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Sunday, April 08, 2012

A Useless Tomb

John 19:38-42
John 20:1-18

2- The cross is empty.

During the Battle of Waterloo, a man used to stand on top of a great cathedral in London. His job was giving news updates from the battlefield to the people. Although there was no telephone communication, there were flags that passed on messages from one tower to another.
The city of London was anxious about the result of the war against the French. Did they defeat Napoleon? This man was standing on Cathedral watching for signals from the battlefield. When the message reached him, he waved his flags to inform the people of London. To their surprise, people read the following, “Willington defeated.” They could not believe it and were very disappointed. However, as you all know, London is famous for its fog. So after a while, when the fog was gone, the man on the tower was able to read and pass on the whole sign: “Wellington defeated Napoleon.” London started cheering and celebrating.

On Friday, Jesus was on the cross.
On Friday, the cheering stopped.
On Friday, there was a “heavy fog”.
On Friday, we saw a Son of God crucified.
On Friday, we thought we were defeated.
On Friday, there were tears
On Friday, there was a funeral, an expensive one.
On Friday, Satan was happy, yet he did not know he was defeated.

All this was on Friday.
Today is Sunday.
Brothers and sisters, the cross is empty.
In our reformed theology, we do not keep Jesus hanging on the cross. Why? Because Jesus is not on the cross anymore, the cross is empty.
The question is, Why do we have empty crosses on alters and everywhere?
It will remind us that God did send His Son so he will be crucified for our sins. The cross is empty. Jesus is resurrected.
Cross is a cruel instrument for punishment. It reminds us that the Son of God was beaten and tortured for us. I would like to see a cross that has nails but no Jesus. Nails will remind me that Jesus Christ the Son of God was broken and beaten for you and me.
He took it all on Himself, in order that we might not have it.
The empty cross reminds me that we are free from the past. It is liberation from our old life.
An empty cross testifies of a terrible tragedy transformed into joy and into victory.
The empty cross reminds us of the words of Jesus on his prediction about the temple. He is the new temple. We read in John 2:19, “Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
Yes, it was “destroyed”. Yes, it was Friday and he was crucified; but the cross is empty. The “new Temple”, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings is not on the cross any more. The temple was rebuilt.

3. Finally, the Tomb is Empty

-Last week I told you about the tomb of Napoleon. Not much can be said, He was just buried in a lovely spot near a spring, shaded by two weeping willows. ‘Here Lies’ was written on his stone, no name!
-Millions of Muslim pilgrims go to Mecca for the pilgrimage. Part of their ritual is to walk around Mohammed’s tomb called Al Kaaba. Prophet Mohammad said to have been buried there. The tomb is not empty.
-We Christians do not have a tomb for Christ anymore. Whatever Joseph of Arimathea offered was short term and temporary gift for Jesus. The expensive tomb was useless.

What does it mean to have an empty tomb?
This testifies that the promise of God was fulfilled.
The tomb is empty, that means the gospel message is alive and true.

Paul is right. If there is not resurrection, if the tomb is not empty, what are we doing here?
“…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Cor. 15:14-19)

Life is stronger than death.
Life is stronger than death.
Life is stronger than death.
The empty tomb shows that whoever believes in Christ will also be saved, delivered from sins, and one day resurrected. An empty tomb means new life, everlasting life.

An empty tomb also indicates that salvation is through the resurrected Jesus Christ. Jesus is not just a moral teacher; he is not just a rabbi; he is the Son of God who came to die on the cross and be resurrected for our salvation. This means sin is defeated.

I am not a Warriors fan. Last year they finished the season with good results. I remember a Bay Area fan who became very excited with the results. He thought they needed a slogan, a phrase that could empower the crowd. He designed yellow T-shirts with the following writing: “We believe” and sold thousands of them to the fans.

Last Thursday, I visited the 92-year-old Sam Yeremian. He was very weak. He could hardly speak. Hartley and I were there with him, encouraging him. We gave him the Holy Communion. He was suffering from high fever. As we were leaving and saying goodbye, he looked at me as his eyes were trying to give me a message. When I came closer to him, he said in Armenian, “Krisdos haryav” (Christ is risen). He was weak and facing physical problems. He did not talk much but he wanted to say the most important words, “Krisdos haryav.”

We believe. Christ is risen. I believe. Do you believe?
Christ defeated the death. The tomb is useless, the cross is empty, the tomb is empty. Do you believe?
Amen


Rev. Nerses Balabanian,
Calvary Armenian Congregational Church, San Francisco

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