Four thousand years ago Job asked this question, "If a man dies, will he live again?" (Job 14:14). That is the greatest of all the questions - it is the central question Easter was meant to answer.
Death is sobering, frightening, terrifying. No wonder the Bible calls it "the last enemy" (I Corinthians 15:26). No man has ever lived who hasn't trembled before the fact of his own death. Deep in our hearts we wonder how we will do when our time comes go through the valley of the shadow of death. Will we be afraid? Will our faith stand the test? What happens when we die? Does Easter answer the question of death? If it doesn't, then everything else I've said is just a sham.
A faith that doesn't help you when you are dying won't be much good when you are living. When Jesus walked out of the tomb, the people of God walked out with him!
The chorus of the great Bill Gaither classic, Then Came the Morning, declares this powerful truth:
Then came the morning, night turned into day:
The stone was rolled away, hope rose with the dawn!
Then came the morning,
Shadows vanished before the sun;
Death had lost and life had won,
For morning had come!
The empty tomb says, He is risen. The disciples say, He is risen. The church of Jesus Christ says, He is risen. All creation says, He is risen. I say, He is risen! How about you? What do you say?
Jesus has conquered our last enemy. He solved the problem of death forever because he entered the realm of death on our behalf and he came out on the other side holding the keys of death and hell in his hands!
Is it true? Can we believe it? My wife, Carol, and I have just returned from a dream trip of our lifetime: The Holy Land. We spent a glorious eight days in the land of the Bible and the footsteps of Jesus. One of our many highlights was to that sacred spot called The Garden Tomb, the place believed by many people—from what I have read about and now experienced, I too believe it to be the spot—the actual site of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We saw Golgotha—the place of the Skull—where Jesus was crucified alongside two thieves. Then we walked to the place where an ancient tomb has been hewn out of the limestone side of a mountain. Like all the first-century tombs, it has two chambers—one chamber where they placed the dead bodies and one chamber called the "weeping room" where loved ones could come to mourn the dead. They reported how one by one they filed into the outer chamber, ducking their heads because of the low entrance. Once inside it takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then you see it, the burial chamber with a ledge carved in the limestone. The very place where Joseph and Nicodemus would have placed the body of Jesus late on Friday evening.
Every detail of the Garden Tomb perfectly fits the biblical description for the burial place of Jesus Christ. Everything is just as the Bible says it should be—everything except one thing. You look around the tomb, you search high and low, your eyes scan from side to side and from top to bottom. One thing is missing. The body is gone! The tomb is empty!
They say as you leave the Garden Tomb, a hand-carved sign catches your attention. It says very simply, "He is not here, for He is risen."
If a man dies, will he live again? Yes! Yes! Yes! Here is the answer to the greatest question, the deepest question, the final question. All of us will face death someday. But for those who know Jesus, death holds no fear. We're not afraid of the darkness for Jesus is the Light of the world. We don't fear the valley of the shadow of death for Jesus has said he will be our guide. We may die, but we won't stay dead. Jesus has the keys and one day he‘s going to come back for us. When he does, he's going to unlock those doors and let us out.
There is a billboard out there that perhaps you have seen. On the billboard there is a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross. Underneath the picture are three words: "It's your move."
Jesus died on the cross. It's your move now.
Jesus rose from the dead. It's your move now.
God has answered your deepest questions with the simplicity of an empty tomb. On this happy Easter morning I declare to you that Jesus Christ is alive. My friend, what will you say to that? What difference does it make to you? Will you give him your heart and your life? Will you trust him as Lord and Savior?
It's your move now.
Father, may those who doubt, doubt no more. May those who wonder, "Is it true?" find that all their questions are answered with the triumphant message that Jesus Christ is alive today.
Living Lord Jesus, be born anew in our hearts today. Lead us to the empty tomb. May we hear the angel's voice declare, "He is not here, for he is risen, as he said."
Grant that we might leave this place singing with Easter joy in our hearts.
Through him and to him who is the resurrection and the life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Outside the Garden tomb
Inside the tomb