

Death rapidly became the strongest predator on the face of the earth –

relentlessly tracking down each victim,

catching and wrestling him down to the rot and mire of the grave!

Death is seen day and night going to and fro throughout the earth stalking his prey.

He is seen lurking in the shadows, with the souls of men in his grasp.

He is the terror of the night.

He plays no favorites and is not prejudice:

He leaps upon young and old;

man, woman, and child alike.

Red, yellow, black or white!

He rides the wind gaping and screaming for the body and soul of man.

At the mere mention of Death’s name, mortal man trembled! He struck terror in the hearts of mankind.

In Mel Gibson’s graphic portrayal of the suffering and death of Jesus in the film: “The Passion of the Christ”

death is depicted as watching,

lurking,

almost superintending;

emotionless

yet we see intent evil with evil intent.

At last, on the cross, Christ said:  ‘It is finished’ and he bowed his head and breathed his last:

The sun refused to shine,

the earth convulsed,

the birds hushed their singing;

the angels in Heaven stood in stunned amazement as the Creator,

the very Son of God slumped and died.

Yet I imagine pandemonium broke loose in hell.

       Satan has again dealt the death blow.

But remember: one of Jesus’ last words:

"Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up again in three days!"

Day 1, day 2,

The guards are keeping watch over the sealed tomb. 

Day 3 The stone rolls from the entrance to the tomb and >

the tomb is empty!

Up from the grave He arose

With a mighty triumph oe’r His foes

He arose a Victor from the dark domain

And He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose, He arose,

HALLELUJAH, Christ Arose!![2]

This is the day death died. 

The day Christ arose from the grave!

God has removed the sting of death and in doing so has removed the sting from all lesser fears.

In Christ all the wrong actions and reactions your have had in your life can have their sting removed too.

In Jesus’ death there is forgiveness of sin.

The strength of sin is the law and Jesus has come to fulfill the requirements of the law.

Examine the evidence:

You too can be certain there was a resurrection that morning.

There is no other plausible explanation.

Any other conclusion requires belief far more incredulous than the Christian’s choice.

1)     sealed tomb; guards; placed by high priest. 

He knew what would happen if a rumor got out that Jesus had risen from the grave.  (Do you believe the guards fell asleep!)

2)     Jews couldn’t produce body

3)     The linen from around his head was folded separate from the rest of the grave clothes!

Jewish tradesmen:  stone masons and carpenters:  when finished a project would take their head band and fold it neatly and place it alongside their work to state: ‘finished to perfection.  Job completed’. 

Then if the one who ordered the work came along while the tradesman was away they would know the work was finished.

4)     Jesus appeared to his followers:

a.  Mary

b. Peter

c.  Disciples without Thomas

d. Doubting Thomas

e.  On road to Emmaus

f.  500 at one time!  There is no such thing as mass hallucination.

One might ask:  please send in one more witness.  I need just one more. 500 is not enough.  If we had 1,539,258 would you still want one more?  How many witnesses would be proof enough?

5)     Disciples touched Jesus and Jesus ate in front of them

6)     Glorious manifestation to Stephen at his martyrdom and then to Paul on the road to Damascus. 

Paul’s eyewitness account happened less than 15 years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

7)     Disciples believed to their death!

a.  This was no conspiracy.  People don’t die for something they know is a lie.

b. Disciples’ lives were transformed.  Paul, a killer of Christ followers became a follower of Christ.

8)     Followers did not make the grave a place of worship.

9)     Jesus’ own brother became a leader in the Jerusalem church.

When you look at the evidence, it all mounts up to become mighty convincing proof that Jesus’ bodily resurrection is an historical fact.

How much evidence do you want to decide there is sufficient proof of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

For John the empty tomb was enough.

Thomas wanted to place his hands into the wounds of the risen Lord’s hands, feet and side.

For the disciples on the road to Emmaus it was in the breaking of bread.

For Paul, meeting the now ascended Jesus on that road to Damascus was enough to change his life.

I chose one day to believe there was enough evidence to convince me.

I do not remember what it was specifically that convinced me.

       Perhaps it was my parent’s example.

Perhaps it was the overwhelming sense of a need for a Saviour – for forgiveness.

But I chose to stake my life on God’s words in the Bible.

One day I fell down on my knees.

-        Jesus You’re my king

-        Thank You for the cross

-        I believe You died for me.

-        Please forgive my sin

-        Please accept me into your kingdom

And He did.

Now I believe not just from the evidence of 2,000 years ago.

Now I believe because the living, dynamic Presence of the Holy Spirit of God has come into my life.

       I have experienced guilt lifted.

       I am witness to miracles explained only by the resurrection power.

Now I believe that it was God who robbed the grave of its prey that first Easter morning.

I believe that God robbed Satan of his greatest weapon.

I believe that God robbed the grave if its sting and robbed the law of its death penalty.

I believe that when Jesus cried out from the cross: 

“It is finished”

that cry was the victor’s cry for me and you and for all who would choose to examine the evidence and to declare the verdict: 

“I believe Jesus died and rose again.”

What are the benefits for us today of Christ’s certain resurrection:

1)     We have the assurance that Christ’s resurrection was the first fruit.  Many more would follow Him in the resurrection.

2)     Although we died – physical death, we do not die the eternal death – the ‘perishing’ of John 3:16 has been defeated.

a.  Sin and death have been defeated and will yet be destroyed.

3)     Jesus is making all things new.

4)     Perfect righteousness has been procured

5)     The Christian is seated in heavenly glory

6)     Assurance of our bodily resurrection and immortality

7)     1Peter 1:3,4 we have a living hope.

The two Mary’s loved Jesus and were devoted to Him even in His death.

They risked their lives to lovingly complete the burials rites for their Lord.

For us who have heard the evidence, not only of His death but also His dynamic resurrection this becomes:

A call to action:

But you cannot keep silent.

Today, in the certainty of Christ’s resurrection, we can stake our lives on everything Christ taught and His plan of salvation provided for us.

Today I want my life to count for Jesus and for His kingdom.

Today I choose to be His disciple, His follower.

Today I choose His words as commands for the living of my life.

Is there enough evidence for you this morning?

Will you join me in declaring Jesus as Lord and Saviour?

Let us pray:


----

[1]Sermon:  The Stone Is Rolled Away by Steve Malone online at SermonCentral.com

[2] Sermon: “The Day Death Died” by Richard Deem: 1 Corinthians 15:55-15:57 online at SermonCentral.com.

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