A shortened sermon for Easter Sunday due to the sheer volume of the service, which is good! Lots of involvement!
â€œThe Tomb is Empty!â€
April 8th, 2007, Luke 24:1-12
Leadership magazine had a story about little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome. He attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully. The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought Leggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large eggs.
Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion. After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table.
Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh. Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, “That’s stupid. That’s not fair. Somebody didn’t do their assignment.”
Philip spoke up, “That’s mine.”
“Philip, you don’t ever do things right!” a student retorted. “There’s nothing there!”
â€œI did so do it,” Philip insisted. “I did do it. It’s empty. The tomb was empty!”
From then on Philip became a full member of the class. He died not long afterward from an infection most children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar not with flowers, but with their Sunday school teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose egg.
Children have an amazing way of bringing meaning to a complex issue in a simple way. Little Philip reminds us of new life. New life we celebrate here together, on the most important day in our church year. Yes it’s important Jesus was born at Christmas. But it is critical to know Christ rose from the dead. Revealing to us the empty tomb, gaining victory over death.
We cannot find Christ, the ultimate symbol of new life, anywhere. We cannot hold him, we cannot put him in a convenient little box… or egg. Why? Because we have an empty tomb. Christ rose again and is walking among us in the hearts of those who follow him.
I heard a song on the radio going home from choir practice the other night. The song was â€œmy saviour my godâ€ by Aaron Shust, and the chorus lyrics are…
â€œMy Saviour loves, my Saviour lives, my Saviour’s always there for me.
My God he was, my God he is, my God he’s always gonna be.â€
How often do we get caught up in the guilt of Good Friday. Yes Christ died a horrible death for our sake. It’s important for us to remember he had to die first. But the story does not end at the cross. If it did, then there IS no story to tell.
Many people died by crucifixion. Even in scripture we know Jesus wasn’t alone that day,
there were two criminals beside him. But we don’t hear much about them do we? A couple words, that’s about it. We don’t celebrate their death, or the many others who were killed on crosses. But we remember Christ’s death. Why? Because it led to today. The day the prophets foretold. The day Jesus foretold. The day he would become victorious over the grave, victorious over the sin of the world. The day Christ is resurrected from the dead and prepares to take his place at the right hand of God.
We should be celebrating! Cities go wild when their team wins the championship! Yet we are usually silent.
I think it was the spring of 1998. The Ottawa Senators were in overtime of game 7 of their first ever playoff series. When they scored the winning goal, the building erupted. So much so that a small earthquake was recorded in the vicinity of the Corel Centre, the name the building held at the time. Directly a result of the celebration of the goal.
And here we sit. The greatest victory of all time we remember this morning, yet the only celebration usually happening is the dancing children who find their candy. Other than a few cars in the yard, people would hardly know we’re here. They can’t hear us, they don’t see how our lives are impacted by Christ coming alive. Are we excited by Jesus Christ? How would anyone know outside this building?
Christian music is the fastest growing music genre. I also heard that Christian radio is the only growing segment of radio. All others are in decline. New artists and music are exploding on the scene. Why? Because the risen Christ, the result of the Easter resurrection has impacted people’s lives. The music, energy and passion of those who celebrate the Saviour who lives and loves, and is always there for us, creates an excitement and changes peoples’ lives. Bringing more people into the body of the Risen One.
The women in Luke went and proclaimed that Christ had risen. Their excitement enticed Peter to go check it out for himself. And he was amazed.
Little Philip had it figured out. The empty tomb is the ultimate sign of life. Not just that Christ is alive, but we are all alive in him. Through him, through welcoming the one who gives life into our hearts, we gain life. Life eternal.
We need to embrace not the cross, but the empty tomb. Unfortunately that doesn’t go as nicely on jewelry or church steeples. But to be a truly celebrating, alive member of the church and body of Christ, we need to embrace the one who is alive. The one who did not rise just on Easter morning, but the one who rises in us each and every day, in the hearts of believers.
I’ll close with a poem written by Annie Johnson Flint.
Some of us stay at the cross,
some of us wait at the tomb,
Quickened and raised with Christ
yet lingering still in the gloom.
Some of us ‘bide at the Passover feast
with Pentecost all unknown,
The triumphs of grace in the heavenly place
that our Lord has made His own.
If the Christ who died had stopped at the cross,
His work had been incomplete.
If the Christ who was buried had stayed in the tomb,
He had only known defeat,
But the way of the cross never stops at the cross
and the way of the tomb leads on
To victorious grace in the heavenly place
where the risen Lord has gone.