The Significance of an Empty Tomb.

Mark 16: 1-7

It’s Saturday and it is after 6.00pm in the early evening and the Sabbath has ended. Three women have bought spices and they are on their way to anoint the body of Jesus. Clearly, they were expecting to find a dead body at the tomb, or they wouldn’t have brought the anointing spices.

So, they are also discussing the practical problem of the large stone blocking the entrance that awaits them when they arrive at the burial site. These women knew about this stone and they knew they wouldn’t be able to move themselves. Therefore, on their way they were discussing among themselves how they might get someone to move it so that they could anoint the body of the Lord. But when they get to the tomb, this is what they see;  “that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away ”. Matthew identifies this young man as an angel. The women are alarmed, terrified some translations say. They were expecting a grave and a body, instead they get an empty tomb and an angel. The angels tells them to not be alarmed, for he is not here, he is risen. This verse also tells us that the angel confirms to the woman that they have got the right tomb and the reason he is not here he says is because, He is risen. The angel even points to the shelf and says, “see the place where they laid them”. In the gospel of John, we are told that what the ladies saw was not just an empty slab but discarded grave clothes. This was to show that the body has miraculously gone and not just been stolen, because if someone had stolen the body would they really have taken the trouble to remove the grave clothes before doing it.

This is what fully convinced them that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. They like us cannot understand the empty tomb unless they understand the resurrection of Christ. They like us cannot understand the significance of the death of Christ unless we understand that the empty tomb means resurrection. Jesus had told them that He was going to die for their sins however anybody could say that, even I could say that. Indeed, I might then die after saying that, you might think, “big deal”. How would you know someone had really done that, you wouldn’t if they just died like anyone else. However, Jesus did indeed say he was going to die for the sins of the world, but He also said he was going to come back again. Therefore, the empty tomb was telling us he did what he said he would do. The empty tomb is evidence of sins forgiven and demonstrates that this was not just an ordinary death on the back of an empty promise. It the evidence that Christ forgives sin.

The angel instructs them to go, tell his disciples and Peter.  I believe he specifically mentions Peter because Peter had just denied the Lord and at this point, he was set apart, probably depressed, no doubt ashamed of himself. Perhaps he even no longer even considered himself to be a disciple. There is a special message for Peter here, a message that says, “Peter you are forgiven”.

The unique message of this passage is, God forgives those who have sinned, always. Have you ever fallen away from the Lord, or did you ever once feel you were close to Him but are no longer so? I have good news for you right here, you can come back again. Good news because Christ is calling you back, calling you home. God is always willing to forgive you and calls you back into his service. God forgave me when I was a young teenage, but I wandered far from Him, but he forgave me again when I was 30 years old and called me back into service. Furthermore, he didn’t make me go through all kinds of torment to do that, he just reminded me that he had forgiven me, and He let me pick up on my discipleship we it had left off. The message of the empty tomb is forgiveness, and that Christians are not perfect, they are just forgiven.

The famous inventor Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light-bulb said that along with his whole team of men it took over 24 hours to make each of the first 6 individual light-bulbs. He talked about the first one he created, and when he finished it, he passed to a young apprentice to take it up stairs to the testing room. You can guess what happened next. He tripped and dropped it and it broke, it took the team 24 hours to make the second one. Do you know what he did with the next one…. He gave it to the same young lad.

That’s what God is like, so you messed up, OK, let’s try again. That’s what the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is all about, forgiveness. You can always come back and acknowledge your mistakes, acknowledge you sins, and he will forgive just like he did before.

God forgives sinners and God forgives sin. Do you know what the answer most people in this country give to the question, do you know for sure that if you were to die you are going to heaven. The number 1 answer is, “I hope so, I hope I have lived a good enough life”. Well I am here to tell you, its not about being good enough, it’s just about receiving a gift.

A friend of mine told me of a story when he was out one Sunday afternoon walking in his local park when he came across a man sitting reading  bible track. He said to the man, was he assured that if he died, that he knew he was going to heaven. The man said. I never could be good enough to get to heaven. This is what my friend said in reply; “Okay, if we accept that as true, however, if God were to make a special exception in your case, and give you salvation outright as a gift, would you then accept it. The man replied, “of course I would, who would be daft enough to turn down a gift like that”. That’s exactly what people do every day. The gift has been paid for, the gift can be yours, you just have to receive it.

In 1830 in America a man named George Wilson killed a government employee who caught him in the act of robbing the mail. Wilson was tried and sentenced to be hanged, however the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, intervened and sent Wilson a pardon, but Wilson refused to accept delivery of the pardon. No one seemed to know what to do because of this, so Wilson’s case was sent to the equivalent of the supreme court at that time.  Chief Justice Marshall judged the situation and wrote the following conclusive opinion: “A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, there is no pardon”. George Wilson was subsequently hanged.

The death of Christ on the cross is the pardon God has sent but before it becomes our pardon, we must accept it in faith and obedience. We must accept that offer of forgiveness and accept the sacrifice made on our behalf Then we can live a life in the light of having received that wonderful gift…. Amen