Easter Sunday is the busiest day for churches across our world. It is this Sunday, above all other Sundays, that people who are not regular church attendees choose to attend church. For many, it is the only Sunday of the year that they grace a church with their presence. For this reason, most churches choose to put their best foot forward on this Sunday. Some even plan an Easter Service Extravaganza in hopes to attract the unchurched people so that they might hear the wonderful message of the Gospel and find new life in Christ.
We talk in churches about the great celebration of Easter, the wonderful Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the triumphant salvation that is offered to us because of His death and resurrection. And all that is true and should be celebrated. However, the story of Easter goes way beyond the pomp and circumstances of the celebratory worship and the grand feelings we get when we hear the music and messages of Easter. The story of Easter does not end when we leave the church building Sunday afternoon. The real story of Easter, one that is so often missed in churches on that most populated Easter Sunday, really becomes real on Monday morning. And this story is not so filled with the glitz and glitter that those who only attend church once a year see. For the real story of Easter is a story of “Empty” Promises.
Yes, you read that correctly. “Empty” Promises. Now before you click the X button at the top of your computer screen to close this page down, give me a few minutes to explain. You see, it is in these very “Empty” Promises that the essence of Christianity can be found. It is in the truths of these “Empty” Promises that our Fears on Friday (represented by the death of Christ) can be turned into our Security on Sunday (the resurrection story).
This year in the midst of the Easter festivities, I am focusing not as much on the high that the Easter celebration gives us, but rather on the “empty” truths that come out the single most magnificent even in human history.
First, I want to focus on the promise of the Empty Cross. Those of us who grew up in church know that when Jesus died on the cross, He took the sin of the world on Him. We have said that so many times in our lives that it has become so much of a cliché that we not only fail to understand the magnitude of His sacrifice, we no longer see the depths of what it means to us. In my life, this Easter season, I am dialing it back just a bit and not even focusing on what the empty cross means to the world. Instead I am rediscovering what it means to me personally. Jesus died on that cross for me, because of my sin. No, I may not be the heinous sinner that makes the news, but I know myself well enough to recognize that my life is full of sin and MY sin nailed Him to the cross. He paid the debt for me. The Empty Cross for me must signify that my sin, both the individual acts of sin as well as the sin nature within, has been nailed to the cross with Christ. As a result, my debt is paid and from this day forward, I can be free from my past. And that is why Good Friday is so important. The first “empty” promise that Easter gives us is the Empty Cross.
The second “empty” promise I want to focus on this Easter Season is the promise of the Empty Tomb. Yes, this is the truth that Easter Sunday is all about. This is the reason why churches celebrate on this Sunday more than any other Sunday. Had Christ stayed buried in the tomb, then would He have really been a powerful Savior? Again, this is something that those of us who have grown up in church have heard all of our lives. Jesus rose from the dead. That IS the Easter story. But once again, I am taking this Easter season to focus on how the promise of the empty tomb affects more than just my theology and more than just the story we tell on Easter. Just as Christ’s death is symbolic of the way He wants me to die to myself and my sin nature, His resurrection is symbolic of the new life that I have in Him. In other words, I have through Christ, the power of the empty tomb. Not only have my sins been forgiven, but I have a new life in Christ. It is not just out with the old, but it is in with the new. In other words, because I have the power of the empty tomb, I no longer have to subjugate myself to the power of death (sin), but I now have the ability through Christ to live victoriously. This Easter, as I dwell on the second empty promise of the empty tomb, I cannot help but be rejoice, not just because Christ is no longer in that empty tomb, but that I not only have the forgiveness of my sin, I have the promise of a new and victorious life.
And finally, the third “empty” promise is the promise of an Empty Life. Now I am not saying that the Easter story brings about an empty life, for this is one of those truly great spiritual paradoxes that Christ demonstrated while on earth. There is no doubt that Jesus Christ has a life full of meaning. However, He fulfilled that meaning by continually emptying Himself into the lives of the people around Him and ultimately saved the world when He totally emptied Himself of life on the cross. His final words before dying say it all. It is finished. He had fulfilled His destiny. Everything He was supposed to do had now been done. It was finished.
And this is where the Fears of Friday (death) that were turned into the Security of Sunday (resurrection) transform into the Mission of Monday. The story of Easter does not stop when we leave the church doors Easter Sunday. The real story of Easter is what we do after we finish celebrating. It’s what we take with us into our lives starting on Monday morning. Just as Christ’s entire life, leading up to the Cross, was a life of continually emptying Himself into the world, so also should my life be poured out into my world . But for me, it goes so much deeper than just giving of myself to meet the needs of others. I need to learn to empty my life of myself. Until I learn to empty my life of those things that keep me from fully focusing on what God wants in my life, then I will never experience true intimacy with God. I will never fully have that empty tomb power to live victoriously.
This Easter, I challenge you to not only view the Easter story in the large scope of how it affects the world, but how it can change your life. Look beyond your salvation experience and realize the personal and, yes, deeper side of what God shows us through The Greatest Story Ever Told. Take a few minutes to examine how the “empty” promises of Easter can affect your life. How the Empty Cross offers you forgiveness, how the Empty Tomb gives you the power to live victoriously, and how the Emptying of Your Life brings you into intimacy with God. Ask God to reveal to you how He wants these truths to personally affect you this year.
In this Easter season, may you find your life richer and deeper as God surrounds you with His love, fills you with His grace, and captures your heart.