Resurrection of Jesus

TEXT: Matthew 28:1-20

The chief priests and Pharisees of Matthew 27:62-66 have sent Pilate's soldiers to watch the tomb of Jesus. Despite that, Jesus was resurrected on the other side of the stone that blocked the entrance to His tomb as the guards stood watch, and there was nothing the Roman guards, scribes or Pharisees could do to stop that resurrection.

And even though they did not see the resurrection, the soldiers,  for sure, knew that something supernatural was going on.

EARTHQUAKE AND STONE REMOVAL

Matthew records an earthquake occurring at Jesus' gravesite. This is the second earthquake in that apostle's Gospel account. The first was at Jesus' death on Golgotha (REFERENCE: Matthew 27:50-53), which tore the veil in the temple in two from top to bottom, tore rocks apart and raised dead saints to life again.

Once Jesus was resurrected, those resurrected saints who had been brought back from death in the first earthquake went into the Jerusalem and were seen by many there. One can only speculate if some of those saints went to see at least some the scribes and Pharisees who had opposed Jesus and had sought His death. (Oh, to have been a fly on the wall).

Mark says that, after the earthquake at Jesus' tomb, an angel of the Lord rolled back the stone from the tomb's entrance. Could the earthquake and the rolling away of the stone have been different phases of the same resurrection event?

Could the earthquake have taken place as Jesus was brought back to life? Could the quake also have opened the Earth to lead the way to a prison of dead souls  for Christ to preach the Gospel to (REFERENCE: 1 Peter 3:18)?

SYMBOL IN THE STONE?

Could the stone being rolled back by the angel, as well as the tomb of stone itself, be a symbol of something else?

Think back to the 10 commandments, which were written twice on tablets of stone. God first wrote the commandments in stone in Exodus 31:18. Then He told Moses to write them in stone the second time (Exodus 32:19) after an angry Moses threw the stone tablets at the children of Israel worshiping the golden calf at the base of Mount Sinai.

In the crafting of the 10 commandments, we see them first written with the finger of God, and then written, under the inspiration of God, with the hand man. We see the commandments delivered to the high priest - Moses, and fulfilled by our High Priest - Jesus. We see Moses smash the commandments written by the finger of God on the rocks of Mount Sinai. We see a broken Son of God fulfilling those commandments on Golgotha. We see righteous indignation and anger in the eyes of an earthly high priest (who was a type of Jesus as our High Priest), and we see unmerited love in the eyes of our Jesus, our heavenly High Priest.

Could not that stone, on which were written the 10 commandments, be a symbol pointing to the very sepulcher in which Jesus had lain, and from where He was resurrected? And is not Jesus the fulfillment of those 10 commandments and of the Law (REFERENCE: Matthew 5:17-20)?  Would not this event, then, also serve as a type of "stone" upon which a new Covenant between man and God was to be written - a covenant that could not be written "in stone" until the tombstone was rolled away by God after the resurrection of the Christ, and Jesus' blood then offered on heaven's altar for the  sins of all mankind for all time?

And if the sepulcher were to represent the New Covenant written on a "new" stone (note that the tomb in which Jesus rested had never before been used to bury any man - REFERENCE: Matthew 19:41), it could be said that written in stone, with the finger of God, using His blood as the ink.

THE WITNESS OF HEAVEN, MAN

The reality of the resurrection, so important to our faith (REFERENCE 1 Corinthians 15:19)  is a testimonial validated by both heaven and mankind.

Note the order of events (Matthew 28:2): Earthquake, an angel descends from heaven, and the angel rolls away the stone and sits upon on that stone.

The whole thing was quite a sight to behold, and involved a witness of both heaven and man. The angel, looking all shiny in white (Matthew 28:3), the Roman guards white in the face as the blood likely drained away from their normal pallor and they appeared to be paralyzed (as "dead men" ... Matthew 28:4) and the angel then carrying on a conversation with the women who had come to attend to the body of Jesus.

The difference in recounting of the whole event would be striking. The women would later both recount to others what had happened and what they had seen, and then carry those events as living witnesses with them to their dying day. They had been there - and no doubt some of the apostles who weren't would later come to wish they had been. And those who would later come to know Jesus as their savior would have these women's personal accounts to witness that these things were true.

The Roman soldiers would also have a  tale to tell, Matthew notes, but their silence was purchased with money given to them by the chief priests and elders (REFERENCE: Matthew 28:11-15). It is ironic that the chief priests and elders used money taken from God's temple that had been received of God's chosen people to buy a lie that bore "false witness" (REFERENCE: Exodus 20:16 and Proverbs 6:16-19). But at this point, considering the lies that were told and false witness given at Jesus' trial, that this was "just another lie."

It also appears that the average "Jew on the street" (non-Christians) didn't believe the story agreed to by their Jewish religious leaders and Roman soldiers, as noted in Matthew 28:15.

SOMEONE ELSE WAS THERE AT THE TOMB

Because the disciples of Jesus told one account and the soldiers another, history has forever been murky.

