On the day Jesus was crucified, those who followed Him and loved Him were witnesses to His anguish, pain and suffering. They heard Him cry out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”(Matthew 27:46) And in the end, many heard Him say, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) They looked on as Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross. They watched as He was buried in a tomb, concluding their hopes and dreams were surely buried with Him.
The followers of Jesus knew the pain, grief and heartache of losing someone you love, losing someone in whom you placed your hopes and future. Yet, they didn’t really lose Him. Yes, Jesus was crucified and died but He was resurrected on the third day as He said He would! (Mark 8:31) The beauty of the Easter story is the fact that it does not end in death, it ends in victorious, death-conquering life.
Early in the morning, on that resurrection Sunday, Mary Magdalene and the women who went with her, arrive at Jesus’ tomb. Much to their surprise, the stone had been rolled away and Jesus was no longer there! The grave simply could not hold the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Peter and John are informed regarding the missing body of Jesus and they too make their way to the tomb. Remember, prior to the crucifixion, Peter and John did not want to believe that Jesus would be put to death. Therefore, they had a hard time accepting prophecy concerning the resurrection. It’s been said “Good evidence changes the mind but it never changes the heart.” The central focus of the gospel message is not a changed mind but a changed heart. With an empty tomb before them, the resurrection of Jesus was becoming a reality for Peter and John.
The resurrected Christ appeared to many in the days that followed. Among those were Mary Magdalene, Peter and John as well as the other disciples. Jesus also appeared to hundreds of His followers before His ascension into heaven. The resurrection of Christ provides hope and promise to the people of that day, and to us today, if by faith, He is received. The empty tomb more than two thousand years ago, provides mankind with three significant realities concerning Christ and what He accomplished through the resurrection.
This is what separates Christianity from every other belief system. Our God and our Savior is still alive and He will live and reign forever! The tombs of other famous religious leaders such as Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith and Charles Taze Russell, to name a few, actually contain the remains of these men. However, the tomb where they laid Jesus is empty! Jesus is alive and lives forevermore. He lives in the hearts of millions of people who have received Him as Savior. Paul writes in Romans 8:34:
“It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
How is Jesus able to make intercession for mankind? Because He is a risen Savior who longs to gather people to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks. (Luke 13:34) As the old hymn proclaims; “Life is worth the living just because He lives.”
John 3:16 is probably the most quoted verse in Scripture and for good reason. This verse explains what God did in sending His Son to die on a cross for the sins of mankind. Romans 3:23 states:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Paul goes on to say further in Romans:
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (6:23)
When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for sin. He was the only One capable of paying that price because He was without sin.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Becoming the righteousness of God carries the reality that we can be made right before God. This is what Jesus provided through His death and resurrection. The sinner who is saved by God’s grace has entered into a personal relationship with Christ by confessing and turning from sin. The reality of forgiveness and the opportunity to serve a living God and trusting Him for all things is an incredible privilege in this life.
However, the glory that awaits all believers in heaven is nothing more than a wing and a prayer without the resurrection of Christ. Paul wrote:
“If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)
If Jesus is not resurrected, then man cannot possibly be resurrected. However He did rise again, and that makes salvation and eternal life a reality for all men who will receive Christ.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Because Jesus is alive, He is able to change the heart of man and give him new life. When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, He referred to this as the “new birth” or being “born again.” The empty tomb means that a sinner can lay down his old life and his old ways and be transformed by the very power of God. This transformation or “new life” reveals itself in the actions of a person who no longer lives for this world but desires the things of God. The “new life” considers eternal things, not temporary things, to be of greatest value.
Therefore, because Jesus lives, when life on earth is over for the believer, he too shall live! The Bible says that Jesus has prepared a place for His followers in heaven and it is there that all God’s people will enjoy the realities of the empty tomb–eternal life with the Savior who died for us! This Easter Season, celebrate the empty tomb by giving your heart and life to Christ. If you know Christ already, celebrate what He accomplished on the cross and through His resurrection. Because He lives, we can face tomorrow.