Triumph (John 20:1-18)

By | April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday


     I love the Skit Guys they can be so funny and yet so poignant and pointed at the same time. It’s like they get you laughing and then they do one of those NCIS Jethro Gibbs pops on the back of the head and smack you with an insight or a bit of spiritual truth you didn’t see coming. They make us squirm a little. And sometimes that’s good because sometimes we just get it wrong.

     We confuse the bunny and the eggs and the chocolate with the real meaning of Easter. And when we do that, it leaves us Empty.


     Yesterday we had a huge Easter egg hunt. 15-20,000 eggs; most of them have been opened and now they sit in a basket, empty. The promise of that plastic egg is gone; devoured in a frenzy of hungry desire. Fired up and fuelled by the empty calories of the sugar rush, our kids spun out of control only to have it all come crashing down when the sugar high wore off. And in the midst of all that we watched the promise and the joy of our pre-Easter celebration simply drain out and disappear. All that was left was emptiness.

     That feeling is only a small sense of what the Disciples were feeling that first Easter. Let’s look at John 20:1-18 (NRSV)

[1] Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

[2] So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

[3] Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.

[4] The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

[5] He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.

[6] Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,

[7] and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

[8] Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

[9] for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

[10] Then the disciples returned to their homes.

[11] But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;

[12] and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.

[13] They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

[14] When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

[15] Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

[16] Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

[17] Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”

[18] Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

     In the Gospel of Luke it tells us that the Disciples didn’t believe them because the words (according to the various translations) seemed like an idle tale, nonsense, made up, a fairy tale, Empty.

     Empty. That’s what brings us here today. The fact that the women and the disciples found the Tomb Empty has drawn us to worship and celebrate on Easter Sunday for the last 2,000 years. Empty.


     A. Normally we think of Empty as a bad thing. We see it as a burden we have to bear. In so much of life we find ourselves full of nothing, full of emptiness. Think about how ironic that is. For some of us, the only thing filling our lives is emptiness.

     When you go to the refrigerator or pantry only to find it empty; you walk away hungry

     When you go to take a drink and there’s no clean water or the water bottle is empty, you walk away thirsty.

     When you go to purchase something and discover that both your wallet and bank account are empty. You walk away disappointed.

     We suffer from Emptiness all around. Carl Jung said, “The central neurosis of our time is emptiness.”

     When we lose a loved one, the emptiness of grief fills our hearts. Every time we see their empty chair, the empty place at the table or the empty pillow on the empty bed the emptiness of that grief threatens to overwhelms us and drown us in a river of tears.

     There’s the Empty Nest syndrome. For years your life revolved around your children and you’ve celebrated every milestone in their lives. Graduation, college, new jobs, marriage; but then one day you wake up and the house is empty and lonely.

     And of course there’s the constant disappointment of the empty promises of the politicians in whom we place our hope for the country.

     We pretty much despise Empty. Empty headed people drive us nuts. We hate leaving Empty handed. Yet Empty Calories fill our diets and Empty Phrases fill our mouths.

     The sad truth is that most of us are Running on Empty. And we don’t like it. Because Emptiness is motionless and keeps us from moving forward or growing. Empty is unresponsive, dead and buried.

     B. And that’s exactly how the Disciples felt that morning when the women came running back sharing what they had witnessed. The Disciples and followers of Jesus were all hiding in the Upper Room. Why? Because their hearts and hopes and dreams were Empty. They’d seen them nailed to a cross and sealed in a tomb.

     No wonder they had trouble believing Mary Magdalene and the other women. They had witnessed it all. They’d seen the bloodied, beaten body of Jesus taken down, wrapped in burial cloths and sealed in the tomb. It all happened so fast, they hadn’t even been able to perform all the burial rites.

     They felt used up, disappointed, stricken, and confused. With vacant eyes looking into a hopeless future, they looked and felt Empty.

     And the Good News is that the words of the women weren’t just Empty Words. The Good News is that the tomb WAS Empty.