However, there was someone else there at the tomb - another witness. It was the Holy Spirit, who is also God, and who, like God, is ever-present. He is the witness that is true, and it is He who testifies to the souls of believers and non-believers that Christ was resurrected.

He was there when it happened. And it is his testimony that cannot be questioned, for He is God. Men who look for justification for not believing just have an argument - and in these days, a book they want to sell you on Amazon.com or a film to see in your local movie theater.

JESUS APPEARS TO THE DISCIPLES

The angel who rolled away the stone from Jesus' tomb had told Mary and her colleagues to go to Galilee, where He would see them (Matthew 28:5-7). This they did (Matthew 28:16-20).

Matthew writes that the 11 disciples went to meet with Jesus, but you know that Mary Magdalene and others who had followed Jesus to His crucifixion had to have also gone to Galilee - especially when you consider that Mary had spoken to her Master (John 20:11-18).

And there had to be more than just Mary, too - people, who just ministered to the needs of Jesus and possibly the 11 inner-circle disciples, who had also gone to Galilee to see Jesus, too. When we look at the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost we see 120 disciples mentioned as being in the room (REFERENCE: Acts 1:14).

Does this not suggest that not all disciples are clergy, but that all disciples are ministers - to the lost souls who don't know Christ, to the Lord and to each other? And, given that, does the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all of the disciples in this room (Reference Acts 2:1-4) not also serve as a witness that the Holy Spirit is not reserved to the 120 in the room, nor for disciples of that generation of believers only?

And then there are these questions: Is the amount of Holy Spirit received at conversion all we will ever receive? Is it appropriate, from time to time, to ask God for more from His Holy Spirit? And if we do ask God for more, is there a manifestation that we have received more of the Holy Spirit, or do we just mentally acknowledge it and say thanks? (For the record, the Holy Spirit is a person, not an "it.")

RECOVERING THE FLOCK

After His resurrection, and before His ascension, Jesus was rounding up His scattered flock of followers (REFERENCE Zechariah 13:7 and Mark 14:27-28). Jesus said in Mark 14:28 - before He was even crucified - that He would later meet them in Galilee after He was risen.

Before we go on, notice that in Mark 14:27-28 that Jesus is speaking in faith, as He always did throughout His ministry.

By faith, He saw that he would rise again and, again by faith, He saw that He would be with His disciples after that in Galilee. Further, He believed what the Father had said and had shown Him - so much so that He only spoke what the Father had said. He also saw the end from the beginning - speaking, at the beginning, what the end would be. Thus, the end would be that He would rise and meet them in Galilee - period. That is what He spake and did - in the beginning with the disciples before His crucifixion.

DOUBTING DISCIPLES

Continuing with this passage, we see that Matthew's account of Jesus' meeting with His disciples in Galilee is not very long; certainly, at least, not as descriptive ("wordy") as we find in the other Gospels.

For example, Matthew 28:17 says: "And when they saw him,, they worshiped him: but some doubted." This refers to not only "doubting Thomas," but other disciples.

We often define "doubt" as merely "unbelief". But the Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines it as a "lack of confidence" or "to be uncertain". Its synonyms (sister meanings) are: "distrust, misdoubt, mistrust, question and suspect".

Given this information about the meaning of "doubt", let's not hang all the doubt on Thomas, as many do. Let's go beyond Matthew on this topic.

MARK:

  • The mourning and weeping disciples didn't believe Mary Magdalene when she told them that Jesus had risen and that He had been with her (REFERENCE: Mark 16:10-13). The words used to describe the disciples' doubt was "believed not," or "believed her not."
  • Other disciples who were not present at Mary's announcement, who were walking about in the country somewhere, were approached by Jesus in disguise as they walked. The weeping and mourning disciples wouldn't believe those two disciples, either (the other disciples were those who had been on the road to Emmaus - see also "JOHN" below (REFERENCE: Mark 16:12). Here, the words for doubt were "neither believed they them", so perhaps they were "stuck" in doubt and would not believe unless the saw or spoke to Jesus directly. Here, we must note that sometimes Jesus DOES talk to us through other people. We'll know if it is Him if we recognize His voice in those people's words to us (REFERENCE: John 10:27). Also note that sometimes His only "personal appearance" is in those people, in prayer, or even in the Word of God.
  • Jesus appears to the 11 disciples and upbraids them for "unbelief" and "hardness of heart" because they "believed not" (REFERENCE: Mark 16:14).

