Summary: Describes three different messages being preached at Easter time.
April 15, 2001 Matthew 27:62-28:15
The longest sermon on record was preached by Rev. Robert Marshall, minister of the Birmingham Unitarian Church, Michigan, in 1976. He preached for 60 hours and 31 minutes. The previous record holder was Robert McKee who preached for 52 hours. He said that it took him two-and-a-half years to write the 500,000-word sermon. The book I got this from never said, but I wonder how many people sat through the whole sermon? I wonder how many people came to his next sermon? Different preachers take different amounts of time to preach.
Then there’s style. Most are familiar with the Southern Baptist fiery style of preachers. Then there’s the monotone type of preacher as well. Some are very animated, while others are more laid back. Everyone has a different style of preaching.
There’s also one other distinguishing characteristic in preachers - content. Some preachers will tell a lot of stories - their sermons will consist of a longer drawn out story with one main application at the end. Some like to add a lot of humor. Some like to pound a lot of law. Some like to talk about Jesus a lot and others like to talk about every day issues a lot. Different preachers have different content to their sermons. Even though today is officially “Easter Sunday” in the Christian church, I would imagine that if you went from church to church you would find a wide variety of teachings.
There was also a wide variety of preachers available on the original Easter Sunday. Some were preaching with conviction. Some were preaching with anger. Others were preaching with deceit and envy. There are three different messages. We are going to hear all three of them. Then we will make the determination, “which one will you listen to?”
Take Your Pick of Three Preachers This Easter
I. The Prohibition Preacher - Jesus must not rise!
In 1880, the voters of Kansas adopted a constitutional amendment prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating beverages, except for medicinal purposes. Kansas saloon keepers violated that law however. On January 26, 1901, a female figure dressed in black appeared on Topeka’s streets . A dark veil shrouded the woman’s face but couldn’t disguise her from the city’s populace, who immediately recognized her as one of the country’s most well known prohibitionists - Carry A. Nation. For the next three weeks she and her followers smashed saloons in an effort to close all the city’s illegal "joints." The crusader’s progress was watched across the nation with interest and growing sympathy. In less than six months she did more to enforce prohibition laws than had been accomplished by churches and temperance organizations. And yet, after all of her work, Carry’s efforts came to naught. She couldn’t stop the people from drinking. The voice of prohibition was heard and gained some interest, but in the end, it was not listened to.
There’s a different voice of prohibition shouting from today’s text. This is the voice of the chief priests and Pharisees. The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” The preachers were trying to prohibit the resurrection of Christ.
This is kind of a strange thing - that the chief priests and the Pharisees would get together in order to stop a resurrection. If there’s one thing the chief priests and the Pharisees didn’t agree on - it was the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees, being rationalists and materialists, denied it. The Pharisees, being literalists and spiritual, affirmed it. If Jesus had raised from the dead, it would have given credence to their teaching. Yet they both decided that Jesus could not rise from the dead - indeed - he must not rise. For if the disciples were to come and “steal his body,” then they would lose even more of their followers. And so they went out on the Sabbath Day and preached to Pilate - “don’t let him rise!” They knew that Jesus had predicted his own resurrection three days after his death.
So Pilate said, “Take a guard. Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. If you think about it, this security unit must have been a fighting machine. If the disciples had tried anything, it would have been a “six-second war.” One soldier could have dealt with the entire group of disciples. He could have single-handedly sent them running for cover. These were not little pipsqueaks running around with plastic swords. Pilate gave them the orders to make the tomb “as secure as they knew how.” The prohibition preachers preached, “Jesus must not rise!”