My favorite movie genres are Action/Adventure. Within the action genre, I am especially drawn to the story arc known as the hero’s journey. Whether it’s William Wallace, Rocky Balboa, John Wayne, or any number of characters, I am drawn into the struggles, difficulties, and journey of the hero. In adventure movies, I like treasure hunts, which focus on a search for something/someone of value. The plots of treasure hunt movies have certain commonalities in the story arcs, one of which is the dead end. All the good ones have it: Goonies, National Treasure, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean. The dead end is the part of the story in which those searching for treasure have been overwhelmed by the stumbling blocks, opposition, or constant twists/turns. It’s at this point in the story that the treasure seems unattainable or maybe even too good to be true. All seems lost, and the search seems to end abruptly with no treasure in sight. Usually, those searching begin to question whether the treasure existed in the first place, and they wonder if they exhausted themselves on a wild goose chase. This is the point in the story where it seems the story is at an end, and then . . . something happens.
John 19 is that point of the story. Jesus presented himself as the Treasure of all treasures, the Messiah, the long-awaited one, and people believed him. They left their homes, families, friends, jobs, and more to follow Him. Now, the end has come. The stumbling blocks, opposition, and constant twists/turns have become too much to overcome. The Treasure seems too good to be true. All seems lost, and the search seems to have ended abruptly. Those searching, who thought they had found the treasure, are now wondering if the treasure was real in the first place, filled with doubt, despair, and hopelessness. They are at their end, and then . . . something happens. It seems that the story is over, but those who know the Easter story know that it’s just getting good.
In John 20, Jesus comes back from the dead. Jesus was fully dead (ch. 19), and He is now fully alive (ch. 20). His body was killed on a cross; he’s bodily raised out of a tomb. Jesus was executed (ch. 19); Jesus executed death (ch. 20). What an incredible story. Amazingly, this story isn’t fiction; it’s reality.
Jesus is risen. Jesus is alive. Based on this simple truth, allow me to make two points of application. Live in light of the resurrection and proclaim the resurrection.
Live in Light of the Resurrection
First, live in light of the resurrection. Often, believers approach life with a gloomy, defeatist attitude, and I understand why. We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to our faith, worldview, and ethical system. Having a bit of a dour attitude makes sense considering the difficulties of life, ministry, and cultural antagonism. However, given the fact that the tomb is empty, and Jesus is alive, believers do not work from a place of defeat but a place of victory. We face life’s struggles and difficulties in light of “the power of His resurrection” as Paul noted in Philippians 3:10.
Proclaim the Resurrection
Second, proclaim the resurrection. On Sunday, worship leaders across the world will lead congregations in corporate worship through prayer, offering, music, and proclamation of God’s Word. As we stand and lead, let’s remember the emphasis of the early church: the resurrection of Jesus. They gathered on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection, they preached sermons focused on the ultimate victory found in the empty tomb, and they called people to recognize the importance and value of the resurrection.
We are reminded in 1 Cor. 15 of the importance of the resurrection, which is the essential truth of Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus is the one belief that if proven to be false would render Christianity false and a colossal waste of time. Or, better enumerated by Paul in 1 Cor. 15, if Jesus did not really and literally rise from the dead, then:
- Our faith is useless because it is a lie. (v. 14)
- Preaching has no value. (v. 14)
- We are believing and spreading a lie. (v. 15)
- Sins are not forgiven. (v. 17)
- We are without hope. (v. 18)
- We are the most pitiable of all. (v. 19)
So, this Sunday and every Sunday, as we lead our congregations in worship, let’s proclaim the empty tomb as a reminder that the story of Jesus did not end on a cross or in a tomb. No, it was only then that the story was getting good. Consequently, there is hope for all our stories. No matter where we have been, where we are, or where we are headed. No matter if we feel as though the stumbling blocks, opposition, and constant twists/turns of life have become too much to overcome. Even when it seems as though all is lost. The empty tomb reminds us that we have hope, and the story is not over. Perhaps, even in our own lives, the story is only just now getting good. Live in light of this simple truth: Jesus is risen. Jesus is alive. Jesus gives life.
Blake Newsom, Ph.D. serves as Associate Professor of Expository Preaching and Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as Dean of the Chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as well as Senior Pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, AL.