1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them - yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don't be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’”
What a difference a day makes! When the body of Jesus was placed in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus on Friday, it was a dark and terrible day. As the sun went down that night, so did the hopes and dreams of all the Lord’s disciples and followers.
It’s interesting that all four Gospels go from the death and burial of Jesus on Friday straight to the resurrection on Sunday morning. They are silent about the Sabbath, but it’s not hard to imagine what it must have been like for Jesus’ followers. That Saturday would have been a long, miserable day for all those who loved Jesus.
But, what a difference a day makes! As we move beyond that tragic Friday and Saturday, we arrive at a glorious Sunday, when the world changed forever.
Why is Resurrection Sunday so important? It’s important because the events of that day have made a difference in every day that has and will follow that day. That day makes a difference because what happened that day has influenced many people in this room. That day is important because what happened that day can make a difference in your life today.
As was Jewish tradition, the two Marys and Salome would have observed the Sabbath like any other, by staying at home and not doing any work, but this particular Sabbath must have been especially sad and tragic for them. Just the day before, they had witnessed the death of Jesus. They watched as His body was placed in a tomb and a stone was rolled over the opening to seal His body inside, and at sundown (which signalled the beginning of the Sabbath) they would have reluctantly gone home to wait until the Sunday morning when the Sabbath was over.
When the Sabbath ended, on Saturday at sunset, they left their homes, went into town and bought spices to anoint the body of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus had already wrapped the body in linen strips and poured embalming spices on the body. The perfume these women were intending to use would have served the purpose of masking the smells of decomposition.
Their intention on Sunday morning was to perform one final act of love and service to Jesus. For them, it was a way to have closure after His tragic death.
They gathered their spices together and made their way from Bethany, where they lived, to the tomb just outside Jerusalem. As they went to the grave that morning they were broken hearted over His death and were in a hurry to get to Him so that they could minister to Him one final time.
As they walked, they kept talking about the stone over the door of the tomb. It must have dawned on them after they bought their spices that they would have trouble reaching Jesus’ body. The tomb had been sealed by having a large stone rolled over the door, and they could never have moved that stone by themselves, and they knew it. This was the main topic of their conversation on their journey to the tomb.
What we easily forget is that as these three women approached the tomb that morning, they were filled with sorrow, grief and fear. They were not going there looking for a living Lord. They were looking for a cold corpse. Their problem was that they were still living in Saturday.
When that awful Saturday dawned, all they could see was the shattered remains of their hopes and dreams. These ladies, along with all of Jesus’s followers, had placed all their faith and confidence in Him. They believed that He was the Messiah. They believed that He was the One who was going to fulfill all the ancient prophecies. They believed that He was the One who would be the King of Israel. They believed that He would establish God’s kingdom on earth. All their hopes for life and eternity were bound up in what they believed about Jesus.
And now, those dreams were shattered.
Their faith had turned to grief, and grief to utter hopelessness as they saw His broken body taken down from the cross and placed in that tomb. When that stone was rolled across the door of the grave, it was a ringing statement of finality. That stone said, “It’s all over. Hope is gone. There is no future. There is no salvation. There is no kingdom. Jesus is dead. It’s all over.”
If the story of Jesus ended with Him being buried in a tomb and with a stone being rolled across the door, there would be no hope today. Paul said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:19
And, that is where so many are today. The world is full of people who are living in Saturday, and they don’t even realise that Sunday is here. People go through their lives enslaved by their sins.
They move through this world oblivious to the God who exists to save them. People still stuck in Saturday are described like this in Romans 1:18-21: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
They live without joy, without peace, without hope, trapped in their sins and on a one-way trip to a place called Hell. The problem with the majority of people is they are trapped in Saturday. They live in the darkness of their sins and depravity and are unaware that unspeakable joy and glory is theirs for the taking, if they only knew that the tomb was empty, that Jesus is alive and that they can be delivered from the bondage and the darkness of their sins.
So the two Marys and Salome arrive at the tomb, and their fear is changed to amazement. Mark says in verse 4, “they looked up”. As they walked toward the tomb, they did so with their heads bowed and their eyes downcast because of their sorrow and their grief. As they neared the tomb, they lifted their eyes and saw that the massive stone had been rolled away from the door and that the way into the tomb was wide open.
But they still didn’t know what had happened.
They didn’t know that before they arrived that morning, there had been an earthquake and that an angel had come to the tomb and removed the stone. They didn’t know about the appearance of the angel and how that had frightened the Roman guards and that they had fled the scene in fear.
All they could see was the tomb opened and they began to fear the worst. They had come to pay their last respects, and now even that privilege had been snatched away from them.
They must have been devastated at the sight of that stone rolled away from the tomb.
But as they went into the tomb, they found a young man inside dressed in a white robe. We know from the other Gospel accounts that this was no ordinary young man, but an angel, and he has a message for them. It’s a message designed to stop them living in Saturday. It’s a message designed to help them experience the power of Sunday in their lives.
When they saw the angel, they were terrified, but he told them to not be afraid. He speaks to them and brings a message of peace – a peace which passes all human understanding.
He tells them that he knows why they are there. He knows they have coming looking for the body of Jesus. He confirms what they already know. Jesus was crucified, and He did die. They really did see Jesus nailed to a cross. They really did see His blood flowing as He died. They really did see Him yield up His Spirit. They really did see Him die.
But he also wants them to know that His cry of “it is finished!” did not mean that He was finished! He died, but He did not stay dead. The cry of victory that day was “He is risen!” The angel wants them to know that the power of death has been swallowed up by the far greater power of life.
