Summary: Does the resurrection actually matter? does it make a difference?
EASTER DAY 2007
I know some of that clip was a bit gruesome but let us be honest it was gruesome. There was nothing pleasant or sanitised about death on a cross. I wonder what you made of the depiction of the resurrection. We do not know how Christ was raised from the dead because Scripture tells us only that he was raised from the dead. Let me ask you a question: Does it really matter if the resurrection is true or not today?
In answering that let me read to you a verse from the apostle Paul – 1 Corinthians 15.17. The whole of the Christian faith stands or falls on this issue – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Listen again to what Paul says – let me read the whole passage to you this morning – 1 Corinthians 15.12-19. For Paul there is no confusion – the resurrection is the key to the Christian faith. If Christ did not rise from the dead, as the Bible teaches, then we are to be pitied and we are people without hope.
Turn with me to Matthew 28 and the account that we read this morning of the first Easter morning. Each of the four gospels record for us the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Each of them record for us the resurrection appearances of Jesus to the women, the disciples and to many others. As Paul says at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 – He appeared to Peter, then the 12, then to 500, then to James and last of all to himself, Paul. There were many eyewitnesses around at the time of the writing of the gospels but I want you to listen closely as to whom Jesus first appeared – to two women – Mary Magdala and Mary. This morning we should not lose sight of the significance of that. At the time of Christ women were treated like possessions – they could be sold or traded by men. They were not allowed to be witnesses in court as their word was deemed unreliable. So the fact that Jesus reveals himself firstly to women and that Matthew and the other gospels record this is in fact a pointer towards the historical accuracy of the resurrection. You would never have chosen women to be your first witnesses to such a claim in the first century, if it were not true, because their testimony would be dismissed as unworthy and unreliable.
Turn with me to the text, and keep that fact about women in your mind.
Verses 1 – it is the first day of the week, the Sabbath rest has ended and the two women are making their way to the tomb of Christ. On the Friday evening they had taken his body down from the cross and hurriedly prepared it for burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. In keeping with Judaic custom of the day they return to the tomb to anoint the body of their beloved Jesus and to pay their last respects to him. No doubt their hearts are heavy with grief as they journey towards the tomb.
Verses 2-6 There are two things in verse two which testify to the intervention of God in raising Christ from the dead – the earthquake and the angel. The divine action elicits fear, trembling, awe and bewilderment from the guards outside the tomb. God has acted and he has revealed himself in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The angel opens the tomb, not to let Christ out, but to let the women see that he is no longer inside. Let me repeat that for you so that you are clear on this point: The angel opens the tomb, not to let Christ out, but to let the women see that he is no longer inside.