The tomb of my Savior is not famous because it's fancy. It's not famous because it's big. It's famous because it's empty. I'm thrilled that it's empty.
I want to talk to you a little bit about the resurrection, the death, the burial of our Savior. Come over here to John, the nineteenth chapter first of all. John 19:39 - "He (Joseph of Arimethea) was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds." That's a lot of pounds. Where he got that just before sundown I don't know. But praise God for Joseph of Arimethea who lived just twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem. And praise God for Nicodemus. Jesus' own personal friends were financially unable to care for Him at the time of His death. He would have had to be buried in a tomb that was provided by the Roman government for people that were executed. Fortunately He didn't have to do that.
Just before sundown, these two secret followers of Jesus, two men of means stepped out of the shadows and they cared for Jesus body. Joseph was one of these types that purchase their cemetery lot before they die. Have you done that? I haven't done that. I haven't planned on dying until Jesus comes. But he was one of those types who had already had the thing purchased and maybe decorated... I don't know what-all they do. Some people even go and decorate their own grave on Memorial Day. But he had the tomb ready. And his brand new tomb became the final resting place for Jesus... Right? It wasn't final. Where is Jesus final resting place? The New Earth, I suppose.
Nicodemus brought enough costly ointments to satisfy and bury a king. And these two, like so many, were there. They came and they gave their tributes like many people do today after the person died. I don't know why we wait so long. One dandelion given while a person is alive is worth more than a whole heaped-up load of expensive flowers after the person dies. And yet they didn't do it until He died.
John 19:40 - "Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with spices, in the shroud of Turin... " Is that what it says? "They wrapped it in strips of linen." There was no big garment here. Jesus seamless garment had been gambled of among the soldiers. He was wrapped in strips of linen by Nicodemus and Joseph. This was in accordance with the burial customs of the Jews. Somebody had to step in and help because the disciples were gone. And where were the women? They had followed so close and yet they weren't there either, somehow. But the power of Jesus' death brought these two hidden disciples out of the woodwork. Joseph and Nicodemus. They filled the desperate need just in the nick of time. John 19:41 - "At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, ..." Did you ever want to be buried near a garden? Well, there was a garden there. And the garden had a "new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid." That was the tomb of Joseph. I have ben there to that tomb. This tomb is near a beautiful garden. It's on a lower level, and you know good gardens are in the bottom land, and that's where this is. H.M.S. Richards, Sr., the founder of the Voice of Prophecy of radio fame, studied the location of that tomb, and he believed that that is the exact location of Jesus' tomb. It's a beautiful place. It's called the garden tomb. The tomb was re-discovered in 1885. It had been buried for centuries. They had dug down through twenty feet of rubble and found it there. There it is on the original soil. It's amazing.
And it's only a few hundred feet from Calvary. John 19:42 - "Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." So the tomb was near the cross, wasn't it? And that's where this one is. Archaeologists discovered that spot, and they went into the tomb and they scraped all the dust and all the fragments, anything and everything, they swept it and vacuumed it and got all the articles that they could out of that tomb and sent them off to the British Scientific Research Institute, and there they examined these remains and there's not one trace of human remains. So apparently Jesus was the very first person that was buried in that tomb and the last person that was buried in that tomb. It was never used again. Joseph of Arimethea had to go out and get another tomb for himself. He didn't want to be buried in the same tomb where His Savior was, apparently. That's amazing.
The resurrection of Jesus is a reality. You can depend on it. If He did not rise from the dead, what is our hope for rising from the dead? It isn't there, is it? Because He rose, we will rise. We will! It's a fact and not a fabrication.
Now, of course the worst day in the world for the Pharisees was resurrection Sunday. They couldn't have had a worse day. All of there efforts were in vain. They had made sure that the Roman guards stayed there and guarded this tomb for at least three days and three nights. Lo and behold, the disciples were out preaching that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Now, you know, the Pharisees could have stopped that. The disciples were out there preaching the resurrection and the people were beginning to believe. Christianity was taking off. All the Pharisees had to do was produce the dead corpse of Jesus, and say, "look, there He is," and it would have stopped Christianity; nipped it in the bud. It would have died on the vine. But they didn't do it, because they couldn't do it. They could not produce Jesus' body because He was alive again. And the disciples were allowed to preach the resurrection from the place of the tomb. Jesus is not in the tomb, folks, He is risen!
We serve a risen Savior. And because He is risen as the first fruit we have hope that we will also rise. We have a risen Savior. Because of Jesus the grave is not the final resting place. It's not a blind alley. The grave is a thoroughfare. It's not a dead end whole on the ground. It's something that you go through. On the other side you will find eternal life.
