Verse of the Day

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pastor's Sermon Notes - April 12, 2009

The Empty Tomb is not Empty!
John 3:16

For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life


Perhaps you, like myself, have in the past spoken of the disciples coming to the empty tomb. I would suggest that this may not be quite accurate, and that we might want to rethink the use of the word “empty” to describe the tomb after Christ was raised from the dead. Actually there are only four usages of the English word “empty” in the New Testament. Each of these is found in the Gospels, and none of them have reference to the tomb. Perhaps a visit to the tomb would be in order to get to the bottom of this, so that when we speak of the tomb in the future we do so with confidence that our testimony accords with the Scriptural accounts, and the reality of the situation we find there.

We are brought there with the disciples by the Scriptures, taken as it were by the hand and brought to the open mouth of the grave of the Savior. We have come to a tomb. The stone that once sealed it has been rolled away. We can see into the tomb. But it is not enough to just stand there and peer within, we must enter the tomb. At first glance it appears to be empty. That is not quite accurate! Oh, it might have been empty three days before, and filled with death since then, but what about now?

Three women, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, saw something, or rather, someone, in the tomb - Mark 16 – [5] And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. [6] And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. [7] But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

Peter and John saw something in the tomb – John 20 - [5] And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. [6] Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, [7] And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. [8] Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

Mary Magdalene saw someone in the tomb – John 20 - [11] But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, [12] And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. [13] And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

However, as we stand within the tomb we are unable to shake the impression that it is not empty at all. And, it is not just the presence of angels, or of the empty grave clothes that impress us. Someone is here. Something fills this tomb. The tomb is not only not empty, on the contrary, the tomb is full!

What is it that seems to fill this tomb? Is there something for us to learn here, a message for us to understand, something for us to take away when we must leave the tomb? We are afraid to speak, even to whisper within the tomb, and if we did we feel that it would merely echo with the apparent emptiness. But the tomb seems to be speaking to us, and it does not seem to be speaking to us of its emptiness.

Is what we are to learn here about “emptiness”, is the message of the tomb an empty message, is “emptiness” what we are to take with us from the tomb, or is it something else? Is there a fullness here, a fullness that should fill us? Is the tomb full with meaning, and with more than meaning? Should we think of, can we speak of “the fullness of the empty tomb”? Isn’t “the fullness of the empty tomb” a reality, a very personal reality, rich with meaning that resonates within our very being? Do we really understand that Christianity is not about an empty tomb? Does that seem to be too radical a statement to you? To some Christianity may be an empty religion, and they never get beyond the emptiness of the tomb. I say to you that the testimony of the tomb is not a testimony of emptiness but of fullness!

We need, we really do need to consider the fullness of the tomb. We need to give serious consideration to what this tomb is filled with.

I. The Empty Tomb is full of God

The silence within the tomb is very loud. The silence here shouts out the reality that God is here, not just that He has been here, but that He is here. He is here not just as He is everywhere as the omnipresent and immanent God, but here He is in a very special sense, speaking to us out of the very “emptiness” of this tomb. He is here revealing Himself to us, speaking to us of His sovereign presence, of His overcoming power, of His overwhelming purpose.

Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul that speaks of the fulness that should confront us in the tomb where He demonstrated the greatest display of His power the world and human history has ever seen!

Romans 15:29 - And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

Ephesians 1:23 - Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Ephesians 3:19 - And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Ephesians 4:13 - Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Cololossians 1:19 - For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

Colossians 2:9 - For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Do you sense His presence? Do you hear what He is saying to you in the “emptiness” of this tomb? Do you sense the fullness of God in the emptiness of the tomb?

II. The Empty Tomb is full of Love

What is it about this tomb that makes its apparent emptiness such an issue! What is this tomb all about?

What kind of love is this that brings us to a tomb? What manner of love calls us to a seemingly empty tomb? What is it about this tomb that makes it seem to us so full, so filled with love?

