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John 20:1-10


Intro: Several years ago, I was watching a documentary concerning the death of Medgar Evers, a black civil rights worker who was shot to death in his own driveway in Mississippi in 1963. In the early 90's, at the request of his son, the body of Mr Evers was exhumed. It was the hope of the family that a new autopsy might shed more light into his death. I watched as they opened that casket that had been sealed for 30 years. Inside was a body that was remarkably preserved. The body and the clothes it wore were in excellent condition.

As I watched that program, I immediately thought about another time when another grave was opened. 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. All that remained in that tomb, the only evidence that He had ever been there, was the presence of His graveclothes.

Now, there are many aspects of the resurrection that we could consider this morning. All of them are important and are a blessing and an encouragement to the children of God. But this morning, I want to look at the message that is contained in the graveclothes left in that tomb by Jesus. I want us to see today that Jesus left His graveclothes behind for a reason. He left them behind so that they could preach a message to all those who saw them early on that 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 experience The Message In The Graveclothes.


A. 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 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, Matt. 27:62-66.

Of course, 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 the 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, John 20:19. 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. Surely 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! All that they see when they look in are the graveclothes 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 Joseph and Nicodemus had used to wrap Christ's face and head.

The tomb is a perfect picture of absolute order!

B. After the news of the resurrection became public knowledge, the Jewish leaders concocted a 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.

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

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 and Alka-Seltzer in water.

C. 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 graveclothes. 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, John 14:27!

I. It Is A Peaceful Message


A. That empty cocoon of graveclothes preached a powerful message early that Sunday morning. It told a vivid story of a risen Savior. 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 three 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!

B. 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, Heb. 7:25; John 6:37-40. 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.

C. 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 man. The New Testament tells us some 35 times that Jesus was raised up from the dead by God the Father. If Jesus had been 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, ***2 Cor. 4:14***. All that because He left His clothes behind!

I. It Is A Peaceful Message

II. It Is A Powerful Message


A. John calls our attention to the fact that the napkin that was used to cover His blessed 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.

(Ill. The oriental custom of the napkin. When a man with servants was eating a meal, he would often use his napkin to signal 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 he would be back! Jesus was telling His disciples, "I may be out of your sight right now, but I'll 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.)

B. Now, this morning, 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. However, that folded napkin is still preaching today. It is reminding each of us this morning that even though we do not see Him right now, He's coming right back and we'll see Him then, Rev. 22:20.

C. Therefore, don't lose hope dear friends! 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!

I. It Is A Peaceful Message

II. It Is A Powerful Message

III. It Is A Promising Message


A. These verses 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:

1. V. 5 - The word "saw" 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 graveclothes were still there.

2. V. 6-7 The word "seeth" 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 graveclothes and the napkin lying by itself.

3. V. 8 the word "saw" 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 graveclothes and understood that Jesus was alive!

B. 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 graveclothes! They would do like Lazarus and they would have to be set free, John 11:44.

C. But, when an honest heart takes the time to scrutinize the evidence they will come to the place John came to. The resurrection must be real. There is no other logical explanation. Have you been persuaded?

(Ill. 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 hides. However, they all, without exception, went to their graves proclaiming the fact of a risen Lord! To me, that speaks volumes!)

I. It Is A Peaceful Message

II. It Is A Powerful Message

III. It Is A Promising Message

IV. It Is A Persuasive Message


A. As this chapter unfolds, each person who is confronted with the empty tomb and the graveclothes is forced to make a decision. For John, believe was instant, v. 8. For Peter, the truth came a little more slowly. Mary Magdalene finds that her heart is still gripped by grief, 11-17. Yet, she is convinced when she sees the Lord Himself. 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, v. 24-25. His doubts are also laid to rest by a personal appearance of the risen Savior, v. 26-28. Obviously, this is a message that affects people in different ways. Of course, there are really only two ways to respond to the message: 1. By Accepting It 2. By Rejecting It.

B. To their credit, all of these responded by accepting the message of the risen Jesus. The question we are left with this morning is: what about you? Have you accepted the fact the Jesus Christ died on the cross, 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 has a different idea, Rom. 10:9-10. 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.

C. Have you believed on the risen Jesus?

Conc: I dare say that no other suit of graveclothes in history has preached such a glorious, timeless message as did the graveclothes of Jesus. I am thankful that He lives this morning and that He left perfect, indisputable evidence in His tomb that He lives! Is His resurrection real in your heart this morning? Have you experienced the power of His resurrection in your life? You see, a risen Savior has the power to radically affect all who come to Him by faith. This was what Paul said, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,", Phil. 3:10a. Is that power active in your life this morning?

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