The Grave was not Empty?

Contrary to popular thinking, and traditional Church teaching, the Grave of Christ was NOT EMPTY as most believe? It is true that Jesus Himself was not there, but it was not an empty grave, there were in fact left behind the “grave clothes” and today I have found a … Sermon in those grave clothes.

God intended that those women would come to that grave early on the first Easter day, and that they would discover or uncover the things there. It was a grave that was opened, not by the will of man, but by the will of God! In that grave, those who looked in saw the clothes the body wore, but they saw no body! Why? Because it was the body of the Lord Jesus Christ and He had risen from the dead and had walked out of that tomb. In fact he had come out of the tomb long before the stone had been rolled away?

The stone was not removed to let Jesus OUT, the stone was removed to let others IN! In to see that all that remained in that tomb, the only evidence that He had ever been there, was the presence of His grave clothes.

Now, there are many aspects of the resurrection that we could consider today … all of them are important and are a blessing and an encouragement to the children of God, but I want to look at the message that is contained in the grave clothes left in that tomb by Jesus. I want us to see today that Jesus left His grave clothes behind him for a reason. He left them behind so that they could preach a message to all those who saw them early on that early Sunday morning. It is that precious message that I would like

for us to try and grasp today. Let’s look into these wonderful verses and learn from The Sermon In The Grave clothes.

John 20, verses 5-7 teach us A PEACEFUL SERMON

After Jesus died on the cross, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus and prepared it for burial and placed it in a new tomb that belonged to Joseph. John 19:38-42. After they had placed His body in the tomb, the Jewish leaders asked Pontius Pilate to seal the tomb and place a detachment of Roman soldiers at the tomb

to prevent the Disciples from stealing the body.

Then the Bible tells us that early on the Sunday morning some strange things began to occur near that Garden tomb. Matt. 28:1-4. A supernatural event happened and the stone that was used to seal the tomb was rolled back by an angel of the Lord. This was done, not by the Disciples: No! They were off in their upper room hiding in fear, lest they too be arrested and crucified. This was done, however, to allow all those who came by, to see that the body of Jesus was gone.

Now, when Mary finds the tomb in this condition, she runs to tell the Disciples – and Peter and John race to the tomb. Maybe they were thinking that Mary went to the wrong tomb? Surely, there must be some mistake! Yet, when they arrive at the scene, it is the right tomb. But, the tomb is empty; or is it, wait, no, there is still remaining there, the grave clothes of the Lord Jesus. Either collapsed in a pile as if His body came right through them, or having been hardened by the chemicals used by Joseph and Nicodemus, in the shape of His body, resembling a cocoon that He had merely exited. Either way, it paints quite a picture! Then they see, in a place by itself, the napkin that Joseph and Nicodemus had used to wrap Jesus’ face and head. The tomb is a perfect picture of absolute order!

After the news of the resurrection became public knowledge, the Jewish leaders concocted a robbery story to try and conceal the fact that Jesus was alive, Matt. 28:11-15. However, the condition of the tomb proves their tale

to be a lie. Consider:

1. If it was the Disciples that had removed the body of Jesus as the Jews claimed, how did they remove the body without disturbing the wrappings? Would they have taken the time to be so orderly? Would they have even attempted such a thing, after all, they had all forsook Jesus and fled away the night He was arrested, Mark 14:50. and …

2. If it was grave robbers as others have suggested, how did they remove the body? Would they have gone to such pains? Of course not! and …

3. If it was the Jewish leaders that took His body for fear of what the Disciples might use His corpse for, or the Romans for that matter, they would not have taken the time to remove the body from its wrappings. In fact, they would have simply produced the corpse when the Disciples began to proclaim the resurrection and Christianity would have dissolved like a sugar cube in cup of coffee.

The only logical conclusion to the matter is that the tomb was a scene of order and calm because Jesus had merely passed through His grave clothes. He had folded His own

napkin and laid it aside. He left a scene of peace so that all those who look in and believe might have peace in their hearts that He is alive and well. That is the kind of peace that Jesus alone can give.

So then the message of the grave clothes is a PEACEFUL Sermon.

But it is also A POWERFUL SERMON

That empty cocoon of grave clothes preached a powerful message early that Sunday morning. It told a vivid story of a risen Saviour. Those garments lying there in that fashion proclaimed to the world that everything Jesus Christ had claimed, everything He had preached, everything He had promised was true!

Just a few days before, the Disciples had watched their Lord be arrested, tried, convicted and crucified. Now, they had tangible proof that Jesus was alive and well!

The fact that Jesus lives gives power to His promises! It validates His claim to be the only way to God, John 14:6.

It is powerful in that is gives hope to all those who come to Him for salvation. It gives confidence to those who are lost in sin! It tells them that they can run to Jesus and there find a living Lord who is the Friend of sinners.

It is a powerful message because it tells us that the Father accepted the death of Jesus on the cross as the payment for the sin debt of men. The New Testament mentions 35 times that Jesus was raised up from the dead by God the Father, that there can be no mistaking the event.

If Jesus had been like another man, His bones would have rotted where they placed His body. But, because He was the sinless Son of God, it was not possible that death could

hold Him, Acts 2:24. And, because He died a sinless death on the cross, God accepted His sacrifice in the place of ourselves and gives us the promise that we too shall rise from the dead. Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 4:14. says

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you“.

All that because He left His clothes behind him!

So there is a PEACEFUL AND POWERFUL Sermon in

those Grave Clothes.

And there is also A PROMISING SERMON?

John calls our attention to the fact that the napkin that was used to cover His bloodied and bruised face in death was folded neatly and laid to one side. There is a message in this action that we do not want to miss.

