Easter Sunday (John 20 – The Empty Tomb)
Jason White



The resurrection changes everything!  On the 3rd day after Jesus’ death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, Jesus was raised from the dead.  He defeated the power of sin and death forever, and He offers us forgiveness and eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

John 20:30-31… 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.




Sermon Audio Transcript
The resurrection changes everything. The resurrection really does change everything. The empty tomb changes everything. And the writers of Scripture, certainly believed that they had seen Jesus firsthand. They had watched him die, they watched Him be buried in a tomb. And they watched him appear to them. And so they wrote about his resurrection because they witnessed His resurrection. And they were transformed and changed by His resurrection. These men and women who had followed Jesus around and heard him teach and watched him perform miracles and die on the cross, following the resurrection, they transformed, and they were changed from weak, fearful, ordinary men and women into powerful and courageous sons and daughters of God, who transformed and change the world 2000 years ago, so much so that we are still talking about it today. One of those men who spent a lot of time with Jesus, his name was John, he was one of Jesus's disciples. And after his death and resurrection and experiencing the power of the resurrection in his own life, he wrote one of the four historical accounts of Jesus's life that we have in our Bibles today, we call them the four Gospels, the good news of Jesus Christ. And John wrote about Jesus's birth. And he wrote about his life and his teachings and his miracles. But most importantly, he wrote about his death, and His resurrection. And John even told us why he took the time to write all of these things down at the very end of John chapter 20, we see that John says this, that Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. In the next chapter, he says, because there was too many of them for me to write down. But verse 31, he says, But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. John says, the reason that I've written all of these things, this historical account about Jesus's life is so that you would believe in Jesus Christ, and he's a son of God, and that you may have life. In his name, John is saying, I've experienced the abundant life that can only be found in Jesus. And you've got to know you've got to know about the life that can only be found in him. The reason that John knew about the life that had could be found in him was because Jesus had taught about the life that could be found in Him. John even recorded that and wrote it down. Earlier in his gospel, he recorded Jesus as saying this and John 1125, he said, I am the resurrection and the life and John 14, six, John records him saying, I am the Way the Truth and the Life and because of because of that, John would even later on write in first John 512, He who has the sun has life, but he who does not have the sun does not have life. John had heard Jesus teaching about this abundant life that could only be found in and through him. And then after his death, and His resurrection, he began to experience that life that he talked about. And John says, This is too good to keep to ourselves, because it's not just a life, that's for me, but it's for the entire world. So you guys, John is saying, half to know about this. And so in some ways, John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote what he did, so that some of you today would quit settling for the counter fit life that is so readily available to you and found in so many things out in the world. And they would finally begin to experience the abundant life that you were created to have, and created to experience the fulfilling the satisfying life that Jesus said that He came to give and that you can have through a relationship with Him. That of course, is made possible because of Jesus's death on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and for your sins and for all the sins of all time, and because he defeated the power of sin and death forever, as he rose from the grave three days later. This is how the apostle John describes the events of that day. He says 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, 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. In other words, Mary Magdalene, as we see the way that John describes the events here didn't necessarily believe that there was a resurrection coming. She should have, she was one of Jesus's followers, Jesus had transformed and changed her life forever. If you go back and read Luke's Gospel, in chapter eight, you'll see who Mary Magdalene was in Scripture tells us that she was being attacked and held captive by seven demons. Can you imagine the bondage that she was living in the guilt, the shame and all that comes with that, and Jesus rescued her from those demons and radically transformed and changed her life. And therefore she became a follower of Jesus. She heard his teaching, she watched his miracles, she had heard him speak of the fact that he was going to the cross and would die that He would be raised again. But here, she is saying, maybe somebody stole his body. What Why am I highlighting this? Why am I pointing that out this morning? Well, I just think it's worth noting, because it really kind of verifies the reliability and trustworthiness of Scripture, a lot of people will try to tell you that this is just a made up story that these guys made up that this is a fabrication of the truth. And it was not really true. But if you're making up a story, you don't write in someone who didn't even believe that it was going to happen, if he had said it was going to happen, that makes you look weak, it makes it look like you didn't really understand it was even coming. But the truth is, they weren't making up a story, John's just reporting the facts. He's just