Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for this morning comes from the Gospel, which was read earlier.
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark…” It’s around the same time now it was 2000 years ago. The sun has just gone up. Here we are, gathered to find the risen Christ, but He is not here. Imagine if you had just arrived at the tomb where Christ was buried, and you found the large stone that had sealed the tomb removed. What is your first reaction to it?
What Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and John focused on was the empty tomb. Christians are privileged to see the empty tomb and no body in it. Think what that means. It means that Christ was more than just a man. The realization has been proven once again: “Truly this was the Son of God.”
What they didn’t focus on was why the tomb was empty. It was empty because Christ had been resurrected from the grave. As the hymnist writes and as we sang earlier, “Early hasten to the tomb/Where they laid His breathless clay;/All is solitude and gloom./Who has taken Him away?/Christ is ris’n! He meets our eyes./Savior, teach us so to rise.” This hymn doesn’t end with the empty tomb. It doesn’t end with a missing Jesus. It ends with a risen Jesus and our plea for our Savior to teach us to rise. The focus wasn’t on the fact that the tomb was empty; the focus was on why the tomb was empty: because Christ rose from the dead to give us everlasting life. It is because Christ defeated death by His death and resurrection for you and for me.
That’s why you and I are here this morning. We are here because we desire to see the risen Christ. We are here because Christ has triumphed once and for all over sin, death, and the devil.
Looking at the tomb where Jesus lay, they see that the stone was rolled away. We’re not talking a little rock placed to seal the tomb. This is a large stone, a stone that required several large men to roll it into place. Entering the tomb, they find it just as Mary Magdalene had described it: empty. The only thing left in the tomb were the death linens. They were dumbfounded by the scene before them, for John writes, “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” There was no body, only Christ’s linens. There were no signs of people moving the stone guarding the entrance of the tomb, only emptiness.
After the last three years, being with Jesus, seeing all that Jesus had done, hearing all that Jesus had spoken, how could they not understand that He had to rise from the dead? They saw Him perform the miracles. They had heard Him talk about His coming death and resurrection, yet they still didn’t fully understand the resurrection. Even for us at times, living in this New Testament era, having the recorded facts for us, we fail to understand that He had to rise from the dead. We even say that “by His dying He has destroyed death, and by His rising again He has restored to us everlasting life.” The Scriptures point us to His resurrection. They spell out the meaning of Christ’s resurrection for us, as well as the event. It provided a forceful demonstration of Christ’s deity. It announced our justification. We know that we shall follow Jesus in rising from the dead. Our faith is sure since we have a living Savior.
In all that is reported in our text, there is just one little expression of faith. It is reported that John, after he entered the tomb and observed the linen cloths and the face napkin carefully placed separately, believed. This is the one word of faith mentioned in our text. The text explains that the lack of faith in these disciples was because they did not yet know the Scriptures, that He must rise from the dead. Even though Jesus had clearly predicted His resurrection on the third day after His death, it was reported at that time and became evident on Easter Sunday morning, that they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and they did not grasp what was said. For Peter, John, Mary Magdalene and the others, they did not have a spectacular celebration of the resurrection, but instead went back to their homes.
For the disciples, it was too much to bear. They returned to their homes, imaginably feeling a hundred different emotions, yet Mary Magdalene “stood weeping outside the tomb.” For her, the morning has been too much, yet she can’t bring herself to leave the tomb of Jesus. She needed comfort, she needed peace, she needed Jesus. She might have had that comfort and peace if she knew that Jesus was in the tomb, but having seen the empty tomb, there was no comfort and there was no peace. All that she had now was fear and uncertainty.
Why are you here this early Easter morning? Are you here because of an empty tomb? Are you here because of a risen Christ? Peter and John did not understand that Christ must rise from the dead. After the last three years, being with Jesus, seeing all that Jesus had done, hearing all that Jesus had spoken, they didn’t understand what Christ’s purpose was: to defeat sin and death on our behalf. We pray, “Because He is now risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, all who believe in Him will overcome sin and death and will rise again to new life.”
The tomb is empty because Christ has risen from the grave. That is the last part of the hymn from earlier. “Christ is risn’! He meets our eyes. Savior, teach us so to rise.” This, my friends, is why the tomb is empty, because Christ rose from the dead to give us everlasting life. It is because Christ defeated death by His death and resurrection that the tomb is empty.
This has been done for you. Everything Christ went through was for you – His birth, His life, His crucifixion, His death, and finally His resurrection. It was done for you so that you would have life and have it abundantly through His grace, given to you on the cross. Through all that Christ has endured, we are now brothers and sisters of Christ.
Where is Jesus? He is no longer dead. He is no longer in the tomb. He has risen, just as Scripture has foretold of long ago. He descended into hell, just as the Creed says, where He showed His pierced hands and feet to Satan and told him that he no longer had any hold over God’s creation. More importantly, He ascended into heaven, where He reigns with God forever, waiting for the time where all of His brothers and sisters in the faith are joined with Him for all eternity. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until the day of resurrection. Amen.