THE GRAVE WAS EMPTY!

I Corinthians 15:12-22

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

He is risen!

What a day of celebration Easter is, for on this day we are blessed to hear once again the Easter proclamation that Christ is not dead, His body is not in the grave, and He is alive!  And that means our bodies will not die eternally, our bodies will not remain in the grave, and we will be alive forever with the Lord when He comes again in glory on the Last Day.

But there are some who do not want you to believe this glorious truth.  There are some who have gone out of their way to side-track historic Christianity and take away your joy.

You may recall that a number of years ago there was a program on the Discovery Channel which supposedly documented the finding of the actual bones of Jesus in Jerusalem.  Well, what about that?  What if the bones of Jesus actually were found?  What if science and archaeology proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus’ bones have been preserved?  What is the end result of that belief-system?

Can you just imagine the chaos, the confusion, the grief, and the despair throughout all Christianity IF, IF this turned out to be true?!?  Could it be that Jesus’ bones have been found?  Could it be that one of the bones, determined to be a rib, even had a mark on it that would have been consistent with the mark of a sword blade, and verified that Jesus was pierced with a sword while on the cross?

Could it be, even though the historic Jesus was crucified and his body placed in a tomb, that those bones were moved somewhere else after the stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb?  Could it be that someone did indeed place Jesus’ bones along with the bones of His family into family a grave in Jerusalem?

Could it be that a parchment, found along with these bones, contained accurately dated documentation regarding all these events?  Could the Roman soldiers have successfully spread the story that Jesus was not raised, but that His body was moved or stolen and later placed in a tomb?

Can you imagine the repercussions of such information?  There would be accounts from all over the world of Christians committing suicide due to this discovery.  The nay-sayers of Christianity would literally come out of the woodwork to proclaim that anyone believing in Jesus is a lunatic.  Churches all over the world would report a 75% to 80% drop in attendance.  Clergy would be laughed out of their pulpits and forced into seclusion.  Communism would mount a frighteningly rapid resurgence, not to mention Eastern religions, such as Islam.

Those who still held to a physical resurrection of Jesus would identify the archaeologists involved as the very personifications of the Antichrist.  Anarchy and lawlessness would spread more quickly than ever before.  There would be a world-wide decline in morality.  All hope would be lost if Jesus did not rise physically from the dead.

Dear people of God, the very basis of the Christian faith throughout the ages has always been the substitutionary life, death, and PHYSICAL resurrection of Jesus bodily from the grave.  We do not preach and believe only in a spiritual resurrection as do so many liberal theologians and so-called Christians.  Nor do we preach and believe in the “idea” of a resurrection – that people just believe that Jesus rose, even though that idea is impossible for many to believe.

To all of that we say NO, NO, NO!   We preach Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who was sent to this earth to take on human flesh.  We preach Jesus Christ who lived the perfect life of obedience for all mankind.  We preach Jesus Christ who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  We preach Jesus Christ who went to the cross and grave with all your sins.  And we preach Jesus Christ who, by the power of God the Father Almighty ROSE from the dead, declaring total and complete victory over even death itself forever!

For those who do not believe in Christ’s bodily resurrection and, by association, those who teach falsely about Christ’s resurrection, they are no better off than those to whom St. Paul refers in I Corinthians 15:12-19:

“[12] Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? [13] But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. [14] And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. [15] Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if, in fact, the dead do not rise. [16] For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. [17] And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! [18] Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. [19] If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

You see in these words that for Paul there is no question about the resurrection of Jesus; it happened.  Jesus said he would do it, the prophets of God spoke of it, and hundreds of people after that first Easter day verified it.  It happened!  That is why Paul seems so befuddled when he wrote to the Corinthian congregation, “how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”

Paul then went on to say, in effect, that it matters not whether ANYONE believes it because that does not change the biblical and historical FACT that Jesus rose physically and bodily from the grave by the power of God.  NOT to believe in Christ’s resurrection means that there is nothing after this life, nothing to which we may look forward.  Why, if that’s the case, then we have to look a dying person in the eye and say, “This is the end, friend!  Keep a stiff upper lip!  Try and take it on the chin like Jesus did.  There’s no hope, no afterlife – nothing.  Have a nice day!”

But much worse than that, Paul adds in vv. 17 and 18 that for a person not to believe in the resurrection is to be still in their sins – unforgiven, condemned, and destined to eternal destruction when they themselves breath their last.  No resurrection means no hope, no future, no forgiveness, and no peace.  Ever.

But thanks be to God that Jesus did rise physically from the dead!  He is risen, just as He said!  His bones can never be found because He is alive bodily and physically.  And because that is true, we know that Christ is the only hope for all of mankind.

Listen again to St. Paul in I Corinthians 15:20-22: “[20] But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. [21] For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”

Dear friends in Christ, Jesus lives!  The Victory’s won!  He lives!  And because He lives, we who by faith believe in Him will live also.  Our sins are paid for because of His great love for us.  And may we never forget that His love means coming in the flesh for us, taking upon Himself all our sins, dying for them, and rising again bodily from the grave.

Yes, the grave was empty – not because anyone took the body and buried it somewhere else.  The grave was – and still is – empty because Jesus rose!  He is risen!  Hallelujah!