take our last look at Matthew for that most important of events, the
Resurrection. The Scripture is long, but it tells the drama clearly.
Mat 27:57-66 NASB
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who
himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. (58)
This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it
to be given to him. (59) And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a
clean linen cloth, (60) and laid it in his
own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone
against the entrance of the tomb and went away. (61)
And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. (62) Now on the next day, the day after the
preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with
Pilate, (63) and said, "Sir, we remember
that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again.' (64)
"Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third
day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people,
'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the
first." (65) Pilate said to them,
"You have a guard; go, make it as
secure as you know how." (66) And they
went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the
Mat 28:1-20 NASB
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other
Mary came to look at the grave. (2) And
behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended
from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. (3) And his appearance was like lightning, and his
clothing as white as snow. (4) The guards
shook for fear of him and became like dead men. (5)
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are
looking for Jesus who has been crucified. (6)
"He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place
where He was lying. (7) "Go quickly and
tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going
ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told
you." (8) And they left the tomb quickly
with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. (9) And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. 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 take word to My brethren to
leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me." (11) Now while they were on their way, some of the
guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had
happened. (12) And when they had assembled
with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the
soldiers, (13) and said, "You are to
say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' (14) "And if this should come to the governor's
ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble." (15) And they took the money and did as they had
been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day. (16)
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had
designated. (17) When they saw Him, they
worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. (18) And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on
earth. (19) "Go
therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and
lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
View and World’s View
thing our ancestors – heathen or Christian – understood much more clearly that
we do today is the importance of the Resurrection. Here’s Paul’s explanation
1Co 15:14-19 NASB
and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also
is vain. (15) Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we
testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact
the dead are not raised. (16) For if the dead
are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; (17)
and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in
your sins. (18) Then those also who have
fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (19)
If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be
pretty much tells the logic of it. The church today faces an interesting
dichotomy unknown to the early church:
common place phrase in the early church was “He is risen.” It implies a
present-tense Christ, One who is with us always.
the phrase would be “Christ rose.” It is a subtle difference, but
important. Today much of the church sees the Resurrection as of
historical interest only.
see the distinction, or course. We will speak a bit more later on “living in
the Resurrection”; but to the orthodox Christian He is risen indeed.
is one other reason we consider the Resurrection of supreme importance. It
means that the promise of our resurrection is made by the same Power
which raised Christ from the dead. It ain’t bragging if you can do it.
main reactions have arisen concerning the Resurrection.
- Myth or legend. Usually delivered in respectful tones by liberal
heretics, this says that Jesus was, well, who knows what He was? But
certainly not what He claimed. The “Jesus Seminar” so beloved by the
press is an example of this view.
- Easter faith. While denying that they really know, these
heretics tell us that the Resurrection itself is not important (which
means they can deny it and consider that trivial) as long as we have
“Easter faith.” A form of godliness but denying the power thereof. It’s
difficult to pin down except at Easter – when it’s a genuine feel-good
sermon for those who show up once a year.
- Scientific explanation. These folks hold that there
must be some scientific explanation for the accounts of the New
Testament. Interestingly, they don’t usually quibble over the accuracy of
the documents – just what can be read between the lines. Their theories
will be considered in the next section.
theories for the Resurrection
are five major theories to interpret the evidence of the Scripture.
this theory, it is held that Christ did not die on the cross – he merely passed
out, was taken for dead, and in the cool of the tomb came to. This seems to
meet all the facts, and therefore is viewed as inoffensive to Christians. But
there are certain objections to it:
- Surviving a crucifixion. The Roman army was not in the
habit of allowing victims of a crucifixion to survive it – for the simple
reason that the soldier would be crucified if he did. It’s in their
interest to make sure. Which they did.
- Blood and water. John tells us that he saw blood
and water coming from Christ’s side. There is only one way to have this:
the lungs have collapsed. That’s the usual way crucifixion ends – the
victim is actually asphyxiated. No lungs, no air, no life.
- Moving the stone. If Christ swooned, how does a man in that
condition roll away the stone? How did he get past the guards?
