No matter where you might go in the world, there is heavy competition for the tourist’s dollars. Even here in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. And, of course, right in the center of that battle are the hotels. There may be a hundred attractions for visitors to see, all appealing to different sorts of peoples, but the common denominator for every tourist is the need for accommodations. And yet a hotel room is a hotel room – it usually includes a bed, a shower, a chair, a vanity and a TV. There are certain things that are found in just about every hotel or motel room. So for many people, it’s whatever frills that hotel offers which clinches the reservation. For many of us it’s the price and if there is a free breakfast. But for others it’s the location, or the hotel dining room, or some sort of special hotel attraction. It might be the luxury that is built into the standard bed, shower, vanity and TV. And for some hotels it’s the fact that every room has a balcony which overlooks a fantastic vista.
Let’s say that just outside of Jerusalem about 2000 years ago, there was one weekend which had a very special attraction – the tomb of the man called Jesus of Nazareth. I know there weren’t any hotels advertizing a balcony view of Joseph’s tomb, but just for the fun of let’s pretend. Let’s say that every room in Jerusalem faced the doorway of that crypt in which the body of our Saviour lay. As the sun arose on the day after the final sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened bread, there were thousands of visitors checking out of their hotels and getting ready for the long trip back home. And the city residents were getting ready for work. There were bankers getting dressed, while their wives were fixing breakfast. Several thousand children were getting ready to head to school. The craftsmen and their apprentices were tying on their work-belts and gathering up their tools. Roman soldiers and the temple guards were strapping on their swords and their company insignia. It was just another first day of the week, like thousands of others – but it wasn’t just another ordinary day.
There had been a strange feeling in the air during that entire week. And a little over three days before, Jerusalem had been shaken by a major earthquake, and then among the aftershocks, there had been a second big quake just after sundown last night. Hundreds of homes and buildings had been damaged, and who knows how many deaths. During the first shock on Wednesday, there had been quite a few tombs which had been wrenched open, and many bodies had been exposed. In Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, he wrote: “And Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” In just a few minutes people were going to begin to see others who, it was reported, were formerly dead. There were people once dead once again walking the streets of Jerusalem. What were those people wearing? Burial shrouds? Is that what made them stand out in the crowds? How many people personally recognized them? And to whom did they show themselves alive? Family members? Priests? How long did they live after their resurrections? Full lives, or was it just a matter of days. Where did they go after their initial surprise of being at home once again? Weird and fascinating – terrifying – things had been happening in Jerusalem!
Not only that, but very quickly, word spread about the empty tomb of the trouble-maker from Galilee. In terror, the guards reported to their superiors about what had happened to them. They weren’t exactly sure what they had seen and experienced, but they were concerned for their lives – from their captains if from no one else. Others around town were soon learning that the stone door to Jesus’ tomb had been rolled back. There might not have been any radios or “Good Morning Israel,” but people were waking up to the fact that the body of Christ was not where it was supposed to be – and that included Jesus’ own disciples.
I’ve entitled the message this morning: “A Room with a View.” Let’s permit our hearts to imagine what was going on in several Jerusalem area homes as news about the empty tomb reached them. Everyone of those rooms had a window which, at least allegorically, opened out to face Joseph’s tomb.
First, there is the view of that tomb from the palace of the Roman governor, Pilate.
Mrs. Pilate has not had a good night’s rest in almost a week, and she’s just a little testy. Tuesday night, just hours before her husband sentenced Christ to die, she had a horrible dream. And “his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should …destroy Jesus.” We are not told what it was that the woman dreamed. Maybe she saw Christ nailed to the cross like so many others that had been crucified in Jerusalem, but as she watched perhaps she saw Him transfigured in some way. Or maybe she saw herself or her husband taking Jesus’ place. We have no idea what her dream was like. Now, on this Sunday, up before dawn, she sat staring out the window, then just as the sun was coming up she saw it – the stone from in front of the tomb had been removed. What could it mean?
I’ll tell you what it means, Mrs. Pilate: The Judge of all the earth; the One Who permitted His hands to be bound and Who submitted to torture, has ascended to His judgment throne in preparation for His eternal reign. The One Whom you have feared in the past, you now have ten times more reason to fear. He is telling the world, “I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for ever more.” And now God “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”
But Mrs. Pilate, fearfulness of Christ and His judgment is not an end in itself; it is only the beginning. “The sorrow (and fear) of the world worketh death” – I Corinthians 7:10. If your fear and sorrow might be used by God to bring you to repentance – “wonderful” – but at this point you have every right to be terrified.
As she hurries to awaken her husband, he is furious because he hasn’t been feeling too well himself. He knows perfectly well that the Jews had asked for the Jesus’ death out of jealousy and hatred. He knows that Christ was innocent of the charges against him and was not worthy of death, but he had given the order anyway. It was probably not the first time that Pilate had ordered the death of an innocent Jew, but he feels more guilt about this one. The Jews had then asked him to guarantee the security of the body, and he had given them permission to post the guards and seal the door. “Those stupid guards have failed me again, why can’t Rome send me more competent soldiers? There will be some court-marshals and perhaps executions here. And what if the Jews send word to the Emperor? It may be my head on the chopping block.” Credible history tells us that Pilate later died back in Rome in utter insanity.
I think we can say that the empty tomb of Christ was the most upsetting, mind-boggling event to ever take place in Jerusalem. And remember that Jerusalem had seen more than its share of miraculous events. The empty tomb is the hub of history; It is like a traffic circle with people going round and round it, and a dozen roads heading off in every direction like spokes on a wheel. If men look at it incorrectly, turning at the wrong point, they go off into destruction. Less than a week earlier Jesus had said, “What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” That is already beginning to come to pass.
Some other men, who didn’t sleep very well either, live over in the palace of the High Priest.
Annas and Caiaphas, the High Priest and former High Priest were afraid that the tomb might become empty. After all, they knew that Jesus had prophesied that very thing. They had even begged Pilate for guards to be placed in the garden to prevent …. whatever. As they awoke that Sunday morning and looked toward the north east, the worst of their fears were fulfilled.
For those Jewish leaders the empty tomb meant the end of their religion. Christ Jesus had denounced their pride, their greed, and their faithless sacrifices. He had called them hypocrites, murders, children of the devil and spiritual adulterers. And He even had gone so far as to seal all those statements with His own blood. Now His body was gone – would the people rally behind His memory, rejecting their priests? This appeared to be the beginning of the end for them. It was time for some serious damage control. It was time to call out the spin doctors. The Apostle Paul tells us much more. “Christ is the end of the law, for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” And therefore it was the end of the priesthood behind that aspect of the law. The law those priests represented was merely a schoolmaster to bring people unto Christ. And Paul even went so far as to say that Jesus Christ is now the one and only High Priest. As much respect as I have for God’s chosen nation, those people need to look into the empty tomb.
Eventually, the devilish minds of Annas and Caiaphas tried to come up with some sort of explanation for their loss. “We’ll bribe the guards into saying that they fell asleep at their posts. We’ll threaten them with death unless they say that Jesus’ disciples came while they were sleeping and opened the tomb, stealing the body.” A sieve holds more water than that explanation. How can sleeping men be witnesses to a crime? How can they fail at their duties and be rewarded for doing so? How can they neglect their responsibilities and not be exposed as liars or punished as misfits? Look at how far corrupted minds will go in order to deny the truth. There was great consternation there at the palace of the High Priest. But a somewhat different view of the tomb came from the other direction –
From Bethany and the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
It was just outside of Bethany that the Lord Jesus had said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live.” Those ladies didn’t really understand what the Saviour was saying that day, but the mist is starting to lift and they are beginning to see something in that second empty grave.
As the members of that little family looked across the valley toward Joseph’s tomb, to their three-day-old sorrow was added some excited confusion. They had been saying, along with many others, “We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” At the crucifixion all their mis-guided hopes and plans had been dashed.
Oh, how important it is that our hopes agree with the decrees of the sovereign God. Christian, our Saviour is not rotting away in some grave somewhere; He lives. “We serve a risen Saviour; He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say.” I read of a missionary in China who was interrupted in his teaching one morning. A man rose and say that Confucius was just as good a religious teacher as was Jesus Christ. The missionary politely replied, “Sir, the problem with that statement is the tense of the verb you used. Confucius is dead and Jesus Christ still lives.” Christ and Confucius are not in the same solar system spiritually.
