Summary: Matthew 28. The women, religious leaders, and some of the disciples each had a different response to the resurrection of Jesus.
RESPONDING TO THE RESURRECTION
- If you have a Bible, turn to Matthew 28.
- The date was around 33 A.D. The place was the city of Jerusalem in Israel. And the city had a certain “buzz” to it and was unusually full of people because the time to celebrate one of the biggest Jewish festivals had come. It was the middle of the month of Nisan: the first month in the festival year of the Jews, or the seventh month of the civil calendar – spring time.
- The celebration at hand was Passover, with the accompanying Feast of Unleavened Bread. Devout Jews from all over the Roman Empire had traveled many miles to be in Jerusalem for this special occasion. One of those Jews, was a rabbi or teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth.
- For about three years prior to this moment, this teacher had traveled around Israel proclaiming that the kingdom of God had come and called people to repentance. He began to show himself to be more than just a rabbi as he performed deeds no ordinary human could perform.
- The deeds started with turning water into wine at a wedding feast in a town called Cana. This feat was followed by various healings and exorcisms; and the miracles grew more spectacular as wind and waves were calmed and a dead man named Lazarus was called out of his tomb with a simple command.
- This miracle worker had claimed to be one with God the Father – making himself equal with God. One can understand why then, after three years, the religious leaders of the day were seeking an opportunity to get rid of this now very popular rabbi. It was blasphemous to claim to be God and to parade around performing tricks in order to get people to believe you. In their eyes, this blasphemer had to be stopped.
- And the Passover celebration that year provided them the opportunity they were looking for. Fortunately for them, the Passover would bring this Jesus right into Jerusalem. And would you believe it, one of his own followers had come to them and offered to betray him for a price.
- A few times before their plans to capture him had failed but this time it worked. They arrested Jesus and performed a mock trial under the cover of night and eventually got permission from the Roman governor Pilate to have him crucified.
- So this man who claimed to be the Son of God was beaten severely with a specialized whip containing multiple lashes with sharp pieces of bone and metal attached. And this was not a special punishment devised specifically for Jesus, it was a common punishment for criminals.
- Having been flogged and mocked through various means, Jesus was led out of the city and crucified along with two other criminals. Even while being humiliated by being nailed to a piece of wood and hung for the public to see, the signs that this man was who he said he was continued. The land grew dark, and the earth shook as he cried out and gave up his spirit.
- Then a man named Joseph received permission to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. He laid him in a rock-cut tomb and rolled a stone in front of the entrance. And the religious leaders brought soldiers to guard the tomb so that no more hoaxes would be accomplished by Jesus’ disciples.
- And that is where we pick up the story in Matthew chapter 28. Let’s read the conclusion; beginning at v.1.
Read Matthew 28:1-20
- This passage, as you know, is one of four accounts of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. All four gospels fittingly tell of this occurrence as it is one of the two events the Christian church is founded upon – the other being the crucifixion.
- The message of Christianity is the message of the cross and the subsequent empty tomb. Everything we believe rises or falls on the reality of those two events. As Paul wrote, “If Christ is not risen, our faith is futile.” It is useless. We might as well sleep in on Sundays.
- Certainly there is no other time of year when the resurrection of Christ is more talked about than this time of year. Yet with all of the chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps there is a danger that the true impact of the resurrection will go largely unnoticed. So I want to take this opportunity to briefly remind us of the importance of the resurrection; and draw out of our text this morning the different responses we observe to what happened on the Sunday morning after Jesus was crucified.
- As biblical Christians we believe that faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for sin is the only way to inherit eternal life. This we believe because the Bible presents this truth. So how one responds to the resurrection; what one thinks about the resurrection is a matter of eternal life and death.