Text: Matthew 27:57-66
FCF: We often struggle getting victory in our Christian walk
Prop: Because God does the impossible through Christ, we must believe only on Christ.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 27. Since Jesus cried out with a loud voice as He bore the sins of His people on the cross, we have seen testimony after testimony validating that this atonement was acceptable to God. God has split the temple curtain and sent an earthquake. Gentiles have spoken in confession of truth. Faithful women remain witnesses to the truth unfolding before their very eyes. And today will be no different. God provides even more evidence that what happened on that Cross was a world changing event. Today we will see God do impossible things through unlikely people. And in that work, God proves that the death of His Son, and His assured resurrection, have changed everything. Everything is new. Everything is different now.
I’m in Matthew 27, I’ll start at verse 57. I am reading from the NET today which you can follow on page 1129 in the pew bible or in whatever version you have. If you don’t have a bible of your own, feel free to take a pew bible.
Many people have a tendency to pass right over this passage of scripture. Afterall, the resurrection of Jesus is only a few verses away. Since we are preaching through a book, and cannot skip over verses – we must look at this. And I am so glad we will. Because there are treasures of truth here we need to see.
I.) God does the impossible by drawing all kinds of people to Him through Christ, so we must believe only on Christ. (57-61)
a. [Slide 2] 57 – Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.
i. So this is sometime before sunset on Friday, Nisan 14.
ii. Roman practice was to let the bodies rot on the cross, but due to Judean laws concerning a corpse of a capital offender in Deuteronomy 21:22-23, to have a cursed person’s body hang overnight would defile the land. Indeed, what normally would happen in Judea, was that the bodies would be either cast into the garbage dump, or placed in a mass grave for criminals.
iii. The next part of the verse is quite astounding actually.
iv. Of course it is not too much to assume that the reader of Matthew’s gospel has read it all in one sitting. And in reading it all in one sitting, it was only a few chapters ago that another rich man was told to forsake all he had to follow Christ. He went away sorrowful not willing to do so.
v. Jesus confessed in that context that a rich man entering the kingdom of heaven is about as possible as a camel going through the eye of a needle.
vi. The disciples marvel at this –who then can be saved they wonder?
vii. Jesus says that it is impossible with man – but with God all things are possible.
viii. Now here is a Rich man who is a disciple of Christ. Truly the impossible is happening. More on that in a minute.
b. [Slide 3] 58 – He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered that it be given to him.
i. What does Joseph do? He comes to Pilate and asks for the body of Christ so that he may give Him a proper burial.
ii. What you need to understand, is that to do this, Joseph of Arimathea took unto himself great risk.
iii. What do I mean?
iv. We are told from other gospels that Joseph was a member on the Sanhedrin council, and that he did not consent to the plan to kill Jesus. But before we think that he is a bold disciple, we also know that he feared the Jews and kept his allegiance to Christ a secret. He was a coward. Scared of what may happen to him if others knew he followed Christ.
v. Now here, with boldness, he identifies himself with Christ AFTER His death.
vi. This makes exactly zero earthly sense. The risk involved with identifying with Christ before He was executed as a revolutionary would be far less than after.
vii. And here, Not only does he overtly identify with Christ, but wishes to give Him a honorable burial, and not allow him to be buried among the dishonored dead.
viii. He is risking quite a bit to affiliate himself with a recently executed rebel – don’t you think?
ix. What could have changed in this man? Before he was a coward. Hiding on the council with those who opposed Christ. Now, he willingly identifies himself with Him – even though He is dead.
c. [Slide 4] 59-60 – Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut in the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away.
i. The elaborate process of quickly but properly preparing Jesus’ body for burial is only hinted at here in Matthew. In the other gospels we understand the great cost incurred upon Joseph as he spends a small fortune in spices and oils to wash and preserve Jesus’ body for burial.
ii. The non-Sadducean Jews believed in a future resurrection. So preparing the body with preservative agents was preparing it to last to the day of the resurrection – at least ritually. Although this does not prove that Joseph understood and believed that Jesus would be raised, it certainly indicates great honor toward Jesus.
iii. Another aspect of honor toward Jesus was the tomb in which Joseph buried Him.
iv. Matthew tells us that this was a new tomb, recently hewn out of rock. No doubt it was a tomb designed for his entire family. So there are a couple possibilities here.