Every grave of every Christian will be exhumed. I suppose Satan calls Jesus a grave robber. Jesus will take the Christians home.
Imagine getting good news from the cemetery. That's exactly what these women did. Luke 24:1-7 - "On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told all these you, while He was still with you in Galilee: "the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again."'" The women came to the tomb early on Sunday morning.
Have you ever walked through a graveyard? That's exactly what this was. Do you get hope from a graveyard? I've walked through on Sabbath afternoons sometimes. There's a little cemetery a short distance from my house that dates way back. Some of the go back to the 1700's. As I walk through a cemetery I look at the dates on some of the tombstones. Some of them lived a very short life. Some of them lived a long life. But not much of a life, some of them. Some have been buried for hundred or two hundred years. On others, the grass is barely getting started. But all of those tombstones of Christians will have the same date on them: the date of the resurrection. That date will be in common. If I don't live until Jesus comes, I want to be raised. So can we find hope in a graveyard? Yes we can, because Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Life became the Lord of death. Jesus found the way out of that sepulcher, and no longer would that granite tombstone be like a stop sign or dead end sign. It was a thoroughfare Jesus paid the price.
How many times have we gone out and buried a loved one? You've done that, you've been to funerals. We have placed our frail clay; the remnants of those who have died within the soil, much like you are doing in your gardens right now. Planting those seeds in that cold soil with the sure hope that someday something will happen if we can keep this frost away long enough. Maybe our gardens will come up.
So have faith in Jesus. He is alive forevermore. He has the keys of death and the grave. And, He is your friend. Praise God that our friend has the keys and He is willing to open that for us.
Now, the devil must have been very upset because the Roman guards weren't the only ones guarding that tomb, were they? The devil probably had a contingent of his own soldiers there. They were also guarding the tomb. From what we read from Desire of Ages we are told that they were told by the devil himself "Don't you allow anything to come out of that tomb. If He comes out, we're done!" And they did allow it. In fact when the angel from heaven came down the evil angels just disappeared like fog in the sunshine. They evaporated into the woodwork. The evil angels fled at the arrival of one heavenly angel. Satan saw with his own eyes the risen Savior and knew that he was doomed forevermore.
In the eighteenth century our United States Congress published a commemorative edition of Thomas Jefferson's own personal Bible. Thomas Jefferson removed from his Bible any and all references to the supernatural. So, as you go through his Bible you read here in the New Testament the closing words of Thomas Jefferson's Bible are these: "There they laid Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed." And that's the end of his Bible. I want to tell you today that's not the end of the story. The story goes on. Jesus rose from that tomb.
John 20:1 - "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance." Now, it was dark. You can't see well in the dark, but at least she could see that the stone is gone. The stone has been roiled away and it's open. She didn't want to go in. She just knew that the stone was gone and it's still dark.
Now, shame on the human race! We were largely absent at the birth of our Savior, we were absent and largely unaccounted for at the resurrection of our Savior. We missed both of the most important events of Christianity. We weren't there. The only people there at His resurrection were the Roman Guards as far as human beings go. We were absent. I want to tell you today that the greatest discovery of the world was not the steam engine. It's not electricity. It's not McCormick and his reaper. It's not the Pentium chip. The greatest discovery in the world was discovered by these ladies, and that is that the tomb was empty. There can't be a greater discovery than that. I believe that rather than the cross being the symbol of Christianity it aught to be the empty tomb. That's the true symbol because unless He rose from that tomb that's the end.
Obviously this resurrection on that Sunday morning was not planned by a committee. Let's suppose that the resurrection tomorrow morning, April 12, 1998. Let's suppose that's when the resurrection was going to be. And we knew it, and we believed it. If that's the case, then there would probably be a committee for arrangements. We'd have a whole list of dignitaries invited. There would be a lot of people going to be there. Outside the tomb there would be people sleeping all night in sleeping bags waiting for the arrival of the angel. There would be television cameras and the media. Massive lights set up. All the motel rooms taken. Bleachers constructed. Ropes for crowd control. A real Easter Sunrise Service. And the Sadducees especially would be invited so they could see the real thing. "Here is a resurrection. You're never going to doubt this again." And rescue team would be there. EMT's, bands, people, great choirs ready to sing, disciples on the front row. Dark sunglasses for the arrival of the angel. Have it all planned. A changing room for Jesus to slip into some fresh things. A reception line with Mary at the head of the line. And maybe Easter lilies laid down by Lazarus. The widow of Nain with her son and the daughter of Jairus that was raised. They could do quite a job of planning that couldn't they? But that didn't happen.
