Peninsula Community Church
April 21, 2019
Matthew 28:1-8 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
When I was a child I loved when my mom would buy sugary cereals. I especially loved those cereals that would have a surprise in side. Perhaps I am showing my age, but we would often buy cereal not so much for the cereal itself but for the prize. I could not wait to get home to open the box so I could dig to the bottom of the box to find the prize. There were, however, occasions where after digging deep into the box, I would come up empty. Here I am a six or seven year old kid coming up empty from my search. I would be so disappointed and upset because of that. I had the anticipation of getting something but I came up empty.
A difficulty in this fast paced world we live is that too often we jump at the chance to fill ourselves with more without pausing to consider too deeply what more is. We busy our ourselves with activity and events. We fill ourselves with things, but we do not have time to give thanks for what we have already been given. We live in a world filled with empty calories, empty entertainment, empty hearts, empty seats at dinner time, and even empty worship.
Emptiness is a reality that most of us will experience at some time. It may have been an empty cereal box, or it could be an empty gas tank, an empty wallet, or it could be an empty heart. Whether it is a broken heart, a broken dream, or something that has not gone right, we have all experienced let downs and emptiness. Many of us have found our hearts emptied of laughter and joy. In fact, we can begin to wonder if emptiness is all there is.
Too often, the response we have to emptiness is to try and cover up our emptiness by looking for substitutes or distractions to fill the emptiness. I would suggest however that when you reach a place of emptiness, where the disappointments run deep, you are in the perfect position for a miracle. You are in just the right place for God to do something special in life. Why? It is because God can make His good come from bad situations (Romans 8:28). God has the unique ability to take our messes, disappointments, and mistakes and mold them into something useful and good. That is who He is and that is what He does. We see that in the life of Joesph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. We see it the life of Job who lost everything, but God restored what he lost and more.
Returning to our story, can you imagine the disappointment the women who were headed to see Jesus experienced when they found an empty tomb? They had gone there to embalm and cover Jesus’ body with perfume and oil so they could preserve His body and keep it from smelling as it decayed. They were headed to the tomb with great expectation and excitement only to find the tomb was empty. He was not there! He was gone!
A joyous moment has now turned to emptiness in their heart. What was once a sense of mission and purpose was quickly changed to confusion and emptiness! How many times have you moved toward something with great anticipation only to come up empty and your needs unmet? In that moment, we often feel confused and disoriented but, God is good at turning our messes and our emptiness into something more than we can every imagine.
Tony Evans tells the story of Charlie Goodyear who started the Goodyear tire company. While working in his lab, Mr. Goodyear inadvertently spilled some rubber into a fire. When the rubber hit the fire it made a big colossal mess, but he noticed that because of the fire it became incredibly strong and durable. This mistake was transformed into the Goodyear tire. When rubber combined with the heat it got messy, but it also produced a strong, tough product we now depend on to carry us around. We might be in a mess and the fire might be turned up but that heat and the mess of our life can be used to make us stronger and tougher.
Listen to the last words of this passage. After going to the tomb and finding it empty they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Do you hear the conflict that arose in them? They were filled simultaneously with fear and with great joy. That is exactly what the power of emptiness can do to us. We want to be filled with joy but the emptiness of our heart causes us to fear. Our emptiness causes us confusion and pain.
With that in mind let me share a couple of things with you this morning about the emptiness at the end of Jesus’ life. There are two specific instances of emptiness that changed the world. First, we find that the cross is empty. It once held the body of Jesus suspended between two thieves and suspended between mankind and God, but now on Easter Sunday the cross is empty. His body is no longer there. But, in the emptiness of the cross comes powerful hope and joy. In the emptiness of the cross, we find forgiveness and wholeness. In the emptiness of the cross, we find greater fulfillment than at any other place in our life.
We can look at the cross as being empty or we can see beyond the cross to the power of His death upon that cross. The empty cross becomes a source of His power to assist us in securing healing, forgiveness, and His righteousness. The empty cross made a way for every sin ever committed to be forgiven once and for all. What could only be done through the mediacy of a high priest is now accomplished through direct access to God, the Father. The empty cross might be empty, but the emptiness of the cross is filled with the power of God.
Secondly, we have an empty tomb. The empty tomb is filled with hope, love, a promise given, and a promise fulfilled. The empty tomb confirms to us that there is hope beyond the messes of our life. The empty tomb tells us that the Savior lives. The empty tomb tells us that we are not abandoned and that we are not alone. The empty tomb may not hold the body of Christ but it holds such great promise for us. In the empty tomb, we have the promise of a future. We are promised a hope for tomorrow. The song “Because He Lives” says it best. “Because He lives we can face tomorrow.” Because He lives we can face the messes of our life. Because He lives, the emptiness of our hearts is filled with hope and promise.
The emptiness you feel is not the end, it is only the beginning. In fact, it represents a new beginning for you. The emptiness of the cross and the tomb in fact gives us hope that we will be filled and restored. The scars you bear and the holes in your heart cannot to be compared to what Jesus went through, and yet we cannot minimize the pain you feel, the scars you bear, or your heart that has been torn in desperation and failure. Although we feel the pain of emptiness, these things did not kill you. If the God who created us has the power to resurrect the Savior, He also has the power to resurrect you. He has the ability to lift you higher than you ever imagined.
We have a decision to make in regard to our wounds. You can choose to hide your wounds from the world. We can pretend the pain, the loss, or death never happened. You can choose to reopen the wounds with cheap relationships and bitterness by looking back at what could have been instead what is ahead of us into the future. You can also choose a different path. It is a path of hope and of promise. It is a promise of resurrection life. That which was dead is alive again.
We find that the Jesus of the cross and the tomb does not immediately head to Heaven but He visits with the disciples and those around the city of Jerusalem. The Jesus of the empty cross. The Jesus of the empty tomb returns to fill the disciples with hope and joy. He returns to Peter to give Him a message of love, and commission Him to be the leader of this disoriented and misdirected band of disciples. I love this encounter because it shows us that emptiness may come but that emptiness is followed by rejoicing. First comes absence, then comes glory. The Easter story begins with emptiness, but ends with rejoicing and promise.
Imagine the emptiness of the disciples who had failed their master big time. Imagine the feeling of regret and shame and pain from the days before and during the crucifixion. The savior, however, had a different plan. He met them in their pain. He met them right where they were, so that He could bring them to a sense of being filled. In the end, we must pass through the empty cross and through the empty tomb to see the resurrected Lord high and lifted up. That is what we celebrate here today. We accept the cross and all that it has to offer. We accept the empty tomb with its power to overcome the power of sin and death itself.
I love this passage in Romans 8:11 and I close with this, If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Did you get that? The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you as a believer in Christ. No matter who you are, He is able to give life to your emptiness. He is able to fill you up. If you are not a believer, He invites you accept His empty tomb and His empty cross by inviting Him into your heart. Your emptiness will be filled and He will give you a new life filled His promise and His hope.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom