Switch to Audio

Listen to sermon audio here:

The Empty Tomb

John 20:1-18 • March 31, 2024 • g1290

Pastor Chris Amaro teaches a message through John 20:1-18 titled “The Empty Tomb.”

Pastor Photo

Pastor Chris Amaro

March 31, 2024

Sermon Scripture Reference

All of us are here this morning to celebrate something. We're celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. But a big part of that is the empty tomb, and we're going to talk about the empty tomb in a few minutes as we get to the end of our time together. But let's read one of the accounts.

All four gospels have a record of what happened that glorious morning, and we are going to look at the account in John chapter 20. John chapter 20. So, if you could turn there, please, and we will take our time and read through the first 18 verses. John's got a great account, and we'll see it here this morning. I love how John, as he's recording these events, how he just kind of sneaks himself in there. He doesn't name himself, but he makes himself look really good.

John chapter 20, and verse 1 is where we will start. It says, “Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early.” Now we find out that there were actually other women that were there with her, but John focuses on Mary Magdalene. It says that she went to the tomb early, while it was still dark. Remind you of anything, right? You were leaving your house this morning, early, it was still dark. And it says that she saw the stone that had been taken away from the tomb. Now, in the event that you are not familiar with this story right now, let me just share this with you briefly. Jesus, three days prior to this, had been crucified. He was dead. He was placed in the tomb. He was dead. He was somewhat mummified. They had prepared Him for burial, and they had rolled a large stone over the entrance to that tomb in order to keep people out. So, Mary shows up, and the tomb is wide open. And it says in verse 2, “Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple… look at this, the other disciple …whom Jesus loved.” That's John, okay? He just wanted to make that clear as he was recording this, you know, keep it humble, but I'm the one that Jesus loved. And said to them, here's what she said, “they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him. Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple…, there he is again, …and were going to the tomb.” Look at this in verse 4. “So, they both ran together, and the other disciple…, you know, unnamed, …outran Peter and came to the tomb first.” Just wanted to throw that little point in there that, oh, as we were running, I outran Peter. Verse 5, “and he, stooping down, looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in.” That was John. So, he evidently is the first to stoop down and look in and see that Jesus is not there. The linen cloths were there that Jesus had been wrapped in, but Jesus was no longer there. “Then…, in verse 6, …Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb, and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first…, by the way, …went in also, and he saw…, and then we’re told there in verse eight, that he saw …and believed.” What did he believe? He believed that Jesus had resurrected. In verse 9, “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.”

But note verse 9, they did not know the Scripture. That means that they did not understand it, or they did not believe it. Jesus had told them plainly when they had spent time with Jesus prior to this, that He was going to die, that He would be dead for three days, that He would rise again. They knew that, they heard it, but they did not believe it. They had doubted, though they had been with Jesus, face to face, there was some doubt. Isn't that wild? What a wild thought, to think that someone could be with Jesus on earth, face to face for three years. They spent a significant amount of time with him. And yet, they doubted.

And again, it says in verse 10, that the disciples went away again to their own homes. And verse 11, “But Mary stood outside by the tomb, weeping. And as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain.” Again, it's clear the body of Jesus was no longer there. “Then they said to her…, in verse 13, …woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Now, Mary is to be commended because she was the first to go back to the tomb that morning, along with the other ladies. It was the ladies who were there first. But understand what's being said here in this verse. She says to them, because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him. Now, we know already, I just mentioned it a moment ago, that the disciples did not believe Jesus up until this point. But equally, Mary, though she was the first one there, and she wanted to go and finish the burial preparations on the body of Jesus, she shows up and in verse 15, it is revealed to us that she did not believe that Jesus had resurrected. You see, she says in verse 15, rather verse 13, because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him. She said, somebody has taken the body, and I'm not sure where they put him. She was obviously greatly affected by that. But she did not understand it had not settled in yet that, oh, Jesus is not in here because He has been resurrected from the dead. She did not understand that yet.

