Blog / Book of the Month / The Good Kind of Empty and the Good Kind of Full / John 20:1-18 & Luke 24:1-3 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 17th 2022 / Easter Sunday / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Good Kind of Empty and the Good Kind of Full / John 20:1-18 & Luke 24:1-3 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 17th 2022 / Easter Sunday / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Good Kind of Empty and the Good Kind of Full / John 20:1-18 & Luke 24:1-3 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 17th 2022 / Easter Sunday / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 17th 2022: Easter Sunday / John 20:1-18 & Luke 24:1-3 "The Good Kind of Empty and the Good Kind of Full"

John 20:1–18, Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Luke 24:1–3, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. When your cup is empty, when your refrigerator is empty, when your wallet is empty, when your bank account is empty you complain because you want it to be full. Some complain when their house is empty, others complain when they walk out of their now empty office into retirement, widows or widowers are sorrowful when marriage becomes empty after the death of their spouse. We fear the thought of empty gas pumps, empty grocery store shelves … in our life it is usually a bad thing when we are confronted with emptiness and loss.   

Today we remember the good kind of empty and the good kind of full.

Mary Magdalene and the other women that went to the tomb that first Easter Sunday expected to find Jesus’ grave full – full of the dead and buried Jesus. They came expecting to put the final touches of His burial, the burial which Joseph of Arimathea and the Pharisee Nicodemus had hastily completed the previous Friday after Jesus’ crucifixion when they placed Him in the tomb near the place where He was crucified.[1] What they encountered was ‘the good kind of empty’ but at first this confused them because empty is normally a problem. The problem they thought they had, in their estimation, was that someone had robed the grave and stolen away with Jesus’ dead body. They thought their problem was grave robbers. That’s why Mary Magdalene ran to Simon Peter and John and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” In Luke’s Gospel the other women were literal faced with messengers from God who asked them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”[2] When they went to the disciples and likewise told their account of what had happened we are told that apart from Peter and John who went to double check things the rest thought this was “an idle tale” and they didn’t believe them.[3] Peter and John looked into the tomb and found Jesus’ grave empty and they “went away home marveling at what had happened.”[4] Marveling here doesn’t mean understanding it means struggling to comprehend what had happened. Why did Peter run to the tomb? Was it to prove the women right or to prove them wrong? Did they go away marveling because what the women said might be true or because something extraordinarily unexpected had happened and they didn’t know yet what it meant or exactly what it was?[5] Even Mary Magdalene back at the tomb when she is met by the risen Lord Jesus can’t make sense of what she’s seeing and thinks He’s the gardener saying “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” At that moment she still thinks her problem is someone having stolen the dead body of Jesus, that the emptiness of the tomb is a cruel evil thing, a disrespecting of the dead, who should be granted peace.

For Mary Magdalene ‘emptiness being a bad thing’ suddenly changed to ‘the good kind of empty’ when the one she thought was the gardener called Mary by her name and she recognized Him as Jesus! The grave was not empty because someone had taken Jesus’ body away; the grave was empty because Jesus was alive! The remaining disciples present in the upper room later that day would experience this when Jesus came and stood among them in the flesh, resurrected from the dead, saying, “Peace be with you.”[6]    

Now this is not a glass half empty, glass half full sort of thing where the glass is either half empty or half full depending on how you look at it or think about it. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead isn’t about their perspective. Clearly they were all struggling to comprehend what was happening on the morning of that first Easter Sunday and it was not their understanding that changed what happened, it was what happened that changed their understanding: That changed the tomb being empty from a problem to pure joy! As Christians it changes the way we look at the cross too. As brutal and as painful as it is to see Jesus there, to truly contemplate it, seeing Jesus on the cross is now ‘the good kind of full,’ we don’t need an empty cross we need a cross full of the love of Jesus for us, a cross with the fullness of Jesus’ body hung there shedding His precious sinless blood unto death in our place, a cross full of the dead body of our Lord, because that means our sins likewise hang there on the cross dead, and in His passion, suffering and death we now have ‘the good kind of empty’ in our life. When we look at a crucifix, when we read about Jesus’ crucifixion in the Bible, when we hear it read to us and preached to us, when we sing about it in our Hymns and see it in paintings and drawings we can remember that Jesus has emptied us of all our sins and taken them onto Himself. Thank God the cross was full on that first Good Friday and thank God the tomb was empty on that first Easter Sunday. “For our sake [God the Father] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Christ Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.”[7] In this way we are being reconciled to God.