How is it that God can “give”? How can it be that God can “give” sacrificially? Will we ever plumb the depths of what it means for God to “give”?

Here, even as in the manger, here, as at the foot of the Cross, here, as gazing into glory, we should feel and experience and be filled with His sacrificial giving love as nowhere else. We should never forget what we find filling this tomb!

III. The Empty Tomb is full of Life

The death that was here is gone. This tomb was a battlefield, and Death, the enemy, has fled the battlefield that the tomb was as an utterly defeated foe. Death has been defeated by the irresistible power of the sovereign Lord, by His unconquerable Love, and by His unquenchable Life.

Only the power of God could empty this tomb of death, and that is precisely what is left as the “emptiness” of the tomb. No power on earth could empty the tomb of death, but the power of the Lord of heaven and earth could! And no power in heaven or on earth can now empty that tomb of what fills it, of the God who is there, the God who loves, and the life He alone gives!

The life that fills this tomb which was once filled with death is a particular kind of life. It is everlasting life, a life that death can no longer conquer. Death is a defeated foe. The tomb has been emptied of death, and filled with the reality of everlasting life due to the victory of God and the sacrifice of His love.

The tomb has been emptied of death leaving Life in its stead. This tomb is full, full of life! It speaks, it shouts, it echoes of life, resurrection life, everlasting life!


You might be wondering, “Preacher, that is all well and good, but what text of the Bible tells us this? Is this just your own thinking, shouldn’t you be expounding Scripture, or where do you get this from? This seems like a topical message without a text! That is not like what we have come to expect from you. What is this about?” Well, okay, those are reasonable questions. We are not done with the tomb just yet. Don’t just walk away!

As we leave the tomb that we once thought was empty, and we turn to look back in reflection, we see inscribed above the tomb words, and not just any words. Do you see them? What words do you see inscribed, emblazoned across the entrance to the tomb? We see these words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”, and this verse seems mysteriously appropriate to describe the fullness of the tomb.

Let us speak no more of an empty tomb! Let us speak of a tomb that is filled - filled with God and His power, filled with God and His love, filled with God and His life!

“This morning I stumbled across the first few pages of Alexander Strauch’s Leading with Love. He begins this book by telling a story from the life of Dwight L. Moody. He tells of a time that the evangelist Henry Moorhouse was asked to preach at Moody’s church every night for a week. To everyone’s surprise, Moorhouse preached seven consecutive sermons on John 3:16, preaching on God’s love from Genesis to Revelation. Moody’s son recorded the impact of this preaching in the life of his father:

For six nights he had preached on this one text. The seventh night came and he went into the pulpit. Every eye was upon him. He said, “Beloved friends, I have been hunting all day for a new text, but I cannot find anything so good as the old one; so we will go back to the third chapter of John and the sixteenth verse,” and he preached the seventh chapter from those wonderful words, “God so loved the world.” I remember the end of that sermon:

“My friends,” he said, “for a whole week I have been trying to tell you how much God loves you, but I cannot do it with this poor stammering tongue. If I could borrow Jacob’s ladder and climb up into heaven and ask Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, to tell me how much love the Father has for the world, all he could say would be: ‘God so loveth the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’”

Unable to hold back the tears as Moorhouse preached on the love of God in sending His only Son to die for sinners, Moody confessed:

I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out; I could not keep back the tears. It was like news from a far country: I just drank it in. So did the crowded congregation. I tell you there is one thing that draws above everything else in the world, and that is love.”

Source: Tim Challies at [accessed 8 APR 2009]

The only “empty tomb” is the tomb of the unbeliever who if filled with death, with an empty heart, and empty soul, and an eternity empty of hope! If you know God, and have experienced His power and love, if you have inherited eternal life by faith in Christ, you know this tomb is not empty, and that you have been filled with precisely that which fills this tomb! Go rejoicing in the message of the “Full Tomb” rather than the empty tomb!

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