OAKRIDGE BIBLE CHAPEL

Because the Tomb Was Empty … (Selected Scriptures)

The Gospel writer, Luke, concludes his account of the discovery of Jesus’s empty tomb with these words: “Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marvelling at what had happened” (24:12). This disciple was amazed, befuddled, and overwhelmed. His head was doubtlessly spinning with questions about what had just happened, the implications of what had just happened, and thoughts of what was about to happen because of what had just happened. “Could it be? Is my Lord actually alive?!”

Today we want to join Peter in marvelling at the reality of the empty tomb. Without risk of exaggeration it can be said that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most earth-shaking, reality-defining, hope-providing, and response-demanding event in human history. Why is this so? Well, because the tomb was empty … 

SERMON MANUSCRIPT 

It’s not hard to identify the theme of our meeting this morning. We’ve greeted one another, acknowledging the resurrection of Jesus Christ; we’ve read Scripture, stating the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; we’ve prayed, thanking God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ; and we’ve sung, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow / Because he lives, all fear is gone; / Because I know he holds the future, / And life is worth the living, / Just because he lives!”

Staying consistent with that glorious theme, I want to begin our time in the word by reading Luke’s account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you have a Bible, please turn to Luke 24. [Luke 24:1–12]

My prayer is that God will help us this morning join Peter in “marvelling at what [has] happened.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most earth-shaking, reality-defining, hope-providing, response-demanding event in human history and I want to provide us with some reasons why that’s so. More specifically, I want to highlight five awesome realities that are true now because the tomb was empty then. 

TRUTH WAS VERIFIED

Reality number one: because the tomb was empty, truth is verified. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can know what’s real. 

And that’s a premium today. There are lots of truth claims flying around from politicians and pundits, religious leaders and celebrities, academics and authors, influencers and ideologues. Who’s right? Who’s telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Who knows which end is up and has the authority to declare it?

How about the guy who predicted his own resurrection and then made it happen? Let’s be honest, Jesus said a lot of things during his time on Earth. He claimed the OT Scriptures are the inspired word of God. He claimed to be the Messiah come to rescue creation. He claimed to have preexisted his own birth and to be one with God. He claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath and be able to forgive sins. He claimed to have come from heaven and to be sinless. Jesus claimed to be truth incarnate, the source of everlasting life, and the only way to God.

Each of these on their own are wild claims. If someone showed up today saying things like these they’d be ignored, dismissed, mocked, and attacked (and Jesus was!).

But Jesus was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. How do we know? Because he rose from the dead! [Rom 1:3–4] Jesus’s resurrection vindicated him as the all-power authority!

I don’t care how unbelievable someone’s claims are, if they predict and cause their own resurrection, I’m going to believe them, follow them, obey them, submit to them, because clearly they are who they say they are and can do what they’re claiming to do. 

As one author wrote: “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” 

Jesus’s resurrection vindicated his claims. If you want truth in this life, if you want guidance, if you want reality that won’t change with the political winds and cultural waves, look to him who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and then backed it up. Because the tomb was empty, truth is verified. 

JUDGEMENT IS COMING

Number two: because the tomb was empty, judgment is coming. After Jesus went back to heaven, Paul began his ministry and, on one occasion addressed a group of people in Athens: [Act 17:30–31].

Paul says that a date has been set for a global judgement, a worldwide purging of every and all defilement and sin that has been, up until now, been left to fester. But on that day, all evil will be dealt with for good, all corruption rooted out forever, all crookedness straightened out so that, as Isaiah promised, “[people] will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (35:10). Sound good? Well, it’s coming on the other side of perfect judgement. 

But perfect judgement demands a perfect Judge and the resurrection announced Jesus’s qualification for the bench. Death is the penalty for sin but the grave could not hold Jesus. Why? Because Jesus “knew no sin.” His resume, and his alone, says “righteous, holy, unblemished” and, because of that, he gets the job. And now that we’ve got the righteous Judge, God “has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness” and usher in paradise.

Now, if you’re at all self aware, that should make you squirm a little bit because you know you’re not righteous. You may not be the worst person in the world, but you’re a long way from perfect and if a perfect Judge came today to punish everything that’s not perfect, you’re in trouble. 

But, rest assured, you’re not alone in your imperfection. [Rom 3:23; Rom 6:23a] And we may look around this world and say to ourselves, “Some Judge! Wickedness is everywhere! Disease and death run rampant! Where is this one who will make all things right? Maybe he’s not coming after all and we’re stuck in this sad reality.”

To that God simply reminds us that judgement delayed is not judgement denied and, because the tomb was empty, the Judge was revealed and he is coming.

DEBTS ARE PAID

But there’s good news. We can escape that judgement. We can have our imperfections dealt with. We can be given perfection that isn’t ours. This brings us to the third wonderful reality: because the tomb was empty, debts are paid. [Col 2:13–14]

It’s one thing to make the final payment on a mortgage, a student loan, or a credit card bill. It’s another to get confirmation in the mail that your obligations are concluded. It’s one thing to finish your courses and another to receiving your diploma. There’s an exciting finality to holding the receipt, to looking upon the proof of freedom.

