The cross couldn’t hold him, the tomb couldn’t contain him,
the burial cloths were unnecessary, because Jesus is alive!
HE IS TRULY RISEN! ALLELUIA!.
Jeremy was not a normal child. He had a terminal illness which affected both his body and his mind. Still, his parents had tried to give him as normal a life as possible and had sent him to a religious elementary school. At the age of 12, Jeremy was only in second grade, seemingly unable to learn. He was a frustration to his teacher and to all the children in the class. Springtime came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Their teacher told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg with this assignment: “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?” All the children responded enthusiastically, “Yes, Miss Miller!” All of them, that is, except for Jeremy. He just listened carefully, his eyes never leaving the teacher’s face.
Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? The teacher thought perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them, but she got busy and forgot. The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in a large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. After they completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs. In the first egg, Miss Miller found a flower. She said, “Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life. When plants peek through the ground, we know that spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arms. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out.
The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked real. The teacher held it up. She said, “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that is new life, too.” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine!”
Next, the teacher found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom. “My daddy helped me!”
Then the teacher opened the fourth egg. But the egg was empty! Surely it must be Jeremy’s, she thought, and, obviously, he didn’t understand her instructions. If only she hadn’t forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another. Suddenly Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” A bit flustered, the teacher said, “But Jeremy — your egg is empty!” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty, too!”
There was an unusual, thoughtful silence. And strangely, from that time on, Jeremy was accepted as part of the group. Jeremy continued to struggle with many physical problems. That summer he picked up an infection which most children would easily have shaken off. But Jeremy’s weak body couldn’t and a few weeks later, he died.
At his funeral 19 students twelve – year-olds with their teacher brought their symbol of remembrance and placed it near his coffin. Their unusual gift of love to Jeremy wasn’t flowers. It was an empty egg – now a symbol to them of new life and hope.
It was Jeremy, the “different” child, who had helped his friends see the wonderful hope in the message of Easter.
Truly, the greatest symbol of new life is found in an empty tomb!
Reading 1: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Alleluia! This is Easter, the day of Jesus’ rising from the dead, the most meaningful day of the year for all who believe in him. Things are different today. Bells are ringing and we are singing Alleluia. In the first reading, which comes not from the Old Testament but from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter gives us a mini-version of the entire Gospel Reflection. He reviews the key events in Jesus’ life, proclaims his resurrection, and describes the ministry of the apostles. Peter assure his listeners that Jesus has the power to forgive their sins. Jesus gives everyone the freedom to live a new life!
Reading 2: Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
Alleluia! In this reading we are urged to live in union with the risen Christ. Set your hearts on higher things, we are told. Be intent on the values of God’s reign rather than those of the world. We have died to the old life of sin and hopelessness. Christ is risen and he will come again! And we will be taken up with him into his glory.
Gospel: John 20:1-9 or Luke 24:1-12
Alleluia! Imagine how you would have felt if you had been Mary Magdalene or Peter or John on that first Easter morning. What thoughts and emotions would the sight of that empty tomb have aroused in you? At first, Mary Magdalene thought that Jesus’ enemies had stolen his body. Heartbroken, she ran to tell Peter and John. They raced to the tomb and found that the burial wrappings, which had encased Jesus’ body, were cast aside. Seeing this, they believed.
I recently came across this story, it was told by Fr. Nelson, capuchin in a response to someone’s question. A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. “Bill’ and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car. On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house.
He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill home again. As he sat one night going through his father’s possessions that he was to inherit, he come across the Bible his father had given him. He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier’s check, dated the day of his graduation – in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together.
As I thought about this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in this world have done the same thing to God. Literally tossed aside a wonderful promise, because they didn’t understand it, or they didn’t believe that it was possible. In our world, we are taught that; “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So many of us have been taken in by “empty promises,” that we are leery of anything or anyone that tells us we can have something for nothing. THE WORLD SIMPLY DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY!
But, you know what – God does – God never made a promise that was too good to be true. The truth of the matter is, the world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and the advertisements tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. It doesn’t take long before we have been fooled enough to know that the world’s promises are full of emptiness. But, God is different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, on Easter, he gave us emptiness that is full of promise.
This morning, I would like us to think about the promises of Easter. There are three of them. Each promise is marked by something empty.
An Empty cross,
An Empty tomb, and
Empty burial cloths.
It is the very fact that each of these is empty that assures us that God’s promises are real. Because they couldn’t hold Jesus, because he couldn’t be contained by the cross, the tomb, or even his burial clothes, we can be sure of the fullness of God’s promises in our lives.
1. THE EMPTY CROSS
Let’s begin with the empty cross. Because the cross was empty, we have the promise of forgiven sins.
Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you he was just faking it. There was no question – Jesus was dead.
The soldiers knew it.
The Romans knew it.
The Jews knew it.
Together, they made up a lie – the disciples stole the body. Can you imagine 11 fishermen overpowering a company of Roman soldiers, moving a 2 ton stone and stealing the body of Jesus – just so they could claim he had come back to life – and then willingly die to protect that lie.
You see, Jesus really did die – that is why I want you to see the cross this morning. It is the place where he died – but today, it is empty. Empty of Jesus’ body, but full – full of God’s promises. Full of hope – for you and me.