Jesus proved that He IS the resurrection and life, by His resurrection and life. He has been “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:” – Romans 1.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” – I Corinthians 15.
Mary, Martha, Peter and John, the empty tomb isn’t something to worry over, but rather something in which to rejoice. It proves that everything the Lord Jesus ever said is true. It means that there is life after death, and heaven beyond earth. It means that Jesus is Christ is the Son of God, and that God the Father has been pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Unlock those doors which you’ve closed for fear of the Jews, and let the Son of Righteousness come in.
A fourth view of that open tomb came from the windows of heaven.
At the death of Christ, Satan had hopes that the battle for sovereignty was his; that Mordor had won. With the God-ordained Saviour dead and buried, then sin was still as potent as it had ever been. He could still corrupt the Davids, Solomons, Asas and Jehoshaphats of the world. If the eternally devised plan to rid the world of the guilt of sin failed, then God was an eternal failure. But then Christ arose. Satan’s touchdown celebration ground to a halt, because Jehovah just scored on the next kick-off. In fact Satan was morally wounded; his head was crushed and his back was broken. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” – I John 3:8. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” – Hebrews 2:14.
God’s angels were not privy to all the eternal plans of God, and they didn’t understand much of the gospel, but because they knew both the Father and the Son, I don’t think that they were the least bit surprised to see that the tomb was once again empty. The may have been dumbfounded at the crucifixion, but they were nonplused at the resurrection.
As Heaven looks down at the empty tomb it sees that now there is a true remedy for sin. On the cross Jesus took upon himself the guilt and the sins of His elect people. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” – I Peter 2 and 3. But was His death on the cross sufficient? Did it really get the job done? That crucifixion was only half the story. Praise God, “He was delivered for our offenses, but he was raised again for our justification.” The seed that was planted on the cross sprouted and produced fruit in the garden tomb.
The message of the prophets from Enoch to Isaiah was vindicated. “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” – Acts 10:43. Because Jesus lives, the saints of God shall also live and reign with him. Not only live and reign, but also rejoice and glory in the remainder of this life and throughout eternity. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”
This leaves us with only one more balcony to consider:
What is the view of the empty tomb from YOUR house?
I hope that you don’t view the resurrection as a fanciful tale – a fable. If this is the case then you are overlooking the obvious facts. The death of Christ on the cross was certified as complete by an expert in crucifixions and death. And then the empty tomb could not be denied. The resurrection of many others besides Christ added weight to His own resurrection. And then there were well over 500 witnesses of the resurrected Christ. And nothing but the resurrection and ascension of Christ can explain the change in the timid disciples. Charles Colson (some of you remember him) – Charles Colson gave this reply to the argument that the resurrection was just a conspiratorial lie by Jesus’ disciples. I am paraphrasing but essentially, he said, “Along with several other people, I was involved in a great lie, called “WATERGATE.” There were only a few powerful, intense and dedicated men, who had all agreed to maintain the lie. But one man, John Dean, broke down and confessed, and the whole conspiracy fell apart. In the case of the resurrection, there was far more pressure to break the conspiracy. It was not a matter of jail time, but about life and death. And yet the conspiracy of the resurrection couldn’t be broken, because it was no conspiracy. Jesus actually regained life and exited the tomb.” If you believe that the resurrection of Christ was a lie, then you have swallowed the lie of Satan.
Are you looking at the empty tomb as an interesting but unimportant fact of history? If this be the case, then, I’m afraid that you’ll face hell for eternity. This is that important.
But if you are truly a child of God, then you’ll look at the empty tomb as an essential aspect of redemption. Without the death, and shed blood of Christ, we would have no sacrifice to offer for our sins. Without the resurrection of Christ, we would have no priest worthy to present that offering to the Father. The only weeping which Christians should make before the empty tomb, should be tears of joy.
Have you been made a part of the eternal life of Christ? Go past the tomb back to the place of the cross. Kneel there in deep contrition and put your soul into the bloody hands of the Saviour. Repent of your sins, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.