The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important topic that anyone could discuss. This is the day that changed the world and the importance of it and what you believe about it will determine your eternity.
1) When evil people are used by God
The Chief Priest and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate.
The religious leaders should not have gone into see Pilate because they would have been declared unclean during the Passover. You were not allowed to go into the place of a gentile. The Rule followers are now breaking even more rules because of their hatred for Jesus.
We remember the deceiver said after three days I will rise
Here we see that they knew what Jesus meant when He said He would destroy this temple and build it up again. The religious leaders understood what Jesus meant more than the disciples did. They understood that Jesus was not talking about the actual Temple but that He was referring to His body being the Temple of God. That was a common expression from the religious leaders but they had to twist what Jesus was saying to get a guilty verdict from Pilate.
See Matthew 12:38-40 and the Sign of Jonah and how Jesus told them that He would be three days in the grave and then rise again. They knew exactly what Jesus meant.
Three days is not three , twenty four hour periods, but only part of each of the three days. We do the same thing when we stay in a hotel and we book a night. We check in at three in the afternoon and then leave at eleven in the morning. So if we say we want to stay a night then we know that we are not just staying through the night. If we did we would have to leave when the Sun came up.
They won’t even call Jesus by name only deceiver or imposter which means they are continuing to put into people’s minds that Jesus was not the Messiah
Order the Tomb to be secure until the third day, so His disciples do not come and steal the body
Genesis 50 says what you meant for evil God meant for the saving of many lives. These religious leaders are unknowingly making the resurrection story more believable by making it impossible for anyone to believe the body was stolen. By having guards outside the tomb they will be proving to others that Jesus did raise from the dead and the very lie they will start is impossible to believe. They did not believe Jesus would truly rise from the dead but they were concerned His disciples would make it look as though He did.
Pilate said “take a guard and make the tomb as secure as you know.
Pilate is giving into everything they ask for either because he knows that this whole fiasco will come back to hurt him or because he is distraught by everything he has experienced.
The religious leaders had temple guards but some believe that they also were given Roman guards under their command. We know from the gospels that it was trained Roman guards that secured the tomb. Sealing the tomb meant that there would be a wax seal placed on the tomb with an official government seal. This would detour people from breaking in because the penalty would be severe for breaking of a government seal.
After the Sabbath at the dawn on the first day Mary Magdalen and the other Mary came to the Tomb
These women either watched or helped Joseph of Arimethea prepare Jesus body. We know from other gospels that they came with spices (Luke 24:1) probably to add more to the body. Jewish belief was that the spirit of the deceased left the body after 4 days so this was not an unusual practice that the women were doing.
And Look there was a strong earthquake
This would be the second earthquake, one at the death of Jesus and now one at the resurrection of Jesus. Matthew is pointing out again to those who were alive that they should remember the second earthquake as well.
For an angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. And His appearance was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow.
The angel used the earthquake or there was an earthquake when he landed from Heaven. The Angel moved the stone and was sitting on it. To sit on something in this manner was a sign of victory.
The Angel came to open the tomb not to let Jesus out but so that we could see in. The brightness of the angels was simply that they were with God and were still reflecting His Glory. Moses had a similar experience when he met with God (Exodus 34).
And the guards shook like dead men.
The shaking of the guards is the same term as earthquake. They were paralyzed with fear. These men who were battle ready experienced something that scared them into lifelessness. The religious leaders thought they were plotting to keep Jesus in the tomb and what they did was add more eyewitnesses to what really happened.
Only God can allow evil people to make their plans and use it for the good of others. (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28)
2) When Fear is turned into Joy
And the Angel said to the Women; don’t be afraid for I know you are seeking Jesus who was crucified.
The women come up onto the tomb and they see the soldiers as if they are dead, the stone rolled away, and an angel sitting on the stone. According to John 20 Mary Magdalene saw the open tomb and thought the religious leaders or Romans took the body. What should have been joy was still overrun by fear.
Don’t be afraid is the angel trying to alleviate their fear, but it also means “Stop being afraid”.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he told you. Come see the place where he was lying.
The stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out but to allow others to see that He has raised from the dead. The Angel reminds them of what Jesus told them about how He would rise again. They have doubts so the angel points them to the truth. Jesus repeatedly told them that He would rise again from the dead. (Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32)
Jesus followers should have expected something but they missed it while Jesus enemies understood that He was to come back to life. Another Angel now joins the first and is sitting inside to show the place where Jesus was.
According to John 20 the men came to the Tomb and then went back home.
Go quickly and tell His disciples he has been raised from the dead and He is going before you to Galilee
Galilee was the place that Jesus trained His disciples and it is also where He told them He would meet them. You do not see rebuke for their lack of faith but instead you see Him offer hope.
And Jesus met them and said greetings; and they grabbed hold of his feet and worshipped Him
This was a cheerful Hello or Good morning. The women were overwhelmed by Jesus presence and they bowed down and worshiped Him. The fact that they grabbed Jesus feet is another sign that they were not hallucinating or seeing an illusion.
3) When Appearances are too great to ignore
Don’t be afraid Go announce to my brothers and sisters that they will see me in Galilee
Again, their fears have to be calmed because this event is one of the most amazing things they ever experienced. Some of the religions are based on one mans dream or vision from God. Christianity is about many people witnessing the awesome act of Jesus rising from the dead.
