Pessimists always claim to be realists. They hate irrational flights of fancy. They want to stay grounded. And while we agree that unsubstantiated optimism, whistling happy tunes in the darkness of a pathway that leads to death, is a dreadful state, the Easter story tells us that we have solid grounds for our hope. We are grounded forever in the truth than Jesus is no longer in the ground.
The saddest pessimists in recent decades have been the liberals. They claim to be realists, dealing in cold hard facts rather than fanciful miracles. They are not merely saying that the glass is half-empty but that the grave is half-empty. They stand by the cold hard facts that Jesus died and was buried. But they fly into their own kind of fanciful whistling in the dark when they say that on the third day hope was re-born. According to such people, Jesus rose again in the thoughts of his disciples.His spirit broke out and continues to live in the hearts of his followers - motivating and inspiring people today to live the Jesus life.
But this is the most pessimistic nonsense of all time. Or, as Paul put it, if Christ has not really been raised from the dead, we are the most miserable people in the world (1Cor 15:17-19). The most pessimistic message of all time is the lie that the grave is half empty - the spirit had flown but the body remains.
Despite the attempt to put a positive spin on it, there is about as much hope in a half-empty grave as there is optimism in a half-empty glass. However, our Easter optimism is grounded in the fact that the grave is completely empty. Nothing remains in the ground. Paul plays with words here. He tells us that "if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is empty" (1Cor 15:14). Something has to be empty: either the grave is empty - or if it's not, then our faith and preaching are empty. Our faith is not empty for the simple reason that the grave is empty. It had to be empty, for as Peter put it, "It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." (Acts 2:24).
So at Easter, we raise our full communion glasses to celebrate his finished death. He drank the full glass of his Father's wrath. That emptied glass necessitated an empty grave - for there was nothing left to keep him there. Groundless optimists may want to base their warm feelings on seeing a glass half full, but with God there are no half measures. The fullness of our joy is in a grave that is completely empty.