He Has Risen
April 21, 2019 Speaker: Jim Davis
Topic: Default Scripture: Matthew 27:62–28:10
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is about as central to the Christian faith as a doctrine can get. Our whole faith rises and falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul goes so far as to say that if the resurrection is not true, then we Christians are to be pitied above all people. There are only a handful of doctrines that are as pivotal to what we believe as the resurrection is. I was trying to explain this to one of my kids this week and he asked, “if that’s the case, why don’t we get better presents on Easter?” That’s a fair question. Maybe we what we need to do is just pull back on Christmas.
It’s such an easy thing, though, to let the resurrection of Jesus Christ become such a familiar thing that it is no longer a truly special thing. The resurrection can become more mundane than miraculous.
I was reminded how truly miraculous the resurrection is a few years ago on a plane. I know I told this story back in September, but we are twice the size we were in September so at least half of you haven’t heard this:) I was on a plane with my best friend over Europe and my friend was talking a British guy next to him. My friend asked the Brit what kind of beliefs he had and the guy responded by saying, “I actually believe some pretty weird things.” My friend said, “I’d love to hear what those things are.” So, the Brit confessed, “I believe the moon is actually a spaceship which contains fourth dimensional creatures who are up there observing us.” I googled this and realized it is a real thing that makes flat earthers look reasonable.
After hearing all about this, my friend said, “Well, I have some different views myself. I believe that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead and that one day we will too. Jesus will return, all those who believe in Him will be resurrected and live forever with Him on a completely new and perfect earth.” To which spaceship moon guy said, “Now that is weird.”
The resurrection should either be weird or miraculous. Never should it be anything in between. So, this morning we are going to to look at Matthew’s account of the resurrection and I want to walk through this story and look carefully at three aspects to this story. The fear of the resurrection, the announcement of the resurrection and the call in the resurrection.
- The fear of the resurrection 27:62-66
The Pharisees feared what they called the ‘last deception.’ They understood Jesus’ prediction that after three days He would rise again. Jesus had caused huge problems for the Pharisees as a now dead Messiah, the last thing they wanted was a risen messiah.
And we see the Pharisees stooping to some very low places to accomplish this. Not surprising, though, for people who have just murdered Jesus under false accusations. They go to Pilate with false humility and lies to try and employ his help. You can feel their sliminess in how they address Pilate. Sir. They hated this man! He was Rome’s errand by who lorded over the Jews. The called him a dog and deeply felt like he was the enemy. But, they need his help so that come under the guise of respect and call him
We also see that the Pharisees had joined forces with another opponent, the Sadducees. They needed all the political power they could muster to get what they wanted from Pilate and this is where it gets really interesting to me. The Pharisees had to come up with a plan that they Pharisees could get behind. Now, I really do believe that the Pharisees were concerned about Jesus actually coming back to life. They saw him heal the sick and the blind and even bring the dead back to life. They didn’t deny His miracles, they attributed them to the devil. They would have taken this talk about resurrection very seriously.
They weren’t worried about what the disciples would do. The disciples were a hopeless bunch at this point. If they were worried about what the disciples would do, they would have simply arrested them. And I think all this is confirmed just after our passage, after the resurrection, when the Pharisees are paying people to lie about the resurrection of Jesus. They don’t want the truth, they want Jesus suppressed at all cost.
But, the Sadducees would have laughed at that because they don’t believe in a resurrection. You may remember from Sunday school that this is why they are sad you see. So, the Pharisees said, “the disciples might steal the body. We can’t have them going around saying, “look, the body is gone! Jesus resurrected.” That the sadducees could get behind.
So, they all go to Pilate and ask him to help guard the tomb. Pilate literally says, “You have a guard.” A guard could have been any number of soldiers. Did Pilate give them more soldiers or is he saying you already have soldiers for your security, just use them. No one knows for sure, but I lean toward the latter. I think Pilate is mocking them a bit saying, “Use your own guards. You either have a dead body that will stay dead or a Messiah who will rise. My whole army is not going to change that.”