People that saw Jesus were:
A) Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-18)
B) A Group of Women (Mark 16:5-7; Matthew 28:9)
C) Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
D) Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)
E) The Disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23)
F) Thomas and the others eight days later (John 20:26-29)
G) Seven Disciples on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23)
H) The Great Commission appearance (Matthew 28:16-20)
I) Five Hundred Believers (1 Corinthians 15:6)
J) James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
K) The Disciples at the Ascension (Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-12)
Christianity hinges on Christ not only dying but rising again. The Death on the cross paid for our sins but the resurrection defeated death. This is why when we have to face death one day we can with confidence because Jesus Christ has already defeated it.
1 Corinthians 15: 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Paul wrote these words some believe within eight years of Christ resurrection with many that saw Jesus being alive anyone could have disproven what the Apostle Paul wrote.
This is why so many people try to disprove the death and resurrection of Christ, because if they can prove either Jesus did not die or that He did not rise again, than Christianity is a hoax. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then He is not God and not worthy to be praised.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 lets us know that God set eternity in our hearts and the majority of the people in the world are seeking something beyond our time on this planet. This was placed in us by God because we are meant to live forever. Although some Atheist may claim that this feeling is something that others instilled in us, the fact remains that people are born with the intuition there is something beyond this world.
Not only has Christianity never been proven to be wrong, many people have come to faith in Christ when they did try and prove it wrong.
4) When Lies cannot overcome the Truth
Some of the guards went to tell the chief priest what happened
These guards knew that the penalty for not guarding the tomb was to be put to death. They may have gone to the priest because going to Pilate would have certainly cost them their lives. They went to the priest hoping that they could help them.
They gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and told them to say that the disciples stole the body while they were sleeping.
These religious leaders bribed Judas and now the guards. I guess they believe money will buy them anything they want. It also goes to show you the amount of money they had and were going to lose because of Jesus exposing their evil practices.
The Priest were worried about the disciples stealing the body and that is the very lie they told. If it was the disciples then how could the guards know that if they were asleep? How did the guards not hear the four ton stone being rolled away?
These were trained guards who would take 3 hour shifts and allow others to sleep if necessary. The story the Priest made up is not believable.
And this story has spread among the Jews to this very day.
Matthew is making it clear that with all the witnesses available you could go and see that this story was made up by the religious leaders. No amount of proof will convince some people and it shows us from the very beginning there has been opposition to Christianity.
The religious leaders knew what Jesus meant when He said He would rise on the third day, they saw the signs of God at Jesus death, and now they are getting first hand information that Jesus body is gone. They heard about the angel that moved the stone and yet nothing was detouring them from not believing.
Many theories popped up as to what happened to Jesus body and yet no good explanation is given. The religious leaders were not content in not believing in Jesus, they wanted others to not know the truth about Jesus as well. Some people are so bent on not believing in Jesus and they will do all they can to make sure that no one else does as well.
That is why the change in the disciples from cowards to being bold shows that they really believed Jesus was alive. If they stole the body then at least one of them would have cracked and came out and said that Jesus was really dead.
Someone is lying to you and you have to determine who. Either Jesus is the truth or He is a lie and there is no middle ground.
Then the eleven disciples went into Galilee on the mountain and when they saw Jesus they worshiped Him.
Notice worship is the first response of the women and of the disciples. I believe it will be the same reaction we will have when we get to Heaven. I believe we will not care about all the questions we have now but we will be overjoyed with seeing Jesus.
5) When Doubt is turned into Faith
But some doubted
This can mean some hesitated to believe. It is being skeptical and not sure about what you are being told or seeing. This would have been a shocking moment and you can imagine they were wondering if their minds were playing tricks on them. This also proves that the disciples did not hallucinate Jesus rising from the dead because it was the last things they would have dreamed could happen.
Some Christians wrestle with doubt simply because they say if they were raised in a Hindu, Mormon, Muslim home then they would believe that. They disregard the millions of people that have believed in Jesus Christ after they were raised in homes that taught different faiths.
Sometimes doubt occurs because we have lost the amazement of Christianity
“Somewhere, along the line, the Bible reading dries up; prayer becomes spotty; the pressures or rising obligations at work reduce church attendance to a bare minimum.”(D.A. Carson, Scandalous Freedom, pg 146)
Lack of Sleep can cause doubting. Crises can cause one to doubt. Whatever reason you are doubting then you can know that Jesus wants you not to doubt and believe. Whether Matthew meant to point out Thomas many think of him when it comes to doubt and he is known as doubting Thomas.
John 20:24-29 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas knew that the body of Jesus had unique wounds that no other crucified body would have. He knew Jesus was pierced in the side and that was not a common practice of most crucifixions. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas, He simply said what proof do you need to stop doubting.
There was an entire week between vs 25-26 so Thomas was wrestling with this for a week. We sometimes have to mentally wrestle with the things of God and it is after we wrestle with them that our doubt turns into faith. It was after all this wrestling that Thomas came to the point and said. “My Lord My God. Jesus became personal to Thomas and He wants to be a personal God with you as well.
When we do not allow people to wrestle with the tough questions of the faith, twe rob them of the opportunity of growing in a deeper understanding of God . This in turn will keep them from making Him Their Lord and Their God.
Our Faith is not just Faith, it is Faith in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. We have faith in a historical person based on verifiable truth. Yes, we have to take it a step further than knowing information but it is the information that allows us to grow deeper into the personal relationship with Christ.
Romans 10:9-10 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Do you really believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?
The story of the resurrection has changed the world but has it changed you?
Has the story of the resurrection lost its meaning in your life and the life of your family?
The day that changed the world starts by allowing Jesus to change you.
God is not too big for one religion, He used one way to make it easy for us to understand. He has made Himself known and He has given as much proof as you need. Now it is up to you to place your faith and trust in Him.
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek.