No Joke, the tomb is empty! (See what I did there? Witty right?)
While every Easter sermon this year will begin the same exact way as I began above, I am going to veer here from my contemporaries by proclaiming "yes" that the tomb was indeed empty, but that did not lessen the confusion of the disciples. (See my Good Friday post about the confusion of the disciples)
When the realization that Jesus was not dead, but alive, worked its way through the community of his disciples, they were confused and doubtful. The men would not even believe the women who came from the tomb and announced that the angels told them that Jesus was in deed alive. And don’t be too cross with the men, for believing that a man that you knew to be dead but now alive was not something that is easily believed by anyone. The turning point came for them when Jesus appeared to them. When they saw him alive they accepted the reality, but still they were confused; none of it made any sense.
But there was a time when Jesus made it clear to them. Do you remember when that was?
19 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!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Do you see it? Look at verse 22.
At this point all the Pentecostals in the room are shouting amens at their computer screens; as well we all should. But we shouldn’t accept this passage without also reading its fellow verse.
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Now all the Sessationsits are shouting amens. (I had a friend once who told me that the Pentecostals often forget that there is a Bible and the Sessationists forget that there is a Holy Spirit. That’s a discussion for another day though.)
Anyhow, the point is that Jesus appeared to the disciples and breathed on them the Holy Spirit so that they could understand the Scriptures about what had just happened. The Jewish disciples knew the Jewish Scriptures but like pieces of a puzzle, their knowledge of those scriptures were all jumbled and still in the box. When Jesus gave them the Spirit and opened their minds to the Scriptures, they could see for the first time the whole picture and what those puzzle pieces actually formed.
So yes, the tomb is empty but the blessing was in the breath of Jesus and the Spirit’s opening of the mind to the Scriptures that explained God’s Messiah. In other words, the blessing was in knowing and understanding Jesus as God’s fulfillment of his own promise to Israel. An empty tomb is great but the confusion about the Messiah is cast out with the Holy Spirit miracle of having our minds opened by God’s Spirit; today just as it was then.
Who says that God’s miraculous Holy Spirit doesn’t intercede supernaturally today?
I don’t have time to detail the story of God through the promise of Abram from the scripture to the day of Messiah’s resurrection in this post, but if you want to know why they called it Gospel good news then you will need to understand what Jesus revealed to the disciples about their scriptures. Until that happens, the tomb is indeed empty and that is a sign that you need to listen-up and seek to have him breath on you the Spirit while you begin reading those Scriptures as well.