The promise of the empty cross is that you and I stand forgiven. Because it was on that cross that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. But, the simple fact of the matter is – we have all sinned. We have “all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.” The only person who has ever lived a sinless life is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Everyone else has failed.
So, here is the problem – according to God’s law – “the wages of sin is death.” He says; “The soul that sins will surely die.”
However, when you look at that empty cross – it is a reminder of God’s promise that we have been forgiven. On that cross – Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.
God’s word tells us again – “God demonstrated his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US!”
It was on that cross that Jesus Christ offered his perfect, sinless life on behalf of each one of us. No one else – not Moses or Abraham, not David or Isaiah, not Buddha – no one else has ever lived perfectly and then offered his perfect life for our salvation. That is why the Bible tells us that “there is no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved.”
On that day, across every name – he wrote – in Jesus blood – “Forgiven – Forgiven – Forgiven.”
Because of the work that Jesus did on that cross – you and I now stand Forgiven.” The first “empty promise” of Easter is the empty cross – filled with the promise of forgiven sins.
2. THE EMPTY TOMB
An angel – glowing like lightening – is sitting on it. Listen to his words –
“Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here; He has risen!”
Jesus had risen – He was alive – the tomb was empty. And what a tremendous promise that holds.
For, in the fact of the empty tomb is the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise to every one of us that we too will be raised to eternal life.
To those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, death has lost its sting – it is no longer something to be feared. What fear is there when we have the promise that one day we will live forever with him in Heaven?
A father and son were traveling down a country road on afternoon in the spring time when suddenly a bee flew in the window. Being deathly allergic to bee stings, the boy began to panic as the bee buzzed all around inside the car. Seeing the horror on his child’s face, the father reached out and caught the bee in his hand. Soon, he opened his hand and the bee began to buzz around once again. Again, the boy began to panic. The father reached over to his son, and opened his hand showing him the stinger still in his palm. “Relax, son,” the father said, “I took the sting, the bee can’t hurt you anymore.”
The empty tomb is God’s way of saying to us; “Relax, my child, I took the sting, death can’t hurt you anymore.”
Why was the tomb empty? Because Jesus was alive – The Angel said; “He is risen.” And the promise to us is that we too can live even if we die. That is the second promise of Easter.
3. THE EMPTY BURIAL CLOTHS
After the Angel had spoken to the women, they immediately went back to the Apostles and reported what had happened. With this incredible news, Peter and John immediately raced back to the tomb to see for themselves. When they got there, John stopped just outside the tomb, but Peter ran right in. It didn’t take them long to discover that the tomb was just the way the women had said it was – empty. But, that’s not all. Inside, Peter found the cloths that Jesus had been buried in. They too were empty. This could only mean one thing – Jesus was alive! If someone had stolen his body, they wouldn’t have removed the burial cloths and folded them up neatly and left them where they lay. Truly, Jesus was resurrected!
It wouldn’t be long, before Jesus, himself would appear to Mary Magdalene, and to all of the Apostles, and eventually to over 500 people.
sit down with them,
walk with them,
talk with them,
eat with them.
Once again, they would be able to fellowship with their Lord. You see, that is the promise of the empty burial clothes – Jesus is alive, and wants to fellowship with you.
Think about that – the cross couldn’t hold him, the tomb couldn’t contain him, the burial clothes were unnecessary, because Jesus is alive! He has skin and bones and a face and was recognizable. And he talked, and touched and loved and healed. He did it the day of his resurrection, and he does it still today.
And – most importantly – he wants to do it with you.
I want to ask you a very important question this morning. Do you know Jesus Christ? I don’t mean; “do you know about him?” Do you truly know Jesus Christ.
You see, we can know about someone, and not truly know them.
George W. Bush
These are people that we know something about, but do any of us really know them? You can know Jesus Christ. You can know his love, his care, his healing, and his forgiveness. He says; “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. It has been nearly 2000 years since Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
That first Easter Sunday, as the women went to the grave, they had no idea what was about to happen to them. They were not yet aware of the wonderful promises of that day.
Off in the distance stood an empty cross – the promise that their sins were forgiven. At the end of their journey was an empty tomb – the promise of their eternal life. Inside the tomb were empty burial cloths. The promise that – they would once again have a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ – their living Savior.
The promises that they discovered that day, you too can have today;
You too can know the freedom of forgiven sins
You too can know the promise of eternal life in heaven
You too can know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
This morning, we have heard about three promises that God has made to us; the promise of forgiven sins; the promise of eternal life; and the promise of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
My question to you this morning is this; will you take him at his word? If so, listen to this final promise – it is found in Romans 10:13 – “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This morning, if you have never accepted God’s promises for your life, He is waiting, probably wondering, “For heaven’s sake, what is taking you so long?”
Don’t wait another day, do it today, and know the joy of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
The force of love over egoism: The resurrection of Jesus symbolizes the power of love over selfishness. Apparently, the death of Jesus shows the triumph of evil over selfishness and hatred over love. But that victory was neither worthy of its name nor stable. the last word belongs always to love.
I trust the Lord will truly bless each one of you this Easter.
Happy Easter to all!
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.