This article was originally posted at www.serve-others.com/issue17.
I wonder how many books have been written about the empty tomb? Or even more, how many sermons have been preached on this theme? The empty tomb is a favorite subject of poets and artists.
If I should ask you to describe from your imagination a picture that symbolizes Easter, almost surely one of the scenes that would come to mind would be a stone tomb with a huge rock rolled back from the entrance, with the implied message that the tomb is empty. The empty tomb. The phrase itself captures us. It seems symbolic of all hat Easter means.And yet, it isn’t to the point.
Here is the Good News about Easter. The tomb was now full. And it has been full ever since.
Victory, for instance... Tombs have for so long declared themselves the ultimate winners; after all, no mortal escapes them! But no longer. We do indeed die, but with a sublime confidence that we will rise again. We will win! Our Lord has taken conquest of the grave, turning its emptiness into habitation of victory. The game we humans have been losing since Adam and Eve is now turned to victory.
And hope too. The tomb is now full of hope. During my nearly forty years as a parish pastor, I stood many hundreds of times at the open grave . . . I conducted "final rites" with hope. As a fellow human being, I wanted often to weep with the mourners, and sometimes I did; I felt for their loss, particularly in those instances where death seemed to have come earlier than was its right. But my tears were of sympathy, not of despair. The tomb is now full of hope.
So it’s a full tomb. Full of life, hope, prospect, glory, gladness, anticipation.
So full that the small body of first-century believers, who seemed ripe for immediate extinction, became instead a movement of such proportions that within less than a generation their enemies were referring to them as the people who were turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6). The odds were so dramatically against the little company of believers . . . When Jesus told this group of fishermen, small-business people, and day laborers that they should go into all the world to preach the gospel, I doubt that there was anyone in the group who knew anything about the world beyond a fifty-mile radius. They were an absurd minority, with nothing going for them. Except that they were full...full to overflowing
Twenty centuries of generations have now slipped by since our Lord was raised from the dead, and millions upon millions of believers have visited the tomb—some in person, and most by faith and sacred imagination. And at that tomb, they have been filled. For the power of this place and what it represents is so great it will fill the emptiness of the human race for as long as life shall last.Remember always that emptiness is the antithesis of Jesus Christ and of the faith that he represents and inspires. He said he came that we might have life, and "have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
For all of the emptiness of life, for all of its vanity and disappointment, Jesus Christ is not only the answer, he is the antithesis. This is why, when I look at his Jerusalem tomb, I think it full. Fullness is our Savior’s name.
Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas served as a pastor for 38 years in four churches in Wisconsin and Ohio, and five years as an associate in evangelism with the World Methodist Council. He is currently serving as the interim president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Dr. Kalas has had more than thirty of his books published by a variety of publishers. These excerpts are from one of his most famous sermons.
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