What really happened that Easter morning? I know what believers think happened, but what do you think? It is a historic fact that the body was gone. The tomb was empty that Sunday morning, but what really happened? Did the disciples steal the body to make it appear Jesus had resurrected? Did the Romans do something with the body? Or, did Jesus actually raise from the dead? Every person has a reaction to that empty tomb where Jesus was placed. What about you and the tomb? How do you react to the Tomb? Today we will take a look at four reactions to that empty tomb. Let’s refresh everyone’s memory with the story.

By Pastor Delbert Young


You and the Tomb

You and the Tomb

Scriptures: John 20:12-18, Matthew 28:11-13

What really happened that Easter morning? I know what believers think happened, but what do you think? It is a historic fact that the body was gone. The tomb was empty that Sunday morning, but what really happened? Did the disciples steal the body to make it appear Jesus had resurrected? Did the Romans do something with the body? Or, did Jesus actually raise from the dead? Every person has a reaction to that empty tomb where Jesus was placed. How do you react to the Tomb? Today we will take a look at four reactions to that empty tomb. Let’s refresh everyone’s memory with the story.

Sunday – It was the first day of the week. It was Sunday. Don’t you love Sunday’s? It’s sort of a new beginning day. We get to start the week again. It was early in the morning on a day like today, early spring when things begin to blossom and come alive.

Women – Several women approached the tomb wherein Jesus had been laid after his crucifixion the previous Friday. Women always make Easter special. My mom used to make Easter special when I was a kid. She helped make it special for my children. My wife makes Easter special for our children and helps make it special for our grandchildren. Women make Easter special. These women came to properly wash and place sweet smelling spices around the dead body of Jesus (Mar 16:1).

Stone rolled away – As they approached the tomb, they saw that the large stone had been removed from the entrance. Frightened, they ran from the tomb. One of the women, Mary Magdalene, came to the disciples to tell them that the body of Jesus had been removed from the tomb. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see what had happened. They didn’t doubt Mary’s story. They simply wanted to see for themselves what had happened.

That is the way all of us are here today. What really happened that Easter morning? We each decide for ourselves what happened and what it all means. How does that decision affect our lives? It is here that I want to begin our thought process about “You and the Tomb.”

John 20:3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.

John 20:4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

John 20:5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.

John Believed – We are told that John outran Peter to the tomb. Some people are faster spiritually than others. This is true even with apostles. Some people do not need to make things reason. They simply believe. That was John. John was fast to believe.

We live in the South and many of us are race car fans. There is a retired driver named Richard Petty. He drove #43. Today he has a racing team and he does “Goody Headache Powder” commercials. In one commercial he says, “I keep a Goody’s Headache Power in my shirt pocket so I can get at it faster.” Some people are like that spiritually. They just “get at it faster.”

John got ‘at the tomb’ faster than Peter (I know that is horrible English, but I am making a point). He outran Peter. Once there, he stooped down and looked inside. He saw the linen cloth laying there that had once wrapped the body of Jesus. That was all John needed. John wanted to believe.

We know people like John. They want to believe. In fact, sometimes they believe anything and everything. They just take a peek in and they are settled. That’s all they need. They decide it must be true. Mary said it. So, it must be true. The preacher said it, so it must be true. There are the linen wrappings. So, it must be true. There is a church. So, it must be true.

I thank God for the John types. But everyone does not respond like John.

John 20:6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,

John 20:7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

John 20:8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

Peter Doubted – Peter was slower than John. Peter could not be, and would not be, satisfied with a “peeking into” the tomb. It didn’t matter what Mary said or what John thought. Peter had to go in and investigate for himself. He needed evidence. Peter saw the bloody linen wrapping lying there like an empty cocoon and he saw the head napkin. How did someone do that? How could the body have been removed from the linen wrapping without disturbing the linen? That was strange. That doesn’t make sense. It needed to make sense. Because it did not yet make sense, Peter couldn’t believe. Luke’s gospel says that Peter went away wondering to himself.

Luke 24:12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Have you ever done that? We might not say anything to anyone, but we wonder to ourselves. We know people like Peter. Some of us are this way today. Some of us have been this way. I was like Peter. I was skeptical about this Jesus thing. I knew something had happened, but I “went away wondering to myself.” You may say, “I don’t believe that. I see you waving your hands and dancing and I hear you shouting.” Yes, that’s today, but I needed more proof when I first came to the tomb. I had to investigate. I needed more evidence than what Mary said or what John saw. I may not look like a skeptic today, but I was at first. There was a lot about Christianity that didn’t make sense to me. Today it is the only thing that makes sense. Isn’t that what happened to Peter? Peter went from doubting to a place where he literally gave his life because of that empty tomb. Peter was eventually crucified upside down because of he would not deny that Jesus was raised from the dead and was the Lord’s Christ.