The empty tomb of Jesus is not a place of despair and defeat. That empty tomb is a place of glory, a place of power and a place of hope.
The truth is, if Jesus Christ died on the cross and did not rise again from the dead, everything we live for and believe as Christians means absolutely nothing. We would be no different to followers of other man-made religions who can visit the graves of their dead leaders and dead prophets, and like them, we would have no hope.
If Christ is not risen, He died in vain, He had no power to save then, and He cannot save anyone today, and as the apostle Paul wrote, our preaching is in vain, and a waste of time.
But Jesus is risen from the grave. There are Biblical and other historical documents from those days that prove the physical resurrection of Jesus is fact, and not fantasy as the doubters and continue to proclaim today.
The evidence that He rose from the dead is overwhelming. If you’ve done the Alpha course you’ll remember this quote from a retired Chief Justice of England: “In its favour as living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.”
Jesus is risen, and because He lives, all the negatives are transformed into positives. Gloom is now glory, because Jesus is able to save the soul. He is able to give us His life. He is able to change us from the vile creatures we are into His image for His glory.
Jesus is alive, just like the angel said. That was a message those women needed to hear that Sunday morning and we need to hear that same message this Sunday morning.
After telling the women that Jesus had risen from the dead, the angel invited them to look at the place where the body had been. As they looked, we are told what they saw in John 20:6-7. They would have seen the cloth strips that had been wrapped around the body, still lying there, undisturbed, as if the body had simply passed right through them. They would have seen the napkin folded, and laid to the side. They would have looked at a scene of absolute calm and order.
It was not the kind of scene they would have witnessed had people taken or moved the body. The message from that empty tomb is that Jesus is alive! For 2,000 years sceptics have tried to prove that the resurrection did not take place. They have concocted every kind of wild theory imaginable to account for the empty tomb. But every theory they propose is destroyed by the testimony of the empty grave.
If the Jews or the Romans had the body, they would have produced it when the disciples started preaching the resurrection. The transformation and the power of the preaching of the disciples, especially after Pentecost proves that the risen Lord is as real as your hand before your face. That missing body has always been impossible for the sceptics to explain away. His body was missing because He was alive. Jesus walked out of that tomb that morning in eternal victory over death and the grave.
And that empty tomb is still preaching the same message of life and hope today. That empty tomb continues to tell the world that Jesus is alive and that He is able to save all who come to Him by faith. If you are still trapped in the deadness and darkness of your sins, you need to know that you don’t have to remain in that condition. Jesus lives today and He can deliver you from the Saturday of your sins and transport you to the Sunday of His new life.
The message of the empty tomb rolled away the stone from the hearts of those sad, sorrowful, grief stricken women. That message brought them out of the gloom of defeat into the glory of life. And it can do the same for you too. If you haven’t allowed to yet, let God roll the stone away from your heart.
The next thing the angel did that morning was to send them away from the tomb to carry the message to the disciples Jesus. John’s Gospel tells us that these 11 men were filled with fear and were in hiding, so they needed to know that Jesus is alive. There is no need to fear God when you turn to the living Christ, because in and through Jesus you will find a message of forgiveness and life, not judgment and death.
There is joy and there is hope. Even Peter, who had denied he even knew Jesus three times was restored and forgiven. God’s grace was sufficient for Peter, and it is sufficient for you. There is nothing you have done which will put you out of reach of God’s mercy, for the simple reason that Jesus died for those things.
Those three women went there that morning worried about rolling away one stone from a tomb. They didn’t know it, but God was about to use them to roll countless stones away from the hearts of millions. They were the first to spread the good news of that empty tomb.
What they encountered changed their lives, and replaced their sorrow with an overwhelming sense of the power of God. They knew that they were now a part of a great miracle and they ran to tell others about the risen Lord.
The message of these women caused even more stones to be rolled away. Because of their testimony, many were brought out of the darkness and gloom of Saturday into the wonder and glory of Sunday.
That’s the power of the resurrection. When the resurrection is first encountered and believed, it fills the heart with amazement. When the Lord’s resurrection is embraced by faith, it brings about a change in the lives of those who receive that truth. When the death and resurrection of Jesus is embraced by faith, a sinner becomes a saint. A child of the devil becomes a child of God. As Jesus said in John 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
It’s a life that strives to know God and the power of the resurrected Jesus. It’s a life that is no longer satisfied with Saturdays. It’s a life that longs for the glories of Sunday to be real every day. It’s a life that can’t keep the good news to itself.
That is the power of an empty tomb. It has the power to roll stones away even today. It has the power to deliver us from the Saturday of our death, to live in the Sunday of His victory.
What a difference a day makes! On Saturday everything looked bleak, barren and dead. On Sunday everything changed forever. On Sunday, the stone was rolled away and the world would never be the same again.
On Sunday, some struggling believers had the stones rolled away from their hearts. They heard the good news that Jesus was alive. They believed that message and it changed their lives. They shared that message with others who were trapped in the deadness and darkness of their Saturdays. Many of those people believed and the stones were rolled away from their hearts. They were saved and started enjoying the Sunday of His glory and presence.
Have you had the stone rolled away from your heart yet? Or are you still living in the Saturday of sin and despair?
If you’re still stuck in Saturday, then the truth is that you have no hope, because you are still dead in your trespasses and your sins. If you die in that condition, you will die lost and stay lost for all of eternity.
Just as He raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus can do the very same thing for you. Don’t you want to be saved? Don’t you want to be delivered from your dead, depressing, dreary, dark Saturday and experience the Sunday of His peace, His joy and His salvation? He is standing outside your tomb today, and He is calling your name. Come and be saved. Leave Saturday behind and come find out what Sunday is all about.