Monday, April 17, 2017

The Empty Promises of Easter - Luke 24:1-12

There was a story told by “Dear Abby” in a response to someone’s question. A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. Bill and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car. On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill home again. As he sat one night going through his father’s possessions, he come across the Bible his father had given him. He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier’s check, dated the day of his graduation - in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together.

As I thought about this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in this world have done the same thing to God. Literally tossed aside a wonderful promise, because they didn’t understand it, or they didn’t believe that it was possible.

In our world, we are taught “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So many of us have been taken in by these “empty promises,” that we are leery of anything or anyone that tells us we can have something for nothing.

But, you know what…God has never made a promise that was too good to be true.

The truth is the world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and the advertisements tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. It doesn’t take long before we’ve been fooled enough to know that the world’s promises are full of emptiness. But, God’s promises are different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, on Easter, He gave us emptiness that is full of promise.

I want us to think about the promises of Easter. I have two I want to share with you today and both of these promises are marked by something empty. Notice first…

THE EMPTY CROSS

Because the cross was empty, we have the promise of forgiven sins. Use your imagination today and try to think back, if you can, to that first Easter Morning. It’s early morning…the sun has not risen. A few of Jesus’ followers are on their way to the tomb where Jesus was buried. Their task is a sad one. They’re going to anoint the body of Jesus. As they walk, they come to the top of a rise in the path and they all stop. Motionless and quiet, they stare off in the distance. Just outside the city stands the gruesome reminder of the events of just a few days ago. Silhouetted by the glow of the sky, stand 3 Crosses.

The cross in the middle is the one I want us to see. That’s the cross Jesus was on. Look up at the top – those bloodstains are from the crown of thorns that was crushed into Jesus’ skull. The stains on the ends of the crossbar came from the nails that were driven into his hands. The main beam was soaked in blood – blood from his back – blood that was shed when the Roman soldiers beat him until He was unrecognizable. It also has stains from the blood that poured from his side when a Roman soldier ran a spear through his side to see if he was dead…and…HE WAS.

You see, Jesus really did die and that’s why I want you to see the cross this morning. It is the place where He died…but today, it’s empty. It’s empty of Jesus’ body, but it’s also full…full of God’s promises…full of hope for you and me. The promise of the empty cross is that you and I can stand forgiven. Because it was on that cross Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

“SIN” – now there’s a word that’s not popular anymore. It’s a word that isn’t “politically correct.” But, the simple fact of the matter is we have all sinned. All of us have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.

So, here’s the problem. According to God’s law, the wages of sin is death. Because, we have sinned, we deserve God’s punishment. We deserve eternal death in hell. But thank God when you look at that empty cross, you see a reminder of God’s promise that you have been forgiven.

The Bible tells us that, “God demonstrated His love to us, that while we were still sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US!” It was on that cross Jesus offered His perfect, sinless life as a sacrifice for each one of us. The penalty of sin was paid…on that cross…that empty cross. It was there, His blood was shed for our salvation.

Because of what Jesus did on that cross, we can stand forgiven. The first empty promise of Easter is the empty cross…filled with the promise of forgiven sins. Let me share the second empty promise of Easter…

THE EMPTY TOMB

Let’s go back to our story and the ladies headed for the tomb. After pausing briefly to view the empty cross, they continue on their way down the path to the tomb. As they go, one of them asks – “who will move the stone for us?”

Now…they have good reason to be concerned. The stone placed in front of the tomb wasn’t a small rock it was a large boulder. Not only that, the Romans had sealed the tomb, so no one was allowed to open it without permission. But the ladies continue on. As they approach the burial site, they are still wondering about what had happened when they come upon something even more remarkable. The soldiers are all unconscious, the stone has been moved and an angel…glowing like lightening…is sitting on top of it.

The angel says to them, “Don’t be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here; He has risen!” Jesus had risen…He was alive and the tomb was empty! And what a tremendous promise that holds. The fact of the empty tomb is the truth of the resurrection of Jesus and the promise to every one of us that we too will be raised to eternal life.

To all those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, death has lost its sting. It is no longer something to be feared. What fear is there when we have the promise that one day we will live forever with Him in Heaven? Why is the tomb empty? Because Jesus is alive! Just as the Angel said, “He is risen!”

It’s been nearly 2000 years since Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. That 1st Easter Sunday, as the women went to the grave, they had no idea what was about to happen to them. They were not yet aware of the wonderful promises of that day.

The empty cross – the promise that their sins were forgiven
The empty tomb – the promise of their eternal life

And those same promises they discovered you can have today...

You can know the freedom of forgiven sins
You can know the promise of eternal life in heaven
You can know Jesus as your Lord and Savior

I think at Easter, more than any other time of the year, we realize that God has made all sorts of outlandish promises. So outlandish, that some people just can’t bring themselves to believe them. I’ve shared a couple of these promises with you today. So, my question to you is this…will you take him at his word?

Romans 10:13 tells us that, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

If you’ve never accepted God’s promises for your life, He’s waiting. Don’t put it off, do it today, and know the joy of eternal life that comes from a personal relationship with Christ.