Verse 14, “Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.” She did not recognize him, perhaps because she was weeping. Perhaps her head was bowed, wiping her eyes, a touching scene. And then “Jesus spoke to her…, in verse 15, and asked her the same question that the angels asked, …Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Now, this is perhaps in my strange mind, it's a little bit comical, because Jesus is standing there, and He wants to reveal Himself, and He wants to reveal Himself, and will do so to many people. But here is Mary's opportunity, and Jesus is there wanting to reveal himself to Mary to say, hey, you know, you don't have to cry, you don't have to be afraid. Look, I'm still alive. However, she turns around and sees Him, and He says, hey, lady, why are you weeping? And He says, why are you crying? Who are you looking for? In a way, saying, I'm right here, who else are you looking for? And He asked this question of her, whom are you seeking? She, supposing Him to be the gardener. Now, isn't that funny? She sees Jesus, now I do not know how clearly, she saw Jesus, but obviously she does not understand who it is, and she thinks that He is the gardener. What a novel idea, a gardener named Jesus. “She, supposing Him to be the gardener said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Again, I love this. We know that the ladies showed up first to the tomb, and from the other accounts as they were getting there, they thought, well, you know, we do not know how we're going to open the tomb because there's a stone in front of it, and it's so heavy, but you know, we'll just figure it out. It'll work out. I love that. That's Calvary Chapel style, you know, I will this, I don't know how it's going to work out. Let's just show up and see what God does. And sure enough, they show up and the stone has rolled away. And now she says to the person who she thinks is a gardener, in fact, it's Jesus, she says, you know, if you've taken the body, just tell me where you've put him. And she says, I'll take Him away. Now, again, we know that it's not just her. She's volunteering the other ladies that are there with her, I suppose. But she's saying, don't, don't worry about it. You know, don't worry that this is a full-grown man, you know, in His 30s, I'll just pick Him up and take Him, and you know, we'll finish preparing him.

But then in verse 16, “Jesus said to her, Mary!” now, my Bible includes an exclamation mark here. So, it seems to me that Jesus did not speak quietly to her, but spoke loudly to her in order to arrest her attention. In order to arrest her attention, and He says, Mary, “She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” again with an exclamation mark. This is a point of excitement, both in Jesus and in Mary. And Mary realizes in that moment who this is, this is none other than her Lord, her Jesus. And here she says, “Rabboni,” which is to say, teacher, she's so excited. “Jesus said to her, do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father.” So evidently, she went to grab hold of Him to say, you know, please don't leave, you know, I'm sure that she was very, very excited to see him. And wanted to hold on to him. But Jesus wanted to make it clear to her, do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father. In other words, what he's saying is, it's not time for Me to leave yet. I'll be here for a little bit. So, there's no need to cling to Me right now. He goes on to tell her this, He gives her some instructions, “but go to My brethren and say to them, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father and to My God and your God.” So go give them these instructions. I'm not leaving yet, but I will be leaving. And we know from the other gospel accounts that they were instructed to go to Galilee and to wait for Jesus. But it says here in verse 18, where you and I finish our reading of this account, “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken these things to her.” And you know, some of the disciples did not believe. They didn't believe. Though she was an eyewitness, first-hand account, they did not believe.

Now, this is a wonderful story and you all have shown up early in the morning here to celebrate this event. This rising from the dead of Jesus some 2000 years ago. But it's been 2000 years and what does this all mean for you and I? Now there are lots of things that we could talk about with regards to application for today. We could talk about the power of God to resurrect the dead. But there are three things that I want to make mention of before we end our time together this morning. What does the empty tomb mean for you and I? Again, there are lots of things, but I've just chosen three.

