September 16, 2012
INTRODUCTION – Dr. Albert Mohler – the president of one of the largest graduate level theological schools in our nation; and surely one of the greatest scholars and thinkers of our time, wrote concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “The bodily resurrection of Jesus is so absolutely fundamental and necessary to Biblical Christianity – and to the gospel – that its abandonment would mean the end of Christianity as revealed in the New Testament. Jesus would be just one more Palestinian rebel; one more wisdom teacher with rag-tag disciples.”
There are many reputable and well documented books on the evidence of the bodily resurrection of Christ; so if you really want to go in depth – I’ll be glad to point you to one or more of those. But this morning – I want to briefly introduce you to the evidence from Matthew chps. 27 & 28 and then talk with you about the ramifications of it for those of us sitting in this room.
I. The Stone, Roman Guard & Seal on the Tomb – 17:57-66 A. Matt. 27:60 says it was “large”. Mark 16:4 says it was “extremely large” and Mark 16 vs. 3 says 3 women could not move it and wondered who might move it for them so they could anoint his body, which is something they did to dead bodies back in those days. So how did Joseph (a rich and possibly not so buff man – think Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs) roll the stone alone as Matthew seems to imply? 1. None of the gospel writers say Joseph moved the stone alone.
2. Second, when vs. 60 of ch. 27 says Joseph “had hewn out his tomb in the rock”, Matthew did not necessarily mean that Joseph did that with his own hands – all by himself. Most likely what Matthew has in mind here is that Joseph and his employees or hired help carved this tomb out of solid rock, and I’m sure it wasn’t done in a day, but probably over a period of days. Usually when we think of the rick, we think of brains, not brawn.
Perhaps the reason Matthew chose to mention this – is when it came to moving the great stone over the entrance to protect Jesus’s body from animals or whatever – Joseph would have known how – with adequate help to move it – having helped create the tomb in the first place, which includes the rock they found to cover the entrance to the tomb.
3. Finally, remember Nicodemus who visited Jesus on the sly late at night according to John ch. 3 – we know from John 19:42 that at least Nicodemus helped Joseph move the stone.
B. The concern of the Chief priests and Pharisees (vs. 63f) = the disciples would steal the body to try to prove He rose, which would then excite the crowds and possibly cause a riot or rebellion. The solution: A Roman guard and a seal on the tomb
The question of course is: Would this guard be dependable? Would they be able o fulfill their mission?
C. The Guard: Professor Albert Roper – the author of “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead” stated re: the Roman guard, “It is, therefore reasonable to assume that these representatives of the Emperor could have been trusted to perform their duty to guard a tomb quite as strictly and as faithfully as they (or their fellow soldiers) had executed a crucifixion. They had not the slightest interest in the task to which they were assigned. Their sole purpose and obligation was rigidly to perform their duty as soldiers of the empire of Rome to which they had dedicated their allegiance. The Roman seal affixed to the stone before Joseph’s tomb was far more sacred to them than all the philosophy of Israel or the sanctity of her ancient creed. Soldiers cold-blooded enough to gamble over a dying victim’s cloak are not the kind of men to be hoodwinked by timid Galileans or to jeopardize their Roman necks by sleeping on their post.”
D. The Seal: The great scholar A.B. Bruce stated that “the method of sealing the stone at Jesus’ tomb was … probably by a chord stretched across the stone and sealed at each end as in Dan. 6:17, which says, “And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel.” The sealing was done in the presence of the Roman guards who were left in charge to protect this stamp of Roman power and authority.” The consequences for allowing it to be broken were well known and feared by all.
E. The disciples as bold, courageous, risk taking thieves? (vs. 64) John was the only one at the cross. The rest had fled. Peter had denied him three times out of fear of the consequences of identifying with Him.
II. Two Mary’s, An Angel, and our first glance at the Risen Christ – 28:1-10 A. “The other Mary” (vs. 1) refers to 27:56 = Mary the mother of James and Joseph
B. The “severe earthquake” . This evidently was not the one spoken of right after Jesus breathed His last breath in vs. 51. What is interesting about this earthquake is that it seems to be have been a direct result of the arrival of the angel of the Lord. Look at vs. 2
C. Now if these rough macho guards shook for fear of the angel and became like dead men, my guess is this angel was of decent size and the rock he was sitting on probably was as well. Though vs. 3 makes clear his very appearance was something similar to a thunder and lightning storm you might see in the south, and that the angel’s appearance deeply affected them.
D. The angel apparently ignored the guards and just left them there to shake in their boots; but was quick to calm and comfort the women – explaining to them that Jesus had risen just as He had predicted that He would – and then he walked them into the tomb to see that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead.
E. Next the angel ordered the ladies to go and inform the disciples that He had risen; and that He would soon see them in Galilee.
F. Vs. 8 tells us that the ladies in question ran full of the fear and joy of the Lord to make this amazing news known to the disciples.
G. But before they could get there – Jesus Himself intercepted and greeted them, and they fell down at His feet and worshipped Him as the risen Son of God.
H. Jesus very gently comforted them and repeated the angel’s message that they could all see Him face to face soon in Galilee.
I. So at this point, the two Mary’s full embraced Jesus as the risen Son of God and Messiah and were full of joy and excitement.