What did the guards see? Did they see anything? When the angel came they were struck down as dead men. Did they see anything? Yes, they did. They were not struck down immediately. You can read this in Desire of Ages, p. 781. They saw the angel, they watched as the stone was rolled away and they saw the Savior come out and they recognized Him. They knew that He was the one that they had taken care of by weaving that crown of thorns and putting it on His head. He's the One, and here He's alive. They knew beyond a doubt. They were the eyewitnesses. They had hung Him on the cross. They had hammered those nails and they saw Him. And when He was glorified they fainted. After the light faded, and the angel and Jesus were gone, they came to and they awoke as believers. Did they believe at first? Yes, they did! And what did they do? They went and they told everybody throughout the city: "He is risen. We saw him with our own eyes. He's alive." And they started spreading the story throughout Jerusalem until word got to the Pharisees. The Pharisees said, "We want to talk with you for a second." And the Pharisees with large amounts of money, we are told (in Matthew) bribed them, and their money was plugged, their mouth was plugged by great money. They sold their integrity.
John 20:1 - Early the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene..." Let's focus an Mary for just a bit. You know that death started with a disobedience of one woman in the garden of Eden, didn't it? And now it is natural that in another garden another woman is the very first to hear the great news, the great announcement, that death has been conquered. Two women, removed by several thousand years. Jesus conquered death. He conquered it for you and He conquered it for me. Death was doomed.
Matthew 28 explains how this startling event happened. Matthew 28:1,2 - "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it." In fact, there was an earthquake when Jesus died and another when He rose. I like it where he sits on the stone.
Mark says that the angel was young. (Mark 16:5) Did you know that? A young angel! Aren't they all young? Now this contributes to our scanty knowledge about heaven. Our knowledge is limited, but where God lives there is no aging. Everybody up in heaven is young. They're fit. They're trim, they're healthy. They're young.
And this angel came and he found the tomb. Angels are tomb finders. They know how to find the tomb of those who are to experience the resurrection. There's not visual mark on a tombstone of Christians. Is there some special mark on there? How do they find those tombs? Well, they guard that spot. They mark that spot somehow. We are told that the spot where the righteous are laid to rest are marked by the angels of heaven. I don't know what kind of mark it is, but when the heavenly angles view the burial grounds they see, somehow, maybe they see some bright shimmering shiny strobe-light coming up. That's where I'm supposed to be. They had no trouble finding Jesus' tomb, and they will find not trouble finding the tomb of those who died as Christians.
I want to close by telling you a story that probably many of you have heard many times before. It's such a beautiful story I just have to tell it today.
Miss Jones taught special education in and elementary school. In this school everybody was mentally challenged. As she taught this class it was Easter time, so she instructed the class, "When you come to school tomorrow, please bring with you one of these plastic Easter eggs. Put something inside of it that to you is very important and speaks of Easter. Bring it to school. We're going to have each of you open your egg." The next day, she called the name of each child and the child would come forward and place their little plastic egg on the teacher's desk. The teacher would have them open it and would see what was inside. There was a candy heart in one of them, a chocolate chicken or something in another. Finally it was Jeremy's turn. Now Jeremy was the worst of the twenty students. He was the most disturbed. She called his name. He came slowly up to her desk with his egg.
"Go ahead and open your egg," she said.
With a big smile, Jeremy opened his egg and it revealed nothing.
"But, Jeremy, your egg is empty. You were supposed to put something in there."
"I know," he said with a smile. "But Jesus' tomb is empty, too."
And the teacher was silenced.
Jeremy died three months later. His little life came to an end. On top of his little casket as a testimony to his faith in the empty tomb were nineteen plastic eggs. Everyone of them empty indicating the faith in the empty tomb.
I want to tell you that that's how you can be saved. Have faith in a risen Savior. Have faith in Jesus. That tomb is empty. He went through a lot for you. If you will just accept Jesus as your Savior you're going to be in heaven. It's a fact. I urge you today on this special weekend to give your heart to Jesus Christ. Re-commit your whole life to Him. Please do that. He would empty heave to save you. He emptied his life to save you. You are worth saving. He loves you. I urge you today to give your life to Him.
Opening Song: #251, "He Lives" Scripture: Luke 24:1-7 Closing Song: #159, "The Old Rugged Cross" (Transcribed from an audio tape of the sermon.)
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last updated 5/10/98 by Bob Beckett.