All the Gospel writers tell us of a resurrection. They each approach it from a different angle, but come to the same climax: the tomb is empty. Jesus coming out of the tomb and leaving it empty gives us much hope. Our hope rests on the foundation of Jesus being alive. So, how can, we be sure? How can we be sure the tomb is empty and our hope is resting in the right place?
Paul helps shed some light on these questions. In 1 Corinthians 15, as if he were presenting a case in court, Paul lays out 4 reasons our hope is on a firm foundation.
First, the Scriptures said Jesus would rise.
1 Corinthians 15 says Christ’s tomb was emptied just as the Scriptures declared. There are many Old Testament prophecies that point to Jesus coming out of the grave; Psalm 16 among them. Peter eloquently explains this fact. In Acts 2, he says:
“King David said this about him:
‘I see that the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad,
and my tongue shouts his praises!
My body rests in hope.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.
You have shown me the way of life,
and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’
“Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.”
The Scriptures pointed to Jesus vacating the tomb.
Second, Jesus made several appearances.
To continue his case, Paul brings eyewitness accounts into the courtroom. In 1 Corinthians 15, he says, “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”
Jesus not only appeared to individuals, he appeared to a large group. Over 500 people have the same account: Jesus appeared to them. If this were false, a few individuals’ stories may align, but getting 500 people to tell the same story is virtually impossible. Playing the game Telephone illustrates how difficult it is to keep a story straight in a large group. Each time the story is passed from person to person in the circle, it changes a little. It’s often not even the same story when it makes it around the circle. Keeping stories straight is hard, unless they are true.
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500 eyewitnesses taking the stand to declare the same thing is undeniable. The risen Lord appeared to them.
Third, since Christ lives, we live.
Paul’s third point reminds us the way to life is Christ. It was Jesus’ work on the cross and death which paid the penalty for the world’s sins. His corpse was placed in the tomb after his death.
“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So, you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.”
We can sum it up this way: Jesus started a long legacy of folks leaving the cemetery. If he lives, we too can live. Jesus declares in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”
Fourth, death has been struck a death blow.
In his fourth point, Paul helps us understand when Jesus walked out of the grave, he destroyed death’s power. It was in this moment Jesus stripped death of its grip. The Psalmist writes, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not be afraid,” because death does not have the power to hold onto us. Christ took it away.
1 Corinthians 15 proclaims:
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
These 4 points help us see the empty tomb is a solid foundation for our hope. It is because of an empty tomb we have hope, and our hope is more than wishful thinking. Our hope is the truth of knowing victory is ours in Christ. Our hope is knowing, though we may have troubles now, we will overcome them because of an empty tomb.