It’s probably because of that cautiousness that I don’t mind people questioning Christianity today. I know that if they truly investigate that they will eventually do exactly what I did and what Peter did. A person cannot help but believe when they honestly want answers. That tomb was empty and we must make a decision. What really happened there? There is a difference between questioning and rejecting. It does not bother the lord if we question. In fact, he will say if you need, stick your fingers in the holes in my hands. Thrust your hand into my side. However, when we realize that he did rise from the dead and reject that truth, which is a different story.

John 20:10 Then the disciples went back to their homes,

It is interesting, to me, how two people can see the same evidence and have two entirely different responses. John saw the empty linen wrapping and he went away believing that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Peter saw the same linen wrapping and went away wondering. Peter wasn’t rejecting the possibility, but he was questioning and needed further evidence.

The disciples went back to their homes. Can you believe that? We are not told how long they stayed at the tomb, but it doesn’t seem very long. It seems that something as important as this would have not only caused them to stay at the tomb, but gotten all the other disciples there as well. Instead, they went back. One went back believing and one went back wondering. What if they had stayed?

Mary Magdalene – Mary had followed Peter and John to the tomb. Peter and John had left, but Mary stayed. Mary didn’t know what had happened, but she was going to stay there until she found some answers. I love that! Peter didn’t get his questioned answered because he didn’t hang around long enough. John had belief and an empty linen wrapping, but no solid proof. Most people never become settled in their Christianity because they don’t hang around enough. I promise you. If you hang around, all your questions will be answered and you will have solid answers because Jesus will show up in your life!

I was thinking about Mary staying when the “spiritual?” disciples went home. I was reminded about my wife. See, I’m the one that is supposed to be the spiritual one. I’m the “pastor” and the “man of God.” But my wife will stay and stay on an issue after I have gone home long ago. I remember one time when I was ready to move back to the city we came from and go back to work in production management. In my mind, I had gone home. My wife said, “You can leave, but I am staying.” Life Gate is here today because she made a decision to stay. Jesus will show up. Mary made a decision to stay. For Jesus to show up in our lives, we got to stay.

I imagine the scene that early Easter morning. John and Peter are about to leave and go home. They say, “Let’s go home Mary.” Mary says, “I’m not leaving! You can go home if you want, but I’m not leaving! I don’t know exactly what has happened here, but I am going to get some answers. I’m not leaving.” We must stay if we want answers.

Why did Mary stay? Jesus had healed Mary and delivered Mary from seven evil spirits.

Luke 8:2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;

I know that being delivered from seven demons sounds horrible, but Jesus has delivered me from more than seven things. He has healed me again and again. When a person really experiences the power and freedom that Jesus brings into their life, they will never leave. Even apostles cannot make you leave.

Because Mary would not leave, she saw and spoke with an angel.

John 20:12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

John 20:13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

Isn’t it strange that the “mighty apostles” did not see the angels, but Mary saw the angels? We got to hang around the tomb if we want to see and experience things that most people will never see or never experience. We got to stay close to the resurrection to find answers.

So many people want to experience a supernatural life full of abundance and God’s blessings and God’s presence. However, they won’t hang around. It won’t happen if we won’t stay around.

Mary found her answers.

John 20:14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there . . .

John 20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

So many of us are searching for answers today. Have you seen the Lord? Have you put yourself in a position to hear his voice? He has the answers you are looking to find. What is happening in your life today? Do you need a healing? How is your marriage? How is it at school? What does your future hold? What about work? Most important, how is your spiritual wellbeing? Will you hang around and wait for Jesus to show up? Mary did. Let’s look at one more response to the empty tomb.

Matthew 28:11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.

Matthew 28:12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money,

Matthew 28:13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.

Guards – There is another reaction to the tomb that we can have about which I want to warn us. The guards saw the empty tomb and the evidence as well. They knew what had happened, but because of money, they rejected the truth of the tomb.

There are people who simply reject the truth. They know what happened at that tomb, but for some reason, they reject that truth. It can be they don’t want to give up their Sunday, or give up their money, or give up their time. The Pharisees rejected the truth of the tomb because they wanted to believe something else. They wanted to hold onto the Old Testament and their positions. We can come up with any number of reasons to reject the truth. Why do you reject the truth of the tomb? Why do you not serve the Lord and love God?

We are told of four responses to the empty tomb. All four saw the same evidence. All four had different reactions. Which reaction is your reaction? Did you see and immediately believe? If so, then that is wonderful. Maybe you haven’t officially said so, but want to say so today. Some of us are like Peter. We have gone away wondering to ourselves in the past, but today we are ready to see Jesus. Some are like Mary. You have waited and stayed until you saw the Lord. Now every place you go you are able to say, “I have seen the Lord!” You are able to give answers to those with questions. For those who relate to the guards and Pharisees, I plead with you to change. There is no reason good enough to reject Jesus. Eternity is at stake. An abundant life is at stake.

We all fit into one of those categories. How do you react to the empty tomb?

Let’s pray.

Other Related Easter Sermons:

The Promise – Easter sermon video audio notes

The Resurrection, He has Risen – Easter sermon video audio notes

The Resurrection Proofed – Easter sermon video audio notes

Also see:

Sermons Change The World

Life Gate Church sermons by Delbert Young