Empty Tomb?

Easter Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:32
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There are many religions throughout the world.
Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Mormonism, Christianity just to name a few.
They all purport to have moral teachings.
They all have leadership and some sort of organized way to worship.
They all believe that if you follow their rules and design then the world would be a better place and your life would be better to.
They all make these types of claims.
So why should we believe in Christianity?
Why should we uphold the teachings of Jesus as superior to those of Muhammed, Joseph Smith, or Buddha?
Does Christianity stand out and above the rest of these teachings and if so how?
This is a question that we must all wrestle with.
We must look at the evidence and decide if we believe Jesus to be who he said he is or if we want to follow one of these other religious teachings.
You’re here this morning and as a bible believing, Jesus worshipping church, I am going to try and convince you that Christianity is right.
Most of you already agree with that proposition, but some of you may doubt that Christianity is true.
Maybe you’re here b/c family or friends asked you to attend.
Maybe you were dragged here.
Maybe you are curious about this whole Jesus thing.
Maybe you are just asking questions.
Or Maybe you are seeking the truth.
Where ever you are this morning I want to present you with the fundamental claim of Christianity.
If this claim was found to be false then all of Christianity would fail.
If you could convince me that this singular event was a hoax or falsified, then I would have no choice but to walk away from Jesus and seek out some other truth.
This is the claim that Jesus was Resurrected.
That after his death and burial, Jesus rose again on the third day. Not as a spirit, but in body and flesh.
This is the fundamental and foundational claim of Christianity, that Jesus rose from the dead.
Like Paul says in 1 Cor 15:17 “17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless...”
I want to start by looking at what most historians would agree to before I get to the resurrection.
We need to have a frame work to work with.
First, You would be hard pressed to find a historian that would deny the claim that Jesus lived. Even secular atheistic professors in major universities believe that Jesus was an actual man.
Second, they would all agree that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
Thirdly, they would also agree that followers of Jesus believed they saw and interacted with Jesus after his death.
They wouldn’t agree that Jesus’ disciples saw Jesus, but they do agree that the disciples believed they did.
Now here’s the thing, in order to discount Christianity we have to prove the resurrection didn’t happen.
Now that seems easy enough if we could simply prove that how the tomb was empty.
Even if you don’t believe that Jesus rose from the grave, everyone needs to account for the empty tomb.
But there was an empty tomb. So what do we do with that?
Well here’s explanations that have been given through history. I’m not going to go over every theory, but here’s the gist of them.
Stolen Body Theory-The earliest reason given for the empty tomb was put forth by the Jewish leaders.
They believed the disciples had stolen the body.
Problems: Guards at the tomb overpowered by Disciples? The disciples had already fled the scene at J.C’s crucifixion so they were scared and hiding in fear for their lives.
Swoon Theory-Jesus didn’t actually die, but only appeared to be dead.
He simply was revived during his rest in the tomb. So when the disciples saw him, they had mistaken that he rose from the dead.
Problems: Romans were really good at killing. They knew Jesus was dead. He had been beaten almost to death, then crucified. Placed in the tomb with no medical assistance and some how got magically better.
Hallucination Theory- Disciples were so overwhelmed with grief that they imagined seeing Jesus alive.
Problems: If simply a hallucination, then all the Jewish Leaders would have to do is go back to the tomb and show the disciples the decaying body of Jesus. But alas, the tomb was empty.
Wrong Tomb Theory- Everyone went to the wrong tomb. They didn’t actually go to Jesus’ tomb.
Problem: If there was a wrong tomb, there had to be a right one. So all that would have to be done is take them to right tomb and the disciples would have been silenced.
Twin or Replacement Theory- It wasn’t actually Jesus who was crucified it was his twin or someone else that was put in his place.
Problem- This problem would go back to the incompetence of the Roman and Jewish Leaders. They would have to blunder at every level. If it was a twin, how would they be convinced to go through with it. If it was a different person, there was simple incompetence on every level.
Resurrection Theory-Jesus predicted and proved that he was the Son of God and was actually raised from the dead.
Problem: If this is true then you need to bow the knee and worship him for the God he is.
Maybe your looking at me and you still aren’t convinced that this is real.
That the resurrection happened.
That Jesus is alive.
Maybe you still doubt.
That’s okay. I want you to know that there is room for your doubt.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around the resurrection.
It was even hard for Jesus’ first disciples to believe in the resurrection.
Initially, they weren’t sure what to think about Jesus and his claims.
They didn’t know what to do with an empty tomb either.
Luke 24:1–3 CSB
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

