By DANNY MINTON
It was the fall of 1967 while I was a sophomore at ACC. One of my grandparents had passed away, and I had to borrow a fellow student’s car to get to the funeral. The car was an old Volkswagen Beetle. It was one of the original ones that did not have a gas gauge. You would just drive until the car’s tank was empty.
As I was traveling north of McKinney in “no man’s land” territory, the engine began to sputter as the gasoline tank became depleted. Then I remembered the one important instruction that my friend had told me. Instead of the gauge, it had a lever on the floor that shut off part of the tank. You’d fill the tank up and then close the lever to protect your surplus gasoline supply. When the main tank became empty, you would move the lever over to open the gasoline reserve giving new life to the automobile and allowing you plenty of time to get to the next filling station.
Without that lever and excess gasoline, when the tank of the automobile ran dry, it would just die, leaving you stranded along the roadside. Knowing that lever was there and that it would give the vehicle new life gave me the confidence to drive a car without a gasoline gauge and without worrying about if I needed to stop and fill up or not. I knew that even though the car died it only took the flip of a switch to bring life back.
Years ago, a man named Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God died a brutal horrendous death. The pain and the agony that he endured was more than any of us could be expected to bear. He faced scourging, beatings. He was mocked, laughed at, spit on, and finally nailed to a wooden cross, humiliated in front of a huge crowd. Hours later, hanging in pain from that cross he lifted his voice to God and died.
He died for us, becoming a sacrifice for our sins. Some of his followers removed him from the wooden execution tree and laid his body to rest in an unused tomb that one of them owned. To all around he was dead. To the king and soldiers, he was dead. To those who watched him removed from the cross, he was dead. To his followers he was dead. Yes, he was dead as the stone that covered the grave rolled securely into the channel dug in front of the tomb opening. Guards stood stationed outside the tomb to make sure no one stole the dead man’s body. His life had come to an end.
It is early on a Sunday morning and with the Sabbath now past, his followers come to give his body the proper care for burial. When they arrive, they are shocked to find the tomb empty, his body gone. They came to prepare a dead man for a proper burial but instead found no body at all.
They had forgotten about the switch. Even Jesus’ followers had forgotten that he had told them, “Destroy this body, and in three days I’ll raise it again.” They thought he was dead. They thought someone had taken his body. The tomb was empty. In the end, the tomb had to be empty. Without it being empty there was no access to the reserve, the future, that part of life that only exists after we die.
Life became ours because of the empty tomb. It was at that moment that death was defeated, and life given to all that follow him. In our life we move along knowing that somewhere along the line, likely without warning, much like the little Volkswagen I drove, we will eventually come to an end, empty, dead. However, the one truth we can hold on to is that when that time comes our next step, much like the lever on the floor, gives us our reserve, a new life to carry us the rest of our journey. Our reserve exists in the form of an empty tomb.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