Take a moment to think about a mountaintop. It’s a high point, surrounded by shorter peaks and valleys, and it’s a good picture of our lives. Between now and the day of Jesus’ return, we will stand on mountaintops, valleys, and countless hillsides. We will know the unmatched joy and unrivaled sorrow. I can’t tell you why, only that we will. God demonstrates His glory on the mountaintop and His love and mercy in the valley. Maybe that’s why it’s only when we go up and down and up and down that we get a more complete picture of Him. We all love the peak, but the valley is usually not far behind. Plus, you can’t stay on the mountaintop. Nobody can. They’re small, and there’s no water. That’s in the valley. So are all the people. Funny how that works. And as much as we yearn for the mountaintop, the truth is we spend most of our time either coming down, hiking up, or in the valley between.
In scripture, some pretty essential mountaintops are pointing to the mountain that makes all the difference—Calvary. Calvary is the epicenter of all the earth. All of life – past, present, future – revolves around this mountain. This mountain is so important because the tomb that it holds is empty. The mountain may hold the tomb, but the tomb couldn’t hold Him.
We have heard this story in Sunday School, read it in the Bible, and heard it from family and friends. But do we know it is true? Do we live as if Jesus is alive? Right this moment. Reigning. We can and should. If you believe that the tomb is empty and follow Christ, then by definition, you follow Him out of the tomb.
The empty tomb means that you don’t have to walk in shame and condemnation. You don’t have to walk into addiction and habits that kill you. You don’t have to walk in unforgiveness and bitterness. You don’t have to walk in a scorecard or under some measuring stick of all the things you’ve done wrong. You don’t have to walk in a world that is allowed to label and identify you and tell you who you are because of your past. Here’s how to step out of your tomb and leave your history behind.
Take Off Your Embalmed Grave Clothes
What’s the first thing that Jesus tells Lazarus when he walks out of the tomb? “Take off your grave clothes.” Why? Because he’s alive and living, people don’t wear dead people’s clothes. Many people believe in Jesus for their salvation but continue walking as if He’s still lying behind that stone. Nothing but dust and bones. How ridiculous would it be if, three or four weeks after Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, he was still walking around with his old, stinky, spiced, and embalmed grave clothes? Would that make sense to anyone? You’d be like, “What are you doing? You don’t need to wear those things anymore. You’re not him. He’s dead. And the dead you is gone. The new you is alive. Besides, those things stink.”
Take Up Your Mat and Walk
What does Jesus tell the paralytic? “Take up your mat and walk.” Pain can be a platform for the glory of God. But if three or four weeks later you saw this man lying back on his filthy, nasty mat, you’d say, “What are you doing? You are not crippled anymore. And you do not have a disability. Get up out of your mess and walk.”
When we return to the habits and addictions and the old pathways of the old self, we’re just a living man who put a dead man’s clothes back on. This is a man who has been set free from being a cripple. He can now run, walk, jump, praise, and, to top it off, he has been granted access into the temple. Because of his crippling ailment, he has been excluded from the temple his whole life by the law. Now he can run in and out the doors at will. Why would that man choose to return to his mat and lie in the cesspool of an invalid’s waste when freedom lies before him?
Consider this: If Jesus walked out of the grave, why are you still crouched in the corner, chained to the wall? Why are you making your bed in there? If the prison doors have been flung wide, ripped off the hinges, and the stone has been rolled away, then why have you made the tomb your home? If you’ve been crucified with Christ and it is no longer you who live but He who lives in you, and the life you now live you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you, then why are you still wearing grave clothes?
Jesus left behind sin and death and condemnation and the penalty of sin. All of it. Why? For the joy set before Him. Who is that joy? We are. So, why on earth would we ever do anything to identify with the grave or allow ourselves to be identified with the grave? The tomb has no power. It couldn’t hold Him, and because we are in Him, it can’t hold us.
Embracing a Limitless Life
If the tomb is empty, anything is possible. Including walking out of the grave because He did and walking in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This message is way different from “Try harder.” This message is way different than “God’s good. You’re bad. Try harder. See you next week.” If God breathed the Ruach of life into His dead Son, He has undoubtedly breathed that life into me. And into you. If He walked out of the grave, I’m walking too. In truth, it changes everything. It changes the way we go to work. It changes what we do with our money. It changes the way we love our spouses. It changes the way we parent our children.
We don’t have to do it the way the world tells us. Everything the world worships is temporary, but the One that we worship walked out of the grave and ascended to the right hand of God the Father—who is eternal. Jesus is seated at His right hand, tapping His toe, waiting to step foot back down on this mountain and make all things new. The empty tomb changes everything. About everything. For everyone who would believe.