Resurrected Like No Other

 

Week of April 5, 2015

 

Bible Verses:  Matthew 28:1-10.

 

The Point:  Jesus is alive – and we can live forever.

 

The Resurrection:  Matthew 28:1-10.

 

[1]  Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. [2]  And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. [3]  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. [4]  And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. [5]  But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. [6]  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. [7]  Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you." [8]  So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. [9]  And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. [10]  Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."  [ESV]

 

“Have you ever noticed that when Hollywood tries to portray the life of Jesus it inevitably spiritualizes the resurrection? But the only resurrection that counts for anything is a resurrection of the body. The disciples knew Jesus’ resurrection was real when they touched His body, and it was only because of their deeply grounded conviction that He was raised that they were willing to launch out from their obscure corner of the earth to the whole of the Roman world with the gospel. Paul believed in this kind of resurrection and knew that it was basic to the Christian faith, which is why he expounds it as Christianity’s third great doctrinal foundation in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Later in that chapter he goes so far as to say that if the resurrection did not occur, then Christianity is an utterly empty hope and that those who do not believe in Christ’s resurrection are yet in their sins. Why is this? Because if Jesus did not rise from the dead, Jesus was mistaken in the announcement that He would rise, He was mistaken that He was the divine Son of God, and if He is not God, His death on the cross was not a true atonement for our sins. Each of the Gospel writers has his own way of telling about the resurrection, of course, and Matthew is no exception. Matthew alone of the evangelists tells about the soldiers sent to guard the tomb and how they were shaken by the angel. He also tells about a visit Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James) made to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week and how an angel appeared to them with the first announcement of Christ’s victory: Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. [5-7]. Over the years critics have complained about what they consider serious discrepancies in these accounts. The number of women, for instance. Matthew mentions two. Mark has three [16:1]. Luke refers to three by name and speaks of others also [24:10]. John mentions only Mary [20:1]. Another alleged discrepancy is the time the women set out. Matthew says it was at dawn. Mark has very early, just after sunrise [16:2]. Luke says very early [20:1]. John says while it was still dark [20:1]. Again, the number of angels varies: one in Matthew and Mark, two in Luke and John. These are not discrepancies, of course. They are each only partial tellings of the story. If there were two angels, there was certainly one. As for the time of day, it is easy to imagine that the women set out for the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and arrived as the sun was rising. Variations in the tellings of an obviously identical story actually attest to the reliability of the narratives. They prove that these are independent accounts, not imaginary tales worked out in collusion by the writers, and their essential agreement proves that the four independent records are factual. Besides, it is not difficult to put the details of the narratives together. Jesus was in the tomb until the resurrection, which certainly took place before dawn on Sunday morning. At this point the women came to the tomb from Jerusalem bearing spices to anoint His body. There were at least five women and probably more. These women started out while it was still dark and arrived at the tomb in the very early dawn. On reaching the tomb, they were astonished to find that the stone had been moved from the entrance. We can imagine them standing at a distance, afraid to move closer, wondering what had happened. Who moved the stone? Had the body of Jesus been stolen? Grave robbing was a common crime in the ancient world, perhaps the robbers were still around. Or had Pilate ordered the body’s removal? What should they do? At last they decided the disciples should be told. So Mary Magdalene was sent back to the city to find them. Not one of them imagined that Jesus had been raised from the dead. After a while it began to grow lighter and the women grew bolder. They decided to look into the tomb. There they saw the angels. The women were afraid, but an angel told them not to be afraid, that Jesus was risen, and that they were to tell His disciples. Meanwhile, Mary had found the two chief disciples, Peter and John, who alone of the eleven were present in the city that weekend. The two disciples immediately started for the tomb, running and leaving Mary far behind. John was the younger of the two. Consequently, he arrived at the tomb first, stooped to look through the narrow opening, and saw the graveclothes. Then Peter arrived, out of breath and in a hurry as usual. He brushed John aside and went in. When John saw the graveclothes, he saw them in a cursory manner from outside the tomb. The Greek uses the most common word for seeing; it suggests nothing more than sight. But when Peter arrived, he scrutinized the graveclothes closely. The account uses a special word for what Peter did. We get our words theory and theorize from it. He was trying to figure things out. John, who tells this part of the story because he was there and lived through it, records what Peter saw: He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself [John 20:6-7]. At last John entered also, saw what Peter had seen and believed in Jesus’ resurrection. John understood that the only way to explain the unusual arrangement of the graveclothes was that Jesus’ resurrection body had passed through them, just as it would later pass through closed doors. After this the appearances of the Lord began. Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, who arrived back at the tomb after Peter and John had returned to the city. He appeared to the women next, then to Peter alone, then to the Emmaus disciples, finally, later that night to all the disciples as they were gathered in the upper room. At this point in Matthew’s account, however, neither Peter nor John had seen the resurrected Lord. He was seen by the women first, those who had been last at the cross and were now first at the tomb. Jesus met them on their way home after they had gone to the tomb, seen the angels, and heard about Jesus’ resurrection. The angel’s message contains four imperatives that are as important today as they were on that first Easter day for those women [6-7]. (1) Come. The first of the angel’s imperatives was come. This was an important statement because much might have hindered the women from coming. The place itself might have hindered them. They were in a graveyard early in the morning. Fear of Rome might have hindered them. The stone had been sealed, but the seal was broken and the stone removed. Rome had been defied. They might be implicated in the crime. Their sin might have hindered them. Something mysterious, holy had taken place here. They might have reasoned, “This is sacred ground. We can’t go closer,” None of this stopped them, of course. The invitation to come was from God, and they recognized the voice of God in the invitation and obeyed it. (2) See. The second imperative was see. The angel said, Come, see the place where he lay [6]. (3) Go. This was the third of the angel’s imperatives. It is a strong reminder that however tempting it may be to remain near the tomb to learn its lessons, there is nevertheless work that remains to be done and we must get on with it. The women are to go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead [7]. (4) Tell. The last of the angel’s imperatives was tell. It rightly came last, for if we have come to the tomb, have seen that it is empty, know that Jesus was raised, and then obeyed Jesus by going, then clearly we must speak of what we know. His resurrection is astonishing good news, and good news must be told. The greatest news the world has ever heard is that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. It is great because it is true and because of what it proves. It proves that the God of the Old Testament is the true God, that Jesus is God’s Son and our Savior, that His death has been accepted by His Father as a true atonement for our sins, that those who believe on Jesus are in a justified state before God, that there is power for victory over sin for all who belong to Jesus, and that those who are joined to Jesus by faith will themselves be raised from death to life in heaven. This is a tremendous message. How can we not tell it boldly to those who are perishing apart from Jesus Christ? Yet we must not be naďve about the opposition, for the women who went to the tomb were not the only ones who knew about the resurrection, according to Matthew. The soldiers also knew about it. They were present when the angels rolled away the stone and were terrified by it. They went to the religious leaders to report what has happened. The religious leaders gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep’.” [12-13]. How perverse are the sinful hearts of men. When Jesus was dying on the cross, the leaders taunted him, saying, let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him [27:42]. But now Jesus had done something even greater than that. He had been raised from death. Did they believe on Him? Of course not. They could not believe because they would not believe. They hated Jesus, so they drew the soldiers into an evil conspiracy.”  [Boice, pp. 637-643].

 

The Resurrection and Biblical Theology. Although it is sometimes relegated to Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian gospel. Without the resurrection, Jesus’ ministry ends in defeat. But everything changes if He is not here, for he has risen, as he said [28:6]. The resurrection not only culminates the passion narrative but also is at the center of redemption itself. Without it one can only pity Jesus as a martyr whose lofty ideals were sadly misunderstood. With it one must stand in awe of the Messiah, the Son of the living God, who gave His life as a ransom for many and who will one day return in glory to judge humanity. The resurrection of Jesus is the sine qua non of several themes in Matthew’s theology.

(1) Without the resurrection, Jesus’ crucial and climactic redemptive act of dying for sinners would go without divine endorsement. The resurrection amounts to the Father’s signaling that Jesus’ death was victorious and affirming that Jesus’ blood of the new covenant will effectively save His people from their sins.

(2) If Jesus did not rise from the dead after promising several times that He would do so [12:40; 16:21; 17:9,23; 20:19; 26:32], He would be pitied or scorned, not believed and obeyed [cf. 1 Cor. 15:16-19]. As is commonly said, He would have been a lunatic or a liar, not the Lord of heaven and earth.

(3) Without the resurrection, Jesus’ people could not be saved from their sins [1:21] because His mission would have ended with the ignominy of a cursed person who hung upon a tree [Deut. 21:22-23; Gal. 3:13].

(4) Without the resurrection, Jesus would never drink the new wine, representing the blood of the new covenant, in His Father’s kingdom with His disciples [26:27-29].

(5) Without the resurrection, there would be no apostolic foundation for the church [16:18], since Jesus’ resurrection turned the deserters back into disciples [26:31-32]. Nothing but the astonishing yet true resurrection message delivered to them by the two women and then by Jesus Himself could have brought the scattered disciples back into the fold [28:7,10,16-20].

(6) Without the resurrection of Jesus, there would be no complete model of sacrificial living. Jesus taught the oxymoron of the crucified life, that genuinely abundant living occurs only when one dies to self-interest and that the self-oriented life is misery. But the model is truncated if Jesus’ suffering does not lead to ultimate exaltation, if the crown never replaced the cross [10:38-39; 16:24-26; 20:26-28; 23:12].

(7) Without the resurrection of Jesus, there would be no eschatological shalom to rectify all earthly wrongs and renew the world [19:28]. The martyrs whose blood cried out from the ground would not be vindicated [23:35; Rev. 6:9-11]. Those who do violence to their fellow humans would not be held accountable. There would be no ultimate reckoning [Matt. 13:37-42]. Satan would win the cosmic battle. But the resurrection guarantees the final judgment of all humanity [Matt. 13:37-42; 16:27; 25:31].

(8) Without the resurrection of Jesus, His people could not hope for their own resurrection and reward [13:43; 16:27; 25:31-40; 27:51-53]. Jesus’ ethical teaching includes the prospect of judgment and reward in the coming kingdom [4:17; 5:12; 6:4; 7:1-2,21]. The disciples’ hope and values focus on the kingdom [6:10,33], but the kingdom could never come to earth if the king had remained in the grave. With Jesus’ throne unoccupied, what would become of the twelve thrones of His apostles, and of the rewards Jesus promised to all His disciples [6:19-21; 13:43; 19:27-29; cf. Dan. 12:3; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21]?

(9) Without the resurrection, Jesus’ climactic saving act of dying for sinners by crucifixion would lack interpretation and proof of divine acceptance. Granted, the apostolic proclamation centered on the cross [Gal. 6:14; 1 Cor. 1:18-25; 1 Pet. 1:19; Heb. 2:9,14; 9:12-14; Rev. 5:6,9]. But the significance of the cross would be unclear apart from the resurrection.

Therefore any presentation of the good news of Jesus the Messiah must stress His resurrection as the essential explanation of the meaning of His death. The gospel must be communicated with culturally appropriate methods and language, but the methods and language must expound the resurrection as proof of the saving power of the crucifixion. Any “gospel” that does not place Jesus’ resurrection alongside Jesus’ death is not the authentic message of Jesus and the apostles.”  [Turner, pp. 682-684].

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         What are the four imperatives in the angel’s message and why are they still important for believers today?

 

2.         Why is belief in the historical resurrection essential to the Christian Faith? List the nine effects of not believing in the resurrection that David Turner gives.

 

3.         Think about David Turner’s statement: “Any ‘gospel’ that does not place Jesus’ resurrection alongside Jesus’ death is not the authentic message of Jesus and the apostles.” When you share the gospel with someone, do you include the resurrection alongside Jesus’ death of the cross?

 

References:

Matthew, volume 2, James Boice, Baker.

The Gospel of Matthew, R. T. France, Eerdmans.

The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

Matthew, David Turner, BENT, Baker.