The Resurrected and Living Christ
Matthew 27:57 - 28:20
A pastor traveled to Ecuador and spent a couple of weeks traveling in the mountains. He met the Quechua Indian people amidst the most mind-numbing squalor. The disease and disfigured bodies were heartbreaking. The bugs and stench were everywhere. People were living in a hole in the ground and calling it a house. They were feeding on rotten food and prizing garbage as possessions. But they didn't know it. Why? Because everyone lived that way. They had never been given a picture of what it means to be a genuinely healthy human being. They did not know what an abundant life truly looked like.
Daniel D. Meyer, in his sermon "Why Remember the Passion?" www.ccobtv.org (4-9-04)
The same is true of all of us to some extent or another. While we understand and live lives of ease and material prosperity, there is a spiritual poverty that has vanquished our nation. This famine is exacerbated by Christians who are inundated with the gospel but have little appreciation for the living, personal presence of Jesus Christ. All the founders of the so-called great world religions are dead. Jesus is here; He is alive! He is more alive than any of us assembled this evening.
The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is very strong. Many have set out to prove it a hoax only to find evidence that has either liberated or frustrated their efforts. People struggle with the resurrected and living Christ because they don’t believe it or because if they did believe it, they know they would have to change the way that they live.
Transition: Matthew 27 and 28 offer four lines of evidence that prove the resurrection is a true historical event…
1. Jesus was buried after His crucifixion (Matt 27.57-61).
2. The tomb of Jesus was secured after His burial (Matt 27.62-66).
3. An angelic announcement affirmed the resurrection of Christ (Matt 28.1-7).
4. His personal, bodily appearance to many witnesses prove He is living (Matt 28.8-20).
Jesus was buried after His crucifixion (Matt 27.57-61).
Explanation: Jesus was buried in the tomb of a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Jesus (57-58). John 19.38 states that Joseph had been a secret disciple of Jesus.
Mark 15:43 adds that Joseph of Arimathea was “a prominent [Sanhedrin] council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.” Mark states that Joseph took courage in going to Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus. Luke 23:50-51 supplies more information about Joseph. He was “a good and just man” who had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s decision to crucify Jesus.
Mark 15:44-45 states that “Pilate marveled that [Jesus] was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.”
As a disciple, Joseph’s courage overcame any external pressure from the council. The Sanhedrin may have assumed that Joseph was merely concerned about taking a crucifixion victim off the cross before nightfall.
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.”
Joseph and another secret disciple named Nicodemus prepared the body of Jesus for burial by alternating strips of linen with about a hundred pounds of myrrh, aloes, and other spices (cf. John 19.39). Jesus was placed in a tomb hewn out of stone. The tomb was originally prepared for Joseph [“in his new tomb” (v. 60)]. Both Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James sat opposite the tomb observing Joseph as he completed the burial.
Application: The centurion, Joseph, Nicodemus, both Marys, and countless others handled the body of Jesus. If He had not been dead, people would have surely known this. A popular theory of critical scholars in the early 20th century purported that Jesus did not die but merely swooned until He revived in the cool rock tomb. But the Scripture makes clear that He died, was buried, and on the third day He arose! He is the resurrected and living Christ!
Transition: The burial of Christ becomes a strong line of evidence for the resurrection of Christ. The second line of evidence develops from the first…
Jesus’ tomb was secured after His burial (Matt 27.62-66).
Explanation: The enemies of Jesus were religious leaders who were well aware of the predictions He had made:
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
“The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.”
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”
The religious leaders believed that the disciples of Jesus might steal the body and claim He had risen; therefore, they asked Pilate to secure the tomb with his soldiers (64). The Roman seal was affixed to the joint where the stone had been rolled in front of the tomb. Breaking this seal was an offense that would have been met with the full force of the Roman military.
The Roman soldiers did not come into contact with any would-be grave robbers. The body of Christ simply disappeared. He left the tomb without disturbing the stone or seal. Matthew 28.2 makes plain that the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone after a great earthquake.
Application: Jesus arose Sunday morning! He is the resurrected and living Christ!
Transition: The burial of Christ combined with the securing of His tomb form two tight lines of evidence for the resurrection. The third line of evidence is found in the angelic proclamation…
An angelic announcement affirmed the resurrection of Christ (Matt 28.1-7).
Explanation: Early Sunday morning, the two Marys came to the tomb with additional spices. They were concerned about finding someone to roll away the stone for them (cf. Mk 16.3). Before they arrived, however, a great earthquake shook the ground and an angel rolled the stone away. He sat on the stone and waited for the women (2-4). The Roman soldiers were as dead men - the fright of these supernatural manifestations overwhelmed them and they fainted.
The angel calmed the women and called them to look at where Jesus had been lying. Jesus had risen just as He said. He was going to Galilee to meet with His disciples. The women were to tell the disciples where they should meet Him.
Application: If the angel’s message had not been true, then an angel of the Lord lied to both Marys. There are lying angels - they’re called demons. But this cannot be a demon of course. He is an angel of the Lord proclaiming that Christ is risen! He is the resurrected and living Christ!
Transition: The burial of Jesus in a tomb secured by Roman authority and an angelic proclamation provide three lines of evidence making a strong case for the resurrection. The fourth line stems from Jesus’ many post-resurrection appearances (10 in all - we looked at these during Sunday school today)…
The personal, bodily appearances among many witnesses prove Jesus is alive (Matt 28.8-20).
Explanation: Jesus Himself appeared to both Marys as they were leaving the tomb (9). The Lord directed them to send the disciples to Galilee just as the angel had. Jesus appeared to His disciples and other groups of believers nine other times before His ascension in Acts 1.
1 Corinthians 15:6 states that Jesus “was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present (at the writing of 1 Corinthians in around 50 AD - almost 20 years after the death of Christ), but some have fallen asleep.” This many witnesses provide indisputable evidence for the resurrection. If it were not true, all that the disputer would need to do is say so.
The guards at the tomb provide further proof (28.11-15). These men were in grave danger because they failed in their duty. The body was gone. They rushed to tell the chief priests what had happened. The religious leaders had no problem bribing the guards and perpetuating a lie (it was something being circulated when Matthew wrote his Gospel about 20 years after the death of Christ). The chief priests had the soldiers say that the disciples came while they slept and that they had stolen the body of Jesus. The guards would be well paid and protected from the wrath of Pilate by the chief priests.
Application: Jesus’ appearance on the Galilean mountain where His disciples met Him offers a final line of evidence for the resurrection. Some did not believe it was Him, but with all the authority of One who conquered death, Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples of all nations (28.18-20).
Only the risen Christ could have such authority. Many immediately obeyed His commission because He is the resurrected and living Christ!
Transition: Along with these four lines of evidence for the resurrection, we search the Scripture and find clear teaching that dramatically impacts believers to this very day. We finish this study tonight with seven enduring truths of the resurrection…
1. Jesus arose bodily from the grave (see Luke 24.36-48).
2. Seeing is not always believing. Jesus would make Himself known by His Spirit (John 20.17, 26-29) through the Scriptures (Luke 24.13-35, esp v.25).
3. The authority for Jesus’ Great Commission comes from the resurrection (Matt 26.16-20).
4. Jesus will return again because He is risen (Acts 1.8-11).
5. Life is pointless for believers without the resurrection (1 Cor 15.12-19).
6. Since Jesus is risen, He must be the Son of God (Rom 1.4).
Romans 10:9-10 “…If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” There is no salvation without the resurrection.
Romans 4:25 Jesus “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” This verse assures us that our sins are gone.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” This passage makes clear that we our guaranteed our own physical resurrection.
John 5:22 “…The Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” Jesus will judge because He is risen!
7. The resurrection formed the foundation for Christ’s work in Heaven today.
Ephesians 1:22-23 God “put all things under [Jesus’] feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Jesus is the Head of His body - the church. The church lives because Jesus lives!
Ephesians 1:19-20 state that there is an exceeding greatness to the power of God toward us who believe, “according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” This resurrection power is toward us! We have power to serve because Jesus lives!
Romans 8:34 “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of God because He lives!
Conclusion: Four strong lines of evidence and seven enduring truths for the resurrection provide a stabilizing force for our church. A clear Gospel and sound unfolding of great teaching in the Scripture will keep us thriving until the Lord returns - 1 Corinthians 16:22 “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!”