Easter Service Message – Sunday – April 1, 2018
Scripture: John 20:1-10
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
In Psalm 23, David describes death as casting a shadow – “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I bet, like me, you’ve been out on a sunny day when a large cloud moved between you and the sun. In fact, not that long ago, we had an eclipse in the middle of the day and the effect is even more complete. Whatever comes between you and the sun casts a great shadow on you. It steals the light. However brief a moment that shadow, cast over you, causes you to stop and take notice. It interferes with your day.
For David, death is like a shadow cast over your life. It’s always there, lingering like a thick cloud in the sky, ready to cast its shadow and steal your light. I bet you’ve had that shadow cast over you before. Maybe it was at a funeral or at the bedside of a dying loved one. The shadow was cast when you brushed up against death in some way – perhaps it was a time when your own life was in danger.
Death is our mortal enemy. When we are young, we think we are bullet-proof but it doesn’t take long before we realize our own life will end someday. No one gets out of this world alive – that’s how it works – and your eternal destination awaits you when you pass from this life to the next. The power of the grave is tremendous in our lives. It affects everything. It’s why we fear pain and punishment. It’s what causes us to pause and proceed with caution. It’s why we eat and drink. It’s why we fight to survive. It’s why we take life seriously and hold on to every precious moment. Yes, death casts it’s shadow over our lives and it’s hard to ignore. Eventually the darkness will fall and we know it.
This is why the Empty Grave of Jesus is so significant. Jesus defeated death and took away the fear of the shadow. It was in 1 John 5:1-5 where John said, “1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” It’s in John 16:33 where Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus overcame the world and here, at the Resurrection, Jesus overcame death.
In 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, Paul says, “’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ 55 ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I want to share something vitally important with you this morning so lean in and listen carefully: you are the reason that tomb was empty that morning. Jesus died for you. Jesus defeated death for you. His victory is your victory; His resurrection is your resurrection. The empty grave of Jesus is your empty grave. Jesus overcame death for you. On the cross, he paid for your sin; in the tomb he defeated your death. This is what the empty grave of Jesus means for you today!
You don’t need to fear death anymore. It may cast its dark shadow over you, from time to time, but you need not fear it because Jesus has defeated it on your behalf. Do you believe in Jesus? Have you accepted his sacrifice on the cross for you? If so, He has overcome death on your behalf. And for those who have yet to accept the death and resurrection of Christ, this victory can be yours as well. The shadow of death is defeated by the empty grave of Jesus.
I want to leave you with one final thought on this Resurrection morning: Shadows are cast upon you because there is light on the other side of them. God is light. In him there is no darkness at all. When you see the shadow of death, and you will, have no fear – Jesus is on the other side of that shadow and he’s already defeated it on your behalf.