Easter: Three commands from an empty tomb

Steve Gaines"The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you'" (Matthew 28:5-7 NASB).

Springtime is here. Dogwoods and daffodils bloom as winter retreats and warmer days are welcomed.

Across America, churches will soon be packed on Easter Sunday.

Why?

Easter is about forgiveness and hope through a sacred death and an empty tomb. Easter is about the grimness of the grave being overcome. It is about Jesus Christ rising bodily, victoriously and eternally from the grave. Behold our resurrected Lord triumphantly displaying the keys to death, hell and the grave in His nail-scarred hands! No wonder Easter is the annual apex for all Christians.

No other religion dares to make such claims. Muslims readily admit that Muhammad is dead. Buddha and Confucius are also in the grave, as is Joseph Smith. But after Jesus died, He rose from the grave, never to die again.

The women who followed Jesus to Jerusalem from Galilee had gone to the tomb to properly anoint their Lord for burial. There they found an angel who gave them three significant commands:

The first command was "Do not be afraid" (v.5)

Those women came to the tomb wondering how they would remove the stone so they could anoint Jesus' body (cf. Mark 16:1). But when they arrived, an angel had already rolled the stone away (cf. Matthew 28:2). Jesus was not there—He had risen! And because He had risen, there would never again be a valid reason for fear. As Bill Gaither's song says, "Because He lives, all fear is gone."

The angel's second command was "Come, see" (v.6)

There was nothing to hide. Jesus' body had not been stolen. This was no gimmick or fabrication, as the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem slyly suggested (cf. Matthew 28:11f). Jesus was really alive. The angel rolled the stone away, not to allow Jesus to leave the grave, but to let the women and everyone else to look in! Jesus' burial proved His actual death. His empty tomb proved His actual resurrection. Now everyone could "come, see" for themselves.

The third command was, "go quickly and tell" (v.7)

The good news of Jesus' resurrection demanded sharing. The angel's words at this point were similar to those spoken by Jesus after His resurrection and prior to His ascension: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15 NASB). Jesus had risen from the grave and His disciples were commissioned to take that good news to the ends of the earth.

As they proclaimed the gospel message, people repented of their sins, believed that Jesus died and rose for their salvation, and received Jesus as Lord and Savior by calling on His name in humble prayer. The book of Acts describes how those early disciples boldly shared the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome in just three decades. They could not stop speaking of what they had "seen and heard" (cf. Acts 4:20). Today we who follow Jesus must continue to tell the world the saving message of His death, burial and resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

No religion in the world claims anything like Jesus' empty tomb. His vicarious death and victorious resurrection are what make the good news "good."

The angel's three commands echo through the centuries, calling out to us this Easter season. By faith, with spirit-ears, we still hear His commands:

"Jesus is alive! Do not be afraid!"

"Jesus is alive! Come, see!"

"Jesus is alive! Go quickly and tell!"

Southern Baptists, that is the message of Easter! That is what we must share with our lost neighbors. We must tell everyone that there is hope, healing and forgiveness for anyone who comes to Christ in repentance and faith, and that salvation comes from the bloody cross and empty tomb of Jesus.

Do not be afraid. Come and see. Go quickly and tell.

Have a glorious Easter!

Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church.

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