Empty

What a fabulous, glorious, soul-stirring, heart-lifting day is Easter. Around the globe, Christians gathered — some of them in house churches, others in great, large facilities, and some outside on the hills and valleys — and they worshiped the living Jesus. Surely a million times over the words were repeated, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matt. 28:6). The grave is empty. Empty! EMPTY! He was alive again forever and it was Jesus who said, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19) and gave us the incredible promise that one day if we live and die in Christ our grave, too, will be empty. Surely one of the moving, meaningful words of Easter is that word — empty.

Recently I was talking with a friend who had gone through a great deal of trouble over the last months and especially the last few years. It seemed like every time he turned around there was another family member or close friend dying. While we celebrate lives that have been lived, we also miss the ones with whom we shared life. What he said to me was, “I just feel so empty.” His life was void of their presence and his heart was empty of the emotions that he had shared with them. Laughter and tears, concern and enjoyment, and now he feels empty.

For many of you as you read this article, you think about all of the precious saints and souls that filled your life at one time who are now gone and you, too, know what it is like to be empty. It is an emptiness that comes with a normal process of life and then death. It is an emptiness that comes not because you do not believe, but sometimes it seems to come because you do believe and you look forward to seeing that precious loved one again — but right now it’s pretty empty. In these post-resurrection days, in fact in all of our days, let me point out to you at least three marvelous things that come to us because the tomb was empty.

First, the tomb was empty so we could be filled in ways that nothing else and no one else could ever fill our lives. Jesus comes to give us the fullness of life. He comes to fill your life with purpose, defined as the meaningfulness of life. He comes not only to fill us with purpose but with power. It’s one thing to have some sense of direction. It’s another to be filled with the strength and power and even the courage to do what God has in store for you to do. He fills us even in the days shortly after the resurrection. You don’t have to search long until you run headlong into one person after another whose life was dramatically, gloriously turned around and given purpose and incredible power. Jesus did not come simply to start some new religion. He came to bring a whole new way of life so that day-by-day, with every sunrise, you could praise God knowing that He had a purpose and plan for your life and that He would provide everything necessary for you to accomplish the task for which He made you.

Secondly, the grave was emptied so we could be stilled. When you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus dying, you can identify with how they felt —  the despair, gloom, fear, panic, and uncertainty. It’s all there, but you need not look just at the death of Jesus to see all of that. It happens again and again in people around us, and sometimes it is us. Our Jesus who emptied the tomb was the One who could calm the waves and stop the storms and say, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). Regardless of that with which you may be struggling, wrestling to try to keep off of your back or struggling to keep your head above water, Jesus comes to let us know that nothing and no one can take you out of the strength of His hand. Beyond that, He reminds us that He is in the Father’s hand. What has gotten you so distressed, post-Easter? Maybe it’s debt. Maybe it’s divorce. Possibly it is disease. For others, it may be drugs but Jesus, the powerful, conquering-the-grave Jesus, comes to say to you and to me, “Be still,” and maybe even to quote the verse from Scripture, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  The question we face today and so many days is not whether He is able, but whether we are willing to trust Him — to lean upon His strong arms for help, to find Him to be what He truly is: Savior.

Thirdly, the grave was empty so we can be thrilled. On Easter Sunday, it should be applied to every Sunday that follows. There should be joy — wonderful, exuberant joy — that floods our hearts. We can look death in the face and have joy. We can look beyond these years and all of the losses we may have experienced and rejoice that we are going to see our loved ones again. It is truly an experience of joy unspeakable and full of glory, because the grave is empty. Paul said, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). The day will come when you and I will be able to attend the funeral of death itself. Jesus was the first fruits of that glorious experience. We all can, through Jesus, be a part of the celebration of life and even the burial of death. The grand old Easter song tells the story with great joy:

“I serve a risen Savior He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say. I see his hand of mercy; I hear his voice of cheer; And just the time I need Him He’s always near. He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”

Along with so many of you I am thrilled because the grave is empty.

The author can be contacted at directions@mbcb.org.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer
directions@mbcb.org

03-31-16

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