First Visitors

Luke tells us here that the first visitors to the tomb were some women.
And that they went to the tomb very early in the morning.
Notice what they brought with them. Spices that had been prepared.
In the Jewish Culture, a dead body would be covered in Spices to honor them and to help keep the stink of decay at bay.
Notice this. They were bringing spices to place on the dead body of Jesus.
They expected the body to be there. And the decaying process would have already started.
But they couldn’t visit the tomb the day before b/c it was their Sabbath, the day of rest.
These women on their way to the tomb of Jesus had no room in their thinking about the resurrection.
They 100% believed that they would see Jesus’ dead Body.
They did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. They weren’t going to check on an empty tomb. They expected Jesus’ dead body.
This can’t be stressed enough.
In Luke’s gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry, Jesus makes some 6 predictions about his resurrection.
Yet his closest followers didn’t even believe.
They were distraught over the beating and death of Jesus.
They were overcome with emotions.
But they didn’t know or believe that Jesus would rise again.
So there they were at an empty tomb, no body to be found.
Probably perplexed and confused.
Then angels showed up.
Luke 24:4–8 CSB
4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’ 8 And they remembered his words.

He is Risen

The women were perplexed and two men, later referred to as angels were standing by them.
Jesus was not there.
He has Risen.
No more beautiful or powerful words have ever been spoken.
Jesus is alive. He has Risen.
He defeated death.
He conquered the grave.
But what do the angels remind the women of?
The Word’s Jesus spoke to them.
He had predicted his resurrection.
Luke 9:22 “22 saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.””
Luke 18:31-33 “31 Then he took the Twelve aside and told them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. Everything that is written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles, and he will be mocked, insulted, spit on; 33 and after they flog him, they will kill him, and he will rise on the third day.””
This is a theme throughout the resurrection account in Luke.
Jesus’ words making an impact on the people he speaks to and those he taught.
The Women remembered what Jesus said.
And hearing the words from the Angels and remembering the words of Jesus, causes the women to believe.
And they rush back to the disciples who are hiding.
Luke 24:9–12 CSB
9 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went away, amazed at what had happened.

Telling the Disciples

The disciples are another group of people who didn’t believe the resurrection happened.
The women tell them what they saw and heard, yet the disciples of Jesus.
Especially those who were closest to Jesus didn’t believe.
They thought the women were crazy.
They are speaking non-sense.
This is also a cultural thing.
Women were not believed when it came to being witnesses in any event.
They were supposed to be seen and not heard.
They certainly shouldn’t be believed.
Which is why it’s so scandalous that God would choose the women to be the first witnesses of the Empty.
Knowing that they would be a barrier to belief for many.
Just look at the disciples.
They have a hard time believing the women.
But what God wants us to understand is that it doesn’t matter who the message comes from, it’s what the message contains.
The tomb was empty no matter who brought the news.
The truth is still the truth no matter who brings the message.
Not only that but the message about the empty tomb isn’t just for pastors or those in leadership to spread.
It is a message for all followers of Jesus.
Regardless of if you are seen as those who are downcast or outsiders.
If you believe, then you should spread the message.
B/c there may be those who do believe.
There may be those around you that are at least curious.
Look at Peter, he heard the message and left to go see for himself.
When he got there, he saw that the tomb was empty.
He saw the linens cloths.
Meaning that the tomb wasn’t ransacked.
It wasn’t grave robbers.
The Gospel of John tells us that the cloths were neatly folded.
This isn’t a messy scene.
There is order.
Peter is astounded by what he saw.
He still doesn’t fully believe.
But he doesn’t know what to think.
And we are left here with a cliff hanger when it comes to Peter.
He leaves the tomb amazed at what had happened.
He can’t explain it.
He doesn’t try to.
But here is one of Jesus’ closest disciples.
And he still didn’t understand the fullness of what Jesus saw and taught.
Which leads us to a shift in Luke’s account.
The scene shifts to a couple of lesser known disciples who are leaving Jerusalem and going back to their home in Emmaus.
Luke 24:13–16 CSB
13 Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. 15 And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them. 16 But they were prevented from recognizing him.

