Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered March 22, 2008 by Pastor Don Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

The Vacant Vault

1 Corinthians 15:14-20

(RealAudio Version available)

It’s the season of the year when we think about Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and what an awesome, awesome theme. I want to speak to you this morning about the vacant vault.

There was a Christian family and they were in the habit of singing as they would drive along in the car. That's a good habit. And their little boy said, "I would like to sing ‘The Gravy Song’." And the mother said, "What song is that? Can you teach us ‘The Gravy Song’?" And in all his innocence little Aaron began to sing, the great hymn of the assurance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Up from the gravy arose.”

It's easy to get wrong ideas about the resurrection. He didn't arise from the gravy. He arose from the grave. Up from the grave He arose. Easter is a great time of the year. It's a time of renewal. My garden is coming up. We've got potatoes and beets and spinach and onions and peas growing out there already. It's a time of blooming. It's a time of growth. And it's a time for Christians to grow. It's a special time. Especially it's a time for preachers to emphasize Jesus Christ and His wonderful blessings that He gives to us. Christ and His resurrection.

So let's come over here to First Corinthians. The topic today is the resurrection of Christ. And First Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 14. I just want to read you this one verse. "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless and so is your faith." There's a lot dependent on the resurrection. That's a terrible thought to think that maybe Christ didn't rise from the tomb. And what would life be like if He didn't? If! That's a big ‘if’, isn't it? If only we had shut the door the cat wouldn’t have got out. If only we had taken the other road, we wouldn't have been involved in this wreck. If only we had checked to see that the iron was unplugged, the house wouldn’t have burned down. If only we had gotten him to the doctor sooner, he might have lived. “If, if, if.” If Christ would not have been raised.

Now theologically, you understand that our salvation was totally paid for on what day? Sunday? It was paid for on Friday, wasn't it? That's why we call it Good Friday today. And Sabbath, God’s true Sabbath, is the day that’s sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It's very easy to find which day is the true Sabbath. But our salvation was completely paid for on Friday afternoon when Jesus died. We're saved by His blood. We're not saved by His resurrection. So why is the resurrection important?

The greatest single event of all history was on Friday. The cross is the center point. The cross is the pivot upon which all history rotates. Romans chapter 5, verse nine, says "We are justified by His blood." Not by the empty tomb. So why is the empty tomb important? Well, the empty tomb is the proof of the pudding. The proof is in the pudding. It actually happened. It is the evidence that Operation Save was successful. The Easter Lily is a symbol of the resurrection of Christ, because the Easter Lily is in the shape of a trumpet heralding the resurrection of Christ.

Let me run a hypothesis by you. Three points.

Number one. If only God could pay for our sins, then only God could be our Savior. Only God could pay for my sins. An angel couldn't do it. You could not die for my sins. I can’t die for my sins, because I would never live again.

Number two. The resurrection proves, therefore, that Christ was God. We'll talk more about that later.

Number three. Therefore, the resurrection validates Christ's ability to pay the price. Christ is the only reason, the only Person in the history of the whole world to die the second death, without ever having died the first death. He never died the first death. Romans chapter 5, verse 10 says. "If we were reconciled to Him by the death of His Son, how much more shall we be saved by His life." When you place the cross and the resurrection together, you have a complete package designed to save you. You understand how that works? Not only did He provide it, but He applies it. He administers what He provided.

It's one thing for a doctor to say, "Yes I've got that medicine. It’s back there in the refrigerator in my clinic." But it's another thing to apply it. To inject it. It’s a complete package that has been engineered to save us. The entire plan of salvation depends not just on the death of Jesus on the cross, but upon His life up in heaven. He ever lives to save us. To apply the salvation. And if you don't resist, I am convinced that you will be saved. Because God is a professional Savior. He provides it, and He applies it. Our Savior is living up in the heavenly sanctuary, up in the courts above, and His job description there is to apply what He provided.

One day, Michelangelo turned to his fellow artists and he was very frustrated, and he says, "Why do you artists keep filling gallery after gallery with pictures and paintings of Jesus hanging there in His greatest state of weakness, dead? Why don't you paint pictures of the resurrection? Christ is alive for an unending eternity and we focus on His death. Let's focus on His life." Michelangelo was right. The cross is vital, but we must not emphasize the death to the exclusion of the resurrection.

There are many people who say, "You know, you Seventh-day Adventists are wrong." You understand this don't you? They say salvation was completely paid for on Friday. Well that's true. But the life that Jesus lives in heaven today is just as important as His death that He died 2000 years ago. It's a complete package. It's a balanced approach, and I think we have that and I'm so pleased to be a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. All we have to do is accept it and Christ ever lives to help us accept it. The tomb is empty. Christ was successful as a Savior. The great plan worked. It is over.

