Implications of the Empty Tomb
Harry Houdini was one of the greatest illusionists and magicians in history.
Besides his escapes and stunts, he was also well-known for exposing fake mediums.
Houdini did not start out attacking false mediums because he didn’t believe in the supernatural.
In fact, he had gone to them in an attempt to try to contact his dead mother, but found the mediums he met were often frauds.
So he turned to exposing them, while still searching for the truth.
When Houdini died on Halloween of 1926, He set up a code with his wife Bess.
He told her if there were a way to contact her after death, he would do it.
So, she attended séances for nine years waiting for Houdini to contact her.
Then on the tenth year, the séance was held on the roof of the Knickerbocker hotel in Los Angeles.
The sky was clear but reportedly a storm rolled in and rained just on the hotel and went away.
Some saw this "weather" as a sign from Harry.
But it must not have been the code.
Houdini’s wife never again showed up to another séance.
And as far as anyone knows Harry Houdini never contacted his wife from the dead.
About 2000 years ago another man claimed that he would come back from the dead.
He told the religious leaders “destroy this temple and in 3 days I’ll raise it up again.”
His name was Jesus.
At the time he made the claim, no one believed Jesus would be able to do what he claimed, not even his own disciples.
So after they crucified Him, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus came and got his body; prepared it with spices; wrapped it in linen; and placed it in a new tomb.
They crucified Jesus on Friday and buried Him before sunset on the same day.
And since the Jews kept the Sabbath on the next day, Jewish law prevented Jesus’ followers from visiting his tomb on Saturday.
Mary Magdalene was one of those followers.
Jesus had cast 7 demons out of Mary Magdalene and since then she had been one of his most devoted followers.
Folk come to church for all sorts of reason.
Some come out of ritual.
Others come out of tradition.
Still others come out of curiosity – to see who’s there, what people are wearing, or what’s the latest gossip.
But there are some who come because like Mary Magdalene they are devoted followers of Jesus.
I said this at Sunrise service earlier this morning, but it’s worth repeating.
Isn’t it interesting that sometimes the biggest sinners become some of the most devoted followers of Jesus?
· Perhaps, it’s because they have no misgivings about themselves – they know better than most that they are sinners saved by grace.
· Perhaps, it’s because they have no misunderstanding about their Savior – they know better than most it was nobody but Jesus who made them whole and saved their soul.
· Perhaps, it’s because they have no misinformation about their salvation – they know better than most what it means to have once been lost but now found; blind but now seeing; in darkness but now walking in the marvelous light.
Mary’s devotion to the Lord, got her up early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, and brought her to the tomb of Jesus.
But when she got there, the stone had been rolled away.
Such stones weighed up to a ton and required several men to push open.
And the text says on Sunday morning, when Mary Magdalene arrived, she found the stone rolled away.
Who moved the stone? Jesus didn’t, for He was dead.
Who moved the stone? Neither the Jews nor the Romans did it, for they wanted Him sealed away for good.
Who moved the stone?
The disciples didn’t. The disciples would have been venerating, not desecrating, the grave of Jesus.
Matthew tells us an angel of the Lord moved the stone – but not to let Jesus out but rather to let us in.
Mary doesn’t know what to make of the empty tomb, so she rushes to tell Peter and the other disciple, whom many believe to be John, what she believes has taken place.
“They’ve taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Peter and John rush to the tomb to check out matters for themselves.
John outruns Peter and gets their first.
He looks in and sees the discarded clothes but doesn’t go in.
Peter arrives and rushes in to survey the site for himself.
He notices the facecloth that had been on Jesus’ head is lying apart from the linen strips that had enclosed his body.
John, also known as the disciple whom Jesus loved, gets there first but doesn’t go in first.
Perhaps it was because he was pondering the implications of the empty tomb.
The powers of darkness did not prevail against Jesus.
The first implication of the empty tomb is the powers of darkness did not prevail against Jesus.
When the chief priests, temple guards, and the elders came to arrest Him, Jesus said to them, “This is your hour – when darkness reigns.”
But the empty tomb meant their time had come and gone.
The powers of darkness had taken their best shot and failed.
When I played basketball, I played the guard position.
It’s the guard’s job to distribute the basketball and orchestrate the offence.
Any guard worth his salt is taught never to telegraph a pass.
In other words, don’t give the opposition any indication of what you are planning to do with the basketball.
What made Magic Johnson so great and earned him the nickname Magic was his uncanny ability to disguise his passes.
The opposition never knew what he was planning to do with the ball.
When God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” He was telegraphing.
He was telling the powers of darkness, I’m going to destroy you through the seed of the woman.
But even though God telegraphed his move,
Even though he foretold His coming through the prophets,
And even though Jesus made no secret of his mission,
He did it anyway.
