DURHAM, N.C. (BP) -- On the third day after Jesus' crucifixion, a group of women went to His tomb. But instead of finding a dead body guarded by strong Roman guards, they found the guards fearful, looking "like dead men," and the tomb empty.
Jesus had risen from the dead. On this fact rests every other aspect of the Christian faith.
If the resurrection of Jesus is real, it's game-on for all things Christian. And if it isn't, it's game over because everything else we believe is a hoax.
If that Jerusalem tomb really is empty, then everything else in our lives suddenly looks different. What would otherwise threaten to destroy us no longer has ultimate power. The darkness that promises to speak the final word does not get the final word.
Because of the empty tomb …
Guilt doesn't have the last word in our lives
Apart from God, we stand condemned. Our guilt before God deserves the wrath that we saw poured out on the cross. But because Christ hung on that cross for us, the full penalty of our sin has been absorbed. So now we can say, with the apostle Paul, "There is no more condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
Injustice doesn't have the last word
We live in a world filled with injustice. Each of us has been wronged, sometimes in heinous ways. Injustice is so pervasive that we almost get used to it. (No one had to teach my children the phrase, "That's not fair!") But God never gets used to injustice. And the empty tomb is a promise that God will overturn every evil intention by bringing true justice into the world. Justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).
Addictions don't have the last word
Maybe your addiction has messed up your career, your health, your family or your very life. Maybe you are so mired in addiction that you can't even imagine a way out. The resurrection means that God's power to heal is available to you today. And even if you struggle till your dying day against the darkness of addiction, the resurrection is a promise that God will raise you to new life -- whole life, abundant life -- with His Son.
Pain doesn't have the last word
Medieval Christian theologians often called this world a "vale (or valley) of tears." They knew what many of us try to ignore: Everything we love eventually falls apart. Chronic illness racks our bodies. Miscarriages fill us with grief. Diseases like Alzheimer's make us watch in pain as our loved ones' minds fade away, even while their bodies remain. As Victor Hugo said, "Those who do not weep, do not see."
But the resurrection shows us that pain has an expiration date. The empty tomb is a promise that Jesus will bring us to a place where every tear is wiped away and crying is no more.
Despair doesn't have the last word
It doesn't matter how dark the night may seem to you right now. When was it ever darker than after the Son of God had been murdered at the hands of sinful men like you and me?
But while Jesus' followers tossed and turned on Saturday night, God's plan was at work. The men and women who went to bed in despair met the next morning with a surprising hope -- the same hope that is available to us today. If Jesus is alive, He can bring the dawn of resurrection into your life. As long as Jesus is alive, there is hope for you.
Death doesn't have the last word
When Jesus died, His enemies thought they had spoken the last word over His life. His resurrection proved otherwise. And for all those who die in Christ, the sting of death becomes a trifle. Because of the resurrection, the apostle Paul is able to look death in the face and mock it: "Death, where is your victory? Grave, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Billy Graham passed away last year. But years before his death, he uttered a profound statement that shows what trust in the resurrection means. He said, "One day you will hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe it. I'll be more alive than ever, I will just have changed addresses."
If Jesus went through death and emerged in resurrection, the last word in our lives no longer belongs to the powers of darkness. Neither guilt, nor injustice, nor addictions, nor pain, nor despair, nor death -- nor betrayal, nor loss, nor poverty, nor shame, nor abuse -- nor any other evil we can imagine, can separate us from the power of Christ revealed that first Easter morning.
J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.