Look at First Corinthians, chapter 15. And this is our scripture reading, and I want you to see and hear six great big problems if there is no resurrection. If the tomb were not empty. Verse 14 says all our preaching is vain. Verse 14 says all of our faith is vain. Verse 15 says we Christians are false witnesses. Verse 17 says we're still in our sins. Even though it was paid for, if there was no resurrection we’re still in our sins. Verse 18, all who have died are lost. Verse 19, we are of all men most miserable. Without the empty tomb, preaching is nothing but pathetic, petty, prattle. All preachers are guilty of giving stones for bread. Christianity is a lie. Noah was just a stubborn, fanatical sea captain. Abraham was the world's biggest tramp, marching around not knowing where he was going. Moses believed God. He chose to suffer with God's people rather than enjoy the pleasures of Egypt for a while. What a fool he was if Christ's mummy were still around. If the tomb was full, today people would make pilgrimages over to Jerusalem. Today, people would worship at a shrine over there. There would be a huge, acres wide building housing the remains of Jesus. That didn't happen. You students of the Bible know that. Jesus rose. Praise the Lord.

You know, when they first discovered the garden tomb over there in Palestine, in Jerusalem, they discovered the garden tomb, and very carefully, scientists removed all the dust and anything loose from the garden tomb and took it to the laboratory and had it analyzed, and discovered not one fragment of any human remains. Christ's body was resurrected from that place intact. The tomb is empty. Christ is risen. Praise the Lord. You students of the Bible realize that on Sunday morning, Jesus went back to heaven. You realize that? For maybe three hours, four or five hours, I don't know how long. And then He immediately returned and came back down to the earth for several weeks. Until He finally ascended back up in the clouds again and went to heaven, and that's where He is today.

Look at John 20 in your Bible. John 20, and verse three. I love John's account of the resurrection. On Friday I read the account of the crucifixion and the resurrection. This morning I read that same account in the book of John. What a great story. John 20, verse three. You can see there that Peter and John ran a foot race to the tomb. And John ran the fastest because John was the youngest. And the tomb was unoccupied. They looked in, didn't see anybody. They saw the strips of linen, the cloth that was around His head, they saw that everything was folded up neatly, so after a few moments they went back home. But Mary, who was one of the first to discover the empty tomb, the ladies, Mary lingered. Outside the tomb. Crying with soft, sad tears. Finally she bent over and looked into the empty tomb and she saw two men in bright apparel. Angels. The tomb wasn’t empty. They had been there all along, I suppose. Peter and John somehow did not see them. Apparently you can see more through teary eyes than you can with regular eyes.

And Mary went out and bumped into the gardener. The gardener was such a faithful employee. He was there early in the morning, and Mary bumped into the gardener. And John 20, verse 15, 16 and 17, you can read that little episode, where Mary bumped into Him, and said, "Where have they taken my Master?" And the gardener said, "Mary." And she whirled around and looked at Him, and lo, it was Jesus. And what did Jesus say? She wanted to touch Him. She wanted to hug Him. And what did He say? “Don't touch Me.” Because why? “I haven't yet ascended.” Did they touch Him later? Yes. Thomas put his finger in the wounds. They touched Him later. Obviously He had gone back to heaven at some point, hadn't He? Why did Jesus make a quick trip back to heaven? Have you ever thought about that? I think there are several good reasons.

I think number one, He needed to go back and the Father needed to officially accept that the sacrifice was complete. That everything was fine. It was sufficient. It met the requirements.

Number two. Jesus wanted to secure the official justification and acceptance of the people, the church. His church. His friends that He loved and who loved Him.

Number three. To ratify the everlasting covenant. To make sure that the Father would receive repentant sinners. You can read this. I've got the sources on the website. The SDA Bible Commentary. Desire Of Ages. To anoint Him King. He had to be anointed, as King of kings, again, and to receive the Father's approval for Jesus to again receive some degree of divine power throughout the universe. He was coronated.

Folks, we have an approved Savior. He was approved by heaven's good housekeeping seal of approval. He did perfect work. Jesus was not a sinner. The tomb could not keep Him. The grave could not hold Him, because He was sin free. Our Savior was not a sinner. Jesus’ resurrection proves that there will also be a resurrection of others who died accepting His salvation. When you see the first grape on your grape vine you realize that that is proof that there will be other grapes. There won't be apples there. There won’t be figs there. There will be grapes coming, more grapes coming, so Jesus was the first fruit, proving that other fruit will come, that fruit being you. The followers of Jesus. Those who love Him and accept Him. His resurrection is our evidence that we will also come back to life.

An older man said, "I see my ancient carcass lying prone between the sheets, stained and worn, like an old book with battered covers, as I approach my end. I wonder if Jesus’ promise is true. Well I live again? Like a butterfly released from its chrysalis stage. Will I really fly away? Are caterpillars told of their impending resurrection? How that in dying some day they will be transformed from poor earth crawlers into creatures of the air with priceless art work exquisitely painted on their wings. If they are told, do they believe it? Imagine a huddle of wise old caterpillars under a leaf shaking their old heads. No, it can't be true. It's all theory. Those butterflies up there, they must be angels. We were designed to crawl. We're never going up.”

