April 12, 2020

Easter Sunday Online Worship

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Passage: John 20:1-2
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Audio Sermon

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Sermon for the Resurrection of our Lord – April 12, 2020
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come… and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4b-6)

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
(Psalm 118:24)

John 20:1–2 (NKJV)
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who arose from death the third day,
Confirming that our sins are forgiven,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –

It was before dawn, very early in the morning when Mary Magdalene set out for the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60). It was still dark when Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2) slowly made their way to the garden in which the tomb was located. They carried with them spices which they had purchased to complete the embalming process.

Why so early? It’s not like the body was going anywhere! No doubt they left early to take advantage of the cool of the day, and perhaps to avoid the crowds in the busy city of Jerusalem. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had carefully taken down the body of Jesus and wrapped it with strips of linen in Myrrh and Aloes (John 19:38-40). They were rushed because the Sabbath (which began on Friday evening) drew near and they hadn’t completed the process. The work was urgent because it was thought that the body began to rot on the third day.

Joseph had rolled a heavy stone over the entrance to the tomb…not to keep Jesus in…but to keep scavengers and the like out. The women hadn’t really thought about the stone…until they were already on their way (Mark 16:2-3).

We don’t know if they felt the earthquake. We don’t know if they met any Roman Soldiers on their way into the city (Matthew 28:4, 11-14). But as they drew near the tomb, they saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. It hadn’t just been rolled back to expose the entrance to the tomb hewn from the rock, it had been rolled back and toppled over (Matthew 28:2). It must have looked like a crime scene, like violence had been done.

Did Mary Magdalene get close enough to look into the tomb? Many assume that as soon as she saw the stone, she simply turned and ran, assuming the body was gone. It would be a logical conclusion.

Why else would someone roll away the stone from the tomb and then topple it over? For what good purpose would someone come under the cover of darkness and open a tomb? No good one, that’s for sure.

We can’t say whether Mary looked within the tomb or not…and it doesn’t matter. She concluded that the tomb was empty.

We know the tomb was empty. We know why the tomb was empty. We know how the stone came to be rolled away and toppled over…for our Heavenly Father dispatched a mighty one from heaven to roll away the stone from the opening to the tomb. He didn’t remove the stone to let Jesus out…but to show the world that He was already gone.

The tomb was already empty.

What dos this all mean? Well honestly, empty can be good and empty can be bad. We call it good when the Easter ham isn’t burnt. What do we call it when God answers the dying breath of every believer and confirms that Jesus is the Son of God? We call it joy that can’t be silenced.

We call it the Resurrection.

Christ is arisen from the grave’s dark prison. We now rejoice with gladness; Christ will end all sadness. Lord, have mercy. All our hopes were ended had Jesus not ascended from the grave triumphantly. For this, Lord Christ, we worship Thee. Lord, have mercy. Hallelujah! We now rejoice with gladness; Christ will end all sadness. Lord, have mercy. Amen.

+++++++

2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

They didn’t know who did it…or when…or how; but they were sure about one thing…someone took Jesus out of the tomb and put him somewhere else. It was the only logical explanation for the stone and the empty tomb. Dead people just don’t get up and walk away. Dead is dead.

The bottom line was that the tomb was EMPTY.

Now I think that you will agree that there are times when EMPTY is a good thing, when finding NOTHING is good news.

 When the oncologist returns with the results of the cancer scan and says, “It was nothing. We found nothing.” It’s great news. It’s what we want to hear.

 When caught in a snowstorm in the middle of nowhere and you pull into the last hotel for miles…it’s good to see a sign that says…vacancy…because it means there is an empty room. In that case, empty is good.

 When the wind topples your garbage can and sends it two blocks away…it’s good to know that it was empty.

 If you are expecting a large medical bill in the mail…it’s good to find an empty mailbox.

On the other hand, there are times when EMPTY is a bad thing, a very bad thing.

 When it’s 20 miles to the next gas station…and the gas gauge reads empty…it’s a bad thing.
 When you’ve been quarantined for a month…and you open the fridge and find it empty…it’s a bad thing.
 When you return home after your spouse’s funeral…an empty house is a bad thing.
 When you are filled with excitement and ready to celebrate with fellow believers…but you can’t and the church is empty?

