Summary: Part 3 of the series.
Lessons Learned From The Easter Story Part 3
This message concludes this series on lessons I’ve learned from Christ’s last week on earth and His resurrection. This morning we will look at the resurrection. Last week we ended with two of Christ’s “secret” followers taking and burying His body. We’ll start today with the women visiting the tomb where Christ was buried.
I. Visiting The Tomb
“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it….The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead……”
Matthew 28:1-2, 4-7a
After the Sabbath, several of the women who followed Christ came to the tomb. They came so that they could anoint Christ body for burial. Remember because the celebration of the Passover was at hand, Christ did not receive the “normal burial”. These women came to the tomb to complete the task. Notice that there were not any of the remaining 11 disciples present at this time. To them, Jesus was dead and that was the end of their ministry. These women came to the tomb to complete the burial process for Jesus. But before we go into what they found once they got there, we must look at something the chief priests did “after” Christ was buried. Matthew 27:62-66 records how after Jesus was buried, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate and told him that Jesus had promised that He would rise in three days. They requested that Pilate would seal the grave so that the disciples could not come and steal the body and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. This was done on the Sabbath – a day that they should not have been doing anything. Pilate gave the order and the tomb was sealed with a Roman seal and four guards. When the tomb was sealed, it could not legally be opened. The women who approached the grave were totally unaware of the fact it had been sealed. They were actually wondering who would open it for them. When they arrived the grave was already opened.
When you look at the response of the chief priests and Pharisees, you’d have to wonder how they knew Christ would rise on the 3rd day and His disciples did not. Remember the chief priests and Pharisees were learned men of the Scriptures. They would have known all of the prophecies relating to Christ which tells me that they probably knew that He really was the Messiah and chose not to accept Him. This would be different if they had not known, but they knew. This is why they went to Pilate on the Sabbath day to get him to seal the grave. In their minds, in my opinion, “when” Christ rose from the grave, because it was sealed and a big stone had been placed in front of the tomb, He would not be able to get out and therefore no one would know He had risen. Remember when Christ raised Lazarus from the dead – they had actually planned to kill Lazarus again because he was living proof of who Christ was? Well in their mind, Christ would rise from the dead like Lazarus. They did not understand that when Christ rose from the dead, He’d rise to live forever. Based on what we have recorded in Scripture, I truly believe they knew Jesus was the Messiah; they knew He would rise on the 3rd day; and they planned to make sure if He did rise, He would not be coming out of that grave. Their plan, He would stay there until He died “again”. Lesson One: There will be times when the truth is known but ignored so that our own agendas can advance. Again, I believe the chief priests and Pharisees came to the understanding of who Christ truly was and that is what motivated them to act the way that they did.
Now back to the women. When they arrived at the tomb, expecting to need help to roll away the stone, they were surprised to find the tomb already opened. When they got close to the tomb, they saw an angel who told them that Christ was alive and that they should go and tell the disciples. Here is what Mark 16:7 records as the direction the angel gave to the women “But go and tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.” I want you to focus on the fact that the angel mentioned Peter by name. Peter must have been feeling pretty bad that he had the chance to stand with Christ but chose to deny him to save his own life. Knowing how he must have felt, Christ wanted Peter to know that he was still in good standing with Him. (Again, as I mentioned in my previous message, Christ forgave Peter before Peter ever denied Him.) The scripture records that the women immediately left to tell the disciples.