Jesus was raised to life again three days after He died on the cross, leaving an empty tomb behind. This past Easter weekend, Pastor Kong Hee explained three things the empty tomb signifies for Christians.
The Easter weekend that took place from 7 to 9 April saw throngs of people queuing outside every entrance at City Harvest Church before the service began. Church members had brought friends and family, eagerly looking forward to the first full-scale Easter drama production after three years of the pandemic.
The production this year saw captivated the congregation: employing a mix of visual effects and computer graphics, the events following Jesus’ death on the cross were brought to life.
The story centres around the fictional Atticus, the Roman soldier who oversaw Jesus’ crucifixion. Since Jesus’ death, Atticus has been having recurring nightmares. Meanwhile, the governor Pilate and the high priest Caiaphas are worried that the disciples would steal the body of Jesus and stage His resurrection. Pilate commands Atticus to seal the tomb with a large stone and to post guards outside the tomb.
Jesus is resurrected, and Atticus and his aide Gaius report the empty tomb to Pilate, who is convinced that the disciples have stolen the body. Pilate orders Atticus to bring in the disciples for questioning, but even under interrogation, every disciple recalled the miracles that Jesus performed.
After their release, the disciples return to their former livelihood of fishing. Jesus meets them on the shore and Atticus, who is following them witnesses their reunion. In disbelief, Atticus approaches Jesus and speaks with Him. This encounter leaves Atticus thinking that Jesus could really be the Messiah.
Pilate realises that Atticus has disobeyed his orders, and stabs Atticus’ son Felix. As Atticus and his wife are mourning their son’s death, Jesus appears and brings the boy back to life. Atticus falls at the feet of Jesus in repentance, and the drama comes to a close as Jesus gives the Great Commission.
DOOR OF THE EMPTY TOMB
Senior pastor of CHC, Kong Hee took to the stage to share the Easter message. Leading from the drama, he began by talking about the stone that covered the entrance of Jesus’ tomb. Based on archaeological evidence, it weighed an estimated 200kg. It was a structure meant to imprison Jesus, just as modern day prison walls are built to keep prisoners in.
However, Pastor Kong noted that the greatest prison in the world is not made of steel—it is the mind and heart of a person that is bound by sin and evil.
“The good news is no matter how deep in bondage you are, the tomb is now open,” Pastor Kong declared, reading Luke 4:18-19. He explained that the empty tomb means three things for believers.
1. The empty tomb means freedom from the pain of yesterday
Pastor Kong told the church that the greatest cause of unhappiness is being stuck in the past. Because of abuse, rejections and betrayal, many people live life with resentment in their hearts. Some may have experienced failures and carry the guilt with them. They find it hard to let go of their past.
“Jesus went to the cross to give you a new beginning. He was punished so that you could stop punishing yourself. Your tombstone is your new stepping stone. Your stumbling block is your new starting block,” the pastor proclaimed.
He shared the testimony of Martin Ong and his wife Paullyn. In their youth, they gave themselves to partying and drinking. They had a very unhappy marriage and were headed for divorce when they were invited to CHC. The couple received Jesus and God restored their marriage. This year, they are celebrating their 28th wedding anniversary in May.
“If God can raise Jesus Christ from the dead, He can raise any marriage from death. He can set you free from the pain of yesterday,” Pastor Kong preached.
2. The empty tomb means freedom from the pressures of today
Speaking to those who feel that their life is out of control, Pastor Kong shared a powerful testimony.
When Uncle Huang was diagnosed with rectal cancer, it caused great stress among his family members. His daughter, Ng Hui Ing, is a member of CHC. One day, she saw in a vision that God sent fire from Heaven upon her father. She prayed for Uncle Huang and God did a miracle: he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumour, but the doctor could find no traces of cancer in the tumour.
The doctor told the family that it was as if the cancer had been burned away. This reminded Hui Ing of her vision of fire from heaven. Because of this miracle, Uncle Huang and his wife received Jesus as their Lord and were recently water baptised.
Many married couples face the stress of infertility. Pastor Kong was asked by CHC pastor Veronica Tang to pray for two couples who could not conceive. After praying for one and a half years, both couples conceived and gave birth to healthy babies.
“God can do miracles,” Pastor Kong declared. “The reason why you are so tired all the time is that you have not learnt that you are not meant to live life by your own power.” When believers learn to rely on God, He will give them the power they need.
3. The empty tomb means freedom from the pessimism of tomorrow
“We live in a very pessimistic and negative world,” Pastor Kong noted. People are constantly worried and feel hopeless about life. The good news is, Jesus, brings hope to His believers.
At a recent Young Adult service, executive pastor Sun Ho shared that a member was able to repay a six-figure debt because he was blessed with 15 months of bonus during the pandemic. When Ophelia, a cell group leader in CHC, heard the testimony, she told herself that God could do it for her too. She started praying that God would help her to repay her study loan.
Exactly a month later, she received a bonus of 8.9 months, and a promotion with a 58 percent pay increment. The full amount came up to 15.9 months of pay—a sum greater than the testimony she had heard. She was able to clear her student debts with that sum.
Pastor Kong encouraged the congregation not to lose hope. “The moment you lose hope, you stop living, you are merely existing,” he said. Reading Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 54:10, Pastor Kong assured them that God has a plan for them and encouraged them to give their hearts to Him.
At the end of the service, Pastor Kong gave an altar call for those who wanted to receive salvation. Each of the four Easter services saw hundreds respond to God.