On Good Friday we remember the payment Jesus made on our behalf, the blood he shed to wipe our debt clean. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” On Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the receipt of that payment, the proof that we’re debt free: the empty tomb.

[1 Cor 15:16–17] But the opposite is implied. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead,” which means our faith is not worthless and we are not still in our sins! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a receipt that gives an exciting finality and proof that God accepted Jesus’s payment on our behalf and that we are free. [Rom 4:25] Because the tomb was empty, debts are paid.

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, your sin debt in its entirety—past, present, and future—has been paid in full. You are free and the resurrection of Jesus is the proof that payment was accepted, justification bestowed, righteousness imputed. 

To say, act, or think that the sins you struggle with are beyond forgiveness, beyond the reach of the cross—that God may forgive others but you’re a unique case—is to arrogantly claim Jesus’s blood wasn’t powerful enough, his promise wasn’t true enough, and his resurrection wasn’t proof enough. Brother, sister, because the tomb was empty, debts are paid. Hallelujah!

DEATH IS DEFEATED

Number four: because the tomb was empty, death is defeated. Since the third chapter of the Bible, death has been a bit problem. As we’ve already seen, it’s the punishment for sin and, as of today, it’s basically batting a thousand. Death is the dark cloud that hangs over even the most successful life. It’s always lurking, always threatening, and always approaching. 

But when Jesus unwrapped himself from his grave clothes and stepped out of his tomb into the early morning air he solved this problem. He said it himself: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25–26). [1 Cor 15:55–57; Rev 1:17–18]

A little boy and his father were driving down a country road when a bumblebee flew in the car window. Since the boy was deathly allergic to bees he became afraid. His father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, and then released it. 

As soon as he let it go, his son became afraid again as it buzzed by his head but the father reached out his hand again but, this time, pointing to his own palm. There, stuck in his skin was the bee’s stinger. “You see this?” he asked. “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. I’ve taken the sting for you.”

If you’re here this morning and you have trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ and his promise of everlasting life, you don’t need to fear death because Christ has taken its sting for you. Death is on death-row.  As we just sang earlier: “No fate I dread, I know I am forgiven / The future sure, the price it has been paid / For Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon / And he was raised to overthrow the grave.” Because the tomb was empty, death is defeated.

RESURRECTION AWAITS

But we might say, “hang on, we still die don’t we? Haven’t you ever been to a Christian’s funeral? What gives?” Well, that brings us to our final truth of the morning: because the tomb was empty, resurrection awaits. Because Christ rose, so too will those in Christ by faith.

[Rom 6:8] The Bible is clear that when we believe in Jesus we share in the death he died for us and, thus, will share in the resurrection he experienced before us. [1 Cor 15:20] Just as the first fruits of a crop is predictive and anticipatory of the entire yield, so Jesus’s resurrection is predictive and anticipatory of those who will come after him. [2 Cor 4:14] It’s a promise! [1 Pet 1:3–4]

You get it: the resurrection of Jesus predicts, ensures, anticipates, and pictures the resurrection of all his people. As one author rightly notes, the Bible teaches and Christians believe in “life after life after death.” To absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, it’s true. That’s life after death. But the Bible teaches that resurrection is after that—new, glorified bodies; a new, perfected and de-sinned creation. That’s life after life after death, and it’s life everlasting! Because the tomb was empty, resurrection awaits.

How can we not marvel at what has happened? This isn’t even an exhaustive list. Because the tomb was empty, truth was verified, judgement is coming, debts are paid, death is defeated, and resurrection awaits. “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! / Oh, sing hallelujah / Join the chorus, sing with the redeemed / Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.”

For Christians, this is our hope, this is our strength, this is our power, this is our joy, this is our endurance, this is our truth. We serve a living Saviour. Jesus defeated the grave. Our Lord rose from the dead. The Christ is alive. The tomb was empty.

May this reminder guard those of us who are doubting, confused, and overwhelmed. Jesus is truth! Go to him for stability and reality.

May this reminder convict those sheep who are wondering the fields of apathy, negligence, worldliness, and foolishness. Jesus is Judge! Go to him for cleansing and correction.

May this reminder liberate those of us who are immobilized and ensnared by sin, shame, and guilt. Jesus is the payment! Go to him for forgiveness and consolation.

May this reminder comfort those of us who fear death. Jesus is life. If you belong to him you will live even if you die. Go to him for peace and hope.

May this reminder strengthen those of us who are tired and burdened with grief and pain, illness and discouragement. Jesus is alive! For the Christian, this life is the worst it will ever be. Glory awaits.

Brothers and sisters, the best news the world has ever heard came from a cemetery near Jerusalem—the tomb was empty. Jesus is risen, he is risen indeed. Sing hallelujah!  

 



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Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

Josiah Boyd

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