The Three “Empty” Promises of Easter

Dr. Tommy Boland, Cross Community Church

Now that I have your undivided attention, let me assure you that the phrase “empty promises” in the title above is a play on words and has absolutely nothing to do with the empty promises of this world. An empty promise is uttered with no intent to fulfill it; it is worthless, meaningless. Advertisements for almost every imaginable product imply promises that we can be wealthy, healthy, attractive, happy, popular and successful if we will just buy whatever it is.

We can be assured that God does not make empty promises because all of His promises are “Yes” and “Amen” in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). So I have used the phrase “empty promises” to teach this one glorious message of Easter: God gave us three “empty” things that are full of promise!

Jesus predicted His death three times in the Scriptures. Matthew recorded our Lord saying, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life” (Matthew 20:18-19). Contained within this prediction we find three promises of Easter that God made manifest through emptiness: the empty cross; the empty tomb; and the empty grave clothes. Because the cross, the tomb, and the grave clothes of Jesus Christ are all empty, we can trust in the promise of Easter: Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!


The empty cross 

“Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus… He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen… At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” (John 19:38-42).

After Jesus carried His cross to Calvary’s hill, the Roman soldiers nailed Him to that cross. Jesus endured the wrath of His Father against your sins and mine while He hung on that cross, finally crying out, “It is finished” and giving up His spirit. (John 19:30). One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear to confirm that He was dead; then Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus received permission to take possession of Jesus’ body. They wrapped Him in burial cloths and placed Him in a tomb.

So the first empty thing that is full of promise is the cross. His work there is finished, as He declared; it is complete. The sins of all who will trust in His atoning work are paid in full. 


The empty tomb 

empty“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it… The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the woman, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay’” (Matthew 28:1-2, 5-6).

Let me clear up one objection that is thrown out by some skeptics regarding the empty tomb: the absurd notion that the women went to the wrong tomb. Because the tomb that Jesus was buried in was owned by the religious leader Joseph of Arimathea, it would have been impossible for anyone to go to the wrong tomb.

“Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock” (Matthew 27:59). If the women really had gone to the wrong tomb, is it even conceivable that everyone else in Jerusalem who heard about the empty tomb and went to see for themselves all went to the wrong tomb? Preposterous, right?

In addition to this, the first ones to corroborate the truth of the empty tomb were the same religious leaders who had plotted to put Jesus to death! 

“Some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day” (Matthew 28:11-15).

So, the second empty thing that is full of promise is the empty tomb. His tomb is empty so that your hope can be full.


The empty grave clothes 

“Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed” (John 20:3-8).

If the disciples or grave robbers had stolen the body of Jesus, would they really have taken time to carefully unwrap the grave clothes and fold them neatly? Not likely! The grave clothes were empty because Jesus was raised from the dead. So the third and final empty thing that is full of promise is the empty grave clothes.

In closing, these three empty things – the empty cross, the empty tomb and the empty grave clothes – bear glorious witness to the promise that Jesus would be crucified, die and be buried, and then raised on the third day. Do you believe in the three “empty” promises of Easter? “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21). 

It is my prayer that you will receive these three promises this Easter and allow these truths to fill you to the overflowing with the unspeakable joy and peace that passes all human understanding. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN! 

Happy Easter! 

Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach ( He blogs regularly at

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