Therefore “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”[8] This is what Saint Paul writes the Philippians Christians; think on it: Jesus emptied Himself taking on the form or a Servant and in that form He was filled with your sin, my sin, our sin, so that at the cross you and I and all of us would be emptied of that sin and in return would be filled with the righteousness of Jesus in a sweet exchange. This, dear ones, leaves you with ‘the good kind of empty,’ a life emptied of sin by the cross, passion and forgiveness of Jesus. This kind of empty is not a problem; this kind of empty is the solution to your problem.    

So today as we remember ‘the good kind of empty’ and ‘the good kind of full,’ we want our cross to be full of Jesus and our tomb to be empty of Jesus so that our body, mind, heart and soul would be empty of our sin and full of Christ Jesus and His righteousness. In the Holy Communion we receive today, in the cup we share, in the wine and in the bread, this same Jesus is fully present, no empty symbol but rather His real presence. And when you eat this Meal, when you take and drink of it, your sins are being emptied out of you; again full of Jesus, empty of sin. Jesus empties eternal death from us and promises us eternal life to us in Him; He gives us eternal life in Him, because it is His to give.

Having this, trusting this, confessing this faith, not only today but in all our days puts the emptiness of the World into perspective: If your cup at home is empty Jesus’ cup is not, if your refrigerator is empty it is temporary for God promises that we will have a feast unlike any that has ever been on The Last Day;[9] when your wallet is empty, when your bank account is empty remember it is temporary (it may reverse in this life or it may not) rest assured it will be set right on The Last Day and you will want for nothing. Heaven will be empty of all evil and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes, and even death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.[10] The Father’s House will not be empty and in the promised happy reunion we will see our lost loved ones who died in the faith reunited in Christ Jesus. This is what the full cross of Jesus’ crucifixion and the empty tomb of His resurrection proclaims.

When you see something that is empty ask yourself is this ‘the good kind of empty’ or ‘the bad kind of empty,’ when you see something that is full ask yourself is this ‘the good kind of full’ or ‘the bad kind of full?’ The concrete reality of what is good or bad, what is good or evil, the truth of this is found in Christ Alone and in His Word alone, all other ground is sinking sand, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers [and sisters].” Saint James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”[11] As Christians this is the kind of life you have now: We no longer desire to be full of sin but emptied of it, we no longer want to trust in the counterfeit fullness of this World which is passing away[12] but in Christ we want to be emptied of our trust in it. We desire instead to live life in the fullness of Christ Jesus.

This Easter and ever Sunday we celebrate that, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”[13] This is the will of the Father. The full cross and the empty tomb are the will of God the Father. You are partakers in this not by your merits or by your works but as a gift,[14] the gift of emptiness and the gift of fullness; a gift which brings peace, a gift that turns what the World promises on its head. In the hours leading up to His cross and passion, before He was taken into custody by Judas Jesus said to His disciples and He was to you, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”[15] Hold this dear to your heart in those moments that the World calls empty, when you are tempted to feel empty in the way the World teaches, in those moments Jesus stands ready with His peace a peace unlike anything the world could give, because in Him you have ‘the good kind of empty’ and ‘the good kind of full.’ Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] John 19:38–42
[2] Luke 24:5–6
[3] Luke 24:11
[4] Luke 24:12
[5] Arthur A. Just, Concordia Commentary Luke 9:51-24:53, Concordia Publishing House 1997, Pg 971.
[6] John 20:19
[7] 2 Corinthians 5:21
[8] Philippians 2:5–8
[9] Isaiah 25:6; Psalm 23:5; Revelation 7:16-17
[10] Revelation 21:4
[11] James 1:16–18
[12] 1 Corinthians 7:31
[13] 1 Corinthians 15:20
[14] Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
[15] John 14:27

Photo Credits: Main Photo Cross Tomb and Fish Rock Painting from pixabay; detail Empty Shelves from pexels; Stained Glass Window Jesus Laid in Tomb from unsplash; Stained Glass Window Jesus and Mary Magdalene from pixabay; Glass Empty/Full from unsplash; Crucifix from lutheranstockphotos; Jesus leaving the Tomb from pixabay; Stained Glass Jesus with Holy Communion from pxhere; Chalk Fish Drawing from pixabay; detail of the Resurrection of Jesus in the Bible from unsplash.