Title: Death is Dead. Long Live the King!
Text: Matthew 28:1-15
FCF: We often struggle to depend on Christ the way we should
Prop: Jesus is alive, and this truth divides the sheep and the goats, so we must be made alive with Him.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 28. Here we are at last. The final chapter of Matthew’s God-breathed masterpiece. After having been rejected by the Jews as a tax collector, you can clearly see Matthew’s love for the Jews restored through the work of Christ in his heart, as he delivers such a definitive proof that Jesus is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, The Son of God, the Son of Man, in whom all authority has been given. He is the Messiah. He is the atonement. He is the God of Israel. He is Yahweh. He writes to believing Jews and non-believing Jews. To the believing ones he writes so they may continue to believe. To the non-believing ones he writes so they have no excuse not to believe. How appropriate then it is for Matthew to conclude his final narrative and discourse in this chapter both lifting up the truth of the Deity and Authority of Jesus as the Son of God, and exemplifying that undeniable truth in the lives of those who follow Him. This week’s message and next weeks will provide a glorious end to our 31 month study on this book. I trust that you won’t miss next week’s finale if you are able.
But let’s not delay on what we have this week any longer. Because this is it. The ultimate evidence that all things are being made new, is found right here. Let’s look at the glorious response of those living in not just a post-cross existence, but a post-resurrection existence.
I’m in verse 1 of chapter 28. I will be reading from the NET in which you can follow in the pew bible starting on page 1129, or in whatever version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible of your own, feel free to take the pew bible.
Much to cover today. Let’s get to it.
I.) Jesus is alive, and those alive with Him rejoice in this truth, so we must be made alive with Him.
a. [Slide 2] 1 – Now after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
i. Again these two women. The Kingdom of God operates the opposite to the kingdom of this world. Those who are least are great. Those who are last are first.
ii. These women are seen as the bottom of Jewish society. Only slightly better than slaves and gentiles. And yet they are given the honor of being first to testify to the most amazing miracle there could ever be.
iii. Here we find them going to attend to the body of Christ. Other gospels reveal that they were going to apply aromatic spices, no doubt so people could visit His body without the offensive smell of decay being apparent.
iv. Mark reveals that as they traveled to the tomb, they wondered who would roll the stone away for them.
b. [Slide 3] 2-4 – Suddenly, there was a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were shaken and became like dead men because they were so afraid of him.
i. Matthew, out of chronological order, explains exactly how the stone was rolled away prior to the women arriving at the tomb.
ii. Again an earthquake is a sign from God. Since Matthew is the only gospel that reveals the earthquake at the crucifixion, we are left to wonder if this is the same earthquake that was pulled out of time for Matthew’s earlier purposes, or if this is a second one.
iii. Either way we see God’s testimony through nature of his acceptance of the Son’s earthly work and provision for it to continue until He ascends.
iv. An angel of the Lord comes and rolls away the stone. His appearance is dazzling – like lightening and his clothes were snow white.
v. Having seen this sight the guards are so terrified that they fainted with fright. Like dead men indicates that they had lost all faculty of their bodies. They could not bear to remain conscious.
c. [Slide 4] 5 – But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
i. The chronology of the tomb events can get a little difficult to mesh together.
ii. The angel addresses the women here, but it is probable that Mary Magdalene is no longer there.
iii. However, there were other women present, at least 5 women according to the other gospels.
iv. Mary Magdalene, according to John, left when she saw the tomb was opened. She was convinced that someone had taken Jesus’ body in the night. She went back to tell the disciples. Both Peter and John accompany her back to the tomb.
v. It may be that the events that unfold up through verse 10 here in Matthew happen prior to Mary, Peter and John returning.
vi. There are many ways to see the chronology and I will address them when we get to verses 9-10.
vii. The angel speaks to the women, and as is almost always the case when an angelic being appears to humans, he commands them to not be afraid. Certainly, although in Christ we will be raised higher than the angels and rule over them – seeing these beings is always a matter of extreme shock.
viii. The angel has intimate knowledge of their intentions. He knows they are looking for Jesus who had been crucified. But the angel has some rather amazing news to give to these women.
d. [Slide 5] 6 -7– He is not here, for He has been raised, just as He said. Come and see the place where He was lying. Then go quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see Him there.’ Listen, I have told you!”
i. He is not here. He has been raised. Just as He said.
