THE MEANING OF THE TOMB

Mark the 16th chapter begins like this:

After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint the body of Jesus. Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe — and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here — he has been raised!  Look, here is the place where he was placed. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: “He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ “

But why the words, “Including Peter?” Why is that in this text?  Could it be because Peter had denied him?  In Luke 22, starting with verse 54 we read the story:54Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance.  After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them.  And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.”  But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”  A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.

About 30 years ago, I heard a song by Don Francisco that touched me very deeply.  It tells the story from Peter’s perspective as he grapples with his denial.

He’s Alive
by Don Francisco

THE GATES AND DOORS WERE BARRED AND ALL THE WINDOWS FASTENED DOWN
I SPENT THE NIGHT IN SLEEPLESSNESS AND ROSE AT EVERY SOUND
HALF IN HOPELESS SORROW AND HALF IN FEAR THE DAY
WOULD FIND THE SOLDIERS BREAKING THROUGH TO DRAG US ALL AWAY

AND JUST BEFORE THE SUNRISE I HEARD SOMETHING AT THE WALL
THE GATE BEGAN TO RATTLE AND A VOICE BEGAN TO CALL
I HURRIED TO THE WINDOW AND LOOKED DOWN INTO THE STREET
EXPECTING SWORDS AND TORCHES AND THE SOUND OF SOLDIERS FEET

THERE WAS NO ONE THERE BUT MARY SO I WENT DOWN TO LET HER IN
JOHN STOOD THERE BESIDE ME AS SHE TOLD US WHERE SHE’D BEEN
SHE SAID THEY’VE MOVED HIM IN THE NIGHT AND NONE OF US KNOWS WHERE
THE STONE’S BEEN ROLLED AWAY AND NOW HIS BODY ISN’T THERE

WE BOTH RAN T’WARD THE GARDEN AND THEN JOHN RAN ON AHEAD
WE FOUND THE STONE AND THE EMPTY TOMB JUST THE WAY THAT MARY SAID
BUT THE WINDING SHEET THEY WRAPPED HIM IN WAS JUST AN EMPTY SHELL
AND HOW OR WHERE THEY’D TAKEN HIM WAS MORE THAN I COULD TELL

SOMETHING STRANGE HAD HAPPENED THERE JUST WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW
JOHN BELIEVED A MIRACLE BUT I JUST TURNED TO GO
CIRCUMSTANCE AND SPECULATION DIDN’T LIFT ME VERY HIGH
‘CAUSE I’D SEEN THEM CRUCIFY HIM, AND THEN I SAW HIM DIE

BACK INSIDE THE HOUSE AGAIN THE GUILT AND ANGUISH CAME
EVERYTHING I’D PROMISED HIM JUST ADDED TO MY SHAME
WHEN AT LAST IT CAME TO CHOICES I DENIED I KNEW HIS NAME
AND EVEN IF HE WAS ALIVE, IT WOULDN’T BE THE SAME

SUDDENLY THE AIR WAS FILLED WITH A STRANGE AND SWEET PERFUME
LIGHT THAT CAME FROM EVERYWHERE DROVE SHADOWS FROM THE ROOM
JESUS STOOD BEFORE ME WITH HIS ARMS HELD OPEN WIDE
AND I FELL DOWN ON MY KNEES AND I JUST CLUNG TO HIM AND CRIED

HE RAISED ME TO MY FEET AND AS I LOOKED INTO HIS EYES
LOVE WAS SHINING OUT FROM THEM LIKE SUNLIGHT FROM THE SKIES
GUILT AND MY CONFUSION DISAPPEARED IN SWEET RELEASE
AND EVERY FEAR I’D EVER HAD JUST MELTED INTO PEACE

HE’S ALIVE, HE’S ALIVE, HE’S ALIVE AND I’M FORGIVEN
HEAVEN’S GATES ARE OPENED WIDE

In Romans 6, Paul said,

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Our guilt has rolled off our shoulders into the tomb of Christ.” (Charles Spurgeon)  So, the meaning of the empty tomb is forgiveness.  But it has other meanings.

