Text: John 20:1-18
Proposition: The risen Lord empties the tombs of our unbelief, His resurrection inviting us to glorify Him.
Introduction: It was Friday afternoon, the crowds had returned to the city leaving three crucified bodies in the fast fading daylight. Joseph of Arimathea had gone to Pilate asking for permission to remove the body of Jesus from the cross. He purchased white linen in which to wrap the corpse of Christ. In another part of the city, Nicodemus the Pharisee, who also loved Jesus, purchased a large amount of myrrh and aloes, about 70 pounds in weight. He and Joseph met back at the cross. They took the body of Jesus from Golgotha to the tomb. Entering the chill of stone and shadow they began the task of wrapping the corpse of Christ with the linen, myrrh and aloes. Carefully they laid the body of Jesus onto the stone ledge in the burial chamber. Picking up their cloaks they took one last look at how low in the grave He lay, this Jesus, their Lord. Death lay heavy upon them. Joseph of Arimathea then rolled the stone closing up the tomb, and with a final, grinding thud, Friday ended.
Sun rise… 36 hours later…sun rise Sunday morning… 3 women, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, come to the tomb only to see the great stone laying on its side, the tomb vacant.
Let’s talk about the resurrection of Jesus because no matter what you believe this is the greatest thing we could ever hope for. Turn to John 20:1-18.
I. The Certainty of Death Is Challenged By the Empty Tomb.
You cannot begin to talk about the resurrection until the stillness and finality of death have been felt. The stone that sealed the tomb is such a picture of death… immovable, impersonal, entombing. Once death happens there are no second chances, no amount of bravado or indifference can bring release. It is the door of the tomb, and when it is closed there no longer remains strength nor appeal to reverse it. When the sun went down on Good Friday, death was a certainty. The simple fact is that when the women came to the tomb that day the last thing they expected was resurrection from the dead. They were thinking, ‘fallen comrade, odor of death, a final act of burial’. Dead bodies don’t move, what was laid there must remain there. When they saw the empty tomb their only conclusion was that someone had to have moved the body. It was one of three possibilities: a further indignity done by the Pharisees who had sealed the tomb and posted their guard on it; a desecration of the grave by the Romans to spite the Jews; Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had returned to place the body in a another location to prevent such things. The certainty of death remained, the possibility of resurrection hadn’t yet emerged. And yet the question remains, where is the body of Jesus? Mary is almost frantic, she pleads with any who will help her to find the dead body of Jesus. Peter and John come running to the tomb, John out runs Peter and gets there first. Look at what it says in verse 5, “And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.” The phrase ‘looking in’ is the Greek word ‘blepo’, it means to see the obvious, the details, the visible. Look at the next verse, “Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there”. The word ‘saw’ is a different Greek word, “theoreo” which means to look at attentively, to inspect or survey things. He sees the linen as though it wrapped around a body but there is no body in it. He sees the face cloth neatly set to the side. The myrrh and aloes he does not see, they are still wrapped up inside the linen swaddling cloths, once a sign of His birth and now a sign of resurrection. Peter sees evidence. Now look at verse 8, “Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.” The Greek word ‘saw’ that’s used here is the word “eido” which means to perceive, to discern, to discover. When it comes to the resurrection of Jesus Christ we see it in these same kinds of steps, we factually see it, He was crucified, He was dead, the body was put in the tomb, the tomb is empty. We inspect it, where a body was now are only wrappings, and then we discover more than we could ever have hoped for. Jesus has been raised from the dead, John believed and it made him speechless. The empty tomb was not mischief, it was miracle.
II. The Certainty of Resurrection Challenges Unbelief.
Look for a moment at verse 9, “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” This infers that there was a wide spread belief not only in a real Messiah but that this Messiah would somehow die and then be resurrected. The thing is there isn’t a lot of Scripture about the resurrection of the Messiah. Daniel and Ezekiel and Job and David all wrote about the resurrection, but almost always as an end time event. In Psalm 16:10 David writes, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” They most certainly believed in the many prophecies about the coming Messiah but there wasn’t much about His resurrection, at least not until you really discovered it. In a very real sense you could say that it was hidden in Scripture and would need to be brought to light at the right moment. The point here is simple, the Jews weren’t expecting the Messiah to be resurrected and for the disciples to begin to present this as fact would have been preposterous. So the reactions of the disciples in proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus had to be made on the basis of their shocking encounter with Christ and not on some theological presumption. It would have been against all that Judaism held to be true. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus and she crumples at His feet, clinging to Him. The disciples meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus and are astounded that just as they recognize Him He suddenly is gone. The others encounter Jesus in a locked upper room, suddenly Jesus is there and they hear Him and see him and touch him. Even the most skeptical, Thomas has an encounter that has him touch the side and hands of Jesus and he crumples to the floor saying, “My Lord and my God!” Paul says that over 500 in one encounter, see Jesus, Peter experiences the restoration of Jesus on the shores of Galilee, the disciples as a group see Jesus ascend bodily, upwards into the sky, past the clouds. These are dramatic encounters with the living Christ that affirmed the resurrection is true. They were willing not only to teach that but to travel the world telling others and to even to die if that were God’s purpose. This certainty can’t be explained away as some collective delusion, theological manipulation or other expression of unbelief. The resurrection of Jesus is a certainty.
III. The Certainty of the Resurrection Sends Us.
This is what the resurrection of Jesus means:
1. It means that His death was sufficient to atone for sin. Had Jesus not risen from the dead and that in a very visible evidential way, the payment for sin would not be known nor even accomplished.
2. It means that everything that Jesus said and did can be trusted. He foretold His own death and resurrection and its reality affirms all His teaching.
3. It means that Jesus is alive and is still our advocate with the Father, He was able to send the Holy Spirit because he rose from the dead.
4. It means that our hope of eternal life is real because sin has been paid for, our sin can be forgiven, His righteousness can become our covering. We are born again because he lives. His resurrection means ours is also certain.
5. It means we have a living King, not an effigy, not an icon, not an idea. We have a living King and he is coming again!
6. It means that the plan of God is undefeatable, sometimes incomprehensible, often unimaginable but always unstoppable. That plan centers on the person of Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Job as he speaks with great certainty about the resurrected Lord and about our resurrection. Job 19:25-27: “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!”