ii. The verb used by the angel here in verses 6 and 7 to describe Jesus’ resurrection is in the passive voice. It is not He is Risen. But rather, He has been raised. This points to a minor point of confusion among believers. Jesus did not raise Himself from the dead. No where in the bible does it teach that He raised Himself. The Father and the Spirit are given that role.
iii. Jesus prophesied His own resurrection, the Father accepted His Spirit from the cross, and now on the third day, the Spirit raised Him from the dead.
iv. He. Is. Not. Here. WOW!
v. Don’t believe me women? Come see the place where he was lying. He was laying there and then He wasn’t there. The stone was rolled away, not so He could come out, but so they could go in and see.
vi. Luke tells us that the women came out of the tomb perplexed.
vii. But then there were two angels before them. And one of them again reminded them of what Jesus had said in Galilee. That he must be crucified and on the third day rise again. And FINALLY – someone remembers. The women remember what Jesus had said.
viii. The Angel then commands them to go quickly and tell the disciples– HE HAS BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD! And He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You. Will. See. Him. There!
ix. Listen! It is true! I have told you and I am a messenger from God. GO! GO! GO tell his disciples!
e. [Slide 6] 8 – So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.
i. They obey!
ii. They obey joyfully.
iii. They obey in fear! They are awestruck and joystruck. They RUN to tell the disciples.
iv. Can it be? IT MUST BE TRUE!
v. Matthew’s gospel is the only one in my opinion that captures the feverpitch of the moment. All the others are focused on relaying the events or the events that were missing from the synoptics. Matthew alone makes the reader burn with anticipation!
vi. Which is what makes verses 9 and 10 so precious.
f. [Slide 7] 9-10 – But Jesus met them, saying, “Greetings!” They came to Him, held on to His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there.”
i. Jesus meets them.
ii. Most manuscripts, not the oldest or most reliable, but the majority, have the phrase “as they went to tell His disciples.” This phrase is probably not original to the text – however, the words And behold, positioned directly after verse 8, translated “but” in the NET, implies that they were stopped along the way.
iii. This presents us with a little bit of a problem. As we already noted, Mary Magdalene went back to inform the disciples of his body being taken. Mark 16:9 indicates that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Lord. Yet here, it seems as though she was preceded by this group of women who did not leave the tomb with her to fetch Peter and John.
iv. There are three solutions to this problem.
1. [Slide 8a] The first is the more widely held.
a. The woman met with Jesus at a later time than Matthew indicates.
2. [Slide 8b] The second explanation sees the events happening to Mary Magdalene as happening to all the women.
a. They all go to the tomb, they all go back to tell Peter and John, Peter and John come and leave, they all come again, they all encounter the angels, they all encounter Jesus, they all report back to the disciples.
3. [Slide 8c] The third major view is a little more complicated. In this view, Jesus meets these women first, then Mary Magdalene and then Peter. But if Mark 16:9 says Mary saw Him first, how can this one stand up?
a. Mark 16:9-20 – is regarded by most conservative scholars to not be an original piece of Mark’s gospel but a later addition. Therefore, the claim that Mary Magdalene was the first to see Christ, would not be pulled from genuine scripture. Not that we would easily dismiss it as non-biblical, but since no other gospel indicates she was first – we ought to leave the possibility open that she wasn’t.
4. [Slide 9] The most important thing to remember is that this is not contradiction. The timeline can easily be explained in several ways. If you are interested in more info on this – please let me know after and we can discuss it further.
v. Now let’s try to recapture that feverpitch by reading verse 8 again. So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples. But Jesus met them!
vi. For these women, the whole world stops. Everything stops. There He is!
vii. He is… Alive.
viii. Greetings, he says – It is the salutation of a friend. He knows us! It is His voice. It is His face.
ix. They come to him and seize His feet. They bow down and worship Him – and He accepts their worship. Angels and men always stop people from worshipping them. Jesus does not.
1. [Slide 10a] Wider readers of this event may recall that Mary Magdalene tried to touch Jesus in John 20 and Jesus told her not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father.
2. Now how many of you have heard that Jesus had not yet received His glorified body and that is why she could not touch Him?
3. As I feared. Yes – much like the assumption that Jesus raised Himself, this too is a teaching accepted in Christian circles with very little evidence in scripture.
4. [Slide 10b] In fact there are some theological problems and uncertainties that we create if we assume this is true. First, Did God not honor Jesus’ prayer to receive His Spirit at His death? Second, would this suggest there is some existence between the resurrection and the transforming of our bodies into new and glorified ones? This seems to contradict what Paul says in I Corinthians 15 that in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed, transformed, at the last trumpet as Christ has already been transformed.
5. So how do we explain the apparent contradiction that Jesus would not allow Mary to touch Him, but would allow the other women to seize His feet?
a. [Slide 10c] First of all, in John, the Greek word to touch is to cling to or lay hold of. But so far, this only makes the contradiction worse.
b. What does Jesus say? Don’t cling to me Mary for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
c. What if Mary clings to Jesus as if to not let Him go? What if she has lost Him once and purposes in her heart to never let that happen again?
d. Jesus’ words are such a sweet promise to her. Rather than Jesus rebuking her “don’t touch me because my body isn’t ready for you to touch me yet” – the message is instead a promise to Mary,– “Don’t be afraid Mary. You don’t have to cling to me as if I’ll vanish. I’m still here. I haven’t yet ascended. I’ll be here Mary.”
e. Then His words for her to tell the disciples appear in a completely different light.
f. Essentially, He is saying, “But I won’t be long on this earth before I ascend. But when I go to my Father – I am going to YOUR Father. When I go to my God – I am going to YOUR God. “
g. In other words He is telling Mary – Mary, There will be a day for you to cling to me and that day will never come to an end. But it is not yet.
h. Wow! That is pretty cool huh?
x. [Slide 11] Then here in Matthew Jesus tells them, a similar thing He tells Mary Magdalene. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. Everything is new. Everything is new. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there. I’ll be in Galilee next. I’m not leaving yet. Don’t be afraid. I’m not leaving yet.
g. [Slide 12] Passage Truth: Matthew has a clear message he wishes to convey to the Jews that he is writing to. And it is simply this. Jesus is the Messiah of God, King of Kings, Savior, Lord, and God Himself in flesh. He has proven it because He has conquered death – He is alive. This is verified by many witnesses. For now, we see two women (probably more) testify to the fact that He is alive. They have seen Him with their own eyes. They have touched Him with their own hands. They have been told this truth by an angel of God. He. Is. Alive! And to those who are believing – this is great joy!
h. Passage Application: The application to the Jews of course, is that if He is alive, then He is God. He is the Messiah. He and all He said was true. And He and He alone must be surrendered to and believed in. There is only new life in Him.
i. [Slide 13] Broader Biblical Truth: This truth is equally important for us to understand. This truth is timeless. He is alive. And because He is alive, we too can be made alive with Him. We too can inherit the same joy and blessed hope that these women did when they met Christ that glorious Sunday morning.
j. Broader Biblical Application: This is the backbone of what we believe. If Christ is not raised then our faith is in vain. If Christ is not raised than we are still in our sin. But if Christ has been raised – then we have a Prophet, Priest, and King who has defeated the sting of death and completed the Old Covenant which cancels the power of sin and He has made us heirs with Him. He alone brings hope to those who continue to repent and depend on Him.
[Slide 14(blank)] So certainly, one group of people took the truth of His resurrection and greatly rejoiced in it. Even longing to keep Him with them. But not all had such joyous outpourings from this miracle.
II.) Jesus is alive, and those who are perishing oppose this truth at all costs, so we must be made alive with Him.
a. [Slide 15] 11 – While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened.
i. In one of the most abrupt and staggering shifts in emotions, Matthew takes his focus from the least of these who believe and worship at the feet of Jesus, to the greatest who again choose to suppress the truth.
ii. Most depictions of this event have two guards guarding the tomb of Christ. The fact of the matter is that there were probably several guards there.
iii. Matthew tells us that some of the guard go back to the chief priests. Some probably means more than one person. Furthermore, some also implies a portion of the rest. Perhaps if we stretch it we could mean most by saying some. Which means there were at least 3 guards. But probably there were more like 5-10 guards guarding the tomb of Christ.
iv. Some of them come and report all that had happened to the chief priests.
v. So what did they report?
vi. Well we know that they felt the earthquake. We know they saw the angel of the Lord in glorious display. We know they saw Him roll away the tomb. The sight of all of this forced these hardened soldiers to faint with fear.
vii. Although this certainly does not make them witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection – it absolutely removes all possibility that the events were orchestrated by humans.
viii. And the more guards there are, the more irrefutable this becomes.
b. [Slide 16] 12-14 – After they had assembled with the elders and formed a plan, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came at night and stole his body while we were asleep.’ If this matter is heard before the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
i. The Sanhedrin council as a whole, the religious elite of Israel, is called to bear witness to this event. But they do not deal with it as a genuine possibility with verifiable and irrefutable evidence.
ii. Instead, they attempt to silence the evidence, But silence won’t be enough. Jesus’ body is clearly gone and there is no viable explanation for how. So, they will use the fear they had before as the new truth of what happened. While the guards slept, the disciples came and stole the body.
iii. It is somewhat difficult to believe that 5-10 Roman soldiers were all napping and that a band of backwater fishermen were able to sneak past them, silently roll away a large stone and steal away his lifeless body without waking a single one of them. But… that is what they go with.
iv. But how do they get the soldiers to say this?
v. A bribe seems to be the best way to ensure the lie goes forth. Soldiers aren’t paid much. I’m sure flashing some temple gold in their faces would help persuade them. But alas that would not be quite enough. If this is the new truth, the soldiers would ALL have to admit to falling asleep on the job. You think they might get in trouble for that? Yeah. Like “dead” kind of trouble.
vi. We aren’t privy to the interchange between the Sanhedrin and the soldiers. Perhaps after the Sanhedrin told them to lie for them and what to say, the soldiers were like… uh what good is a bunch of gold if you aren’t alive to spend it. Pilate is gonna kill us if we admit to falling asleep.
vii. And so they offer a guarantee. They have considerable power over Pilate, especially when it comes to Jesus. And now, with this potential for Him to be alive again, and what that may do to the state of Judea and the tensions between the Jews and the Romans… it would be easy to leverage that against Pilate.
viii. So they tell the soldiers – if he finds out – we will satisfy or pacify his anger toward you guys and keep you out of trouble.
ix. So rather than submit to the truth which they know to be truth, they see it as something that must be suppressed. It must be opposed. They must come up with a way to substitute a lie for the truth. And in this way, they haven’t changed since Matthew 12.
1. [Slide 17a] Remember all the way back when the religious elite of Israel opposed Christ’s casting out of demons by saying that He did it by the power of Satan? And do you remember what Christ said after that? He said that if he cast out the demon by Satan’s power, then Satan’s kingdom is divided, but if He cast it out by the Spirit’s power then the kingdom of God has already overtaken them. His final application was this. All manner of sin can be forgiven. Even blaspheming the Son of God. But there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven. And that is the blasphemy against the Spirit. Many conclude that this means that a person continues to disbelieve the gospel – but that is not a sufficient understanding of the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit.
2. [Slide 17b] Let me quote Henry Alford from his book The New Testament for English Readers. He says. “It is not a particular species of sin which is here condemned but a definite act showing a state of sin, and that state [is a] willful, determined opposition to the present power of the Holy Spirit. And this as shown by its fruit, blasphemy.”
3. What does that mean? It is more than disbelieving the gospel. In fact, I would say it is the opposite. It is believing the truth of the gospel while willfully opposing it.
4. And that is exactly what the religious elite did. They knew Christ’s power had to be from God, but they determined to oppose Him and lie and say it was from Satan.
5. And they are doing the exact same thing here at the resurrection of Christ – a work of the Spirit of God. One that they MUST have known was an act of God, verified by the soldier’s report. Yet they willfully and purposely oppose its truth to the point that they encourage others to do the same by encouraging them to believe a lie.
x. Therefore, what we see the Sanhedrin council do here – is blasphemy against the Spirit. And for that – there is NO atonement. The writer of Hebrews hints at the same concept in chapter 6 and 10 of his epistle. If a person knows the truth of Christ, yet willfully opposes it – there is no more sacrifice available for this sin.
xi. That is why the bible tells us to oppose those who were among us, but walked out to preach a different gospel that is not the gospel. We are not to be compassionate to them – we are to oppose them. Why? For the purity of the gospel yes – but also because they are not coming back. They’re gone.
c. [Slide 18] 15 – So they took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story is told among the Jews to this day.
i. The guards were sold. Lots of money for saying they fell asleep. Hopefully no one will mention all this to the governor, but if they do, at least we have those honorable Sanhedrin to back us up.