III. The “Stolen Body” theory – 28:11-15 A. Meanwhile “some of the guard” (vs. 11)- – which is another way we know the guard of the tomb was a company of soldiers and not just one man, these soldiers came into the city and reported to the chief priests the appearance of the angel; the earthquake; the rolled away stone; and the missing Jesus.
B. It would be disastrous for the already shrinking influence the chief priests and elders had over the people – if the soldiers were to let this news out; so they bribed the guard with a large sum of money to lie – and to say, “Jesus’s brave, courageous, ninja like disciples came while these feeble and weak minded Roman soldiers slept; and they stole him away – moving the stone without a creak or grunt.
C. They also promised to protect them from the potential execution or at least life imprisonment they could possibly receive from the governor were he to hear about this crisis, and their dereliction of duty.
D. Somehow – Matthew tells us – – this story took root among many of the Jews, and some believed it even toward the end of the first century – – ridiculous as it was.
Well that brings us to Jesus’s reunion with His much beloved 11 disciples, and to what this has to do with us.
IV. The Great Commission – 28:16-20 A. The good news is all 11 disciples obediently traveled to the mtn. in Galilee that Jesus had designated for their first meeting place, and when they saw Him they worshipped Him.
B. The bad news is – some were doubtful. They just couldn’t wrap their minds around a man that they know was fully man and fully dead, that He could somehow have risen from the dead, and be very much alive.
C. In that state of doubt and bewilderment – without trying to help them think it through and work through their doubts – – Jesus gave them the mission of their lives – – He literally turned over to these 11 men – – all that He had poured His life out for over the last 3 and a half years – – the expansion of the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth and the birth and building of His church among every tribe, tongue people and nation. If I was Jesus – I would have sized up their doubt and unbelief and decided this was not the right time. But He didn’t do that.
D. What I love about the way He did it – is He began with a strong proclamation of His absolute sovereignty and authority over every being, person and ism in heaven or on the earth (vs. 18); and He ended it with a firm promise that He would be with them every step of the way; in every circumstance and in every place their feet took them (vs. 20).
E. Only when those two bookends are in place, could they, and can we take seriously the instructions He gave. Because those bookends are in place, we must take seriously the instructions He gave.
F. So what are those instructions? Well they and we – are to give our lives to making disciples. “Make disciples” in the greek is the only imperative command in this passage, which means it is the primary mission – the primary objective. The rest of vs. 19, 20 tells us how to pull that off, with three greek participles – going, baptizing and teaching. So it could read, “Make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching all the way to the very ends of the earth.
G. Make Disciples: Jesus Christ only had 3 and a half years to establish His kingdom and lay the foundation for His church to be born and to grow; but because He first made His own relationship with the Father a priority, and then focused on a few, and prayed for them constantly, and taught, and admonished, and rebuked and encouraged and affirmed them at every opportunity so that they could in time become just like Him – He accomplished more in 3 and a half years than most people would have in a life time. Only disciples change the world. But only disciples can make disciples. And because Jesus grew in wisdom, and stature and in favor with God and man; and because Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered; and because Jesus did nothing on His own initiative, but only those things He saw the Father doing – – He had all the authority He needed to make disciples.
H. And so the first order of business is that we give ourselves more than ever to our own growth and transformation as true disciples and not just believers or Christians. It is our own daily growth and transformation that gives us authority and authenticity to help others grow and change.
I. The good news is every disciple on the planet can make other disciples – no matter what level of discipleship we are at because there is always someone at a lesser level than us. What is required of us in this process is at least 3 primary things:
J. Going: this means we are taking initiative. We are not just hiding in the four walls of the church and all of our christian activities. But we are actively looking for opportunities to be face to face with people who do not yet know Jesus or perhaps who have come to know Him but need help in learning how to follow Him and develop a relationship with Him. Our lifestyle should be one of regularly going – regularly taking steps out of our comfort zone to get involved with the lives of people God has placed in our path.
In my spare time this morning, I sensed the need to look further into the greek grammar behind the three participles in this passage; and I’m glad I did, because I learned that this participle – going – is more closely tied to the imperative verb than the other two we are going to look at it in a minute, which means it has some force to it.
One reason going is so important is – – not everyone will respond well to our seed sowing. Its kind of like applying for a job – – it is not very wise to apply for one job and then sit around and wait for that business to hire you. They may not – even though they were all smiles when you handed in your application or resume. It is best to keep knocking on more doors – in a sense – sowing more employment seeds – so you have a better chance of reaping the fruit of a real job.
Going and seed sowing are very closely tied.
K. Baptizing: While we all know what the activity of baptism is: the greater issue here is bringing our disciples to the place where they are ready to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and confess Him before men – best evidenced by being willing to be dunked in water in His name before anyone and everyone. That’s one reason why we like to do it at the beach instead of inside the four walls of a church building.
L. Teaching: Please get out of your mind teaching behind a lectern or pulpit or giving a 30 minute bible lesson in a formal bible study. Anyone, anywhere, at any time can teach their disciples; and that teaching may only last for a few minutes.
M. Tis crucial that we see what it is we are to be teaching or instructing them in = to observe – to obey – to heed God’s written and personal word. Ultimately this is what distinguishes a church attender or a believer from a disciple – – have they learned to obey the word of God and the voice of God in every area of life as a lifestyle?
CONCLUSION – So what are the chances of you and I pulling this off – especially in a way that touches the nations? Well what are the chances of Jesus rising from the dead? Or the motley eleven and their comrades who weren’t any better turning the known world upside down?
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer