Summary: Discover the reasons for the four different responses to the empty tomb to help you choose wisely how you will respond
Happy Easter, Everybody!
I came across an imagined scenario of the two Roman soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb on that first Easter morning. Each had his cup of coffee in hand. Moments before the angel showed, one soldier said to the other, "Cheer up, it’s Sunday morning. The way I see it, we’ve got one more day of guarding this tomb. By Monday this whole thing will be forgotten."
Two thousand years later, over two billion people claim the name of the resurrected Jesus Christ. Far from being forgotten.
The Easter Story has been read for us this morning. Around the world, yesterday and today, people are being confronted with the historic event of an empty tomb where the dead body of Jesus Christ was placed.
If you were there, what would your response have been?
There were four different responses recorded in Matthew 28:1-20. The women believed the truth. The soldiers negotiated the truth. The religious leaders of that day rejected the truth. And the disciples shared the truth. When faced with an empty tomb, what is your response?
Maybe looking at why each responded differently will help us respond more wisely.
First the women believed the truth. We see this in verses 1-10.
Two women with one agenda came to the tomb where Jesus was buried. Their agenda was to pay their last respect to Jesus. The Gospel of Mark tells us they brought fragrant spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus, maybe to mask the odor of the dead body.
When the women arrived, an angel of God rolled back the stone that blocked the mouth of the tomb. You need to know, the stone was rolled away not so Jesus could exit, but so two grieving friends could express their final act of love to Jesus. But maybe more importantly, the stone was rolled away so that the truth of Jesus’ resurrection could be known.
The women believed what the angel said. Would you have believed, if you were there?
An old issue of the Focus on the Family magazine had an interview with Johnny Hart, the cartoonist for the comic strip, BC. The magazine reprinted one of his cartoons.
The caveman is on his knees praying, and he says, "It’s not easy to believe in you, God. We never see you. How come you never show yourself?"
In the next frame he asks: "How do we know you exist?" Just then a volcano blows up in the background, a daisy sprouts from the ground and topples a rock, a wave washes over him, two meteors converge in the sky to form the image of a cross.
Finally the drenched caveman stands up and says: "Okay, Okay...I give up!" And as he walks by a burning bush and an empty tomb, he mutters, "Every time I bring up this subject all we get are interruptions."
Many see God’s answers as interruptions, because we have our own agendas and expectations. Let me suggest that these women believed, because they didn’t have many agendas.
A Muslim man told me that his worshipping Allah made him wealthy. I told him that his agenda to be wealthy kept him from believing that Jesus Christ is the true God.
The women believed because they had no selfish agenda. They came to pay their last respect to Jesus. Their hearts and minds were not cluttered with selfish ambitions. They saw with untainted eyes and heard with unhurried ears. The evidence of their belief was found in their eagerness to tell others this truth - that Jesus has risen from the dead.
The women believed the truth, but the soldiers negotiated the truth. We see this in verses 11-15.
You’ll notice the soldiers saw and heard the same things as the women did. The difference was the soldiers placed their agendas above the truth. They negotiated the truth for self-protection and selfish gain. They chose to keep their jobs and to accept a bribe over acting on what they knew was true.
How many of us know the truth that a lying tongue displeases God? How many of us have negotiated this truth to protect ourselves from losing our job, losing our privileges or gaining a client and a contract?
How many of us know the truth that Jesus is the only way to God? How many of us negotiated this truth so as not to be seen as intolerant? We face the same temptation as the soldiers, to negotiate the truth for selfish gain and self-protection.
People don’t believe the truth that Jesus died and was raised from the dead, not because the evidence doesn’t support the truth. People don’t believe because the truth doesn’t support their lifestyle or personal ambitions.
If Jesus really did die for our sins and really was raised from the dead, then God takes sins seriously. Furthermore, if Jesus was raised from the dead, then He is the only way for us to have peace with God, and we can’t choose our own way.