So, they secure the tomb with some allotment of soldiers which had to seem like the easiest job. three days watching a dead body. Little did they know what would happen…
But, before we move on, I want us to see two things about the Pharisees fear of the resurrection. I want us to see what exactly they feared and why. These religious leaders feared a loss of power. Jesus had already damaged their political and religious power while alive, how much more damage could He do resurrected??
That’s what they feared, but why they feared it is their pride. They were consumed with their own plan for their lives and they never stopped to consider what God’s plan might be. Jesus came proclaiming a new kingdom and they wanted to do whatever they could to hang onto this one. And we do the same thing. We can laugh at the ridiculous endeavor to suppress the resurrection of Jesus, but we do the same thing.
We do the same thing when we decide we want to live for this world instead of the kingdom Jesus has established. The ethics, values and currency in this world and the one to come are radically different. The things that have great value in this world have little value in the kingdom of God.
So, what is the difference between the currency of this world and the Kingdom of God?
The currency of this world is self and the currency of the kingdom of God is love. Scott Sauls says, “In America, success is measured by material accumulation, power and in the positions we hold. In Jesus, success is measured by material generosity, humility and the people whom we serve.”
And please hear me that it is so very hard to be rich in the currency of this world and be told that that you’re poor in the kingdom of God. No one wants to hear that! I would imagine that it is very similar to people who had invested themselves in confederate currency during the civil war. They gave all they had to invest in the confederacy and the moment the union won, everything they had was worthless. Jesus has established a new kingdom and the currency of this world is now just as worthless.
And to deny or suppress that fact is to deny and suppress the resurrection. You can send all your guards to the tomb, but it won’t change the outcome. If we really want this world, God will give it to us just like He gave it to the Pharisees, but it won’t end well. Paul describes us as clay being molded by God. I have to give Jen Wilken credit for this picture, but have you ever made a clay bowl? The clay spins and our hands shape it. But, what happens when your hands come off the clay prematurely? It spins out of control and destroys itself.
If we suppress the resurrection of Jesus by denying the kingdom He rules, we are no better than the Pharisees and we will come to the same end. That’s fear of the resurrection.
- The announcement of the resurrection 28:1-7
The news that Jesus has resurrected was triumphantly announced by an earthquake and an angel. First, the earthquake. You know, I have always wanted to know what an earthquake feels like. I know that is weird. Not a big one. Just big enough to feel the earth move. Angela and I spoke at a conference in California last weekend and I said, “Maybe this is the trip when I get to feel an earthquake.” It wasn’t.
From everything I hear, an earthquake can be a terrifying experience. My parents say that I usually need to learn the hard way. You have no control over the ground as it shakes everything down. I heard about some missionaries in Nepal who described the 2015 earthquake as the ground moving like rubber.
And this is one of the ways God has continually communicated something about His power and glory to mankind. The earth quaked just before Moses received the law. The earth quaked when God revealed Himself to Elijah. The earth quaked when the believers in Acts prayed for boldness and were filled with the Holy Spirit. The earth quaked when Jesus died and the earth quaked when the angel came to announce his resurrection.
Why do you think God does this? There may be multiple reasons, but I think one big reason is to show us how fragile this world is and how easily God can and will bring it down. Look at how the author of Hebrews describes it: At that time (referring to Moses) his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens. - Hebrews 12:26
When you bring the presence of the Glorious God closer and closer to this world, this world cannot hold together and we are getting a very small picture of this as the resurrection of Jesus Christ is being announced. The Kingdom Jesus is establishing can never be shaken.
The earthquake was one part of the announcement, and the angel was the other. An angel came down whose appearance was like lightning and he rolled away the stone and sat on it. I think he was showing off a bit, but who could blame him? This huge stone put in place and sealed by many men to prevent Jesus from coming out is moved effortlessly by the angel to show He is already gone.
