Empty promises and unmet expectations are realities most are all too familiar with today. We purchase potions that promise to take ten years off our lives. We buy wonder drugs guaranteed to make us lose weight and turn us into a size 4!
We spend millions of dollars pursuing things that the world promises will make us happy and fulfilled…a new car, a home, that once in a lifetime vacation. We have to look no further than our own mirror to find someone who has grabbed on to one of those promises and found only emptiness.
But God’s promises, especially those of Easter, are different.
Instead of promises full of emptiness, He gives emptiness full of promise!
What are the three empty promises of Easter?
1) The promise of the empty cross.
Although not a popular word, and considered “politically incorrect”, SIN has consequences whether one chooses to acknowledge it or not. God’s Word is clear…
“Each of our good deeds is merely a filthy rag….” Isaiah 64:6 (CEV)
“For the wages of sin is death….” Romans 6:23 (NIV)
Sin costs and that cost is death and separation from God. In order for man to enter into a relationship with God, something had to die. Sin’s bill had to be paid. Man’s greatest need is at-one-ment with God and that could only happen through the shedding of blood.
A perfect, spotless lamb was the requirement. The Creator knew His creation could not fulfill this requirement so He provided the lamb. Jesus paid the penalty of sin on the cross.
Nails did not keep Jesus on the cross, our sins did!
“But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” Roms 5: 8 (The Message)
The empty cross reminds us of God’s promise that ALL our sins are forgiven!
When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” the debt was paid… In Full! Forgiveness is not earned but freely flows down from the cross to all who accept it.
2) The promise of the empty tomb.
Jesus was dead. The hundreds of Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, who would lose their very lives if they failed to keep His body from being stolen, knew it. Joseph of Arimethea and Jesus’ friends who took His body down from the cross knew it. Mary, Peter, and John knew it. The witnesses, who watched Him suffer for six hours and saw the blood gush from His side when the soldier pierced it, knew He was dead.
His death on the cross is important, but even more vital is the promise of the empty tomb!
Without an empty tomb my faith would be nothing more than wishful thinking! Why would I serve a God who could not keep His promise of raising His own Son back to life? Satan celebrated at the cross, but he cowered and was conquered at the empty tomb!
I serve a powerful God and the same power that raised His Son from the dead is the same power that will not only raise me from death’s grip, but also raises me daily from sin’s grip! Sadly, very few believers live lives that point to a living, powerful God. Instead, we go through life dressed in our grave clothes and smelling like death.
We live as if Jesus is still dead!
With the empty tomb came a new covenant, and unlike the old one made with Abraham, this covenant has something different… the power to live it! (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
Without the empty tomb, the book of Acts would have never been written. Praise God, the tomb was empty, the Holy Spirit did come, and now each believer has not only forgiveness but also power …not will-power but divine power to live lives that are not draped in grave clothes and smelling of death!
The empty tomb promises powerful lives, not pitiful ones!
3) The promise of the empty grave clothes.
Peter found Jesus’ grave clothes. They too were empty. This could only mean one thing – Jesus was alive! If someone had stolen His body, they would not have removed the burial clothes, folded them up neatly, and left them where they lay. As the angel said, “He is not here. He is risen!” Before long, Jesus would appear to Mary Magdalene, and to all of the Apostles, and eventually to over 500 people.
The cross could not hold Him. The tomb could not contain Him, and the burial clothes were pointless. Jesus was and is ALIVE! Therefore, I am able to have a personal, daily, one on one relationship with the God of the universe.
As He did not need the grave clothes, neither will we!
Yes, someday our physical bodies may die, but because of the promise of empty grave clothes the sting of death is removed!
“…to leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord!” II Cor 5:8 (CEV)
My soul will live on forever in the presence of my God, my Saviour, and all my loved ones who have also trusted Him as their Lord and Saviour. Oh, and if death does not happen first, the empty grave clothes and folded up napkin also promises my Lord will return to get me!
“And the napkin, that was upon his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.” John 20:7 (ASV)
It has always been a point of interest for me that Scripture, God’s inspired word, takes an entire verse to tell us the napkin was neatly folded and lying by itself. The traditions of Jesus’ day were very clear and very orderly in regards to a meal. Every item was important and everything on the table had its proper place. The servant had to make sure the table was perfectly arranged. And, when the meal was served the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating. In fact, the servant would not dare touch the table until the master was finished.
When the master was finished eating, he would rise from the table, take that folded napkin and wipe his fingers and mouth and clean his beard. He then would throw the napkin on the table – no longer neatly folded. The servant would then know the master was finished and that he could clear the table.
In those days, a used and discarded napkin meant, “I’m done. I’m finished eating.” However, if the master got up from the table, folded his napkin, and laid it beside the plate, the servant knew not to touch the table. The neatly folded napkin meant, “I’m not finished yet. I’m coming back.”
Now, I am not saying that Jesus did this to point to His second coming (there is much greater proof of His second coming all through the NT), but it does make one wonder if it may have been part of the message.
On Good Friday and Easter Morning, Jesus finished His work as the Suffering Servant and His work as the sacrificial Lamb of God. But that did not mean Jesus’ work was done.
The empty grave clothes echo Jesus’ cry from the cross.
He cried, “IT is finished!” not “I am finished!” Therefore, He will return just as He promised (John 14:1-3).
Whether death comes or the trumpet sounds and Jesus descends with a shout from the East, the empty grave clothes promise eternal life!
What is Easter’s emptiness, filled with promise?
The promise of the empty cross is forgiveness, the promise of the empty tomb is power, and the promise of the empty grave clothes is eternal life!
Easter is not a commemoration….but a celebration!