Road to Emmaus

This event happens on the same day as the women and Peter’s account in a completely different part of town.
Two disciples of Jesus, this wouldn’t be two of the 11 apostles, but just two disciples are going back home.
And they were thinking about all that had happened over the last several days or even the last week.
They probably discussed Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the donkey. As people were cheering him on.
“Hosanna in the Highest”
They also were reflecting on Jesus overturning the tables in the Market.
The flogging and trials that Jesus was put on.
The release of Barabbas instead of Jesus.
The crucifixion. The Death. The Burial. and now the Empty tomb.
Not only were they discussing, but they were arguing about what happened.
What did all this mean?
Where was the body of Jesus?
What did this mean for his disciples?
How could this miracle worker and self-proclaimed messiah die?
There was no concensus.
So there was arguing.
Then someone joins them on their travel.
Jesus is there walking along side them.
Now it’s interesting to note that they didn’t recognize Jesus.
But it’s even more than that.
They were kept from recognizing him.
In some mysterious way, Jesus or the Father, blocked their eyes from seeing the truth.
Jesus hid the full revelation of who he is from them.
Now for us the readers we are saying and thinking, Obviously it’s Jesus.
Luke tells us, but the disciples are blinded to this truth.
We have knowledge that they didn’t have at the time.
Why would God cause them to not see Jesus?
A few of reasons.
In this instance, they need to learn to trust in God’s promises.
Not allowing them to see Jesus now will lead to a deeper and fuller faith when they see him in the future.
They had been told multiple times about Jesus’ death and resurrection.
And yet they haven’t believed.
But their faith is going to be bolstered through their conversation with Jesus.
The promises of God are good and true and here they are going to have to see that even if they don’t see what God is doing they are better if they trust what he is doing.
Not only that, but God wasn’t ready for them to recognize him.
You see, He gets to determine when understanding comes.
They get to see Jesus for who he is on His terms not their own.
Also, they get to work out their thoughts and faith during the discussion with Jesus.
If they immediately recognized Jesus, he wouldn’t have had the same opportunity to teach them and train them in the promises of scripture that we are going to look at in a moment.
They wouldn’t have been honest about their struggles and heartache when it comes to Jesus.
So the hiding of his identity wasn’t from himself, it was for the disciples.
In this interaction of Jesus hiding himself from them, they get to grow in their faith.
But also recognize this.
Just b/c they didn’t know who Jesus was, doesn’t mean that he didn’t know who they were.
Just b/c they couldn’t see him for who he is doesn’t mean that he had abandoned them.
Jesus was with them even when they questioned and doubted.
Jesus was with them even when they couldn’t see him.
Jesus was with them as they struggled with what had happened.
Jesus was with them.
So know that regardless of what you’re going through, if you are a follower of Jesus, he is there with you even if you don’t recognize him.
Trust that he knows where you are and where he is leading you.
Jesus then asks some questions, to get their take on the situation.
Luke 24:17–24 CSB
17 Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged. 18 The one named Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked them. So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21 But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, 23 and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”

Recap of Events

We’re not going to spend a ton of time on these verses, but here we are introduced to one of the disciples name Cleopas.
Luke most likely gives his name b/c when this was written Cleopas was most likely alive or at least his story was well known, so the sources and events could be verified if needed.
We also learn here what some of the disciples thought about Jesus.
In v. 19, we hear about him being a powerful prophet in both action and speech, and that it was the Chief Priests that caused him to be killed.
in v.21, we find out what some of the disciples expected of Jesus.
They believed that he was the messiah that was going to help them overthrow Rome and reestablish Israel as God’s kingdom.
They expected him to be a Kingly Military Leader of sorts that would save them from being under the thumb of Rome.
But his death seemed to put a damper on their expectations.
We also find again that they didn’t believe the women, not about the empty tomb, but specifically about the angels.
They say they had “visions of angels”, placing doubts on what they actually saw.
And some went to the tomb and it was indeed empty, but they don’t know what to do with that information.
So essentially, they are catching Jesus up to speed about all that happened.
Which is ironic considering he was the reason this all happened.
And he was there for all of it.
So what’s Jesus going to do?
How is Jesus going to respond to what his disciples just revealed to him?
Is he going to reveal himself?
He is going to take away the spiritual blindness that they have?
Not yet.
In fact, he’s going to do something even more amazing.
Luke 24:25–27 CSB
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.

The Story of Redemption

This is one of my favorite scenes in all of Luke’s gospel.
The disciples have just explained their despair and their struggles, and Jesus gently rebukes them.
But they still don’t know that this is Jesus.
How does he correct them?
With Scripture.
With the Word of God.
If I had a time machine and could go back to any point in history, this would be the point I would choose.
I would love to hear from Jesus’ mouth his explain the scriptures from Moses through the Prophets that speak about him.
That’s what Jesus does.
He goes through all the scriptures and tells them about the things that pointed to his coming, all the while they didn’t really know who he was.
I’m sure he started with Gen 3 and the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpant.
He probably spoke about Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah and the substitution of the Ram for Isaac’s life.
Revealing to Moses the Everlasting Providence of God in the Burning Bush.
The passover lamb representing life being spared to those who trusted God’s Word.
The Building of the Tabernacle as a representation of God’s dwelling with his people.
The Sacrificial System in Leviticus pointing to the need for a permanent Sacrifice.
The valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37, pointing toward resurrection and God mending the brokenness of Humanity.
Isaiah 53 and the suffering servant who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our inequites.
I am confident that this would be an amazing event to witness.
I could probably spend a whole sermon on these 3 verses, but suffice it to say that Jesus explains that from the beginning of time, the son of God had to be sacrificed to bring redemption.
And Jesus’ revelation of the history of redemption here points to the fact that the disciples either didn’t understand the Scriptures or that they didn’t trust the Scriptures.
They should “believe all that the prophets have spoken.” v.25
There shouldn’t be any argument. Disagreement.
Confusion or dismay.
The scriptures revealed all that must take place for the Messiah.
Yet here they are divorced from the truth God revealed in his word.
You see, when you can’t trust God’s Word as he has given it, then you will not be able to trust God himself.
We have to uphold the truth of Scriptures.
If we believe that Jesus is who he said he is we should come with the same confidence to Scripture that he came with.
That it is the very word of God.
And that through the very word of God is the only way that people will find salvation.
The word of God is our foundation.
It is what our faith is built on. B/c it is the word of God that testifies to us about the truth of Jesus.
And that’s where Luke leads us in the next section of his gospel.
Luke 24:28–35 CSB
28 They came near the village where they were going, and he gave the impression that he was going farther. 29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 It was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 That very hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and those with them gathered together, 34 who said, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they began to describe what had happened on the road and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Resurrection Revelation

The disciples and Jesus had arrived at their destination.
And Jesus was going to keep going, but the disciples decided to urge him to come have food with them.
Maybe they wanted to hear some more of this strangers teaching.
Maybe they were simply be hospitable b/c evening had come and the roads would be dangerous to travel alone.
Whatever the reason, Jesus agreed and stayed with them.
Then we get this amazing picture of Jesus, as the guest in the house, breaking bread and giving it to them.
This is an allusion to both the Lord’s Supper and to the broken body of Jesus.
But more than those it demonstrates the intimacy that Jesus has for his followers.
Sharing a meal with someone is an intimate act.
You are sharing your life, home, and privacy with them.
Jesus wants to share this with these disciples, and he wants to share it with you.
He wants you to know him intimately.
Not just know about him, but know him as the savior of the world.
As redeemer.
As Lord.
Luke: Verse by Verse Table Fellowship and the Breaking of Bread (24:28–31)

