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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jesus Rises from the Dead

Jesus Rises from the Dead
Matthew 27:57-28:20

The moment Jesus died, a violent earthquake shook the whole area.  The sky had been dark for three hours while Jesus was on the cross and it grew even darker when He died. It seemed that even nature was mourning and reacting to His death.  The soldiers guarding Jesus’ body were terrified as rocks split in half and tumbled down around them.  “Surely, this was the Son of God,” one of the Roman soldiers cried out.  (Matthew 27:54b) The crowds who had been around taunting Jesus all day were leaving and some were running in fear of the earthquake.  Only a few women stayed near the body crying.

As the soldiers were taking Jesus’ body down from the cross a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea showed up and gave the soldiers a letter from Pilate stating that he could have Jesus’ body.  Joseph was a religious leader and a secret follower of Jesus and he wanted to give Jesus a proper burial.  He had cut a tomb out of the rock near Golgotha and he wanted to bury Jesus in his new tomb.

Nicodemus was also a religious leader and a secret follower of Jesus and he wanted to help out too.  He came along and helped Joseph wrap Jesus’ body in clean linen cloths and carry it to the tomb.  It was common in those days to bury the dead in caves or to dig small spaces in the side of a hill or rock and use these carved out spaces as tombs.  A large stone was then rolled into the mouth of the tomb to close it up.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary walked over to the tomb and watched and cried as Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus. 

The next day the religious leaders met with Pilate again.  They remembered that Jesus had said that He would rise again after being in the grave for three days and this worried them.  They asked Pilate for soldiers to guard the tomb to make sure that Jesus didn’t rise!  Pilate agreed and told them to make the tomb as secure as possible.

So the priests and elders sealed the stone in front of the tomb (like locking a door) and put soldiers with spears and swords all around the tomb to guard it night and day.  They weren’t taking any chances!  (Matthew 27:62-66)

While Jesus’ enemies remembered that He said He would rise from death, His own disciples forgot.  Jesus had told his disciples several times that He would meet them in Galilee. He told them that He would rise after three days in the grave. But His disciples must not have taken Him seriously! Do we take His promises seriously?

Very early on a Sunday morning, three days later, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to Jesus’ tomb. And just as they arrived there was a violent earthquake and an angel of the Lord appeared and rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb.  Scripture describes the angel this way:  “His face was like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow.”  (Matthew 28:3) The guards around the tomb shook in fear and “became like dead men.”  (Matthew 28:4)

The angel sat on the stone and spoke to the women and said: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here: for He has risen as He said He would.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”  (Matthew 28:5-6)

The women walked into the empty tomb and saw that Jesus’ grave clothes were folded there but He was gone.  Scripture does not say that Jesus left the tomb when the angel rolled the stone away from the door.  A large stone would not keep the Son of God from getting out!  It was rolled away so that Jesus’ followers might see the evidence of an empty tomb. 

The angel continued: “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and that He is going before you to Galilee.  You will see Him there.  Behold, I have told you.”  (Matthew 28:7) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran out of the empty tomb with fear and great joy.  And as they were running to tell the disciples, Jesus met them.  The women fell down and worshipped Him and held Him by His feet and Jesus said: “Rejoice!  Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and I will be there to meet them.”  (Matthew 28:9-10) Then the women ran on to tell the disciples.

When the guards recovered from the shock of the angel’s appearance at the tomb and of Jesus not being there, they ran to the religious leaders and told them all that had happened.  A guard could lose his life for allowing the person he was guarding to get away, so these guards were worried that they would be killed because they did not stop Jesus from rising and leaving the tomb.  They nervously told the religious leaders about the angel and how Jesus was no longer in the tomb!

Scripture says that the religious leaders paid the guards a large sum of money to keep them quiet.  They were ordered not to tell anyone that Jesus had risen but to tell people that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body even though the tomb had been heavily guarded.  The soldiers agreed to keep quiet about Jesus’ resurrection and they took the money.

When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary told the disciples that they had seen Jesus the disciples were over joyed and they traveled to Galilee to meet Jesus there.  And when they finally met up with Jesus they fell down and worshipped Him. 

Before Jesus went back to heaven forty days later, He appeared not only to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and the disciples, but He appeared to several other women.  (Matthew 28:8-10) and to his followers on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:19,20, Luke 24:13-15) And He appeared to many in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20, John 21:1-24) He met with James and the apostles, (1 Corinthians 15:7) and to five hundred people. (1 Corinthians 16:6) And after Jesus went back to heaven He appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6) He spent many days with His disciples, including Thomas. (Mark 16:14) And Jesus was with them just before He went back to heaven.  (Mark 16:19,20)  Hundreds of people saw Jesus before He went back to heaven.

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave the disciples the Great Commission.  This is what He said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  God therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.  And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-29) After Jesus gave these marching orders to his disciples – to all of his disciples in every age – Jesus went back to heaven.

The crucified Servant is now the exalted Lord and has received all authority.  While His ministry had been to Israel during His lifetime, now His ministry has a global perspective.  He now calls his disciples (that’s us) to world evangelism – to make disciples of all nations.  We have a big job to do, but He promises to be with us every step of the way.  We serve a risen Savior!  Hallelujah!


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