Friday, 10 March 2017 08:09

An Empty Tomb Means Full Forgiveness

Written by  Scotty Harris
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A fellow once said to me, “Don’t just tell me that Jesus rose from the grave; tell me why that should matter to me!” I saw his point and began, as best I could, to spell out at least some of the world-shaking implications of the words from the Gospel, “The Lord is risen” (Luke 24:34).


For Jesus, his own death was never viewed as “the end” but rather, as fulfillment of his Father’s steadily-unfolding redemptive purpose across centuries of time. Jesus never spoke of his death without adding the words “I will rise again.” Of all the claims Jesus ever made, his claim to rise again was surely the most astounding claim of all.


But his resurrection vindicates all else about Jesus, namely, that his claims were real, that life is indeed stronger than death, that the power of God is greater than the power of sin, death, or the Devil, and that death is not final. Indeed, death itself shall one day die. Jesus’ empty tomb holds that much promise, that much power.


The resurrection also assures us of God’s forgiving mercy. Forgiveness is one of our basic human needs and one of God’s best gifts through the Gospel. Years ago, the head of one of England’s largest mental hospitals stated, “I could dismiss half of my patients tomorrow if only they could be assured of forgiveness of the things they’ve done.” All of us have a skeleton or two or many more rattling around in some dark closet – memories of things we have thought, said, or done, of which in our better moments we are thoroughly ashamed. Our conscience nags, condemns, even torments us. We long to be forgiven.


Several times during his public ministry Jesus spoke words of forgiveness and peace, and in the upper room he referred to the cup of communion as his “blood of the covenant … poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). In these words, Jesus linked our forgiveness with his death. This, too, is a stupendous claim of Jesus. But how can we know that his claim was authentic? Did he, in fact, achieve by his death what he said he would achieve, and that God has accepted his death in our place as a full, final, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for our sins? The answer is that, if he had remained dead, we would never have known. Rather, without the resurrection we would have to concede that Jesus’ death was a failure. Paul saw this logic clearly and wrote, “If Christ is not risen, then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17, KKJV)!


By raising Christ, God has assured us that he approved of his sin-bearing death; that Christ did not die in vain and that those who trust in Him receive a full and free forgiveness. In brief, the resurrection validates the cross and also validates every other claim that Jesus ever made. If Jesus was raised, nothing else matters so much; if Jesus wasn’t raised, nothing else matters at all. But eyewitness accounts; the testimony of sacred scripture and that of men and women who died rather than recant what they knew to be true in point of fact; the abject failure of his enemies to produce the dead body of Jesus following his crucifixion and many other historical realities all point resolutely and resoundingly to the startling truth that “He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6, NKJV).


What a thrilling vision to bring to our minds! Christ, on the morning of his resurrection, his heart still since Friday, begins beating again. His chest expands, and then steadily rises and falls with each breath. His eyes open underneath the cloth wrapped around his face. His body passes through the burial wrappings without disturbing them at all. He sits up, removes the wrapping around his head and face, and lays it aside, separate from the full body grave cloth. His knees bend, he rises from the slab of stone, stands for a moment and then walks out of the tomb. He is risen and all who trust him may be risen with him, too. (See Romans 6:1-7)


As we draw near to the joys of Easter celebration, and as we share in holy communion on that glad morning, let us break the bread and drink the wine of communion “in remembrance of him” and in gratitude for the forgiveness he makes possible. Let us remember not only his death, but his rising again; not only his cross, but also his empty tomb. And let us eat and drink with the greatest of joy – for his tomb is empty, and our hearts are full.


Scotty Harris has served 15 years as Senior Minister of Grace Pointe Church of Christ, 1565 Ray Thorington Road, Montgomery, AL. He has preached throughout the US and in several countries abroad in evangelism, leadership, marriage, and spiritual renewal events. Learn more by visiting


Last modified on Friday, 10 March 2017 08:26

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