The empty tomb means number 1 that Jesus is alive. Amen? Now, this may seem to you to be a, duh, everybody knows that, moment. However, not everyone believes that. There have been lots of skeptics, lots of critics of the Bible, lots of doubters over the ages ever since this happened that have doubted the resurrection of Jesus. However, people go to look for the tomb of Jesus daily, every day of the year. People go to Jerusalem to go and look for the tomb of Jesus. And after 2000 years, no one has found the body of Jesus. Now, we know because we've got a teacher's teacher here, our pastor, we know that if someone wanted to prove that Jesus really was not resurrected, that they would just need to produce the body of Jesus, yet the body of Jesus has never been found. And that is because He is resurrected bodily. Now, let me say something. Everyone knew that Jesus had died. Everyone knew that. The Roman soldiers at the cross, they knew that Jesus had died. Remember, they had stabbed Him in the side with a spear to make sure that He was dead. Nicodemus came to collect the body. He knew that Jesus was dead. He came to ask Pilate, can I have the body? Pilate marveled, you know, He can't be dead already. And he sent word, sent a message to the Roman guards and the Roman guards said, no, He's dead. So, the Roman soldiers at the cross knew that Jesus was dead. Nicodemus knew that He was dead. Pilate knew that He was dead. The women who prepared His body for burial knew that He was dead. The Roman guards at His tomb, who sealed up the tomb with a Roman seal, an official Roman seal made of wax, knew that Jesus was dead. Everyone knew that He was dead. I make that point because I need for you to understand, you and I want to remember that He actually did die. Some people have said over the years, one of the arguments is that Jesus simply swooned, the swoon theory, that Jesus after being tortured, beaten for hours, put on a cross, nailed to a cross, hanging there for hours in the sun, losing sweat, losing blood, that He simply swooned. He just passed out. And then after being put in the tomb, His body being prepared and wrapped up and put in the tomb, after all of that blood loss and the sweat and the loss of strength, all of it, that He revived inside the tomb. And with all of the strength that He could muster, He went to the stone and rolled the stone away on His own and simply walked out, which is hilarious, which is foolish. He had died. He was dead. And He had been dead for three days and now He was resurrected. Everyone, knew also that He had risen from the dead.

It was actual, it was factual. The Roman guards at the tomb. They, the angels, showed up and the Roman guards, we are told that they fell down like dead men. So, what Matthew tells us, because they saw the angels and there was an earthquake and the stone was rolled away, the Roman guards, when they revived, they had to go back to the religious leaders that had paid them and say, listen, we were at the tomb and these angels showed up and opened the tomb and the body of Jesus is gone and we fell down like dead men. And the religious leaders actually paid them off and they said, listen, just don't tell anybody what happened. Here's the story that you're going to tell them. And if the governor asks you, because you see they would have been put to death for having failed at what they had been called to do, which was to guard a dead body and that dead body was now missing. And the religious leaders said to them, if the governor finds out, we'll pay him off also. The angels knew that Jesus had resurrected. They said, who are you looking for? He's no longer here. The women found out that Jesus had resurrected. Peter and John knew that Jesus had resurrected.

Jesus is alive. In 1st Corinthians chapter 15, Paul wrote this in verses 3 through 8, “for I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: 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 by Cephas…, that's Peter, …then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” Paul at the time of that writing in 1st Corinthians says there were over 500 who saw Him at once, and most of those people are still alive and can tell you what they saw. He goes on in verse 7 to say, “After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.” And even Paul says in verse 8, “Then last of all He was seen by me also as by one born out of due time.” Paul had experienced Jesus seeing im on the road to Damascus. Everybody knew that Jesus had died, and everyone knew that Jesus had resurrected. Jesus is alive. The empty tomb proves that for us.

It's one proof, but it is a proof. Secondly, the empty tomb means that Jesus cheated death, and so have we. In Romans chapter 6, verses 4 through 9, Paul again writing said, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin, for he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we also shall live with Him…, And in verse 9, he makes this statement, “…knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.” And in John chapter 3, in verse 15, it says “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Not only did Jesus cheat death, not only did He conquer death, but because of His death and because we died with Him, we also are resurrected with Him. We also possess eternal life. Eternal life is not something that we will get when we die. We have it already, church. Can I get an amen? In 1 John chapter 5, it says, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life.” He says in verse 12, “He who has the son has life.” He says again in verse 13, “that you may know that you have eternal life.” It is a certainty because of faith in Jesus Christ.

Lastly, the empty tomb means this, that you and I never have to be empty again. Because you see, Jesus did what He said He was going to do. He is the real deal. Advances in technology, social media, and the internet have profoundly affected our world and thus our own personal lives. But at what cost? The world has never before been so connected and so disconnected at the same time. Loneliness, sadness, anxiety, and depression are all at an all-time high. Do you know that there are people today who are communicating, prompting AI chat programs online, computers, to flirt with them? Because people are so very lonely and they want interaction. And you would think that with all of the connections that we have online and through social media that there would not be any loneliness. And yet it seems to have only worsened the problem.