He told everybody exactly what he planned to do and then did it anyway.
I’m going to allow Judas to betray me into the hands of sinners.
I’m going to allow the Herod Antipas and Pilate to try and convict me, even thought I’m innocent.
I’m going to allow the Praetorian Guard to scourge me, subject me to a mock coronation, and place a crown of thorns on my head.
Then I’m going to allow the Romans to crucify me, and place my body in a tomb.
Then on the third day I’ll rise up from the grave.
The empty tomb meant He had already done what He said He would do.
And if the powers of darkness did not prevail against Jesus then they will not prevail against us.
Because the same power that was at work in Jesus is also at work in us.
A corrupt political system did not prevail against Jesus.
Not only did the powers of darkness fail to prevail against Jesus, a corrupt political system failed to prevail against Jesus.
Jesus trial was a mockery and a miscarriage of justice.
Although, there was no valid indictment and no formal charge being made, they arrested Jesus anyway.
When the Sanhedrin assembled to hear the case against Christ, the meeting was held at night.
According to Jewish law, a trial involving a capital offence could not be conducted at night.
The trial was held just before a sabbath day or a feast day – both of which were against Jewish law.
The judges who heard the evidence and decided the penalty were biased.
They manipulated the arrest of Jesus and during the trial, “sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death” (Mt. 26:59).
They switched the charges against him in the middle of the trial.
At first He was accused of claiming that he would destroy the temple, and then build another in three days.
When that charged proved bogus, the Sanhedrin should have acquitted Jesus and dismissed the court.
Instead they changed the charge to “blasphemy”.
The witnesses they brought forth lied and contradicted one another.
They suppressed evidence.
There was no evidence presented on his behalf.
Where was Malchus the servant of the high priest whose ear Jesus had restored after Peter drew his sword and amputated it?
Where was that Centurion whose daughter Jesus had healed just by speaking the word?
Where were the blind who had been given sight, the deaf who had been given hearing, and the mute who had been given speech.
Where were the dead who had been raised?
Where were the demon possessed who had been exorcised?
Clearly these people who have testified on His behalf.
Even during the execution processional, a herald walked along, addressing the spectators in a loud voice:
if anyone has evidence to give in his favor, let him come forth quickly (Greenleaf, 583).
But nobody came forward to testify on His behalf.
And when the case was ultimately set before Pilate, three times the ruler pronounced the Lord “not guilty.” After examining Jesus, the governor said: “I find no crime in him” (Jn. 18:38).
Again (Jn. 19:4), and again (Jn. 19:6), the verdict of “innocent” was announced.
The procurator even symbolically washed his hands, declaring: “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man” (Mt. 27:24).
The empty tomb is a reminder that when it comes to justice, God always has the final say.
I don’t know what really happened at that party in Durham, where a North Carolina Central student was allegedly assaulted and raped by the Duke Lacrosse team.
But one thing is for sure, whether the players on the Lacrosse team are convicted or not, God will always have the final say.
And God is not mocked, as a man sows, so shall he reap.
The day is coming when every one of us will give an account for every deed done in our mortal bodies.
The day is coming when the kingdoms of this world, will become the kingdom of our Lord.
The day is coming when the Lord will execute justice for the oppressed.
And just like Cain had to answer for the blood of Abel, the guilty will have to answer for all the innocent blood that has been shed from the foundation of the world.
A corrupt political system condemned Jesus and crucified Him on the cross, but justice raised Him up on the third day morning.
The empty tomb means that death did not prevail against Jesus!
The empty tomb means the powers of darkness did not prevail against Jesus and a corrupt political system did not prevail against Jesus, but last and not least the empty tomb means that death did not prevail against Jesus.
I began this message with Harry Houdini.
Houdini promised his wife Bess if there was a way to communicate with her from the dead he would do it.
In his day, Houdini was a great escape artist.
He was an expert contortionist, who could escape from any handcuff, vault or restraint.
He could escape from a submerged crate, walk through a brick wall and make an elephant disappear.
But he could not escape from the shackles of death itself!
But there was a man who escaped the shackles of death.
His name was Jesus.
Judas fingered Him.
His own people rejected Him.
The authorities conspired to crucify Him.
They hung Him high and stretched Him wide.
And they crucified Him, until the sun refused to shine.
They crucified Him, until the earth shook
They crucified Him, as angels gazed in Horror over heaven’s corridor.
Then they put his body in the grave.
He stayed there one day …
He stayed there two days …
Then he arose …
He lives … He lives
Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives … He lives salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.
Death held Him in its icy grip for two days.
But on the third day morning he slipped the shackles of death.
And up from the grave he arose.
The empty tomb means Jesus has prevailed – over powers of darkness … over corrupt political system … over even death itself.