Chuck Terrill: Christ’s Tomb is Still Empty
T he world experienced a great loss not too long ago.
Larry LaPrise, who wrote the song "The Hokey Pokey", died at age 83. I understand that he died peacefully after having led a full and happy life. Still it must have been a difficult time for his family, especially when it came time to put him in the casket. They put his left leg in and, well…..that was when the trouble started.
A little over two thousand years ago they had similar trouble in Jerusalem. Pilate made certain that the tomb was secure, but there was no way Jesus was going to stay there! Jesus Christ, the strongest personality of all time rose from the dead (Matthew 27.57-28.15).
Today, there are four major religions in the world. Each of those four are based upon the teachings of powerful personalities. Truthfully, they have a lot in common, morally and ethically. But only Christianity claims an empty tomb for its founder.
In 1900 B.C. Judaism's founder, Abraham, died (Genesis 25.7). You can visit his tomb in Hebron.
In 484 B.C. Buddhist writings say Buddha died "with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains behind." The ashes of Buddha, now kept at a Sri Lankan temple, will soon be moved to Bodh Gaya in the north India state of Bihar (Source: Xinhua News)
On June 6, 732 A.D. Mohammed died. Hundreds of thousands visit his tomb annually in Medina. There, they pray in the Mosque of the Prophet, where Mohammed is buried. The prophet's tomb is on the spot where he died 14 centuries ago.
In 33 A.D. Jesus died. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. His tomb is still empty, no bones or ashes. On the third day, He rose from the dead! He appeared to more than 500 people over the course of 40 days. We have their eye witness testimonies recorded in the pages of the New Testament. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.14: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
What makes Christ's resurrection even more remarkable is that He predicted His death, burial and resurrection repeatedly during His public ministry. Before Christ's personal predictions, we have countless Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in His resurrection.
If we had the time to list the names of all of those who radically changed history, it would certainly be a long list. Muhammad, Catherine the Great, Marx, Gandhi, Hitler, Roosevelt, Stalin and Mao come to mind. Each of those figures changed the lives of millions, either for better or worse.
At the top of the list of the greatest people who ever lived is Jesus Christ. It is impossible to deny, no matter what your belief system, that the single most powerful figure in human history is Jesus of Nazareth. All of history is dated based on a calculation of the date of his birth. No other life has proved remotely as powerful as that of Jesus.
There are many reasons for my personal faith in Christ. His resurrection is a primary consideration for me.
A Muslim in Africa converted to Christianity. It was a dangerous and difficult decision. Even so, he could not keep his faith in Christ to himself. Some of his alienated former friends demanded of him, “Why have you done such a thing?”
He answered, “It is like this: Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions. You didn’t know which way to go; and there at the fork were two men—one dead, and one alive—which one would you ask to show you the way?” (Bruce Howell, “The Gospel vs. Religion”).
My African brother's question is a good one. He realized he had a decision to make. He could follow the teachings of a dead philosopher, or he could follow a living Lord. He made the right choice, even though it cost him his life.
My prayer is that you will have a blessed Resurrection season.
Chuck Terrill, who has doctorates from Master Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary, is the senior minister at First Christian Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 471-847-2460.