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Matthew 28:1-15

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Sermon Notes + Quotes

We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel. We’re continuing on our last couple weeks here in the Gospel according to Matthew. If you’d like a copy, Chip is walking right down the center aisle there. Everybody say, “Hi, Chip.” Chip, thank you for doing that. Raise your hand up and he will be happy to drop one off at your row as we get ready to take a look at Matthew 28:15.

Christians all over the world believe in the physical death burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Was the resurrection of Jesus hoax or history? What kinds of evidence exists for the claim that Jesus rose from the dead? What impact does the resurrection have on those who put their trust in Jesus?

The power of the resurrection is central to the Christian faith, rooted in the faithfulness of God, and followers of Jesus have an inextinguishable hope because Christ has defeated death itself, our last and greatest enemy. And the Gospel promises that believers will share in Christ’s victory over death. So that’s what we’re going to look at as we’ve called our Bible study here in the Gospel according to Matthew, “The King and His Kingdom.” Today of course, we are focusing on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we’re going to pick up in Matthew 28, these first 15 verses. So, if you want you can turn there in your Bibles or swipe there on your devices.

When we last left off, Jesus of Nazareth had endured three trials before the religious leaders. Three trials in front of leaders; some “political set-up” trials. He was openly mocked, slapped, beaten, repeatedly whipped or flogged with a cat o’nine tails then nailed to a Roman cross.

A lot of people didn’t even survive the scourging, the torture before they got to the cross, but Jesus did. When we read the four gospel texts, we deduced that Jesus hung on the cross for approximately six hours before He breathed His last. He said those seven sayings from the cross that we looked at on Friday. Those of you who have been to our Good Friday service know we focus in on each of those seven sayings, first of which is: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

He begins with the word “Father.” He ends with the word “Father” as well. He says at the end, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” But this word of forgiveness, “Truly I say to you, you’ll be with me in paradise” He says to one of the criminals that is crucified next to Him. “Woman, behold your son,” He points his own mother, to the disciple John and to him He says, “Behold your mother.” And really caring for His mom that way and making sure that John would step up and take care of her.

“My God, my God. Why has thou forsaken me?” That word “forsaken” one of the most difficult words, I think, to even begin to fathom. What does it mean to be forsaken? Have you ever felt that way yourself? Here’s Jesus where God is literally having to turn His back on Jesus because Jesus is taking on the sin of the world. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for Him to take on all of my sins, but He’s taking on all of our sins, and the sins of everyone who’s lived, all at once.

I can’t imagine what that was like and for Him to offer forgiveness like that. He said, “I’m thirsty.” He said, “It is finished.” And as I say, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” His lungs stopped breathing. His heart stopped beating. Jesus laid down his life on the cross, substituting himself in my place and in your place to pay the price for our sins.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus come together to take down the body of Christ, to bury Him in the tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. The women follow along and watch this happen. And there in the ground, his body lay: Light of the world by darkness, slain. Jesus, smothered in borrowed sins, dies on a borrowed cross that belonged to a guy named Barabbas, and to me ultimately. He’s buried in a borrowed tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea.

It was a dark Friday, that first Good Friday when they buried His body, but Sunday was indeed coming. And here’s what happened next, according to one of Jesus’ close disciples, a man He called Matthew. Look with me if you will, at verse 1 of chapter 28. “Now after the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,” and here’s one of the reasons the Christian Church has chosen to be meeting on Sundays down through the history of the Christian Church, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.”

Mark’s gospel, chapter 16 tells us they brought spices with them. They wanted to anoint His body. They anticipated a dead body in a borrowed tomb. Behold… I love whatever in the Bible we read “behold.” I want you to say “behold” once or twice this week, okay? People are going to look at you a little funny, but I want you to say, “Behold.” It’s just an awesome word. I love it that this angel is coming. This whole thing that happens is just awesome.

“Behold,” Matthew says, “A severe earthquake occurred for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.” I like that last little bit too. It’s sort of like yin-yang break for the angel. Rolled the stone alley away and then decided to take a little break, sip a Diet Coke or whatever they had back then. I don’t know. He just sits there. It’s funny to think of an angel sitting there. His appearance was like lightning. His garment as white as snow. Guards were there and the elite force of the Romans that had been sent to guard the tomb. We learned in the last couple verses of chapter 27 that there was a Roman guard, a Roman seal on the tomb.

That seal was usually a strap of some kind that went from the stone that sealed it to the top face of the wall that the stone was rolled against. And if anybody broke that seal, they were defying Caesar and the entire Roman Empire. That’s how important that seal was. The stone was just big and heavy. As a matter of fact, the other Gospels, the women say on their way to the tomb, “Who’s going to roll away the stone for us?” It’s a great question.

So, there’s soldiers, there’s a stone, and there’s a seal, all of that, and this angel comes, knocks it out of the way and then sits down. His appearance, dazzling as you might expect. The guards shook for fear, verse 4 says, and they became like dead men. Everybody know what a Tennessee goat is? Those Tennessee goats, they’re called the fainting goats. If you look them up online, they’re lying on their backs with their legs straight up in the air. Whenever they get scared or surprised, something happens to them, and they faint. They’re like that.

So, these guards are like that. I mean an angel appears, of course that would be out of nowhere. And this figure that’s dazzling like lightning. I mean, what would that have looked like? Some kind of a Marvel superhero or something, right? It’s before there were Marvel superheroes or before they were thought up in somebody’s imagination. And the guards became like dead men.

Well, the angel answered and said to the women who are there, probably their mouths were hanging open, “Do not be afraid.” Said it before. I’ll never be tired of saying it. It’s the most often repeated command in the Bible. It’s not “Do not dance,” it’s not “Do not smoke,” it’s not “Do not play cards.” It’s not “Do not drink.” It’s “Do not fear.” Because that’s what the God of the Bible wants for you and wants for me.

The angel says, “Do not be afraid. Do not fear for I know that you’re looking for Jesus who’s been crucified. He’s not here for he has risen.” And we all said, “He’s risen indeed.” And just as He said, just as Jesus predicted. “He has risen. Come see the place where he was lying. Go quickly tell his disciples that he’s risen from the dead and behold,” there it is again, “he’s going before you into Galilee. There you will see him. Behold, again, I’ve told you.”

Well, they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy. I love that. And they ran to report it to his disciples. “And behold,” Matthew says, “Jesus met them and greeted them and they came up and they took hold of his feet, and they worshiped him.” The other Mary, Mary of Bethany, every time you read about her, she’s at the feet of Jesus.

Either when He’s teaching or when he shows up after Lazarus dies., she falls at his feet weeping. “Lord, if you’d only come sooner, you could have healed him from a sickness, and he would be alive now.” And she’s always at His feet, always submitting herself to His will, resolved to do His bidding and His will and learning from Him. Always at His feet. I want to be at the feet of Jesus more often. “Behold, Jesus met them. She took a hold of his feet and worshiped him. Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.’”

There it is again. “Go take word to my brothers to leave for Galilee.” See, they’re in the southern third of Israel at the time and He wants them to leave and go up to Galilee. “’There they shall see me.’” So, in verse 10 alone, look at verse 10, you see comfort. Do not fear. You see a command. Take word to my brothers and a promise. “’You will see me there.’”

Okay? I love this. Verse 10 could be its own sermon. Verse 11. The camera lens completely changes. It’s like fade to black, then open up on a completely different scene. No longer is it Jesus and the disciples or the women or any of that. It’s not the angel. Now, it’s the religious leaders and some soldiers that were a part of that guard that fainted like a goat.

“Now, while these women were on their way, behold some of the guard came into the city, reported to the chief priests, all that had happened.” So, they tell the truth to these religious leaders about what had happened. How did the religious leaders respond? Well, when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, the religious leaders gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and they said, “You are to say His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.”

In other words, soldiers lie about what happened. And here’s some money, bribe money, for you to lie. And probably no one will ask you, how is it that you all fell asleep at the same time and not even one of you stayed awake and kept from nodding off? How’s that possible? And when you finally woke up to hear some disciples, you know those really rough, tough, well-educated elite forces that are really just a bunch of uneducated fishermen, without any swords or any shields or any bows and arrow, “You let them defeat you and your mission and take the body of Jesus?” None of that is mentioned.

The only thing they say here is, “You’re supposed to lie and just say his disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were all dozing, while we were all asleep.” Verse 14, “’If this should come to the governor’s ears, the religious leaders to the soldiers, [if Pilate hears about this] we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.’ They took the money, and they did as they had been instructed,” Matthew says, “and this story was widely spread among the Jews and is to this day.” What day? Today? No, to the day Matthew writes his Gospel.

In other words, for a couple decades, that’s the story that’s being promoted throughout the region, that these Roman soldiers, elite forces failed miserably and fell asleep on the job that these uneducated, unarmed fishermen came and stole the body of Jesus. And that’s how the body of Jesus came to not be in the tomb anymore. Wow.

We’re going to contrast a couple things. One is going to be the fears that are on display here. In verse 1 through 10, we talk about the trembling fear of the first eyewitnesses or the trembling joy of the first eyewitnesses of the resurrection. And then verses 11 through 15, the fearful coverup of the resurrection of Jesus by the unbelieving religious leaders.

It’s interesting to me that the religious leaders are unbelieving. Seems to me that often in the New Testament especially, we don’t find faith where we would expect to find faith. Religious people ought to be believing people and yet they’re simply religious. They’re spiritual, but not Christian. They’re religious but not Christian in their beliefs, specifically.

So, we see these two fears contrast. The guards shook for fear of the angel and became like dead men. The women departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and I love that contrast. Both groups came expecting what? The soldiers marched to the tomb expecting to be guarding a tomb of a dead man and that he would stay dead because heretofore, all dead people remain dead. Okay? Nobody gets up from the grave at this point.

The women come, and they bring spices. They want to honor the body of their beloved teacher who they believe is still dead. Who would roll away the stone for them? They didn’t know. They were puzzled about that, and yet, their faithfulness drove them to come anyway. Their love and adoration for Jesus to honor His body, His dead body. That’s what drove them. So, you have a severe earthquake here. You’ve got an angel appearance. You’ve got a stone that rolls away. You’ve got guards stunned.

The earthquake is the second one that we’ve read about in the last couple chapters. The first one was when Jesus actually died. The earth shook the graves of some of the old saints. We were told in the last chapter, and I can’t explain it, but it just says, “They opened up.” When Jesus entered Hell, He just started clearing the place out, I guess. I don’t know or Paradise. And now here when He leaves being dead and is resurrected, this earthquake happens, the stone is rolled away, and this angel shows up.

I would argue that the stone was rolled away, not so Jesus could get out, but so that the disciples could get in and see that He is not here. He indeed has risen. So, two completely different kinds of fear in contrast here between these guards and these women, one that leads them to further deception. Another that leads them to a joyful, trembling.

I don’t know if you’ve ever trembled for joy at some bit of good news. Something that maybe reversed itself, you thought was completely going down the drain and all of a sudden you find joy. I mean it’s almost like one of these college football games that where, in the last two seconds, somebody kicks a field goal after you thought the game was over. It’s just amazing to me how college football can go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth like that.

No wonder people are wrung out emotionally the way that all goes. But here with trembling joy, the women are experiencing this holy fear, I would say. The angels’ commands are worth noting. “Do not fear, come and see, go and tell.” I think that’s still a part of the Easter story for us in our day and time as well. “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus says it so many times. His emissaries, the angels, say it over and over again throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, because again, the God of the Bible doesn’t want you to be afraid, doesn’t want me to be afraid.

No matter how dark it gets out here, whether that’s just down the street or all the way around the world, Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid. Doesn’t mean we don’t weep—we weep. “We grieve with hope,” as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4. We don’t grieve just screaming out into the dark universe, in some kind of primal scream without any hope, whatsoever, just angry and mad. Protest for protest’s sake. No. We grieve, we lament. It’s a gift from God for us. We can lament. We can honestly go before God and cry for mercy, and we have someone who hears our cries for mercy. It’s not just an emptiness. There’s a God who hears you.

Jesus came walking out to on the water to the disciples previously. They were afraid. He said to them the same thing, “Do not fear. It is I.” You see His presence is the solution, the antidote to my fear and your fear as well. I think part of what has happened in the world is that we need to learn to tremble at the right things so that we can learn to rejoice in the right things. I think we’ve got that exactly backwards. “We” meaning not just those people out there, but some of us in here, meaning the church too.

I think we’ve fallen into a mindset of trembling at the wrong things and rejoicing in the wrong things. I would take a passage like this, and I would take the message of the New Testament and say, “Let’s tremble at the right things.” And then just watch what happens. We begin to rejoice in the right things and delight in the right things. We need to believe the Lord when He says, “Do not be afraid.” We need to come and see by reminding ourselves over and over again of God’s faithfulness.

Friends, that’s why we study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel. That’s why it’s important that we get the whole council of God, not just my favorite pet passages, but let’s take the tough ones too, and if we don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say we don’t know the answer. And if it’s convicting, it’s really okay to confess our sin and to come before God and acknowledge our need of His grace and mercy in our lives.

That’s the road to real progress. If you’re on the wrong road, progress is never a good idea. If you’re on the right road, progressing in repentance and faith, believing, rejoicing in the work that the Lord is doing among us, that’s a good thing. And we go and tell others about it. All right, so we’ve talked just a little bit about the fact that this passage has at least a couple of pericopes, two little sections verses 1 to 10, verses 11 to 15. But why is this event we call the resurrection important?

I think we can summarize that pretty easily as well. It happened in space-time history. It’s important for us to note that is the resurrection for Christians is a historical reality. And it’s also experiential. It has experiential significance because of the fact that it changes things for us who believe. Now, if you don’t believe this, it’s probably not going to have that kind of impact on you, but I believe that in space-time history, if I’d been next to Jesus when He died on the cross and I rubbed my hand on the cross, I could have got a splinter in my hand. I could have heard His cry of anguish. I could have seen as the blood and the water flowed out separately because His body went into hypothalamic shock. He died. I could have seen that actually happen physically. He died.

I could have been a witness to it had I been there. It’s a unique event, and then the resurrection is another unique event. Like I said earlier, people in ancient days actually knew “dead” better than we know dead. For a lot of us, dead is just something on the news. We’ve not been in the presence, some of us, of someone who’s died. Some of the rest of us have, and the more often I am, the more I need to know about this story right here, this real story. Is it hoax or history? I believe it’s history.

Churches often use the memorial acclimation. Say it with me. “Christ has died. Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Christ has died in history, in the past, and so we remember His death. Christ is risen still, not He rose back then and then He died again as happened with Lazarus or the widow of Nain’s son, or the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. No Christ is risen and alive today and is on His way to returning someday soon. We’re one day closer today and I’d love it to be before I finish this sentence. I love the trumpet, man. Do you love hearing the trumpet? I can’t wait for the big trumpet. I love hearing that though.

So, we remember Christ’s death. We proclaim His resurrection. We await His coming in glory. J. Gresham Machen was a professor at Princeton in the old days in Princeton, between 1915 and 1929. He led a conservative revolt against the modernist theology that was creeping into Princeton and then formed what’s called Westminster Seminary. Some of you are familiar with that in Philadelphia. He said,

“The New Testament without the miracles would be far easier to believe, but the trouble is it would not be worth believing.”

–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism

I think that’s profound. I agree with him. I totally agree with him. The resurrection of Jesus, that’s remarkable. We know that doesn’t happen. We all know it’s one hundred percent right now in terms of the number of us that will die physically. One hundred percent of you. Thanks for inviting me to church today. I’m so glad to be here. Pastor stood up and told us we’re all going to die.

But the pastor isn’t going to stop there. I’m going to go on and tell you that because Jesus rose again from the grave because He was put to death on a borrowed cross, died in those borrowed sins and was buried in a borrowed tomb. He’s going to do to my tomb what He did to Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. One day He is going to kick it wide open, and I will rise again because He will raise me, because I trust in Him, because He has the power to do exactly that. Is the resurrection of Jesus a hoax or is it mind-blowing, soul-stirring bit of history? I’ll tell you what I know as a pastor: when you’re dealing with people who are grieving, who are struggling, who just got let go from a job or who for them, the entire world is nothing but despair, a hoax doesn’t do me any good. A metaphor for spring as nice as that is, it doesn’t do me any good when I’m talking to those people. They need to know that something real happened. So that’s what we’re saying today when we read the history, the lessons of the Gospel, the eyewitness Matthew when he says Jesus rose from the dead. What kinds of evidence are they for the resurrection of Jesus? That’s the medical evidence.

Some would say He didn’t die, just swooned. And I would argue, “No, that’s virtually as hard to believe as anything I’ve ever heard before in my life.” Because if you look it up online, what happens to a body that’s crucified? You can find out all of that out. The four gospels don’t spend a lot of time on the physicality of the crucifixion, but you can go find something out about that yourself online if you’d like to find out on the history of crucifixions. Most people when they go through the kind of torture that Jesus went through, don’t make it to their crosses.

The ones that do make it to their crosses, the ones that do hang there for six hours, going through what Jesus went through, would be dead. The Romans knew how to execute people. They were professional executioners. So, they knew what they were doing, and they did it. Was He dead? Yes, He was dead.

The empty tomb. See, if you’re going to say that the tomb wasn’t empty, this would be the easiest way to disprove the resurrection. Present the body. Just bring the body of Jesus out. Now, instead, they had to bribe the soldiers and tell them to tell a lie, and that’s the lie that got passed around or one of the lies that got passed around. The empty tomb is great evidence. The hundreds of eyewitnesses. Paul says there’s over 500 of them who saw Jesus alive. And some of them, he writes in 1 Corinthians 15, some of them he says are still alive today. In other words, if you’re reading this letter, you can go talk to the ones that saw Him and get eyewitness accounts of the Risen Christ.

Transformation of the disciples. They were a bunch of scared, whipped puppies running for the hills when Jesus got arrested. And as He’s put on the cross, the only one that I know that showed back up is John and the women that were there. The courageous, bold, loving, faithful women were there, and they followed His body to the tomb. They knew exactly which tomb He was buried in when they went to it that Sunday morning. Of course, the wildfire like spread of Christianity. There were bunches and bunches of evidence about His appearance after He had died. I’ll post all three of these slides for you up on the website and you’ll be able to see it.

So that’s just a little bit about the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. It’s not a hoax. Our claim is that it’s history and that’s why it’s so meaningful. What difference does the resurrection of Jesus make for us? If it did happen, somebody still might say, “Big deal. So, it happened once. What’s that mean to me? Why should that make any difference whatsoever? To me?” And I love the way NT Wright talks about this. He says

“…if Jesus Christ has truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world, news which warms our hearts precisely because it isn’t just about warming hearts. It’s more than that. Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things in Christ. “

–N.T. Wright

We see He has the power to push back our last and greatest enemy and the resurrection of Jesus is the Christian answer to the question of where history is going.

He intends to set all things right. Frederick Buechner says it very beautifully this way:

“Resurrection means the worst thing is never the last thing.”

–Frederick Buechner

All of us have lived through something we thought in that moment. This is the worst thing that has ever happened and some of it just happened. It’s very fresh for some of us. Others of us are getting ready and we don’t know it to go through something like that. Not trying to be a prophet of doom, it’s just the way this broken world rolls. We will also once again find ourselves running back to the God who gave us life and asking Him for mercy and help in time of need. And hallelujah, I can tell you He is there. He promises to hear our cries for mercy.