Consider if you will the eastern custom of the napkin. When a man with servants was eating a meal, he would often use his napkin to signal to them during the course of the meal. If he left the table and wadded his napkin up, it meant that he was finished and would not be back. If, however, he neatly folded the napkin, it told his servants that he was stepping away for a moment, but that he would be back! Jesus was telling His disciples and followers that,

“I may be out of your sight right now, but I will be right back!” When Peter and John arrived at the tomb, they feared the worst. Perhaps they thought robbers had come, or that the Jews had taken His body away. Even Mary missed the napkin and supposed the Gardener had moved the body of the Lord, John 20:15. Yet, John, who had been raised with servants, Mark 1:20, probably knew this custom and quickly grasped the meaning, v. 8.

Now, today, you and I are among those who accept the Gospel message of the resurrection by simple faith. We did not see Jesus live. We did not see Him die and we did not see the tomb; although many of us may have visited it since on trips, pilgrimages or holidays to the Holy Land. However, that folded napkin is still preaching today. It is reminding each of us that even though we do not see Him right now, He’s coming back and we will see Him soon,

Rev. 22:20.

Therefore, we do not lose hope and confidence in this Easter Gospel. Our Master has left us His assurance that very soon He will return and take us to be with Him in His Father’s House, John 14:1-3. Because He lives, we have a future in His heavenly home!

The Sermon of the grave clothes then is not only, peaceful powerful and promising, it is also


These verses in John 20, tell us about what Peter and John did when they arrived at the tomb. It is interesting to dig into the words used here just a little. Note three thoughts:

In verse 5, the word “saw” ( blepo in the Greek) means “to take a glance at something.” It refers to a brief, fleeting glimpse. This is what John did when he got there. He took a quick glance in the tomb and saw that Jesus was gone, but that the grave clothes were still there.

Yet in verses 6 & 7 the word used is “seeth

( theo-reo in the Greek) means “to scrutinize” It carries the idea of looking around with a keen eye to catch all the facts. It brings to mind the eye of the

investigator. This is what Peter did. He saw the grave clothes and the napkin lying by itself.

Then in verse 8 the word “saw” ( eidos in the Greek) means “to look with understanding.” It carries the idea of grasping what you see. When John took the time to take a

closer look, he saw the truth in the grave clothes and

understood that Jesus was alive!

If a lost sinner looks at the empty tomb, he can come up with dozens of reasons why it cannot be true. After all, when men die, they are gone. They do not get up, and even if they did, they would not pass through their grave clothes! They would do like Lazarus and they would have to be set free, John 11:44. But, when an honest heart takes the time to scrutinize the evidence, they will come to the same place John came to. The resurrection must be real. There is no other logical explanation. Have you been persuaded?

The Jews still believe to this day that the Disciples of Jesus took His body away. If they did, would someone please explain to me why every one of His Disciples, with the exception of John, died for preaching the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Men do not die for something they know to be a lie! The will to live is so strong that they would have confessed their lie to the authorities to save their own hides. However, they all, went to their graves proclaiming the fact of the Risen Lord! To me, that speaks volumes, it persuades me!

So far then we have found in those Grave Clothes, a Peaceful Powerful, Promising and Persuasive Sermon, but verses

1-29 reveal it to be more, for it is A PERSONAL SERMON

As this chapter unfolds, each person who is confronted with the empty tomb and the grave clothes is forced to make a personal decision. For John, belief was instant, v. 8. For Peter, the truth came a little more slowly. Mary Magdalene finds that her heart is still gripped by grief, v11-17. Yet she is convinced when she sees the Lord for herself. The other Disciples are unsure of what is happening until Jesus appears in their midst with a message of peace and assurance, v. 19-23. However, Thomas, the perpetual doubter was not there and he refuses to hear a word they are saying; but his doubts are finally laid to rest by the personal appearance of the risen Saviour, v. 26-29. Obviously, this is a message that affects people in different ways. Of course, there are really only two ways to respond to the Easter message: Accepting It or Rejecting It?

To their credit, all of these responded by accepting the message of the risen Jesus. The question we are left with today is: what about you? It is a personal sermon for you and poses the question … have you accepted the fact the Jesus Christ died on the cross, that He shed His blood to pay for your sins and rose again from the dead three days later in a literal, physical body? Some are telling us today that it isn’t important to believe the resurrection is real. We need only accept it symbolically! Well, the Bible teaches that fact differently. Look at how Paul puts in in Romans 10: 9-10. He says:

” That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made

unto salvation. ” He does not say we must believe that he died, nor believe that his blood washes away our sins, or believe in his substitutionary sacrifice, he says we must believe in his resurrection! Of course he could not have resurrected had he not died, the lesser truth is included in the greater truth.

In fact, if you remove the linchpin of the resurrection from the doctrines of Christianity, then our faith falls apart like a house of cards. The Resurrection is at the heart of the Gospel.

Have you believed on the risen Jesus? The Message of Easter is a personal Sermon, it demands a personal response, can you accept it, do you believe it, will you embrace it. Jesus is Saviour, but is he YOUR Saviour?


So we have seen that the Grave was Not Empty? There were remaining in that dark and dreadful tomb, … clothes, the clothes in which they had dressed the Saviour for his final resting place.

I dare say that no other suit of clothes in history has preached such a glorious, timeless message as does the grave clothes of Jesus. I am thankful that He lives today and that He had left perfect, indisputable evidence in His tomb that He lives!

You may ask me, “how I know he lives”?

That’s easy, for “he lives within my heart”.

I hope that if he does not yet live in yours, that you will welcome him in today as your Saviour and as the Lord of your Life.

You don’t need to first clean up your act, clean up your life, sort out your mess – before he can come in, come to him just as you are, even if that is all messed up, confused, frustrated, filthy, hypocritical, judgemental, come just as you are and come now;

And may God Bless and Help you as you do.