Total Pageviews

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Empty Promises of Easter

Read: Luke 24: 1-12
There are three specific promises that we have at Easter, each of which is marked by something empty: an empty cross, an empty tomb and empty burial clothes. It’s the very fact that each of these is empty that assures us that God’s promises are real. They tell us that nothing could hold Jesus, neither the cross, the tomb, nor even His burial clothes, and so we can be certain of the fullness of God’s promises in our lives.
Let’s begin with the empty cross. Because the cross was empty, we have the promise of forgiven sins. Early on dawn of that first Easter morning, before the sun had risen, some women who were followers of Jesus are on their way to the tomb where Jesus was buried where they are going to anoint His body with the spices and perfumes that they had prepared for the purpose. They reach a point where they can look across to the distant scene outside the city and see the gruesome reminder of the events of two days ago. Silhouetted against the skyline in the early morning light, on top of the Hill called Golgotha. Are three crosses. Because yesterday was the Sabbath they still stood there empty reminders of the horrific event that had taken place there on the Friday.
The one in the middle is where Jesus hung. Bloodstained from the crown of thorns that was crushed onto Jesus’ head, from the nails that were driven into His hands, from the scourging of His back and from the blood that poured from His side when a Roman soldier ran a spear through His side to see if he was dead. 
There was no questioning the fact that Jesus was dead.
· The soldiers knew it
· The Romans knew it
· The Jews knew it
The promise of the empty cross is a promise of forgiveness from sin because it was on the cross that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. ‘SIN’ – there’s a word that’s not popular anymore! It’s a word that isn’t ‘politically correct,’ but the simple fact of the matter is that we have all sinned, every single one of us – you, me, the person sitting next to you, behind you and in front of you. We have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. The only person who has ever lived a sinless life is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Everyone else has failed. According to God’s law,  the wages of sin is death. God says that  The soul that sins will surely die. Because we’ve sinned, we deserve God’s just punishment which is the   eternal death of Hell. However, when you look at that empty cross – it is a reminder of God’s promise that we have been forgiven. On that cross – Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. God’s Word tells that God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US!
It was on that cross that Jesus Christ offered His perfect, sinless life on behalf of each of us. No one else – not Moses, Abraham, David or Isaiah, and not Muhammad or Buddha; – no one else has ever lived a perfect life and no one else was therefore good enough to pay the price for our sin and bring us the gift of salvation. That’s why the Bible tells us that there is no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved.
Towards the very end Christ cried out, “It is finished.” The penalty was paid in full. It was there, that his blood was spilt for our salvation. When Jesus went to the cross, God transferred the accounts for our sin to  His name. On that day, across every name – God wrote ‘Forgiven’ in the blood of Christ.  Because of the work that Jesus did on that cross we now stand forgiven. The first ‘empty promise’ of Easter is the empty cross – filled with the promise of forgiven sins.
After the women had paused briefly to view the cross, they continued on their way to the tomb. As they go, they wonder aloud who will move the stone for them, and with good reason for their concern for the stone that was placed in front of the tomb extremely large, probably weighing upwards of two tons. Not only that, the Romans had sealed it, to prevent anyone from moving it without their permission. Suddenly, as they are approaching the sealed tomb, they discover that stone has been rolled away and that the tomb is empty. Suddenly, we are told, two men in dazzling white apparel stood near the frightened women and asked them why they sought for the living amongst the dead. These men were in fact angels, and they said to the women, “He is not here; but He has risen!” Jesus had risen from the dead!  He was alive!. What a tremendous promise that holds, for in the fact of the empty tomb is the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the promise to every one of us that we too will be raised to eternal life. To those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, death has lost its sting and is no longer something to be feared. What fear is there when we have the promise that one day we will live forever with Him in Heaven?
Why was the tomb empty? Because Jesus was alive – The Angel said, “He is risen.” and the promise to us is that we too can live, even if we die. That is the second promise of Easter. It doesn’t end there, because there’s one more promise that Easter tells us of. It is the promise of the empty burial clothes.
After the Angel had spoken to the women, they immediately hurried back to the disciples, reporting what had happened and what they had seen and been told. Peter and John immediately raced back to the tomb to see for themselves. When they got there, John stopped just outside the tomb, but Peter ran right in. It didn’t take them long to discover that the tomb was empty, just as the women had said, but, that’s not all, for inside, Peter found the clothes that Jesus had been buried in. They too were empty. This could only mean one thing – that Jesus was alive! If someone had stolen his body, they wouldn’t have removed the burial clothes and folded them up neatly and left them where they lay. Truly, Jesus was resurrected! It wouldn’t be long, before Jesus, himself would appear to Mary Magdalene, and to all of the Apostles, and eventually to over 500 people.
He would sit down with them, walk amongst them, talking and eating with them. Once again, they would be able to fellowship with Him, just as they had previously done. That’s the promise of the empty burial clothes – that Jesus is alive, and wants to fellowship with you. Jesus is a living Saviour, and He desires to have a personal relationship with each one of us, just as He did with His disciples during His time on earth, just over two thousand years ago.
Nothing could hold Him because He is alive! And because He lives we can live also! Do you truly know Jesus Christ, acknowledging Him as your Lord and Saviour? I’m not asking whether you know about Him, but whether you truly know Him. Knowing about someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you actually know them. We probably all know a lot about the Queen and the Royal family, yet we don’t have a personal relationship with any of them. We know about them but we don’t know them. There are many people who know a lot about Jesus Christ, yet don’t know Him because they won’t hand their lives over to Him. Yet when you do you can experience His love, His care, His healing and His forgiveness on a personal level. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. “
It has been over 2000 years since Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. That first Easter Sunday, as the women went to the grave, they had no idea what was about to happen to them. They weren’t aware then of the wonderful promises of that day.
I think at Easter, more than any other time of the year, we realize that God has made many promises, some so difficult to understand that some of us cannot bring ourselves to believe them. Today we’ve heard about three promises that God has made to us; the promise of forgiven sins; the promise of eternal life; and the promise of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So I ask you this morning if you will take Him at His word? If you will, then listen to this promise also: it’s found in the Book of Romans, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (10:13).
If you know about Jesus yet don’t have a personal relationship with Him, and have never accepted God’s promises for your life, don’t wait another day, do it today, and know the joy of eternal life in Jesus Christ. 

No comments: