As believers, we often focus on the cross as a symbol of our salvation. But the good news is not just that Jesus died, but that He rose again. On Easter, John Elmore explains three truths that the empty tomb should remind us of.
Good Friday 2023
New Year’s Thoughts | Psalm 71
The cross by itself is not the gospel. The good news is not just that Jesus died for our sins, but that He then rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The empty tomb has many implications for our lives:
Brothers and sisters, guests who have trusted us with this time, here to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, welcome to Watermark Community Church. My name is John Elmore. I'm one of the teaching pastors here. We're so thankful to be able to celebrate with you today. I want to begin by showing you a picture on the screen. The picture you're going to see is not the gospel. This is not the gospel. This is not the good news, which can seem like and feel like heresy that I would point to the cross and say that that is not the good news.
The reason is I think sometimes we will focus on the cross to the neglect of the resurrection. So here's a second picture. This is the gospel. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, "I have passed on to you as of first importance that which I received, that Christ died for our sins, was dead, buried, and raised again, according to the Scriptures." This is the good news. This is the gospel: the cross and the empty tomb, the resurrection.
It's why Jesus can say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through the Son," because every other founder of every other religion is still in the grave to this day. They claimed to know God, to know the words of God, yet they are there in the tomb. Jesus alone said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," passed through death to the other side, and came back, showing that he and he alone is the way to eternal life.
This is the importance of the resurrection. It changes everything. It changes everything in our lives. It's upon which eternity changes for everyone who would believe in Jesus. We have, as Christians, crosses. We wear them around our necks. We have them in our homes. They're embossed on our Bibles. A cross is a common symbol within the Christian faith as we remember Jesus, the Lamb of God, who died for our sins, but we don't have a symbol of the resurrection. But you do today.
When you walked in, you received a washer. It's a simple symbol of the empty tomb. It says in the Scriptures that they rolled a stone. It was circular in nature, the entrance that was covered by the stone. So, you have here a symbol of the empty tomb, that you would remember and be mindful of the cross and the resurrection, where Jesus conquered sin, death, and Satan on our behalf, as that tomb is empty.
It's not enough just to believe this as a historical fact, like, "Okay. That's true. It happened 2,000 years ago," but it must have personal impact. The demons themselves believe in the resurrection. All of heaven and every demon beheld and knows about the resurrection, but it doesn't change them because they have not placed their faith, as you have the opportunity to, in Jesus, the cross and the empty tomb, for the forgiveness of sins.
The resurrection changes everything for you. The implications are enormous upon our lives. Not just that it is true but that it is transformational, as we apprehend and apply these truths to our lives, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ would change you. So, of these implications, there are so many and three that I want to focus on today, that you would walk out of this room with that washer, that empty tomb, as a reminder for you.
The three I want to focus on are: from Christ's empty tomb, God has given us his forgiveness, the forgiveness of sins; from Christ's empty tomb, God has given us his presence, his very presence; and, finally, from Christ's empty tomb, God has given us his perspective, which changes the way we live the rest of our lives.
Two times the word our is mentioned, a possessive pronoun. Meaning, it was our sin for which Jesus went to the cross for us. He was the sinless Savior, the substitutionary atonement, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, fully man, fully God, who went to the cross on a rescue mission to save mankind. It's the purpose for which God the Father sent the Son. He was delivered over to death for our sins.
Why death? Why couldn't he have just come and gathered us? Because it says in the Scriptures the wages of sin is death. Every single person has sinned. We know this. All have sinned and been separated, fallen short of the glory of God, because God is holy, and we have sinned. We have been separated. We can't be in the presence of God because we have sinned. So he was delivered over to death for our sin. He came in our place to die the death that we deserved.
It's not just death in this life, but separation from God is for the rest of eternity. If we are not reconciled to God in this life, we will be separated forever for eternal torment in a very real place called hell…except for the fact that it says Jesus was raised to life for our justification. It wasn't just that he died for our sins but that he was raised again for our justification. Justification means to be made right with God, to be brought back into right fellowship, right relationship, never to be separated, with God, because of Jesus taking our place.
And why raised? Why did it require him to be raised for our justification? It's because that demonstrated the satisfaction of God's wrath in our place. If he was still in the tomb, we would be left wondering, as does every other religion, like, "Is it enough? Is God satisfied? Do I still have to do something?" In Christianity alone, Jesus walks out of the grave, is risen, demonstrating that God was satisfied with the Son who died in our place and rose again, showing that victory over sin, death, and Satan. It is from Christ's empty tomb that we are given God's forgiveness.
So, I want you to look again right now at that washer. The kids in the room are going to be able to tell us very quickly. What number does that washer remind you of? It's the number zero. It's very simple, but it's very profound. That is the number of sins God will ever remember of yours if you are in Christ. You have been given the righteousness of Christ, and all of your sin has been nailed to the cross, as it says in Colossians, chapter 2.
It says all of our sin, every single one, no matter what you have ever done in your life…your past, your present, your future sin…all of it, if you've trusted in Jesus, has been nailed to the cross. It says the decree that was written that stood opposed to us that said, rightfully, we were guilty… This, it says, God set aside, nailing it to the cross, triumphing over our enemy Satan.
There is no one left to accuse for those who have placed their faith in Jesus, and the number of sins God will ever remember of yours is zero. Let that washer remind you that no matter what you've done or what you will ever do apart from the will of God, it is forgiven. From Christ's empty tomb, God gives us the forgiveness of sins.
"To the end of the age." Now, we know from church history that every single one of the disciples, spare John, died a martyr's death. John died later in life. The disciples who heard, "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age," just lived a few decades later. It was not the end of the age. So, what's happening in that verse, those words spoken by your risen Savior… They are echoing and reverberating through two millennia to you in your hearing today.
When Jesus said, as a resurrected Savior, "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age," he was saying this to you, that he's with you, today and always, to the end of the age. From Christ's empty tomb, God gives us his presence. It's why they call Jesus Immanuel, God with us. So, how can this be, because we know Jesus has ascended? Well, when he ascended, the Son and the Father sent the Holy Spirit.
He said, "It's good for you that I go, because when I go, you will receive a counselor," the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. And not just receive, but at Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit lit in flames of fire upon every believer who was gathered as they prayed… It says in Ephesians, chapter 1, that every single person who would place their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins would now be sealed, like a king's signet ring, showing that you are God's possession, God's son or daughter, and no one can snatch you out of the Father's hand.
More than that, not just sealed but indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God's very presence living in you. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in which God lives?" From Christ's empty tomb, God gives us his presence. I didn't live my life like this. I never grasped this. I accepted the fact that Jesus was the Son of God who died on the cross. I even thought, "Okay. So what? He rose from the dead. Fine." It was a fact to me. It was nothing that changed me.
As I lived my life, I was like, "All right. It's a historical fact, and now I have to follow all of these rules." I failed on repeat throughout high school, my college years, and all through my 20s. I just kept failing and failing, even though I knew the good that I ought to do. I had knowledge of Christ, but it didn't change me…until I realized, "I can't follow this. That's the reason he came. He came to save me, and he came to keep me safe."
I became an alcoholic, chasing money, status, women, and pleasure in every area I could find, until the crushing weight of sin took me to my knees, and I surrendered my life to Jesus and said, "Lord, I am a sinner. Save me." And he did. He didn't make me better; he made me new. He put his Spirit in me and then moved me to follow him, which led me to follow his commands.
He saved me. He kept me safe. He had me walking in his ways as I walked with him. It's Galatians 5:16. "Walk by the Spirit, and you won't gratify the desires of the flesh." He completely changed me, saved me, and then moved me because of his presence. I could never do it on my own. None of us can. It's God's presence from Christ's empty tomb.
