During the late 1800’s, Baptist minister Robert Lowry penned these words in reflection of the wonder of Easter.
Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Saviour
Waiting a coming day, Jesus my Lord
Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign
He arose, He arose
Hallelujah, Christ arose.
For 2000 years, Christians have gathered together, whether in freedom like we do, or under intense persecution, to remind each other of this profound moment in history; Easter. For centuries we have celebrated ‘The Empty Gift’ – when nothing became everything.
From the moment we are old enough to rip paper, we are conditioned to expect a gift to contain something; not always something good, but nevertheless, something. To carefully wrap an empty box, tie it with a pretty bow, label it with a name-tag and then carefully arrange it on a gift table would be considered heartless and cruel.
Yet on Easter Sunday, an empty gift is exactly what, and why, we celebrate.
In the pre-dawn light 2000 years ago, two women approached a sealed and guarded tomb. They were in mourning. Their hearts were heavy with sorrow and deep grief. For these women, everything they had known had been stripped away. Everything they had hoped for, and the one they had hoped in, was gone. After Friday – after the cross – everything had become nothing. Yet in a matter of minutes, all their expectations changed.
Where hope had been crushed, it now soared. Where joy had been drowned in deep loss, it now leapt up with wings once more. God’s great reversal had occurred.
What changed? What had made the decisive difference?
An empty tomb.
A vacant slab.
Nothing had become everything!
So now the question must be asked, is it an overstatement to say that the nothing of the tomb is our everything? Why is this ‘Empty Gift’ so great?
It Proves God keeps His Word
Acts 13:32–33 (ESV) — 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “ ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’
If we have a God who is not trustworthy, we have nothing! Instead, in this decisive moment in history, God proved once and for all time that His Word is reliable. So in the nothing we have everything.
We now have a living hope
1 Peter 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
If Christ did not rise from the dead, if the stone had rolled away to reveal a corpse, we would have nothing! Instead, the nothing of the tomb gave birth to a living hope and an eternal inheritance; the nothing has become our everything.
It means ‘Sunday’ authenticated ‘Friday’
Romans 4:22–25 (ESV) — 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
1 Corinthians 15:17–20 (ESV) — 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
On Friday, a great transaction took place. On Sunday, that transaction was authenticated.
If it had been you or I who hung on the cross; if it had been you or I who said “I will pay for the sins of the world and bring humanity back to God” – on Sunday, the stone would have been rolled back to reveal our dead and decomposing bodies. God would have justly declared from Heaven, “Transaction Declined – Insufficient Funds”
Instead, everything that Jesus paid for on Friday – forgiveness of sins, secure eternity, friendship with God, the vindication of God’s patience with former generations – all of it was authenticated in the resurrection as God proudly declared, “Transaction Approved”
Today we celebrate an Empty Gift, where nothing is everything. Because of that empty gift, we know that God is trustworthy, our hope for the future is alive and secure, and that everything Jesus accomplished on the cross counts.
As we gather once again around the ‘table of remembering’. We do so because Jesus asked us to, and our desire is to please him and obey our master. But we also gather around this table as a constant reminder; a reminder to ourselves, as well as anybody watching, that we are nobody’s who have had everything done for them. That we have a Saviour who had everything, but laid it aside to become nothing. And that after he made himself nothing, he has achieved everything.
The empty gift is the nothing that has become everything and causes us to bow our knee before an exalted Saviour, confessing that Jesus Christ is truly LORD, and in doing so, we bring glory to God – which is what He deserves.
Philippians 2:5–11 (ESV) — 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
To the praise of His Glory.