Table fellowship in the Jewish world meant that all the participants shared not only their food but their lives as well. They became one by sharing a meal. Since God was present, this meant a union with him

It’s no accident that at the breaking of bread and the intimacy with Jesus that was when the eyes of the disciples were opened.
That was when the reality of who was with them was revealed.
It is in the intimacy of fellowship that Jesus is recognized.
Jesus is known by the love and compassion he has for those who love and serve him.
Fellowship becomes a mark of the Early Church.
Eating worshipping.
Studying the Scriptures together is how the early church mirrored Jesus’ live on Earth.
Notice that once Jesus is revealed to them through the intimate act of breaking bread.
He disappears.
Just when they realize who he is, he’s gone.
And then all of a sudden they reflect on their experience with Jesus.
Luke 24:32 “32 They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?””
This is also important to Luke and the early church.
Jesus knew that his time with the disciples would be short.
He was eventually going to go to sit on the right hand of God the Father.
So what happens on the road to Emmaus is even more astounding.
These disciples get a lesson on how to interpret and teach the scriptures from Jesus himself.
Knowing that not all who believe in Jesus will see his resurrected Body.
In fact, most of those who come to believe will have to believe through the ministry of the word, prompted by the HS.
You may never see Jesus this side of heaven, but both his disciples and he saw that the testimony of the scriptures were enough.
The Scriptures are enough to trust in to believe that Jesus is who he said he is.
We have to rely on and believe in the Scriptures.
We can trust the scriptures b/c Jesus trusted the scriptures as did his disciples.
But the reality is we can only see when God opens our eyes to show us.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father except through him.
For those of us who believe we should have a burning in our hearts for the Scriptures b/c in them we see Jesus.
In them we find life.
In them we see joy.
In them we find comfort.
These 66 books are the way that God chose to reveal himself to us.
So if we want to know him, we have to know what the book says.
If we believe in the testimony of the Scriptures our lives will be changed.
And if our lives are changed at the revelation of Jesus then we will be like Cleopas and the other disciple.
We will waste no time telling others about our risen king.
We will get up and proclaim the good news.
So what is the good news you may be asking?
Why did Jesus have to die and be resurrected?
God is perfect, holy, and righteous.
He created you.
But You are a sinner separated from God b/c of your sin and rebellion.
You have broken fellowship with God through disobedience and imperfection.
God demands perfection to have eternal life and you can’t be and will never be perfect.
But the good news is you don’t have to be perfect.
Jesus was perfect in your place.
The formula for being restored into a right relationship with God is pretty simple.
Romans 10:9-13 “9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, 12 since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This belief isn’t simply intellectual understanding but a heart change.
A desire to follow him.
To let go of your life and cling to Jesus.
This isn’t a simple walk down the aisle, say a prayer, belief.
This is a fundamental change of mind.
A U-turn. A change of direction toward Jesus.
Now you don’t have to believe.
You don’t have to submit.
You don’t have to change.
But if you don’t then know that you will spend all eternity separated from God.
You will never know any goodness.
You will never know any joy.
You will be forever separated from the goodness and grace of God.
But if you believe, your life will be saved.
You will be changed.
Jesus will transform you.
He will give your life meaning.
It won’t be easy.
But it’s worth it.
Why should you believe?
B/c Jesus made a claim to be God in the flesh.
He claimed to forgive sins.
He claimed to be the one that was promised long ago.
And those claims were verified at his resurrection.
What are you going to do with the empty tomb?
Are you going to believe?
Or are you going to ignore?
It’s okay if you have questions.
But also know that you, like all people everywhere, have to do something with the empty tomb.
Jesus is calling you this morning
Will you answer him?
Let’s pray!
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