We will finish with this, John chapter 10, verse 10. Here is what Jesus said. He said, “The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy.” Jesus said this, “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” Because the tomb is empty, you and I never have to be empty again. Our hearts can be filled with Jesus. Our hearts can be filled with the Spirit of God and His love and His joy and His peace. But you need to understand that there is an enemy that came to kill, to steal, and to destroy. Jesus stated that fact. And there are some here this morning, you came here with some crazy mom or some crazy uncle or some crazy co-worker who said, “Listen, come with me to church on Sunday.” And maybe you reluctantly said, “well, okay, fine, I'll go with you.” Maybe you tried to come up with all the excuses and you just kept running out of excuses and they said, I'll buy you breakfast. And you said, Okay, fine. What time? Six o'clock. Six o'clock? You want me at church on Sunday? Six o'clock? But it was for a purpose. You see, if you came this morning and you do not have eternal life, you need to know this, that God offers eternal life. Who does He offer it to? Does He offer it to the perfect, the righteous, the holy? No. In fact, it is offered to the imperfect, and to the unrighteous, and to the unholy. That's what we are doing here. That's why all of us crazy Christians showed up this morning because we need Jesus. And we know that Jesus has accepted us. He loves us. And we know that. And we're here because we love Him so much.

But if you are here this morning and you are not a Christian, you do not have eternal life, listen, there is hope. God offered His son Jesus in your place. Paul said in the book of Acts, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” But what does that mean to believe? You see, even Satan believes in Jesus. So, what does it mean to believe and to be saved? It means this, that when I believe in Jesus, it means that I believe in the life, the death, the resurrection, the ascension of Jesus. In other words, the finished work of Jesus.

The Bible teaches that Jesus was born through the womb of Mary, who was a virgin at that time, and that He lived a sinless life. And that in His 30s, He died on a Roman cross. And in doing so, He paid for the sins of the world, offering Himself as the sacrifice. He then was resurrected, which is what we're celebrating this morning. Several days from this event, He will ascend to the Father, back to the right hand of the Father. When you believe on Jesus, you believe all of those things. But most importantly, you believe that the death of Jesus was enough to pay for your sins. You see, you have sins, the Bible also says, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that there is no one righteous, no, not one. And so, if you're a sinner this morning, God has offered His son in your place. You may be looking for someone that can prove their love to you. God already proved His love to you by sending His son.
And Jesus came willingly to please the Father, to accomplish that work. And if you will believe on Jesus Christ this morning, you too, my friend, can be saved. You can walk out of here with eternal life. You can trade in your loneliness, your anxiety, your depression, your misery, for joy and for peace and for love. What a deal.

But I want to speak also briefly before we leave to those of us that are Christians, because Easter is a special time. And it's a great time to come back to church. I can remember years ago being young and being, I thought I was a Catholic and I would occasionally go to the Catholic church and seem like every time I went, I was getting scolded for not being there the rest of the year. Well, if you haven't been here all year, we sure are glad to see you this morning. We love you. But if you are a Christian, I want you to remember something about the story, the account that we just read. Peter, John, and we were told about Mary Magdalene, these were all followers of Jesus. They had spent time with him. In fact, they had spent three years with Jesus. They had listened to Him teach. They had seen Him heal. They had seen Him multiply. And yet they doubted. And if you are a Christian here this morning and you have been struggling and living in doubt, good news. God allows second chances. And speaking from experience, third chances and four and five and six and seven and eight. He allows you the opportunity to return to him, to recommit your heart to him. And why would you not want to do that? If you've been doubting, then that means that you also have been living in fear. You've been struggling, anxiety, worry, all of those things. Give those things to Jesus this morning. Recommit your heart to him. Let's pray.

Pastor Photo

About Pastor Chris Amaro

Pastor Chris Amaro is the High School Pastor at Revival Christian Fellowship

Sermon Summary

Pastor Chris Amaro teaches a message through John 20:1-18 titled “The Empty Tomb.”

Pastor Photo

Pastor Chris Amaro

March 31, 2024