Sunday, March 31, 2013

Message from an Empty Tomb

Luke 24

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Resurrection

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.


Can you even imagine this scene? I'm pretty confident that everyone who heard the news of Jesus' empty tomb must have been thinking they'd lost their minds. Let's get real. Having an encounter with an angel first thing in the morning isn't exactly business as usual. Who sees "two men in dazzling apparel," except in Las Vegas or on Broadway? But there they were, announcing Jesus' resurrection.

We've been talking all week about grief and the resurrection, but let's talk for a minute about  the promise and the message we have been given though grief.  From deep within our grief, do we ever stop and return to prophesy of a glorious day when we will be resurrected? I know that in my own times of grief and sorrow, it has been easy to look forward to death and being with Jesus in heaven away from all the pain.  In those times, I relate to the Bible promises about being with Jesus in heaven. But, to be honest, when I'm grieving I have trouble clinging to promises about my life on earth. I have trouble singing songs of hope.

This feeling of being disabled from hope is not unique, and it often feels like future joy mocks us. It is as if the days to come are like bullies who torment us saying, "Let's see you talk about hope and really mean it now!"

When the Israelites were captives of the Babylonians, they were asked to entertain and amuse their captors.

Psalm 137

English Standard Version (ESV)

How Shall We Sing the Lord's Song?

137 By the waters of Babylon,
    there we sat down and wept,
    when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
    we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
    required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord's song
    in a foreign land?

The Israelites were devastated. The psalmist says they just sat down and wept thinking about what was in their past—their homeland and heritage. They hung up and put away their musical instruments for praise and worship, but their captors required them to sing songs from home. The people of Israel were grieving, and wondered how they could ever sing the songs of their homeland—songs from the good ol' days—while being held captive. Isn't that just how it is for us when we grieve and mourn? But the psalm goes on to say, 

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
    above my highest joy!

Dear friends, grief can choke off our praise and pull a curtain around our memories of happier times...cutting them off from our hope for today and for the future. We we are in the clutches of grief and sadness, our lives can feel like tombs of death sealed from the outside by an immovable stone. We feel empty and depleted. 

Yet, what if we chose to see things differently? 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we can "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ," and that ability can be put into practice amid our pain and suffering. We can make up our minds, even right now, that we will not forget God's promises to us that are for THIS life, not just the life to come. Even though we grieve and mourn we have hope and we CAN experience joy!

My friends, out of our ashes, and out of our tombs of grief and loss, our God has been faithful to raise us up because HE was raised from death to life! And so, because He conquered sin and death for us, we have not only hope for the future, but hope for TODAY. We have a message—a testimony of Jesus' great faithfulness to us. But that is not the end of our message.

What we find in grief is not only that He lives—Jesus who has already borne the sacrificial, crucified, tormented death of our griefs, and of all our sickness, sin, and shame—but WE live...and we live to share that message of hope that rose with Jesus out of the tomb. We live to share His love through our own stories of life, death, and resurrection from our personal tragedies and griefs.

I am praying today that everyone who grieves and mourns will take both courage and encouragement to let Jesus raise you up out of life's griefs (the stains of sin and death on our human hearts) so that you can tell His story and proclaim His love through your message from an empty tomb!

And for anyone who does not yet know, or has not heard, the beautiful story of God's love, please visit my friends at What is the Gospel? and find out how you can have hope and share the great message from the empty tomb!

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