Have you ever noticed that folks who see the glass as half-empty are the pessimists?  Well, we don’t say that about the tomb.  Its very emptiness is the cause for great rejoicing and optimism.  For to say, “The tomb is empty,” is another way of saying, “Life is full.”

Come see the place where the Lord lay.

Go to a cemetery.  Look around…see all those graves?  Every grave of every Christian contains the bones of loved ones who were buried in hope of the resurrection.  These hopes exist because the tomb of Jesus is empty!

Some go to visit and weep at the graves of their loved ones as did Mary.  Others go to tearfully place flowers upon the tombs of  friends, mothers, fathers, and siblings.  But when we look upon the tomb of Jesus, we weep at his suffering but we rejoice because it is EMPTY!

The empty tomb also means victory, hope and transformation.  So much ended at this tomb and so many things began.

  • It was the end of His suffering and the beginning of my rejoicing.
  • It was the end of death but the beginning of life.
  • It was the end of guilt and the beginning of pardon.
  • It was the end of futility and the beginning of meaning and purpose in my life.
  • It was the end of fear and the beginning of courage.
  • It was the end of bondage and the beginning of freedom
  • It was the end of sin but the beginning of forgiveness in Christ.
  • It was the end of despair but the beginning of hope.

It looks like defeat when our body is placed in the grave or in an urn.  But at the blast of the archangel’s trumpet, every separate atom of my body shall find its partner.  So let me die, let beasts devour me, let fire turn this body into gas and vapor, all its particles shall once again be restored; this very self-same, actual body shall rise from its grave, glorified and made like Christ’s body, yet still the same body, for God said so. Christ’s same body rose; so shall mine.[1]

Someone said, “It is in the empty tomb that we come to know that Ultimate power comes from God and that all other power is false.”  We know that is true because of what happened to the 11 remaining apostles.  What could cause eleven very ordinary men cowering in cold fear, barricaded behind locked doors, to boldly step forth 50 days later to preach the good news of the kingdom?  Only the resurrection could do that.  Only the empty tomb could provide witness for it.  The empty tomb transformed them from cowards to warriors.  At the tomb…

The terrified become fearless

The fearful are made bold and courageous.

The weak are made strong

The weary can be filled with vigor

The foolish are made wise

The uncertain become confident

The anxious are filled with peace

Men and women are changed at the empty tomb of Christ.  May we all be transformed by what happened when a man called Jesus was murdered, placed in a rich man’s tomb on a long ago Friday and walked out of it on Sunday.


[1] Adapted from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon

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5 Comments

Filed under Eternal Life, Faith, Jesus Christ, Meaning of Life, Resurrection, Salvation

5 responses to “THE MEANING OF THE TOMB

  1. Johnna

    I think that it is human nature to always want to blame someone other than ourselves when something goes wrong. Maybe he didn’t want Peter excluded and knew that the disciples might have a tendency to do that under the circumstances. I have been forwarding your Whitticisms to all my friends and family. Love you and Brenda

  2. Bob Chapman

    Don Franscico “Live” is the best gospel music I have ever heard. Had me in tears many times as I played it over and over in my car travelling from place to place! His studio recordings came no where near the greatness of the “live” production.
    Bob

  3. Gaylord and Sharon

    What a joy for Gaylord, Jared and I two years ago
    on Easter Sunday to get to hear Don Francisco in
    a live praise and worship service with Tom & Janie
    Autry at Calvary Cathedral in Fort Worth. He been
    singing there on Easter Sunday for a number of years. He and His wife were so gracious…she’s also
    a very talented musician/singer. Among other songs, of course he sang “He’s Alive”…we remembered the first time we heard him on a cassette tape in your living room in El Paso just 31 years ago! Been fans ever since. Thank you.

  4. Like the blog. Keep it up. I’ll be reading.

  5. Good blog. Keep it up. I’ll be reading.

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