I was worshiping at a church on Easter where the pastor held up a plastic Easter egg like this one and asked the little kids what they hoped was inside. I was expecting to hear things like jelly beans and a chocolate Easter bunny and peeps, but I think the very first thing that one of those bold-voiced four year-old little boys said was “Moneyyyy…” Either he has been very well-trained by his parents to know that too much candy is not good for you, or he already has a very practical understanding of the long-term value of something that lasts at least a little bit longer than a sugar confectionary. But then the pastor went on and surprised everybody by showing them that that Easter egg, just like this Easter egg, was empty, leading him to give them the assurance that their sadness was going to turn to gladness because he was going to talk about something very special on that Easter Sunday that was also very empty.
In the Bible there was a man who also wanted money and who had a very empty life. He was a man who had been crippled from birth and who every day was carried to the temple in the city of Jerusalem, where every day he begged for money. One day he happened to ask for money from the apostles Peter and John who were about to enter the temple courts. Do you remember what Peter said to the beggar? Peter said, “Look at us! Look at us, Mr. Beggar who has been crippled from birth. Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” The Bible then tells us that instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong, and he went around the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God, causing all the people who knew him to be filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. He had seemed to come up empty, wouldn’t you agree – at least as far as getting any money in his Easter egg? But his life certainly got filled up with a whole lot more!
Last week Pastor Free preached about what the apostle Peter preached about to all those people who were wondering what in the world was going on. Pointing out their sins in no uncertain terms at putting Jesus to death, Peter also assured them in no uncertain terms that through that death – and then assured by Christ’s resurrection from the dead – God had wiped out their sins. They could go about their lives walking and jumping and praising God, even if that walking and jumping and praising was done with hearts full of earthly sadness and bodies full of earthly pain and minds full of earthly questions and doubts and fears. No matter how empty things might have been in their lives in so many ways, their lives were filled with the love of a forgiving Lord, who was alive and well in heaven, ruling over them and keeping watch over them every single day of their lives.
You would think Peter and John would be heroes, right? But in our lesson for today we are told that they were being “called to account” for what they had done. The people responsible for putting Jesus to death were tired to death about hearing of his resurrection from death. If that tomb was empty, they said, it could only be because Peter and John and their friends had somehow gotten Jesus out of while the Roman guards were sleeping. But what does Peter say to these rulers and elders of the people? He preached the same thing that he preached to the general people the previous day. Filled with the Holy Spirit he said to them what verses 9-10 tell us that he said to them – if you want to look at that — Peter said, “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”
In other words, what had to be empty in order for Jesus Christ of Nazareth to give the disciples the power to do miracles like this that Jesus had told them they would be able to do? The tomb had to be empty. The tomb could not have a dead Jesus in it. The tomb of death had to be defeated by the Lord of life. The only way they could tell this person to get up and walk so that he could actually get up and walk is if Jesus first got up and walked out of that tomb on Easter Sunday morning. The name of Jesus would mean nothing at all if the body of Jesus was dead. Can you see why we can talk about the tomb of Jesus in terms of Finding So Much in Something So Empty?
But there is much more than that, right? There is much more than the ability that God gave those disciples to heal people in the name of the living Lord Jesus. He also gave those disciples – and all of us – a message which saves people in the name of the living Lord Jesus. The last verse of our lesson is the conclusion of the sermon Peter preached to those who should have known so much better, but who sadly understood so much less than the man who was walking and jumping and praising God. In verse 12 Peter stated what is the truth of God which gives you and me a great reason for living and a great result after dying. Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
About twenty or twenty-five years later the apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters that if Christ Jesus was still dead, we are still in our sins. You and I could say all we wanted, “I love the name of Jesus. I want to sing to the name of Jesus. I want to live for the name of Jesus,” but if the body of Jesus were still in that Jerusalem tomb, we would still be in our Brookfield sins. In fact, if there was no name of a living Lord Jesus, we would either end up giving up because life was so worthless to even worry or care about all that much, or we would end up giving in to doing whatever we wanted whenever we wanted because there certainly wasn’t any living God who cared about us, no matter what some people or some book told us about how some God wanted us to live.
But isn’t that the amazing thing that makes us be filled with even more amazement than the amazement that filled the people who saw this crippled and begging man become a walking and jumping man? Jesus came to heal us from something far different than what this man was healed of, even though we may truly and properly pray for this kind of healing for so many things in our lives. Jesus came to heal us from those spiritual illnesses – those sins –of giving up and giving in. He cares so much about us that he tells us, “Look at me. Look at me, crying man. Look at me, frustrated woman. Look at me, confused child. Look at me. Silver or gold is not what I will use to help you. What I have used to help you is something precious and holy, something pure and unblemished, something soothing and comforting, something exhilarating and moving – something that you could do nothing to deserve, but something that gives you everything you could ever want – the blood of my Son, who poured out that blood to pay the price for everything you have ever done against me – yes, the blood of my Son, whose life-blood returned to him to give you every reason to live all your life for me.
If you feel empty for any reason right now – empty because you know how full of reasons God should be to want no part of you – empty because your life is so full of heartaches that make you feel like you soul is gaining weight every day – empty because of all the Easter Eggs in your life that seem to have nothing sweet or rewarding in them – then look up. Look up at the one whose Name caused a man who could not walk to walk. Look up at the one whose Name causes people who cannot be saved to be saved. Look up at the one who has put his name on you when that water came over you in the name of the Triune God. Look up at the one who loves it when you call on his name and just talk to him in prayer. Yes, look up and see the one who tells you to look into the tomb in which he once lay, because it is in that tomb where your whole life long, no matter how things may seem at the moment, you will continue to be finding so much in something so empty! Amen.