1. Either Joseph was adopting Jesus into his own family, making him the first buried in his family tomb. Or…
2. Joseph was donating the entire family sized tomb to Jesus. The cost of which would have been another small fortune.
v. Remember the language of Jesus to the rich young man. Sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow me. Remember Jesus’ words to the sheep in the Olivet discourse. What you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done unto me. This rich man gave greatly to bring honor to a convicted rebel who is now dead.
vi. This also fulfilled prophesy of Isaiah 53:9 where the suffering servant is intended to be buried with criminals, but ends up in a rich man’s tomb.
vii. Even with preparing the body for burial, and even though Joseph has gained boldness in Christ as an overt disciple, he still shows no signs of concluding that Jesus would arise.
viii. In fact, it is almost comical how not one of Jesus’ followers seems to remember, even in the slightest, that He said He would be raised on the third day.
d. [Slide 5] 61 – (Now Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there, opposite the tomb.)
i. And again we see the women who had been faithful to Christ, continue to follow Him, bearing witness to what happened.
ii. It is interesting that at the time, testimony from women would not be considered valid proof of either innocence nor guilt. It was inadmissible testimony.
iii. And yet, because of the fear of Jesus’ disciples, the only witnesses to His death, burial and resurrection are women.
iv. Another example how Christ’s death has changed the paradigm. Now the Kingdom, the power, the boldness of God has been put in the hearts of all kinds of people.
v. Again, I don’t want us to go too far with this and turn it into a feminist application. But give all glory to God, as Christ’s death changes a man of great prestige and wealth, as well as the least in their society – women.
vi. How amazing to see God changing and using people from all walks of life to bear witness to prophesy being fulfilled, and give testimony to the changing power of the cross.
e. [Slide 6] Passage Truth: Matthew in this section following the cross and leading up to the resurrection of Christ, is taking great pains to show us the amazing effects of the death of Christ. He has shown the testimony of God, the testimony of nature, the testimony of Gentiles and the testimony of women. He continues that theme to show the powerful effect of the cross on a cowardly rich man, and on lowly women. In a post-cross world, cowards are given courage. In a post-cross world, women are made co-heirs. Matthew is showing us that what was before, impossible, is now possible. And it is all because of the cross. God continues to validate that He has accepted His Son’s work on the cross.
f. Passage Application: For Jews then, it is to see this truth and understand, that now the way is open. The temple curtain is rent. All kinds of people are welcome. And God can and will draw all kinds of people to Himself. So again, his application for the Jew is – come to the Father through your suffering servant and King – Jesus the Lamb of God.
g. [Slide 7] Broader Biblical Truth: For us, the biblical truth is just as obvious. God’s way is open. You don’t have to be a Jew, or wealthy, or a male, or socially important. The way is open for people from all walks of life. God has torn the curtain, and Christ becomes the new path to Him.
h. Broader Biblical Application: So what are you believing in? Is it your worth, your works, your actions, your obedience or your religiousness? All those will fail. Are you in Christ? That is all that matters.
[Slide 8(blank)] God does the impossible in the hearts of rich cowards and societies outcasts as He brings them to life. But God also does the impossible by using evil plans of the wicked to accomplish His will.
II.) God does the impossible by using the evil plans of the wicked to validate His Son, so we must believe only on Christ. (62-66)
a. [Slide 9] 62 – The next day (which is after the day of preparation) the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate
i. Matthew is the only gospel in which this episode is found.
ii. He includes it for many reasons.
1. While Matthew penned these words there was a rumor spreading throughout all the Jews that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus to make it seem as though He had arisen. Matthew wants to give us the ironic origin of that rumor.
2. He also presents this episode to reintroduce the chief priests into the narrative. They have been absent since they mocked Christ on the cross. Of course, we know they have been slaughtering lambs and eating their Passover meal the night before.
3. But Matthew also wants to reintroduce the Pharisees, which have been absent from this narrative entirely. In fact, since Christ pronounced the woes on the Pharisees back in chapter 23, they have not been mentioned. It would be guesswork to determine why they have been absent up to this point, but one thing we can know for sure, is that they are glad Jesus is gone, but they want to make sure He stays gone.
4. There is another reason Matthew includes the episode which we’ll get to in a moment.
iii. The day after preparation, the day of preparation was on Nisan 14, so this would be Nisan 15. According to John this is a high Sabbath, or a Sabbath that is doubly important. It is the Sabbath that occurs during the Feast of unleavened bread, and it is the first day of the Feast of unleavened bread, which would have been a Sabbath already. So essentially this is kinda like a double Sabbath.
iv. And yet – here we see the chief priests and Pharisees, possibly, arguably, doing work.
b. [Slide 10] 63-64 – and said, “Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive, he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So, give orders to secure the tomb until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal his body and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”
i. So another reason that Matthew includes this episode is to show that even though they did not believe – they did remember what Jesus had said about His resurrection.
ii. A truth that all the disciples seemed to have forgotten.
iii. The Pharisees knew exactly what He had said. That after three days he would rise. Perhaps they were told this by Judas. Perhaps they had heard rumor spread of Christ’s statements. However, they found out, they certainly took note of it.
iv. So they ask Pilate to secure the tomb until the third day.
1. It is interesting here that they do not ask him to secure the tomb for 3 days, but until the third day.
2. This is evidence that Jesus’ statement about being in the ground 3 days and 3 nights, was not meant to be taken literally. It meant that he would be buried in the earth no longer than 72 hours, but no shorter than enough to include portions of 3 days.
3. Jesus was buried before the Sabbath began, so before sunset on Friday night.
4. He remained in the tomb all of the Sabbath, which would last until Saturday evening at sunset. Therefore, the first day of the week would have begun at sunset on Saturday night. In this, Jesus spent less than 72 hours in the tomb, but was in the tomb for portions of 3 days.
v. They only need to secure the tomb until Sunset on Sunday. After that, there would be no need since Jesus’ words would not come true.
vi. But what is their fear?
vii. They may in some way fear that Jesus was telling the truth. He had done miracles of course. Miracles that they agreed to blame on Satan – but they all knew that wasn’t true.
viii. However, they seem to fear more that His disciples would become emboldened to take the body and say Jesus had been raised.
ix. This is a highly improbable fear. A fear that makes absolutely no sense. Why?
1. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of one of his 11 disciples since before his trials.
2. The disciples that did come to bury him weren’t of the 11
3. And how hard would it be to disprove their claim? “Oh really, he has been raised. Wow. Where is He?” Uh… not here?
x. The irrational nature of this fear leads me to wonder if some outside force or entity placed this fear in their hearts. Why would they be so concerned about a highly unlikely course of events, that they would potentially violate Sabbath practices by doing what could be interpreted as work on a High Sabbath?
xi. True, such events would be devastating, and they rightly conclude that the second “deception” as they put it, would be worse than the first. But how likely would it be that the disciples would do this? They didn’t support Him before He was a convicted and executed criminal – why would they now?
c. [Slide 11] 65-66 – Pilate said to them, “Take a guard of soldiers. Go and make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the soldiers of the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
i. Pilate grants them their request quite easily. Perhaps he just wants to be done with the whole affair. Or perhaps, he states this somewhat cynically. Go make it as secure as you can, meaning, your fears are unwarranted.
ii. It puts in mind when my Father would listen to the desires of my heart for something outside the realm of possibility and he would say and I quote “knock yourself out.” As a grew, I started to understand that that meant – this is not possible. Perhaps that is what Pilate is suggesting to the religious leaders. Go make it as secure as you can guys. Nobody is getting out of that tomb, and no one is going back in.