- Where did He go? It is the principle objection. There is
absolutely no evidence whatever that He was in that body after the
Crucifixion. So where did He go from there? Why didn’t He go back and
put it to the Pharisees?
matter is so difficult that its backers often go to the second theory: a grand
is very hard to have a conspiracy composed of so many witnesses. But it’s not
very hard to propose one. The method is simple: steal the body and announce
the Resurrection. It’s a little difficult to see why a mortal Jesus would want
to participate, but wave that aside. The theory has other problems.
- No one confessed. Not one of the disciples or early followers ever
recanted his testimony that He is risen. They had plenty of opportunity
and motivation to do so. Their enemies had the power to find such a one,
and every motivation to do so. No one ever recanted, even in the face of
a horrible death.
- These guys?
Come on people, what kind of people does it take to run a successful
conspiracy? A bunch of hick fishermen? The Pharisees – they could run a
conspiracy. But this bunch?
- 500 eyewitnesses. There were over 500 witnesses who saw the
resurrected Christ. That’s a large number of conspirators – which usually
means the conspiracy is a short one.
- Why didn’t the Jews produce the body? This is the most damaging
argument of all. If there is no resurrection, how do the disciples gain
possession of the body? If the Jews still had the body, why didn’t they
idea in this one is that we have some sort of hallucination – everybody went
out and got high some mushrooms, and this is the result (your theory here.)
But this theory has a few holes, too:
- That many witnesses? All those people were
- That many appearances? For the next forty days?
- What about Thomas? Here’s a man, at least, whose first reaction is
that this just can’t be. Was he the only one who got in on the
- Hallucinations don’t eat breakfast. Which Christ did.
- Where’s the body? Again, all the Jews had to do was produce the body
of Jesus, and this theory would have vanished.
theory holds that none of this happened – or some little, but we’re not sure –
and that later on the myth took hold. This has its little difficulty too.
- Style of the Gospels. We know how myths were written
in that time period.
- Little time. We know that the undisputed date of Paul’s letters
is before AD 65 (the year in which he was fed to the lions.). That
doesn’t allow much time for such a myth to take hold.
- The two layer theory. The lower layer has a man named
Jesus doing good things and speaking wisely. The upper layer has this man
mythologized into the Savior. Problem? There is absolutely no physical
evidence for the lower layer.
- The women.
If you’re going to create a myth, you don’t have the first piece of
evidence depend upon women. At that time, a woman’s word was very, very
suspect. If you’re going to write a myth, you need a heroic disciple here
– not a bunch of depressed women.
- Peter tells us that this is not so. See 2nd Peter 1:16.
So we’re back to the conspiracy theory again.
fifth theory is the logical one: He is Risen.
in the Resurrection
have often encouraged my students to live in the power of the Resurrection.
What do we mean by that?
Christian is regenerated – born again. We should act like it, then.
first step is in baptism. We are buried with Christ – a symbolic sharing
of the death, and then the Resurrection. We are “born again” – raised
from the dead.
action puts His Spirit – the Holy Spirit – within us.
With a different Spirit, we are changed – reborn.
with His Spirit, we walk in the light.
If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.
actions should speak loudly in this. Christ’s resurrection means our
point of the preaching
preach Christ crucified, risen and coming again.
preach that this is the fulfillment of prophecy, God’s plan from the
preach that Christ is the way, the truth and the life – and that no one
comes to God the Father except through Him. This alone makes our telling
of the Gospel important to those who will hear it.
preach that He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. And
there are a fair number who ought to be apprised of that.
the Gospel is not about us, though it strengthens the faith. It’s about those
who haven’t heard the Word.
where is your sting?
key characteristic of the Christian who walks in the power of the Resurrection
is this: He no longer fears death – but sees it as homecoming. No fear?
was willing to sacrifice his only son to God – because he knew that God
holds power over life and death, and could raise Isaac from the dead.
know that we will be raised from the dead, too.
Death is not permanent for us.
the resurrection, we will receive from our Father the generous rewards He
of all, we know this: to be absent from the body is to be present with
grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? We live in the
power of the Resurrection, and you have no power over us.