And it’s worth noting, because I grew up thinking that the angel was actually letting Jesus out of the tomb that that is not what is happening. Jesus isn’t waiting helplessly for an angel to let him out. Jesus is gone. The angel didn’t come to let Jesus out, He came to let us in.
And I love the two groups of people who witness this event and the very different reactions they have. First, you have the guards who are terrified. They were literally paralysed with fear. And these aren’t your run of the mill rent a cops here. These are by all accounts trained Roman soldiers, shaking like the land they are standing on.
But, then you have the women. The two Marys. We don’t have any indication that they were anticipating a resurrection. They simply missed Jesus and are going to visit His tomb the way we would visit the grave of someone we loved. They see the angel and the earthquake and they aren’t terrified, they are comforted. Two groups of people watching the same set of events, one terrified and the other elated and this is exactly what it will be like when Jesus returns. One group of people full of comfort and hope and a whole other group wishing the mountains would fall on them.
And what’s really incredible is that all the efforts of the Pharisees to thwart the resurrection now fuel it! Because of their great efforts to seal and guard the tomb, now no one can say that Jesus never really died, but simply resuscitated. No one can say that the body was stolen. No one can say that the Mary’s went to the wrong tomb. No one can say that the story was invented later on because the very guards who were supposed to squelch rumors of a resurrection are now in town propagating it! This plan has massively failed!
That is a really comforting fact for us in a time when the culture is rapidly changing from a positive view of Christianity to an apathetic view of Christianity and even to a hostile view of Christianity. God uses the forces that oppose Him to perpetuate His plan.
I think of our brothers and sisters in China where cash rewards are now given out by the government to report Christian activities. Do you know they are asking us to stop primarily praying for their safety, but to primarily pray that they would be sustained in their suffering and that God would use this crackdown to spread His gospel in an even more significant way.
Do you realize how fast Christianity is spreading right now? Almost half of all the Christians that have ever lived are alive today. No matter how hard this world conspires to suppress the news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, He will triumph.
The resurrection isn’t just news to be learned though. It is a call to be followed.
III. The call in the resurrection 28:8-9
The call for all of us in the resurrection is the same call the angel issued to the women in verse 6: Come and see. Come, see that Jesus has resurrected. To which I have heard people say, “Yeah, but I’m not there. If I could see God, fine. But until that happens, I’m not believing.”
After the Russians successfully put the first man in space ahead of the US, the Soviet dictator, Nikita Khruschev, famously said, “We have been to space and we did not see God there.” To which, C.S. Lewis famously responded, “To expect to see God in space is like Hamlet running into the attic and expecting to see Shakespeare.” But, there is, I think, a more poignant part of Lewis’ argument that gets overlooked. He said, “To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere. Those who do not find him on earth are unlikely to find him in space.”
What we have in front of us in God’s word is all any of us actually needs to believe. I could go through all the various arguments for the resurrection. Arguments that I think are about as air tight as it gets. But, as compelling as I do think they are, I have never seen that actually change someone’s mind if they are dead set on not believing. The problem isn’t a lack of information, it’s a heart that doesn’t want to see
The call to come and see is a call to open our hearts and examine both the claims made in this book and the state of our hearts. And, if we come and see and decide, yes, I believe that. There are three implications on on your life.
First, you will worship. Look at verse 9: And behold, Jesus met them and said,
“Greetings!” and they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. - Matthew 28:9
Our modern word ‘worship’ comes from an older word ‘worth ship.’ To show and display the worth of something. To worship is to communicate with every faculty you have that God is of greatest worth to you. More worth than your job, your money, your hobbies, your addictions and even your family. Jesus doesn’t just want a couple hours a week of us, He wants all of us. He wants all of our head, all of our mind, all of our heart, all of our words and all of our actions to communicate that He is the most worthy thing in the universe!
And He desires it not because He is a narcissist, but because it is true. He knows His worth and He wants us to as well.
Second, we go and tell. Look at verse 7 as the angel speaks: Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold he is going before you to Galilee; - Matthew 28:7
Jesus then expands that command at the end of this chapter to what we call the great commission. Every believer is called to go and tell. What are we called to go and tell? The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In just a minute, we are going to get to hear an amazing story of God’s grace as we baptize someone whose name I can’t even say right now because the camera is on and this person is from a very closed part of the world. But, what I love about her story is that she would never have walked into a church. When I met her she had never even heard of Easter before. But, a faithful member of this church loved her and continued to share the news of the resurrection of Jesus and she believed.
The day of come and see church where we just work to do whatever we can to get non-Christians in the building is not just over it’s foolish. The day has returned when we as individual members of Christ’s church are called to do the heavy lifting of developing real relationships so we can go to them and tell them about the risen Jesus.
And I love this picture in our passage of Jesus going before us. I know the immediate context is simply Jesus physically going ahead, but I think it is a great picture of all of our efforts to go and tell. No one is going to believe if Jesus doesn’t in some way go first. Every corner of orthodox Christianity agrees on this. Jesus has to go before us in some way. Whoever it was that shared the gospel with you, Jesus went before. Whoever it is that is going to believe through you, Jesus will go before.
I have seen the worst evangelistic efforts produce real, lasting fruit because Jesus goes first. When I was a new believer in college I invited a fraternity brother to a weekly meeting of a college ministry. I really felt like I was putting myself out there and, I’m not kidding, it was the worst talk I can remember...like ever. I had no idea what he was trying to say and I just sunk in my seat that I had invited this guy to this horrible excuse of a message. And just when I couldn’t take it anymore, my friend leans over to me and says, “This guy is amazing!” If he was amazing, it was because Jesus went before him in a big way.
If we believe that Jesus is going before us, it will greatly affect our motivation to go and tell. We worship, we go and tell, and then, the final implication of Jesus’ resurrection is that we will resurrect too.
Paul says to the Corinthian church that Christ is the first fruits. Now, I’m a city boy and it took me moving to Italy to understand what this meant. When Angela and I were learning Italian there was a sweet Italian family that would have us come live with them in their villa on a Chianti vineyard. Yes, we all have our crosses to bear. The deal was that we couldn’t speak in English, which really limited our arguing, and that we had to work. I worked outside and Angela worked inside. And it was there that I first learned about the first fruit. The first fruit of the season, in this case grapes, was so important because it was a sample of the quality of the rest of the vineyard. This first fruit allowed them to see how much they could make that year from the rest of the grapes.
In the same way, Jesus is our first fruit. What happens to Him will happen to us who believe. We will be resurrected. We will have new bodies. We will be sinless. We will live forever on a new earth. My kids ask me what this will be like. My answer is simple: better than we can imagine. And I can imagine a lot. I can imagine a chiseled body that can eat whatever all day long and then fly around and explore the universe. I can imagine sleeping through every night without anyone waking me up. Maybe passing through the occasional wall.
But, more important than what we will be able to do is who we will do it with. And I’m not talking about loved ones, although that will be amazing too. I’m talking about being with Jesus. The One of infinite worth will be eminently near. That’s the hope of the resurrection and we are now 40 minutes closer to that day.
But, we can’t just think of the resurrection as only something that only has future implications. In some way, the resurrection begins when we believe. It isn’t fully consummated until Jesus comes back, but when we choose to follow Jesus resurrection power begins to work inside of us. The internal resurrection precedes the external resurrection. But, without an internal resurrection now, there is no hope of an external resurrection later.
This is why when we baptize someone, we say, “Buried with Him in death, raised to walk in newness of life.” We are talking about the resurrection that revives our dead soul by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The resurrection isn’t the starting place or the finish line of the Christian faith, but the whole thing. This is why Paul says we are to be pitied if it is not true. So, I want to finish by asking how much is the resurrection power of Jesus Christ resurrecting you? If you feel like you don’t have significance, if you don’t have value, if you don’t have purpose...if you feel like you have no control over your sin, you may not be seeing the risen Christ for who He really is.
But all that can change today, if you want it to.