We just celebrated Easter, when most all Christian churches focus on Jesus’ empty grave. I was thinking about the word “empty.” It can be one of three parts of speech, either a verb, noun, or adjective. Most commonly used as an adjective, it means “containing nothing” or “not occupied,” but it can also imply “having no purpose,” or “lacking meaning, or value.”

Have you ever felt empty? I have. I’ve known the hollow pangs of emptiness.

I’ve experienced times of extreme disillusionment. Not frequent episodes, but several lingering seasons of disappointment and despair. My soul’s been downcast; I’ve known depression; have been empty.

I don’t need to share my life story with you here. Just know my being introduced to forgiveness and a fresh start enlivened my fortitude and faith. I met God. I discovered a vacated grave where the crucified Christ had once been buried. His tomb being empty empowered my heart being filled.

May I tell you the gospel saga that changed my life?

We’re told in the scriptures that “God is love.” Note it doesn’t say God is loving, or has love as a characteristic, but IS love. His very being is love, and His nature is to express it. Expressing love requires something to receive it, usually a person, who hopefully reciprocates and loves back in return. Hence, God created mankind with a free will, a choice to respond lovingly to God’s wooing, or, conversely, to be obtuse and reject it. It’s our choice. True love cannot be commanded, but is employed by our willful decision.

That’s cool of course, but there’s a notable downside to being granted the autonomy to decide. As independent agents with a free will, we can make wrong choices that often result in regrettable consequences. Though not a popular term these days, our wrong choices are known as sins, which, because we all make wrong choices, makes us all sinners (ouch).

God isn’t stupid. Not only is He all-loving, but He is all-knowing. In the Garden, where the temptation to partake of the wrong tree existed, God knew that the first ever man and woman, teamed together as one, would make a wrong decision. It was a foregone conclusion, especially understanding that a force for evil existed that would exacerbate the tantalizing temptation.

An irreversible, universal law holds true that our actions, good or bad, result in reactions corresponding to our choices. We reap what we sow. Any bad action requires punishment, either in the here and now, and/or in the hereafter. It’s that simple.

The just judgment for every one of us is “guilty as charged,” because we’ve all failed to meet expectations at one time or another. And a person deemed guilty will not realize the blessing of everlasting life, but instead will reap a sentence of damnable consequences, including an eternal separation from knowing love.

So, we each are faced with this lose-lose situation: only a perfect person can be in Heaven, and none of us are perfect. God’s love shined brightly in advance of our sin though, and He created the means for our redemption: forgiveness.

God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. He lived an entirely human existence, with the notable exception that He never sinned. He was the only perfect human ever. And Jesus, as a man, with the heart of God, willingly died a horrific death, accepting in full the punishment for all the sins of all mankind for all eternity. That includes you, and it includes me. Our standing as redeemed takes hold when we admit our need for forgiveness, and receive God’s salvation.

Here’s another noteworthy fact about Jesus: when His followers came to mourn at the tomb, they found the grave vacant. Jesus wasn’t there. He’d been resurrected; raised from the dead. He appeared to hundreds of people in the days to come, and then ascended to Heaven. His resurrection proclaimed victory; emblazoned God’s promise of forgiveness; and offered life everlasting.

Jesus left the tomb empty, overcoming the curse of death, to fill empty hearts like mine. May I ask, how full is your heart?

Dave Hinman

Pastor Emeritus, Dove Church Wilmington

[email protected]