Tim Keller said,

“The resurrection, the great reversal, brings us both the power and the pattern…”

I love this.

“…For living life now connected to God’s future new creation.”

–Timothy Keller, Hope in Times of Fear

Why? Because Jesus rose from the grave. Because Jesus, as we will study next week, takes His disciples out and goes through what’s called the Great Commission and reminds them that He will be with them. He’ll never leave them nor forsake them. In other words, He’s with us now. Whether or not you are experiencing it or believe it or know it, Jesus is the one that said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst.” Am in the midst, not was in the midst. And so, we say Christ has died. Christ is risen. He is with His people through all of the darkness that we might experience.

When the great preacher Martin Lloyd Jones was a ten-year-old boy in Sunday school class, the Sunday school teacher asked the class a question and he put it this way, “Why did Jesus say, ‘Lazarus come forth?’” quoting from that passage in John when Jesus ends up raising Lazarus from the dead. Ten-year-old Martyn Lloyd-Jones after a pregnant pause nobody giving an answer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “Because in case they all came forth.” Didn’t want them all to come forth.

And the good news I have for you is that there’s coming a day when He will blow that trumpet and when every grave will open. And the only one who’s proven He has the power of both life and death, that One is going to cause this amazing resurrection. And you and I will be a part of it. Some will rise to life, eternal life in His name. Others will rise not to eternal life, but they’ve chosen to live their lives here without God. So, God will simply give them what they desired, life without Him forever. Which are you? What place are you in all of that?

Here’s the great news, as the poet Malcolm Guite, who’s been behind this little stand, this little art table here we call a pulpit. He said this,

“The cross, His cross, Jesus’ cross, and ours is not the end of the story. The kingdom is coming, and one day His Easter, His glorious resurrection will also be ours.”

–Malcolm Guite, Parable and Paradox

How about a Pentecostal amen? Amen.

Yeah, I’m ready for that. I want Him to set the world right. I want the darkness to be dispelled, to be chased away. I want the evil to be run off. I want the sickness, the sadness, the death, all of that to go away and for the Lord to set things right in His kingdom. The transforming power of the resurrection of the Gospel is wrapped up in the person and work of Jesus. Then I ask you these questions: If He says to you, “Do not be afraid,” if you are afraid, let me just challenge you. What are you trusting in?

So often what we worship, what we trust in, is what we’re afraid of. When the disciples were in the stormy sea and their boat was filling up with water, they so trusted in their boat that they feared for their lives. Finally, one of them turns to Jesus, the Messiah, and says, “Help. Don’t you care?” And Jesus calmed the storm. He’s the one that can calm the storm. He’s the one that can roll away the stone, who will roll away your stone. Who will you trust in life? As hard as it gets, as difficult as it may feel, as unfair as the world is, as unjust as the world is right now, who are you going to trust in that kind of a world. And in death as well, who has your eternal destiny in his hands? And it really boils down to how do you respond to Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray: Lord, thank You for coming. You didn’t have to come into this dark world. We were rebels, a planet full of people that just want everything their own way. And I have to confess, Lord, that there are times when that actually still describes who I am, even though I’ve come to faith in Jesus. I pray that you would quicken us, that you would regenerate those who are dead in their trespasses and sin right now and quicken and awaken all of us no matter where we’re at in our spiritual journey, that we might respond to you, Jesus, with trembling joy because we trust and hope in You.

And then, Lord, I pray that if we need to come and see, if we need to pursue You more, if we need to look into the evidence of Your resurrection more, that You would do that for us. You would beckon us. You would bid us come. Thank You that You don’t turn us away when we ask those kinds of questions. Thank You that You don’t want us to be afraid. And thank You, Lord, that You also give us this beautiful mission of going and telling.

We want to be that kind of community that in word and deed, we are a resurrection people. We are people living our lives resting in Your sovereign grace. Thank You for loving us so well, so beautifully. We pray, Lord, that this Easter day would be an important date for us, each and every one of us, in our spiritual walk with You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen and amen.

Edited for reading.

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