We gave our oldest son a smartwatch so he could have more freedom and ride his bike throughout the neighborhood. Yesterday, he called me from a friend's house. We were texting back and forth. So, we have access. He has access to his father. He can communicate with me no matter where he is. You may think, "Okay. I get it. That's prayer. We get prayer. We can access God. We can boldly go before the throne of grace because of what Christ did for us." That's true, but that's altogether not what I am saying in this point.
The point of this is not that we would have access through prayer but that we would have presence…not access but presence. Literally, God is with us everywhere we are, in every circumstance, in every hardship, in every affliction, in every temptation. God himself is with you and will never leave you. He will always be where you are until you are where he is…forevermore, and there will never be anything that is not that. Once you've received God's presence, you will forever be in his presence. From Christ's empty tomb, God gives us his presence.
Now I want you to look down at the washer again. You notice, because of that hole, you can keep this with you. This could go on your key ring. Yesterday, Blake Holmes' daughter put it on her shoelace as a reminder. It could go on the bookmarker in your Bible. This could be hung with a thumbtack beside where you work.
This could go on a necklace or on a bracelet, that others might ask and could know about the promise of God's presence, and that you, every time you look at it, seeing that near you or with you, would remember "God's presence is always with me because of the empty tomb. When Christ rose and ascended, he sent the Spirit, and because I have trusted in Jesus, I have God with me." From Christ's empty tomb, God gives us his presence.
He said this once he had seen Jesus: "I have been crucified with Christ." There is the cross. There is the first half of the gospel. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives…" There's the resurrection…"Christ who lives"…the second half, the balance, the completion of the good news. "…Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live…" Not before, but now. "…in the flesh [this side of eternity] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Paul says, "Right now, I have resurrection perspective." It's as if he is taking the empty tomb, so to say, looking through that empty tomb, and saying, "Because of the resurrection, I have resurrection perspective, that everyone I would now encounter, every situation I'm ever in, I would have resurrection perspective." Meaning, I'm no longer living for myself, for my own temptation, for my own desires, but rather, I'm living for the will of God. No longer is it my will; it's "Thy will be done," because I have resurrection perspective.
The disciples had this as well. We know that when Christ was arrested and led to his trials and then to the cross, all of them fled. We know that John alone was there at the cross. They all fled. They were completely fearful until they saw the resurrected Christ. Once they did, they went from fearful to fearless. They went from cowardice to courageous. They became an unstoppable force as they beheld Jesus and realized, "I'll never die. Because Christ was raised, so I will be also."
The resurrection is proclaimed 300 times in the Scriptures…300 times! The greatest theme throughout those resurrection verses is that because Christ was raised, we will be also. He was the firstfruits from death into the resurrected life, and we will follow. For every person who would trust in Jesus, you'll never die.
You will breathe your last in this life and immediately be in the presence of God and one day will be given a resurrected body, just as Jesus had. Everyone in Christ will be raised from the dead and live in a new heaven and new earth forever where there are no tears, sorrow, nor pain, as Christ makes all things new. From Christ's empty tomb, God gives us his perspective.
Before, when we were under Satan's slavery, enslaved to sin, to passions and lusts of the flesh, we had a different perspective. We lived for ourselves. I certainly did. I was chasing everything the world had to offer, and still now those temptations come, but today, we are reminded that God gives us his resurrection perspective, that we would see everything differently and live anew every day, reminded that "The rest of my life, Lord, I'm going to live to know you and make you known."
I want to point out something you may have already noticed. Our incredible creative team has put you inside the tomb. You're actually inside the tomb, looking out at a new day. That's the case for everyone who would trust in Jesus. You have been spiritually raised from the dead, given a new life, that you would have this resurrection perspective. It's almost like that washer is a camera lens through which you're now looking to give you, continually, that resurrection perspective.
This is so important. You think about Mary, who came and stooped into the tomb, and the angel said, "He's not here, for he has risen. Why do you look for the living among the dead?" She turns around, and she sees someone. She sees a silhouette as she's looking out of the tomb into the world. She sees a silhouette. She thinks it's the gardener and says, "Sir, where have you placed his body?"
He says the sweetest word she has ever heard. She heard her Savior say, "Mary." When Mary heard the voice of her risen Lord, she wrapped him up in a hug so tightly that Jesus said, "Mary, you've got to let go. I've not yet ascended to my Father" (now he says something different) "and your Father, to my God and your God. So let me go. Go tell the brothers."
He tells her, "Go, tell about the resurrection. Jesus' Father is now your Father because of the resurrection." He had given her that resurrection perspective, that we would have it also today. From Christ's empty tomb, God gives us his forgiveness, God gives us his very presence, and God gives us his perspective, that we would see all of life differently, knowing that God has had the final word. No matter what affliction or trial you may face, because Christ was raised, you will be also.
I'm going to ask that everyone would now bow your heads, and I want to lead two prayers. The first is going to be for those who have never received the forgiveness of sins. Today, if you were to die, you don't know if you would be in heaven or hell. You think maybe, because you've tried to live a good life, you might be in heaven one day. It would never be the case. There's nothing you can do to get yourself to heaven.
But if you desire to be forgiven today, to be made right with God… If you desire to repent from your old life, place your faith in Jesus, and turn toward God, then today you can receive salvation. This Sunday, this Resurrection Day, you can receive the gift of salvation. I'm going to lead you in a prayer that you can now say in your mind and your spirit if you desire to be forgiven.
God, I confess that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe that Jesus died for my sins. I confess that Jesus is Lord, and I believe that you raised him from the dead. Today, I place my faith in Jesus, his death and resurrection, for the forgiveness of my sins, and I ask that you would send the Holy Spirit to seal me and indwell me. You gave your life for me. I give my life to you. Thank you for saving me. Amen.
For those of you who have already trusted in Jesus, who already know that from Christ's empty tomb you've received that gift of forgiveness… You know God's presence, but maybe you need to be reminded more. I know I'm foremost. I need to be reminded of God's presence, and I need to have his perspective daily. I want to pray together again now.
Lord Jesus, thank you for saving us. Thank you for coming, for taking on flesh, for scorning every trial and affliction and persecution, and for going to the cross for us, for suffering unto death. No one took your life; you laid it down. You came to rescue us, and we praise you for it. Jesus, thank you for conquering sin, death, and Satan in the resurrection and for giving us the hope of eternal life and that one day we will be raised also to no longer have fear of death, no longer be entangled by sin, no longer be enslaved by Satan.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. We praise you today. We praise you anew, and we ask by the power of the Holy Spirit that we would be mindful of your presence in our lives and that you would give us your mind, the very mind of Christ, that we would have resurrection perspective as we yield our lives to you. For your kingdom and your glory and by your power, amen.
Friends, for those of you who prayed the first prayer, who prayed to receive the forgiveness of sins through Jesus for the first time today, if you would come forward after the service, we have a gift for you, a brand-new Bible, as you continue this journey and walk with God through the rest of life. For everyone else, and for everyone together, I want you to look at the washer one last time. It may be hard to see in this lighting, but trust me, on every single washer, there are the numbers 3-1-6.
As I was searching for washers and where you could find 12,000 washers, I kept seeing a "316" washer. I was like, "What is a 316 washer?" A 316 washer is a marine-grade washer. It's a washer that can be used in any application. It can be put into any setting, submerged into any substance, and never corrode. I thought about John 3:16, which says those who have trusted in Jesus will never perish, never corrode, never decay, because of eternal life.
So, with that in mind, John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world…" When it says "world," it means every single person ever to walk this earth. God loves you, and he demonstrated that, that while we were still sinners, he sent Jesus. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…" There is no other path up the mountain to God. "…that whoever believes…" No matter what you've done. "…shall not perish but have eternal life [now and forevermore]."
That is the good news proclaimed from the empty tomb that can be yours today. God loves. God gives. We believe. We receive. Christ is risen indeed. So, if you would, stand to your feet and sing to your risen Savior. Amen.