The Empty Tomb

… Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. … So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed” (John 20:1–8).


What do you see, when you look at the empty tomb of Jesus? Do you see a hole in the ground? Do you see Hope? Are you confused? Do you not react at all? The whole foundation of saving faith is based on the fact that Jesus physically rose from the tomb. And yet people have different responses to the resurrection, because people are different. Saving faith is not based on an empty tomb but a risen Lord.


Some people, like Mary of Magdala and Thomas, seem to be practical thinkers who only believe what their eyes tell them. Mary’s response to the stone being rolled away was, “Jesus is gone because someone stole the body.” Thomas’ response to the report of the resurrection was doubt until he could physically touch the body of Jesus. Instead of rejoicing when they saw the empty tomb or heard the good news of His resurrection and fulfilled promise, Mary was filled with sorrow, and Thomas with doubt. But Jesus sought out both to present Himself alive, and then their hearts were filled with joy and worship.


Some people are confused over the empty grave. Peter, for example, ran to the grave to see for himself the empty tomb. When he arrived he stood at the entrance, looked at the linens, but didn’t go inside. Peter had to process what he saw with what he knew to be true about Jesus. Peter knew that he had betrayed Jesus, and that He had truly died. Peter knew that Jesus promised to rise again 3 days after His death. And now everything that Jesus had said about His resurrection appeared to be true; so, could he believe it? Could the friend and Savior that he loved, but betrayed, indeed be alive? Luke 24:12 describes Peter’s response, “…he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.” Sometime later Jesus would appear to Peter and the others to show Himself alive.


Finally, some people do not see and yet believe. John does not name himself in this text, however, we know him to be “the other disciple.” When he arrived at the tomb, he went in, saw it was empty, and he believed. “So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). John’s simple faith accepted Jesus at His word, and that word was confirmed by seeing the empty tomb. Keep in mind, John was not seeing something tangible; his faith was based on what was not there – Jesus was not in the tomb.


When we go to the garden tomb today, Jesus is not there. If you go to the grave of Buddha, he is there. Mohamad, he is there. Joseph Smith, there. All faith-based systems, apart from faith in Jesus, will fail because their leaders are dead and buried. Only Jesus has power over death, therefore, only Jesus can give life. Jesus is alive and gives life to all who believe. Do you believe?


In His Service,

Pastor Cary

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