writing a historical account of what happened. And so you see things like this, all over the place, not just in John's gospel, but in all of the Gospels, because they're just recording what really happened. They're not trying to hide anything, or cover up anything, they admit to a lot of mistakes along the way. And to me, that just means the Gospels are even more trustworthy. So he reports the facts, see, thinks that they've stolen the body, she runs to tell Simon and John, that's the one Jesus loved. He's referencing himself there. And here's what we see next. So Peter, and the other disciples started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first, no idea why that's necessarily in there. It's interesting what you see in Scripture sometimes, right, but evidently, John thought it was important for you. And I didn't know that he beat Peter in a foot race. Just like a guy, right? All right. So he bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there, but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tube, He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus's head, the cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple had reached the tomb first also went inside, he saw and believed and then John makes this parenthetical remark they referring, including himself, and still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. He believed it, he believed he had risen from the dead, but he didn't quite get it yet. He admits, once again, even though Jesus had talked about it in reference to these things, it hadn't really quite come together for them. Yet, they only found that out later. And we read about those kinds of things, and Luke, and when he describes the walk to Emmaus, and Jesus appears to them and opened up the scriptures to help them see the over 300 prophecies that the Old Testament had talked about the Messiah that was to come, and that Jesus had fulfilled through his birth and his life and his death and his resurrection. And then we're told that the disciples went back to where they were staying. Now, one of the things that I think's really interesting in this section of scripture that I just read to you was something that I don't think easily comes across in our English translations. There's three different times that the apostle John, in the English translations uses a verb like they looked at, or they saw something in the tomb. And we just kind of think, well, those are all kind of the similar, same things. But in Greek, there are three different words that are communicating three different things. And it's really important, because I think it helps us see what was really going on in the tomb. And that really does still have application for us today. Let me show you a little bit more closely. What I'm talking about in verse five. We're told that he bent over and looked in so we see this here we looked inWe're gonna go jumped ahead. Alright, so he, he looked in this word in Greek just means he noticed, right? He just looked in and kind of noticed some things in there he just they caught his attention is all that he was really trying to say through this in the beginning. But then when we get to verse six, and he says, Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb, he saw. Now this word right here has more to do with carefully investigating something, examining it closely to study it closely to begin to try to reason something out, he noticed the things at first, and then he began to closely study them closely examine them try to reason out what it is that he was noticing and what it is that he was seeing. And then finally, he uses a third Greek word here in verse eight, where he says, Finally, the other disciple who had reached the tomb, first also went inside, he saw this verb that he used here has to do with comprehension, seeing with comprehension, seeing with understanding, it started to make sense to him, he started to comprehend and understand what it is that he had seen, and then how he had put it logically together. And then oh, I know what's gone on here. The reason I bring this up is because again, a lot of people will try to tell you that Christianity is a blind faith, that because you can't physically see God, then you just have to blindly believe you just have to blindly have faith that He exists, and that this whole thing is true. Well, that's kind of hard for a lot of people to buy into. And the thing is, is it's not true. What we see here is they didn't walk in and just blindly believe it, they noticed something, they began to investigate what was going on. And then based on all the things that they saw here, then they began to finally comprehend and understand what was really going on. Christianity is not a blind faith, when you investigate it and follow where the evidence leads, if you look at it with an open mind, you will see that the evidence leads to Jesus being exactly who he said that he was being the son of God being God himself, and that he did rise from the dead. Many of you familiar with Lee Strobel, if you're not Lee Strobel was a journalist. And he didn't buy into this whole thing. But his wife became a Christian. And he didn't like it. He didn't want her to be a believer. And so he said, You know what, I investigate things. I'm a journalist, I know how to dive deep into this, I'm just going to dive into it a lot deeper, and actually prove to her that this whole thing is not true, so that she can quit believing in it. And we can go back to our old life the way that it was. But the problem was, as Lee Strobel began to investigate it and dive deeper and deeper and deeper into where the evidence was following with an open mind, he could not get away from the fact that the evidence led to Jesus being exactly who he said he was, and that he did rise from the dead. And then Lee Strobel became a believer in Christ. And God transformed and changed his life forever. So much so that he wrote a book about it called the case of Christ, so that you and I would