ii. And this is the origin of the lie. The disciples stole the body, a claim with no evidence supported by those who opposed the truth at every chance they could.
d. [Slide 19] Passage Truth: But just as Matthew shows us the emotional high of seeing these women cling to Jesus’ feet and worship Him in joyous belief, he now contrasts that joy with the panic and wicked purpose of unbelief. The same overwhelming evidence is given to both, but for one it brings hope and joy and for the other it brings judgment and fear.
e. Passage Application: So Matthew gives the same application to the Jews, but from the other side of the equation. Do not be like the religious leaders. The elite of the day. Be like the lowly women. Repent and believe the gospel.
f. [Slide 20] Broader Biblical Truth: So for us the truth is also made plain. What you do with Christ crucified and raised is all that matters. The same evidence is given to both. But one believes and experiences awestruck joy – the other supplants the truth in unbelief and is left in judgment. We know that God alone opens our eyes to the truth. We know that God alone quickens us and makes us alive. We know that God alone gifts repentance and faith to us. So… what is the application for us?
g. Broader Biblical Application: If you have been revealed the truth of the gospel today – Don’t be like the religious elite and oppose the truth. Cry out in desperate and continued need of Christ alone, crucified, buried, raised and sitting at the right hand of God. He alone is your hope for this life and the life that is to come.
[Slide 21 (blank)] So how do we live then, according to the truth of this text?
There are two kinds of people in this text. Those who are made alive with Christ and those who are perishing.
Those who are perishing will go to whatever lengths of madness to suppress the truth in unrighteousness so that they may live life as they please.
But those who have been made alive with Christ see the events that have unfolded completely different. The women experience great fear, but greater joy. They are least in society yet we find them worshiping their risen King at His feet, not wishing to let Him go. And lest we forget – a rich coward was made into a bold sacrificial servant. And next week, as we conclude the book of Matthew, we will see even more evidence of how those who are made alive with Christ - change.
But that really is the difference. Those who are made alive with Christ are changed forever. They are changed both instantly and progressively. Instantly, they are given life. They see the world through the eyes of the living, not through the eyes of the dead. Their priorities and disposition toward sin and righteousness change. Where before they were slaves to sin, now they are slaves to righteousness. Where before they were children of wrath, now they are co-heirs with Christ. Where before they were condemned to death, now they are given eternal, abundant and fruitful life.
But what about those who are still perishing? This is a category of people who either will not be awoken or haven’t yet been awoken. Telling the difference between them is not only impossible to us, but it is never commanded of us. But what do we do with this group of people?
There are preachers today that claim that the resurrection is the only thing we need to focus on. The fact of it. Because if people will submit to the fact of the resurrection, then they will believe and they will be saved. We don’t need to tell them the law – in fact we should probably avoid the Old Testament altogether. We don’t need to waste time teaching them about their sin and their need of a Savior. No, all we need to do is teach them that Jesus rose from the dead. An indisputable fact, and the miraculousness of that will lead them to believe.
There are several problems with this, but let me focus on the one that is clearly on display from our text this morning.
If the resurrection is so convincing, why did the Sanhedrin not believe?
The truth of the resurrection is not enough to lead someone from death to life. Simply knowing the facts about what Jesus did saves no one. The only way a man is saved is when he is new birthed by God. And faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God – which means that hearing the truth of Christ’s resurrection CAN Be a vehicle for God new birthing someone – but it is not always this way, as the Sanhedrin clearly demonstrated.
Friends – Matthew wishes to convey very clearly the sweetness of belief and the bitter bile of unbelief.
The only question that needs to be asked from this text is… are you alive? Do you see the truth and has it led you to continued repentance and faith? Has it led you to abundant life?
If it has not – you must take heed. You are still perishing. And Christ has died and was raised so that those who are in Him may be made new. Do you understand your need to be made new? If so – God may be drawing you even now. You must repent of your sin and your reliance on any way to the Father. Because there is no way save one. Cry out in perpetual dependence and surrender to Christ – the righteous one – the only one who is able to redeem you and make. You. New.
If this truth in this passage today has led to a new and abundant life for you, well there is only one response that is appropriate for today’s message.
It is the same as the women. Fear and joy. We must celebrate in awe and gladness in our hearts that we have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live, because He is alive. And He lives in us. And in Him and with Him so shall we live evermore! Amen.
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