The Empty Tomb
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.
In Bible days, when someone died, it was the duty of a family member to close the eyes and kiss the cheek of the dead. When Christ died, this became the duty of two men: Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus. They went to Pontius Pilate and begged the body of the Lord Jesus.
Then they had to take Him down from the cross…which was not an easy chore. First, they had to rig a ladder, and climb up the side of the cross, and then they had to pull Jesus’ hands off, over the nails. There was no way they could get those spikes out of the wood, not from that angle, not with His hands in between the wood and the nail head. Once the hands were loosed, they allowed the body of Jesus to sag into a sheet and would then remove His feet from the nail in the same manner.
They took the body of Jesus to a new tomb, that Joseph had prepared for himself. They washed His body, and wrapped it in white linen, folding His arms over His chest. They closed His eyes, kissed His cheek, and placed a cloth over His face. They walked away from that tomb, and no doubt they walked in silence…so that all you could hear was the sounds of their sadness, muffled crying, and sniffing.
For 3 days, all the demons of hell rejoiced, and Satan and the forces of darkness thought they had won a great victory. For 3 days, the Jewish leaders, as well as the Roman government, congratulated themselves on their brilliant scheme. But on the 3rd day, something wonderful and miraculous happened. The stone rolled away, and up from the grave He arose…He lives!
In our text, Mary arrives first to the empty tomb. She sees the stone rolled away and it frightens her. And so, she runs to get Peter and John, and they run together to the tomb as fast as they could. John outran Peter, and when he got there, he looked inside, and saw those grave clothes lying there in disarray.
Then Peter arrived and, just as we’d expect of him, went right in. He also saw the linen clothes lying there, but there was something unusual in that scene. Something caught their eye that was very interesting.
The Gospel of John tells us that the piece of cloth, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the piece of cloth was neatly folded and was placed at the head of that stony coffin. Is that important? You’d better believe it! Is that significant? Absolutely! Is it really significant? Yes!
In order to understand the significance of the piece of cloth, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded cloth had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.
Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up the piece of cloth (as napkin) and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded cloth meant, “I’m done”. But if the master got up from the table, and folded his piece of cloth, and laid it aside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the servant knew that the folded cloth meant, “I’m not finished yet.” The folded cloth meant, “I’m coming back!”
Peter and John had walked with Christ for 3 years. They had watched as He opened blind eyes and deaf ears. They watched as He literally raised people from the dead. Then they watched Him die…and as they watched, all of their hopes, all of their dreams were shattered! All they could think was, “it’s over, it’s all over!” And for 3 long days they were in the depths of despair…the lights of their soul had gone dim. Peter even said, I’m going’ fishing’. I’m going’ back to what I used to do.
He’s not finished yet! The tomb is empty, our Savior is alive!!!
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
A few days before Christ died, He took His disciples aside and told them what was about to happen. He said, I’m going to be betrayed, arrested, beaten, and crucified. Then he looked at the disciples and said, all of you are going to desert me when the heat is on.
The Apostle Peter rose up in typical style and said, Not me, Lord. “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Peter goes on to say… “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny You.” Can you just imagine the reaction of Jesus, knowing that Peter would deny Him three times.
They arrested Jesus and subjected Him to shear torture. And while this was happening, Peter’s courage turned to butter. A young lady approached and said, “I know you, you were with Him”. And this same man who had just stood up to the entire Roman army, now backed down and said, “I don’t know the man!” Another came up and said the same, and again he denied Christ. Yet another said, your accent betrays you, you’re a Galilean, you’re one of His disciples, and he not only denied Christ that 3rd time, And the rooster immediately crowed, and Peter remembered the words of Jesus. And he looked off into the distance, and there stood Christ, and their eyes caught. And when he saw the sadness and sorrow in the eyes of Jesus, it broke His heart.
Listen now, let me drop a blessing in your heart. Look at Mark’s acct of The Empty Tomb.
16 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
Can’t you see it in your mind’s eye…these ladies run to the disciples to tell them the good news. He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s risen from the dead!!
Can’t you see Peter, in the corner of the room, shocked, saying, what? What did you say? It’s true!
“Yes, He said to meet Him Galilee!”
And Peter, who has been in the depths of depression for 3 days, stunned at the reality of the Resurrection, and almost encouraged, is once again plagued in his mind at his pitiful denial of Christ, and is dragged right back down into his pit of despair, and thought, “surely He doesn’t mean for me to come…I denied Him 3 times.
And the ladies said, oh, Peter, by the way…He mentioned you by name!!! (V7)
He said, go tell the disciples…and Peter.
Why did Jesus want to see Peter…to rebuke him? No, he wanted to restore him! And one of the sweetest scenes you’ll ever see in scripture is Peter and Jesus, coming together, and Jesus hugging him and saying, Peter, do you love me? (3times)
That’s the real issue. If you’re here today and at some-point in your walk, you stumbled like Peter, let me remind you that Jesus is alive and loves you. how do I know this for sure? Didn’t Jesus…because of His love for you, died for you. and on the third day, rose for you. And is alive and well to this day. Wasn’t that the reason Jesus faced the cross…sacrificed His life, so that we can be saved! Salvation is an eternal gift by Gods grace. Just because we can slip off track from time to time does not mean that God will take away His gift. The life of His Son was a gift to you, and you need to believe that!
Please listen. Peter denied Jesus three times, and yet Jesus called him by name. Peter was asked with one of the greatest question Jesus could ever ask anyone. “do you love Me”. Jesus is asking you today, “do you love Me”. If you’re a Christian, your answer should be a definite YES!!!
I heard about a little boy who had done something very naughty. His mother punished him. He was afraid his mother was still angry at him…in the kitchen there was a chalkboard on the wall where they wrote down phone messages. When no one was around, he wrote on that chalkboard, dear mom, if you forgive me, please wipe this out. He went to his room, and about an hour later returned, and to his surprise and joy that chalkboard had been completely erased!
Are you away from God right now? Bring your sins to the cross…Jesus will not rub them in, He’ll rub them out! That is the beauty of “The Empty Tomb” Jesus is alive and loves you the same as when He first called you by name. His love will never change once you are His.
If you’re here today and you need to be saved, or you need to come BACK to God, I need to remind you there’s coming a day when another supper will take place…it’s called the marriage supper of the Lamb. I beg of you, don’t wait ‘til it’s too late. Right now, the napkin is still folded!
Remember the prodigal son…when he came home, his father welcomed him home w/ open arms! Today, Jesus is calling you!!!
Pastor Richard Santos
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