LUKE:

  • On the road to Emmaus, a town about 7.5 miles from Jerusalem, Jesus appears incognito to two disciples. The Bible doesn't say why those disciples were headed to Emmaus and not to the place where the 11 disciples were weeping and mourning in Jerusalem. And, although "sad" (Luke 24:17), these two disciples were communing and reasoning - not weeping and mourning. They were sad, but they were walking down the road of their lives, and not holed up behind closed doors in Jerusalem in fear of the Jews (REFERENCE: John 20:19). They described the Jesus they knew to Jesus in disguise as "a prophet mighty in deed and word" (REFERENCE: Luke 24:19), who was crucified and whom they had hoped would have redeemed Israel (vv. 19-20). They also told Jesus how "astonished" they were when "certain women also of our company" told them Jesus had risen and that no body was found (vv. 21-24). The words used by Jesus for their unbelief were "fools," and "slow of heart to believe" (REFERENCE Luke 24:25). After Jesus reveals Himself to them and He vanishes before their eyes, we see one of the disciples asking the other, "Did not our hearts burn within us, when we while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" In this passage in Luke it's not easy to know what turned their doubt turned to faith. The passage doesn't say if they believed because of what He said to them, because He appeared to them, or because they felt good while talking to Him. As Jesus would point out to Thomas, it's blessed to believe, even though we haven't seen (REFERENCE: John 20:29).
  • Jesus uses "troubled" and "thoughts (doubts) arise in your hearts" to describe the doubt of the disciples when He first appeared to them as a group (REFERENCE: Luke 24:36-48). Then, He showed them physical proofs and opened their understanding of the scriptures. So, in the beginning, the disciples were sight-oriented, having to see proof with  their own eyes. Note that having so see everything with our own eyes chokes faith, and without faith, it is impossible to please God (REFERENCE: Hebrews 11:6), because He designed this Creation to walk in faith. And faith is the down payment for what we are trusting God for. Paul and Silas in the Macedonian jail did not see Jesus, but they praised him in faith, confident that He would hear (REFERENCE: Acts 16:25-40).

JOHN:

The only reference to doubt in John's account of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances to the disciples involved Thomas (REFERENCE: John 20:24-29). Thomas' mind thought, and his mouth said, that he would not believe unless he saw physical proof - not just seeing Jesus, but also examining the nail prints in his hands and feet and the spear wound in Jesus' side. AND not only did he want to see those things, he also  wanted to put his fingers in the nail holes, and his hand into Jesus' side.

That's a lot of demands to place on believing. Yet, amazingly, Jesus - who had told Mary not to touch Him at the tomb (REFERENCE: John 20:17), now tells Thomas to go ahead and touch His wounds from the crucifixion (REFERENCE: John 20:27).

But it doesn't appear that, when it came down to it, Thomas was really willing to touch Jesus, only saying, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28).

Jesus described Thomas' doubt as faithless, and encouraged Thomas to be believing - and, indirectly, we also see Jesus as inferring that not seeing is also believing (John 20:29). All of this fits into Hebrews' definition of faith (REFERENCE: Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance [ assurance ] of things hoped for, the evidence [ conviction ] of things not seen."

 FIVE LITTLE VERSES

Matthew's account of post-resurrection events is summarized in five verses (Matthew 18:16-20), and do not mention the ascension of Jesus and the giving of the Great Commission to the disciples.

Other Gospel writers' post-resurrection accounts are of varying lengths.

MARK:

For example, Mark's account, we see a brief account (one verse) of Jesus appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (REFERENCE: Mark 16:13). Other accounts by Mark include Jesus' appearance the 11 inner-circle disciples while they were eating (REFERENCE: Mark 16:14-18) and imparting to them the commands of the Great Commission. And Mark also uses two verses to describe the ascension of Jesus.

Note too, the difference in the relationship between Jesus and the disciples in this "supper" setting, as compared to setting of the "Last Supper" - the last time He had eaten with them. (Yes, there is sermon material in this).

LUKE:

In Luke, we see the account of Jesus on the road to Emmaus speaking to two disciples (REFERENCE: Luke 24:12-35) in great detail, as compared to the accounts in Matthew and Mark. Luke also chronicles Jesus' appearance to the disciples (REFERENCE: Luke 36-48) and the imparting of the Great Commission at that time. And, we see four verses describing the ascension of Jesus (REFERENCE: Luke 24:49-53).

JOHN:

John writes about Jesus appearing to His disciples behind closed doors (REFERENCE: John 20:19-23) not once, but twice. Thomas wasn't there the first time, John says, but was the second time (REFERENCE: John 20:24-29).

John also writes about Jesus meeting with seven disciples at the sea of Tiberias after Peter had said he was going to go fishing (Yes, there's sermon material here, too). (REFERENCE: John 21:1-14)

John also records Jesus asking three times if Peter loved Him, and giving Peter notice of how that disciple would die (REFERENCE: John 21:15-19).

In John 21:20-25, we see that disciple writing about Peter's wanting to know about John 's future. John ends his Gospel account by telling us that he was a witness to all that Jesus did, and that his account of what Jesus had done was only the tip of the iceberg - and that there is more done by Jesus than was written  ...

Perhaps someday the Lord will reveal those things and events to which John referred, but for now, we have enough knowledge of  Jesus in Matthew through Revelation to believe, to be saved and to live by until Christ returns.

That will have to do ... for now.