know the evidence that's there. And God could use it to help us see who he really is, and what it is that he's done for us. And he's not the only one. There's a number of people who have done the exact same thing. And just with an open mind followed, where the evidence leads in it is leading to the same place, maybe you are here this morning. You don't normally come to church anywhere. This is your obligate obligatory day to actually have to come maybe with a neighbor or a family member or someone, it's just what it is that you have to do. You don't really buy into this thing. You don't believe it? And you certainly don't think there's any evidence that would prove that it is true. Well, I invite you to explore it for yourself. I mean, wouldn't you want to know, what do you want to know not just take somebody else's word for it, or just Well, I can't believe that it could be true. And so just guess well, because I think that it must be true. Well, why don't you openly investigate it and just see where the evidence actually leads for yourself, that would be my encouragement to you. So this is what we see in these opening verses here about what was going on. Now. John picks up here in verse 11, and says, Now Mary, stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb, and saw two angels in white seated where Jesus's body had been one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her woman Why are you crying? They have taken away my or they've taken my lord away, she said, and I don't know where they have put him. At this. She turned around, and she saw Jesus standing in there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her Woman, why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for? Thinking he was the gardener? She said, Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him in, I will get him. Guys. Mary was standing in the presence of Jesus, he was right there. And she missed she missing out wonder if it's possible that you've been standing in the presence of Jesus. And you've missed him as well. Could it be that Jesus has been in your presence that he's been pursuing you that he's been bright, they're in the middle of your hurt, and your pain and your grief and your depression and your anxiety and the struggles of life, the confusion, the doubting the decisions you're trying to make, and he's trying to show you that He loves you, and that he cares about you and that He died for you. But even though he's been right there, you've just missed him. Mary did. He was standing right there. And she missed Jesus, but not for long. Verse 16, we're told that Jesus said to her, Mary, just called her names. And as soon as Jesus calls her name, she turned toward him, and cried out in Aramaic Rabban i, which means teacher. In other words, she instantly recognized who Jesus was the moment he called her name. Why? Because she had heard Jesus call her name before, she was bound in chains and seven demons attacking her and she was dealing with all of the struggle and, and, and all the things that come with that her life honestly, was quite the living hell. But Jesus called her name, and the chains fell off. And she came running out of the darkness and into the light, and her life was never the same again. So when she heard her name, she instantly recognized the one who had called it before, which drew her out of the pit of darkness and despair, and brought her into the light. And given her a piece that she had never known before. Could it be that Jesus is doing the same thing with you today, that Jesus is calling your name that he brought you here today, after he's been pursuing you, he's been right there in the middle of your marriage problems and the struggles with your kids or your illness, your depression, your grief, your anger, your confusion, your doubts, your anxiety, whatever it is, and he's calling your name so that he can pull you out of the darkness and despair this morning and drag you into the light and the love in the same way that he did with Mary Magdalene. If he's beginning to call your name, even this morning, to reveal to you that he's been there with you throughout all of these things that you're going through, do not run from Him. He loves you. As John said, He's where the life is. He wants to give you a life that's better than anything you can find out in the world. And if you hear him calling your name this morning, begin to turn to him and run to him. Cling to him, embrace him. It's what Mary did. We see it in the next verse? Look at what Jesus says. Jesus says, Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Jesus had transformed and changed Mary's life. And then she watched him suffer in excruciating amount of pain. die before her eyes and get buried in a tomb and all of a sudden Jesus was alive right there. What would you do? wrap him up. You're not going anywhere. Jesus, you're mine. Right? Please never leave me again. This is theirs. There's time for some different things that are about to happen. There'll be time for that later, but I've not yet to send it to my father. He gives her a mission instead liquid he says go instead. My brothers, and tell them I am ascending to My Father, and your father to my God and your God. Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, I have seen the risen Lord. And she told them that he had said these things to her what a mission that was right, for Mary, for someonewith a past and all the things that she had been through, to be it to be the first evangelist, the first one to go tell the good news about Jesus and about His resurrection, and also, to be a woman. In this particular day and age, many of you know that women were not viewed highly, they were not respected, they were seen as property. Their testimony wasn't even valid often in a court system. And yet, he looks at Mary and says, you get to be the first one, to go share the Good News of the resurrection with others. I think what we see here is that Jesus elevates the status of women in this society, and in this culture, and that he had plans for all people to share in His Kingdom work. And the other thing it says to us, once again, what I mentioned earlier about the trustworthiness and the reliability of Scripture, again, if you're making up a story, you're just wanting to convince some people that Jesus wasn't who he really said that he was. And then he rose from the dead, even though he really didn't, you would never include a woman as being the one that Jesus appeared to, and to go tell everybody because their testimony wasn't even valid in court. You'd make sure that that was a man and someone that was trustworthy and believable in their society. And so for me, it just is one more reason that we can trust what it is that we see here. John goes on verse 19, it says on the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you. After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. And the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, I am sending you He gives them a mission. And with that, he breathed on them and said, received the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone sins, their sins are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. Now, what Jesus is saying here is that he's not necessarily giving them the authority, like God to actually pronounce whether someone is forgiven or not, and be the ones who get to decide that kind of thing that was decided through Jesus has finished work on the cross, but he was sending them as he said earlier to go tell people about the forgiveness that they could experience if they just received His free gift of salvation. And if they did, then they could declare the truth in that moment that your sins have been forgiven. But if people did not receive that forgive free gift than they could also be real with them and say, you've got to know the truth. Because you have not received it, you are not forgiven, you need to know where you stand. Good people don't go to heaven, save people do those who are forgiven those who have accepted His free gift of salvation. So this applies to all of us, and those who would hear the good news as well. There's also a problem here, some of you may have recognized it, it's found right here when Jesus said, He breathed on them or John says he breathed on them, and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. The reason this kind of presents a problem is because he makes it sound like that happened right there in this moment, where Jesus was physically present after his resurrection, and they received the Holy Spirit in that moment. But if you know your Bible, you know that the book of Acts teaches us that that happened after Jesus's ascension after he had gone back to heaven. He was not physically present. And so what was it? Did they receive the Holy Spirit in his presence? Or was it later? And we don't know the answer to that there's certainly a lot of discussion around the way this is worded here. Some people believe that they did receive the Holy Spirit here, and then others received it on the day of Pentecost. Others believe that maybe this was just a temporary filling of the Spirit the same way you kind of see that in the Old Testament where the Spirit would fill someone for certain tasks. And but it wasn't a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But then there are even others who just think this is John's way of symbolically writing about what it is that happened on Pentecost. It didn't happen. He knew that it would happen and it did happen on the day of Pentecost, but he just wanted to get across that they did receive the Holy Spirit. And quite honestly, if the Jesus had ascended to the Holy Spirit, it was his breath from heaven that was sending the Holy Spirit and coming into their lives whether it happened in this moment or It happened at Pentecost. And so that's the thing I want you to see is it really doesn't matter to me, the important thing that we see is that John wants you to know, he wants me to know that they received the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is who transformed and changed their lives. It was the power that they receive, the life that John had written about, that you can have in his name comes from the Holy Spirit coming to dwell in them. And in us, when we say yes to Jesus, it was the Holy Spirit that took these guys, again, from being weak, ordinary men hiding and scared is what we read about just a minute ago, behind locked doors. But after receiving the Holy Spirit, they're filled with his power. And again, they become strong, courageous leaders who transform and change the world. You read about it all throughout the book of Acts. Matter of fact, in Acts chapter, chapter four, Peter and John, who we've been talking about quite a bit through John chapter 20, are standing before a group of religious leaders who had arrested them for telling other people about Jesus. Now remember, these are the same guys who were scared, and who were locked in a room and all of this stuff. And these guys start to threaten them, hey, if you keep telling other people about Jesus, this is not going to be good for you, we're gonna do some really bad things to you, we might even have to kill you. And you know what they say, do whatever you got to do to us, because we can't help but talking about what it is that we've seen, and what it is that we've heard, what we've seen, and what it is that we've heard, I witnesses to those things, they've been transformed by His power, what happened scared, weak, locked, fearful to do whatever you got to do. We're going to keep telling other people about Jesus, what changed was the Holy Spirit, the dwelling and made them new creations in Christ. And now they were completely different than who they were before. And the same Holy Spirit, that John is saying they received, all throughout Scripture gets communicated, it's available to you to the Holy Spirit, once you're forgiven, and you accept His free gift of salvation