I heard about a little boy sitting next to his friend at church one Easter Sunday. His friend asked, "How did you get that bruise on your arm?" The boy replied, "I ate some Easter candy." His friend said "Eating Easter candy won't give you a bruise." The boy quipped, "It will if it's your big brother's candy!" I guess all siblings can identify with that particular Easter experience. How about this one? There were two brothers who were getting ready to boil some eggs to color for Easter. "I'll give you ten dollars if you let me break three of these on your head," said the older one. "Promise?" asked the younger. "Promise!" Gleefully, the older boy broke the first egg over his brother's head, then another one. The younger brother braced himself for the last egg, but nothing happened. "Ain't ya gonna break the third egg?" the boy asked. His brother replied, "Nah, if I did that I'd owe ya ten dollars!"
Life is full of empty promises like that. Often, if something sounds too good to be true... it probably is. Marketing experts create commercials and advertisements that tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. The government promises that if only we'd support this bill or elect this representative, then everybody would be healthy and wealthy. It doesn't take long before we have been fooled enough to know that the world's promises are full of emptiness.
Some people may wonder if the same is true of God. Our God is a God of promises. In fact, the Bible records over seven thousand promises from God to God's people. We live in a world of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. We make commitments and don't follow through. We make plans and promises that we never even intended to keep. Not God. God is different. On the first Easter Sunday, instead of promises full of emptiness, God gave us emptiness that is full of promise.
The tomb in which Jesus was laid to rest belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. It was a newly carved crypt cut into the side of a rock wall - essentially a man-made cave with rock slab benches inside. I recall a story that one of our Bethany members passed on to me years ago: Sometime after the resurrection a friend pulled Joseph of Arimathea aside and said, "Joseph, that was such a beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. Why on earth did you give it to someone else to buried in?" Joseph just smiled and said, "Why not? He only needed it for the weekend." That conversation may never have happened, but it's true nonetheless.
One the first day of the week, the women and then the disciples discover Jesus' tomb to be empty. The angel explains, "Don't be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would" (Matt. 28:5-6). Our God is a God of promises. He always keeps them! The very fact that the tomb was found empty assures us that God's promises are not! The tomb of Jesus remained empty as a symbol of life that outlasts the grave - life everlasting. In other words, the empty cave promises forever. Forever. Our minds can hardly grasp the concept, yet Jesus promised it over and over. He told Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Most people today hope for a long and happy life, but Jesus offers so much more. He offers forever. He offers eternity. The promise of eternal life is the heartbeat of hope. It's what we, as Christians, long for and look forward to. We should marvel at the gift God has promised us. Because of God's promise of eternal life we have an unshakable hope and a bubble of delight within - we are heading for forever!
The empty tomb serves as a powerful reminder that Christ rose from the grave, never to die again. He promises that if we believe in him, then we will live with him... forever! No wonder Paul says, "All the promises of God find their "Yes" in him" (II Cor. 1:20). The promises of human beings may often be empty, but never the promises of God. Embrace God's promises, now and always! And may you have a blessed Easter celebration! He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
~ Dr. Bob