Friends, we are going up, because He went up. We're going to live again because He lives again. Some bright morning, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we're going to be caught up and we’re going to meet Him in the air. First Thessalonians, chapter 4, verse 16 and 17. We’re going to be there. We’re going to take on the beautiful likeness of God and His angels. We're going to fly. We're going to go up. We're going to fly away to a land of dazzling beauty. All because of the empty tomb. Because He lives, we're going to live.

A kindergarten teacher was telling the story of Jesus to a little boy. The story was obviously brand-new to him. He was of the type of family that only attend on Easter. She began telling of Jesus’ death on the cross. And he said, “What is a cross?” And she picked up a couple of sticks and put them together and illustrated how Jesus hung there on the cross. And she explained that He was actually nailed to the cross, and He died there on the cross. The little boy said, “Oh, that's too bad.” Then the teacher continued. In the very next breath, she said, “However, He came back to life. He arose back to life.” And the little boy's eyes got as big as saucers, and he said, “That's totally awesome.”

Let me tell you, you're not a Christian today if you say “That's too bad”. You're a Christian today if you say “That's totally awesome”. He's alive. He lives for you. Praise God for that. Nobody embalmed Him.

A minister in Darby, Pennsylvania told the story of what happened to a little four-year-old son of an undertaker. He was puzzled on Easter weekend when he heard the story of the resurrection. He, too, rarely attended church. And the little boy said, “You mean that Jesus really rose from being dead?” “Yes”, said the Sunday school teacher. The little lad shook his head. “I know my daddy didn't take care of Him after He died. He'd never get up again.”

Jesus was untouched by the volunteer undertakers of His day. Those ladies who came with those 70 or 80 pounds of embalming things. He died close to sundown. They didn't have time to embalm Him. They came early on Sunday morning to do it, and He was already alive. Can you imagine. Can you picture the devil on Friday jumping up and down. “Success. We did it. Jesus is dead!” And can you imagine the devil on Sunday morning. How disappointed that imp must have been. At Jesus’ resurrection. Satan thought he had Him defeated, when actually it was Satan who was defeated. It's amazing.

The following questions all have the same answer. What is it that gives the widow courage to go on after her husband has died? What is the ultimate hope of the cripple or the amputee. Or the abused and victimized? How can the parents of a brain-damaged child go on? What would the blind or the deaf or the paralyzed, what would give them hope? How can we see beyond the killing of some dedicated youth by some evil monster of a person? What gives hope to young people, young couples as they stand there at the grave of their little baby? We have people that are experts in fertility. Experts in delivering babies, but I will tell you that Jesus is the expert at giving life back to babies that have died. What is the final answer to pain, senility, Alzheimer's, and terminal illness? It is the guarantee of the empty tomb. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and your resurrection. Your promised resurrection. If He lives, you will live. It's a promise. It's the guarantee of our bodily resurrection. Jesus lives today to remove the dusty sandals of this old earth and give us resurrection shoes. Our faith is not in vain. We don't die, we sleep in Jesus. Waiting for Him to wake us up on resurrection morning. We serve a risen Savior.

And I must ask you today, is Jesus your Savior? Is Jesus your Savior? Let's suppose that you have a rich brother. I never even had a brother. But let's suppose you have a rich brother. And he goes down to the car dealer and he purchases a $50,000 brand-new automobile and puts your name on the title and he calls you and says Monday morning at 10 o'clock there's a new car waiting for you down here at the car dealer. What if you never went to get it? Would it be yours? Well, your name would be on the title, but you wouldn't have possession. Jesus paid for our salvation 2000 years ago. It's completely paid for. Your name is on that mansion up there. It's there. It's waiting for you. But have you yourself, gone to Jesus and received your free gift? Have you done that? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Would you like to re-accept Him as your Savior. Maybe some of you for the first time to accept Jesus as your Savior. I'm going to invite you to stand. Maybe you did it years ago, and you kind of slid back from it and you aren’t what you ought to be. I invite you to stand right now if you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. Would you please do that. Or you want to re-accept Him. You want to re-commit your life to Jesus.

Let’s bow our heads. Dear Father. We should do this every morning. And it’s not strange for us to do this now. Every morning we tell our husband we love him, we tell our wife, “I love you.” And it's okay for us to recommit our love to You. Bless each person who is here today. And may we receive that free gift and may we deepen our relationship to Jesus Christ. Forgive us for our failings. Empower us to be like Jesus until the day He comes and makes us like Him in body and spirit. So thank You for sending Jesus Christ to die for us on the old rugged cross. And thank You for being alive for us for evermore and applying the gifts of Your salvation. We pray this in Jesus name, amen.

Please be seated.

It's time for our closing hymn. I want you to know that we serve a risen Savior.

Hymn of Praise:  #82 Before Jehovah's Awful Throne
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:14-20
Hymn of Response: #251, He Lives

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 4/7/08