comes to dwell in you. It makes you a new creation. In Christ, you have the abundant life that we talked about, and he empowers you to live the life that you were ultimately created to live. John goes on in verse 24, says, Now Thomas, also known as dunamis, one of the 12 was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. A week later, his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, I can't believe you doubted me. You're such a pathetic, worthless disciple, and you will never share an eternal life with me. God, God, what was coming, right? No, many said to Thomas, Put your finger here. See my hands, reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. Isn't that encourage you and encourages me. I don't know if you're like me, but there's been times in my life where I've doubted. I've doubted about all of these things that we're talking about here. And when I see Jesus is so patient with him that he just handles him with so much grace. He just says, you know, what? You want evidence? you're requesting evidence? Okay. Here I am. Here's the evidence, feel it, see it? What a gracious Gracious God, that we have to know the same thing that when you and I doubt, we wonder if this whole thing is true. We can admit that and we can talk to him. He's going to be patient with us. You don't even display the evidence, if we're open to where it is that it's leading. This response from Jesus transformed and changed Thomas's life. Verse 28. Thomas said to him,My Lord, and my God, I'm not even gonna believe it. I don't even believe it's true. My Lord, and my God, you picture that humility, and I'm falling on his face before him and admitting who he is and that his life's been transformed and changed because of the evidence of the resurrection. And what that means for his life as well. And quite honestly, it'll do the same for you the way it transformed and changed Thomas's life. Then Jesus told him because you have seen me you have believed he just admits he just got this is What happened, you believe because you saw me. And then he says, Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed. So he points to how there will be some who won't get to see the physical risen Jesus. And yet I'll reveal myself to them and who I am. And they'll come to believe, and they'll be blessed in the same way that you've been blessed. And that certainly applies to you and I, today. And then again, finally, as I mentioned earlier, when John gets through making sure that we know all the historical events that happened on that day, he reminds us again, that these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. That is what it all boils down to today. If you've received Jesus's free gift of salvation, then you have life in his name, the one who is the resurrection in the life, the one who is the way the truth, and the life dwells in you. And so you have life, no matter what your situation is, no matter what your circumstances are, you always have life, you may not feel like you have life, but the one who is life dwells in you. And you can renew your mind to the truth that I have abundant life in this moment and begin to experience the life even when the situations and circumstances of life are bad. And so today, if that's you is the day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the life that you have in his name, today is a day to rest in His forgiveness. And in his life, today is a day to renew your mind to the truth of all that you have in him that you don't often recognize, because your feelings lie to you and tell you otherwise. But today is also a day for those of you who have never put your faith and trust in Jesus who haven't yet to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, we've got to be real, just like we were earlier in what it is that was brought out in the text. If you have not trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you do not have life in his name, no matter what it is that you think about it, no matter what it is that you feel about it. The truth of Scripture says, if you haven't received His free gift of salvation, then you are not forgiven. And no sin stand is a barrier between you and God, you do not have eternal life. And if you were to die, you would spend eternity separated from him. This is the Gospels is the good news. But in order to know how good the good news is, we have to understand how bad the bad news really is, and the situation that we're all in because of sin in our lives. But once we begin to understand how bad the bad news really is, and Jesus has done something about it, then we can go, oh, this is great news. I want that desire to have that. Well, if you do, it's available to you. No matter who you are, where you've been what you've done, Jesus died on the cross for your sins out of his love for you. And he's offering this life as a gift to you. But just like any gift, you have to receive it. I give this example with the kids all the time. But if I told one of you that I wanted to give you my cell phone today, it's a gift, no strings attached, you can have it it would never be yours until one of you did what? You walked up here and you grabbed it and you took it into your possession even though I've told you it's a gift, even though I've done everything possible to give it to you and it to be yours and in your possession. It would never be yours until you took it. And Jesus is saying, I've died for your sins. Here's your forgiveness. I have risen from the grave so that you could have life, here's your Abundant Life Would you just receive it and some of you have not yet taken it. And you can't remember you can't remember a specific point in time or you've taken His free gift of forgiveness and salvation and received it into your life. And if that's true, then you don't have the forgiveness. You don't have the life. But you can receive it today by just praying a simple prayer of faith. And I'll give you the opportunity if that's you to do that right now. In this moment.