iii. The first statement of Pilate is difficult to understand. Either he is speaking in a command – have a guard and secure it. Or he is speaking tersely – you have a guard already, secure it. There are arguments on both sides as to why these were temple guards and not Roman or why they were Roman and not temple.
iv. Personally I see this contextually with Pilate’s disdain for them, especially after they almost forced him to execute this nobody from Galilee for trumped up crimes. I think Pilate sees their irrational paranoia, and takes one more chance to mock them.
v. Pilate’s words as I see them are – Sure guys – take my guards, take as many as you want – make that tomb super secure for the dead guy who isn’t coming out and be sure to stop those backwater fishermen from concocting an elaborate ruse that they couldn’t possibly substantiate.
d. [Slide 12] Passage Truth: God’s work in the hearts of people in all walks of life does not just find its application positively. Ironically it is the plan of the chief priests and Pharisees that lays credence to the witnesses claiming that Jesus had actually been raised. Had He been raised with no guard present, the claims would have been less believable. And so Matthew points out how God uses fear to push the Pharisees and chief priests to accomplish His will. Their actions would make it almost impossible to believe that Christ was NOT raised. So God again validates the acceptance of His Son’s offering on the cross, by guiding, even His enemies, to prove Christ’s true identity and purpose.
e. Passage Application: Although the full scope of this point is deferred until after Christ is raised from the dead, the application is still the same. God the Father is in sovereign control of all things, working all things to come together to accomplish the pleasure of His will. Even this irrational fear that comes upon the Pharisees is in the plan of God. And nothing can thwart that plan. The crux of that plan, is the death and resurrection of His Son. And now, The Son is dead, His resurrection assured. So believe the gospel, that Jesus is the only way God has provided.
f. [Slide 13] Broader Biblical Truth: There is literally no plan of God that can be thwarted by the actions of men. Positively or negatively, God’s plan will come to pass. And much of that plan has been accomplished on the cross of Christ. What they intended for evil – God has used for Good.
g. Broader Biblical Application: And so even while the sharks still circle a dead Jesus, we are reminded of God’s sovereign hand, and are given foreshadowing of what is to come. God will save His people from their sin. And as was prophesied by the angel to Mary – Jesus will be the one He uses to do, just that. So believe on Him alone.
[Slide 14(blank)] We have seen God do impossible things in this text. Changing a rich coward into a bold servant. We see God giving high profile witness status to ladies who had never been seen as much more than property. We see God providentially guiding fear and wicked plans to show His own power and glory. Ultimately, we see God do impossible things in, by, with, through and for His Son.
So how do we apply this to our lives today?
God can do the impossible through Christ.
Now I am not intending this to be applied in such a way that God is able to win the football game, or to overcome sickness, or to get that job, or to beat that disability or deformity.
But rather God is able to change you from dead to alive. To transform you from law-breaker to law-keeper. To make an enemy His Son. To break Sin’s power over you and cancel sin’s penalty on you. That is impossible – and God, through Christ, makes it possible.
There is no law of God that you are unable keep if you are in Christ. There is no fruit of the Spirit that The Spirit cannot produce in you. If you are in Christ – Sin is no longer your master – and you are no longer its slave. If you are in Christ – you are dead to sin.
This is not true of only some Christians but of every Christian.
Sin’s power over you has been broken. You are free. So use that freedom to be what God wants you to be. If He has made you alive stop living as though you are dead.
God made a coward bold. He can make you new too.
The evidence of the cross being accepted atonement is that it makes people new. Our good works are what draw men to understand that God has changed us.
If you are trapped in sin. There are only two possibilities. You either haven’t found the way of escape that God has promised you, or you have been truly been free.
If you were never free – Christ’s death breaks the chains of sin and death. He has secured victory. Even or you.
If you have yet to find the way of escape – Christ has a community of people who have entered the presence of God through His sacrifice. They – in the Spirit – have been equipped to help you find the way out.
Do not leave here today still trapped. Sin leads to destruction and death. But the righteousness of God leads to life. Don’t squander your chance to live.
[Slide 15 (acknowledgements)]