When Mary Magdalene finally found Peter and the other disciple (John), she was sure that an empty tomb was a terrible thing. Jesus’ body belonged in the tomb, not somewhere else. The Lord’s body was gone, and she had lost her Lord again.

Mary Magdalene, in her grief, thought that a tomb still holding a dead Jesus was better than an empty tomb. She couldn’t have been more wrong. We aren’t caught up in the moment like she was, so we can see what she didn’t see or understand.

We can agree that if the tomb was empty…simply because someone had taken the body to bury it somewhere else…then that would indeed have been a tragedy. We understand her concern, but if the body of Jesus were still in the tomb on the third day…then Jesus was a liar and the religious leaders were right about Him.

Jesus said He would rise from death the 3rd Day. On more than one occasion (Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19; Mark 9:31, 10:34; Luke 9:22, 18:33) Jesus told the disciples that He would rise on the third day (Matthew 12:40).

Jesus said beforehand (John 9:22):

“The Son of Man must [not might] suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

1) If the tomb wasn’t empty, then Jesus was a liar.

If Jesus’ corpse were still in the tomb of Joseph, then Simon Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 16:16) could be called into question and the foundation of our faith uncertain. If Jesus was just another man, then He could not be the Savior of all humankind.

2) If the tomb wasn’t empty, then Jesus was only a man.

If Mary had found the stone in place and the body waiting, then we would be left to face God the Judge in our sins and be condemned. There is no hope for us if Jesus is still dead. If Jesus is dead our faith is futile, empty.

For it is written (1 Corinthians 15:17, NKJV):
17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile (empty); you are still in your sins!

If the tomb had been as quiet on Sunday as when Mary Magdalene left it on Good Friday…then all the speeches and kind words of countless Christian pastors at gravesides would be empty lies and the remains buried below forever entombed. If the tomb still contained a dead Jesus, then the dead in Christ will always be dead…and heaven will be empty.

For it is written (1 Corinthians 15:17, 18, NKJV):
If Christ is not risen…Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

If Jesus is still dead, then all the disciples died for no reason.

If Jesus is still dead, then Christian churches should always be empty.

Praise God that Mary Magdalene was wrong…dead wrong. Jesus’ body wasn’t taken away by someone. Jesus body left under its own power. He rose from death before the dawn of that first day of the week. Jesus descended into hell to proclaim His victory in Satan’s own back yard, proving that he had crushed the serpents head forever.

The Tomb is Empty because Jesus lives! Jesus’ resurrection proves that He is NO LIAR, (NO SIR), and we can count on Him the day that we breathe our last. He keeps His Word. Jesus wasn’t just a man, but the Son of the Living God, whose sacrifice was accepted by God as full payment for sins.

Jesus’ Resurrection is the receipt that sins are forgiven and the proof that our faith in Him is NOT EMPTY. It’s proof that those who die trusting in Him will be raised to life again.

Hallelujah! This is the true joy of the Resurrection.

Do you think that it’s just not the same with an empty church? Our joy isn’t found in the church building, it’s found in Christ. We associate the building with the joy because we gather in it to hear the message. But it’s not the building or the members – it’s a Living Jesus.

Jesus lives…and reigns in our hearts and minds. It’s the reason why we gather in our church to hear His Word. It’s the reason why we come to His Table, where He confirms to you personally, “I did it for you.”

What’s worse than an empty church? Let me tell you what’s worse than an empty church.

 Well, a full church with an empty message. It’s sad that some Christian churches are turning away from the simple message that Jesus lived for sinners and died for sinners and rose again to save sinners. Instead some proclaim a happiness apart from Christ. Some lead people to believe they are – in some way - their own saviors.
 Empty hearts...that don’t know Jesus as Savior and who have no hope for the future.
 Empty joy…joy based on feelings, spring, bunnies and candy…not Christ’s death and resurrection.

There’s bad empty…and there’s good empty.

The Tomb is empty…not because someone moved the body, but because Jesus is alive.
The Tomb is empty…because death could not hold Him, nor will it hold those who trust in Him.
The Tomb is empty…and the ledger of charges against us is blotted out…empty.

Ye who are of death afraid
Triumph in the scattered shade.
Drive your anxious cares away;
See the place where Jesus lay.

Christian, dry your flowing tears,
Chase your unbelieving fears;
Look on His deserted grave,
Doubt no more His pow’r to save. Amen!
(TLH 203:2-3)