     A. And because the Tomb is Empty; today Empty is redefined, reframed, restructured, remade, re-imagined through Christ. Empty is what brings us here today. Empty is not about defeat but about Triumph, God’s Triumph over sin and death.

     Today is about emptiness. Not just an empty tomb, though we certainly come to celebrate that. But empty lives which now can be filled. Empty dreams which now can be filled full. Empty hope that can now be refilled.

     We celebrate because sin and death have been left like an empty husk, lifeless and powerless over the lives of those who have chosen to celebrate the Empty Tomb. Their threats are now empty. The dark has been emptied of its fear by the rising of the light of the world. The darkness of the grave has been flooded with the light of life, New Life and Eternal Life.

     Empty no longer haunts us, instead it fills us with joy. Empty is now equivalent to Resurrection and New Life.

     Empty gives us promise for the days ahead, for a future unafraid

     Empty reminds us why Jesus died on the cross, willingly taking on the emptiness of our lives; the emptiness left by trials and tribulations; the emptiness left by betrayal and denial; the emptiness left by failures and sin; the emptiness left by trying to fill our hollow lives with the stuff of the world instead of the stuff of the Kingdom of God

     Empty reminds us why Jesus died on the cross. But Empty also reminds us that Jesus was raised from the dead and offers us the fullness of life.

     The fullness of faith. The fullness of joy. The fullness of forgiveness. The fullness of hope. The fullness of peace. The fullness of new life. The fullness of salvation. The fullness of life eternal.

     Empty reminds us that our hunger can be filled by the bread of life who inspires us to feed the hungry.

     Empty reminds us that our thirst can be quenched by the Good Shepherd who leads us beside still waters and inspires us to provide safe and clean drinking water for those in need.

     Empty reminds us that the darkness in our lives can be overcome by the Light of the world and inspires us to reflect that light and the glory of God in how we treat one another with love and respect.

     Empty reminds us that for those who have lost their way, who are living a lie and have nowhere to go that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and He inspires us to be the ones who open the door and offer the welcoming handshake and the much needed hand up.

     Empty reminds us that even though we will experience bouts of loneliness in this world that in fact, we are not alone.

     Empty reminds us that even though in this life we will face trials and hardships, we are to take heart for Christ has conquered the world. 

     Empty reminds us that because Christ has defeated sin and death, because He has raised us to new life, because He is with us every day; because He has empowered us to bear witness we can actually change the Emptiness in the World and fill it with the spirit of Resurrection and the Power of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

     Francis of Assisi is attributed to saying: “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.” Whether he actually said that or not doesn’t negate the fact that Street Stores are a perfect example of that quote. The power of the Empty Tomb Triumphed and empowered people to Empty their closets in order to Resurrect Dignity, Hope, Respect and Joy in the lives of those who know more about Emptiness than any of us ever want to know.

     And Today Empty challenges us to be a part of the Triumph of the Empty Tomb by helping to make Resurrection real in the world. It challenges us and empowers us to move our Belief in Christ in our Head to Faith in Christ in our Heart that is lived out through the Actions of Christ through our Hands.

     Today Empty reminds us to Empty ourselves in serving Christ just as those who started Street Stores did; just as all of our Thrift Store workers do; just as our food bank volunteers do. Just as our Missionaries around the world do.


     Today Empty reminds us, no shouts at us, about the fullness of Resurrection.

     Today Empty shouts of God’s Triumph over sin and death.

     Today Empty sings of God’s love for us and the Forgiveness God offers through Jesus.

     Today is all about Empty and Emptiness but today we don’t leave Empty. Today we leave Triumphant and full. Today we leave fulfilled because today we celebrate the fact that we have been filled with Life and Hope and Peace and Joy and Grace. Today Empty is Triumphant.

     Today we celebrate the fact that the Empty places in our lives have been filled because the Tomb of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is Empty.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.