The Tomb was Empty!

April 4, 2021

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

John 20:1-18

John 20:1-18

20 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. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

The amount of information available to you at this point in history is astounding. And the way you are able to access all the information floating around in the clouds is also astounding. Today you don’t need books or much less a screen, with a few words, you can call upon your devices to update you on the weather, read your emails to you, read you a story, give the endless numbers of pi, teach you another language, connect you with medical, financial, dating, marriage, vehicle maintenance, advice, diagnoses, etc. With all of this information some might even argue this generation is the smartest.

Whether you believe this generation is the smartest or not with all our access to information, you cannot deny there is a growing trend of everyone being an expert at solving problems. There was a time when information was not so readily available, and you would go to an expert or professional when it came to fixing problems. Today, with the ease and accessibility to information many have become self-proclaimed experts offering advice on a wide range of topics whether in person or online. You have run into this when you’ve expressed some symptoms like pain, fatigue, redness, sneezing and someone responds to you with a full diagnosis and steps to take to get better ranging from diet, oils, pills, and the full gamut of both Eastern and Western medicine. But that person is not an expert, no matter how much they have read online, experienced personally or how passionately they feel, so you need to use caution when listening to self-proclaimed experts. The reach of self-proclaimed experts even ascends to the point of knowing how to fix problems on a national scale by criticizing elected officials and claiming a moral superiority to fix either systemic or situational hatred and violence. These are the lofty claims you encounter and live out yourself in this information saturated generation.

After following Jesus, Mary Magdalene and his disciples had also fallen into the self-proclaimed expert trap. They did not show it in an outspoken or flashy way, but in a way you and I are all too familiar with. Mary Magdalene and the disciples listened to Jesus firsthand day after day. The disciples left everything to follow Jesus and Jesus freed Mary from demon possession. Their lives revolved around Jesus; they trusted him, listened to his teachings and loved him. And a few days before Easter Jesus had been in Jerusalem celebrating the Passover like he did every year, but the next day he was exhausted from a night on trial, beaten and hung on a cross. Mary Magdalene and the disciples were lost for words, filled with fear and wondering what the future would hold. And this is how they had fallen into the trap of self-proclaimed experts.

They all thought they were seeing the situation for what it was. They all thought their teacher, master, healer, friend and Lord has been taken from them, and that they were left alone in world without Jesus. The first Easter morning, the disciples did not go to the tomb expecting to see Jesus standing outside. No, they were in hiding afraid they would be put to death next. And Mary Magdalene with the other ladies were not going to the tomb expecting to find Jesus standing outside. No, they were wondering who would roll the stone away so that they could finish preparing his body for burial and entombment and get some kind of closure after they did not even get to say, “Goodbye.”

Easter morning is no longer a surprise for you, which threatens your appreciation for the impact it has on your life. You did not live through the events of Jesus’ sacrifice or the three days believing he was dead. Instead, you have had a rumor spread about you at school, suffered rejection and judgment based on how you look, lost a job, been abused, divorced, had a miscarriage, a cancer diagnosis, a loved one die, etc. and that event or combination shook you. In the aftermath, you became a self-proclaimed expert because you saw a hopeless future. You became a self-proclaimed expert wondering what good God is to you since he let this bad thing happen to you. And you felt like you lived in a world without Jesus.

When Mary Magdalene saw the stone rolled away on the first Easter morning, she ran to tell the disciples Peter and John. On hearing the news, they both ran to the tomb. They both saw it was empty and Jesus’ burial clothes laying inside, and we read in John 20, 8 … “He saw and believed.” John believed that Jesus was back, but we also read in John 20, 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then, Mary returned to the tomb, found it empty except for two angels who asked her why she was crying to which replied, 13 … “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” Then, she turned around and saw a man who she thought was the gardener, who asked her, 15 … “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Mary asked if he knew where the body was, and since it was Jesus, though she had not recognized him, all he had to say was, 16 … “Mary.” And, she cried out, “‘Rabboni!’ (which means “Teacher”).” Both Mary and the disciples did not expect an empty tomb Easter morning. More precisely, Mary and the disciples did not expect an empty tomb Easter morning from the Scriptures.

You feel like you are living in a world without Jesus when you become a self-proclaimed expert at diagnosing, healing, treating, solving all your problems with a Jesus of your own invention, rather than the Jesus of Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 15, we read these words, 54 “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true.” You and I, Mary and the disciples are perishable mortals. In other words, our bodies wear out and die. This happens because of sin. Our sins, not God, is the reason we die; death is the punishment for our evil behavior. Our sins, not God, is also the reason why we encounter and cause all kinds of horrible, shocking trials and tragedies in our lives, and why the world as a whole is filled with fighting. Our sins, not God, is also the reason we think we have life all figured out because sin rejects God and works to live out a future of our own design. So again, sin leads to death. However, God revealed in Scripture an answer to sin and death. Paul continued in 1 Corinthians 15 quoting from the Old Testament book of Isaiah 25, 54 …“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” And from Hosea 13, 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” These Scriptures written centuries before Jesus pointed to the empty tomb that first Easter morning, as Paul continued to write, 56 “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Sin and death were defeated by Jesus when he came back to life. It was the fulfillment of Scripture; it was God keeping his promise to give forgiveness and life.

Jesus was alive that first Easter morning. When Mary heard Jesus speak and he allowed her to see that he was alive, 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Then, 18 “Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” Mary wanted to cling to Jesus and keep him in her life as before, but Jesus a mission for Mary. She was to give the good news of the resurrection to the disciples.

In the age of information, there is one truth that heals all the problems of the world. When you are left in shock at some comment, insult, tragedy, loss, etc. personal, national or global, your first instinct comes from sin. It is a reaction from a sinful heart that acts as if Jesus were still in the tomb, but that is not the truth. Jesus has spoken your name like he spoke Mary’s name. And he has given you the same message he gave Mary to live by and to share with others. In Isaiah 12, we read, 4 “In that day you will say: ‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.’” All the information of the world is useless if with it you still die. With Jesus you will not die but live. Jesus’ tomb was empty and yours will be empty too. This truth cuts through all the surface troubles and suffering you endure in this life. The empty tomb is the reality of a life in heaven after living here in this world. It is the answer to all the struggles and trials in your life now, it is the answer to your sins and guilt, because it means there is an end to suffering when you are resurrected, it means your will not be punished for your sins because Jesus was punished for you.

The smartest generation has nothing to do with the amount of information at hand, but with the quality of the message they have to share. You are part of generations who have heard the good news that Jesus said, 17… “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Through Jesus, you are a child of God, you are brothers and sisters of Jesus. When your sins weigh heavy on you, when tragedies come and when death is near, the good news you hold on to is, the tomb was empty. Amen.

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