“Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’” — John 20:1-2, New Living Translation
Today’s Reading: John 20
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A dentist tells you, “This won’t hurt.” A mother says to a child, “Eating your carrots will make you strong like Superman.” A cad tells a young lady, “I will love you forever.” A wife tells her husband, “I’ll be ready in five minutes” when she still has to shower, dry her hair, get dressed and do her makeup. All daily events in life, and all with the potential to be empty promises. We often don’t believe them.
Jesus promised, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise” (Matthew 17:22-23, NLT).
His disciples and followers then see the first part of this prophecy being fulfilled. He is betrayed by one of His disciples and killed very publicly.
The story continues.
“Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’”
This announcement made a dark time even darker. Jesus was dead. They saw His brutal crucifixion with their own eyes. And His body was now also gone.
But Jesus said He would rise on the third day. Do the disciples remember that? And if they do, do they think it was an empty promise? If Jesus’ resurrection was an empty promise, did that mean all of His other promises were also now empty?
At this point, the disciples still did not fully understand that Jesus is God. But Jesus doesn’t leave them in confusion. John 20:11-18 (NLT) shows us that He fulfills His promise.
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!”
This Christmas, let us remember that the empty tomb is not an empty promise. Jesus’ victorious resurrection is the fulfillment of His promise and the reason why He was born into this earth.
Jesus, the Light, burst through the darkness of the grave. The Light has defeated sin and death. Praise God, the Light has come.
Do you believe God’s promises unconditionally? If you said yes, do you live as if they are true? What promises of God do you struggle to believe? What are the dark areas of your life, community or country where you need Jesus to shine?
Dear God, I praise Your Name during this very special time when we celebrate the beginning of Your sacrifice for us here on earth.
Thank You so much for coming to earth and for being born in a manger in order to save us and to fulfill all the promises and prophecies about You. Forgive me for often forgetting Your promises and therefore despairing when things go wrong.
Help me to understand that no matter how dark things look, Your Light is also there. Help me to be Your messenger, sharing Your good news of hope and life with others.
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Learn more about the evidence for the resurrection here.
Elspeth Liebenberg is a South African who has served with CCC (Cru) for 39 years, 12 of them in Moscow, Russia. She is the widow of Lieb Liebenberg and the mother of Saskia and Emma-Kate, mother-in-law to Dino and Andrew, and grandmother to Phoebe and Inessa. She loves reading and swimming.
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