Stephen Caswell © 2004
Wellington – Defeat Or Victory
General Wellington commanded the victorious forces at the great battle of Waterloo that effectively ended the Napoleonic Wars. The story has been told that when the battle was over, Wellington sent the great news of his victory to England. A series of stations, one within sight of the next, had been established to send code messages between England and the continent. The message to be sent was Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Meanwhile a fog set in and interrupted the message sending. As a result, people only saw news of Wellington defeated. Later, the fog cleared and the full message continued, which was quite different from the outcome that the people originally thought had happened!
The same is true today. When many look at what happened on Good Friday, the death of Christ, they see only defeat. Yet, on Sunday, at the Resurrection, God’s message was completed. The resurrection spelled victory.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! In 1 Corinthians 15: Paul states that the resurrection is essential to the Christian faith. And so it is. We serve a risen Savior. The founders of the world’s religions are all dead and buried; only Christ has conquered death. Amen! There are 5 things we are told to behold in Matthew 28: The word behold, ἰδού means to look at, to see. To pay attention to something important.
Firstly, Behold The Empty Tomb
Matthew 28:1: Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
a. The Women
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses went to the tomb as the day dawned that Sunday morning. Mark 16:3 records a conversation they had along the way; Who will roll the stone away for us? This was a valid question. The stone was very heavy. The same women were present at the cross. They watched Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take the body of Jesus down. They saw His body being laid in the tomb. Now they had returned to anoint Jesus’ body with spices that they had prepared.
Matthew 28:2-4: And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
b. The Angel
Why did the angel roll the stone away? Was it to let Christ come out? No! He was already alive. He passed through the tomb earlier. The stone was rolled away to show the world that He was alive. In the same way, God tore the temple veil in two when Christ died on the cross to show mankind that we now had access to God through Christ. Yes the stone was rolled away for our benefit. The empty tomb was proof that Jesus Christ had indeed risen like He said He would. Matthew 16:21: 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 angel’s appearance was dazzling like lightning. His clothes were white, signifying purity. The angel sat upon the stone which showed he was in charge. His task was wasn’t finished yet because he had important news to share with the women. By opening the tomb God was showing the world His Son was alive. The resurrection proves that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Romans 1:3-4: Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
c. The soldiers
The soldiers soon realized that they had failed in their mission. Firstly, They couldn’t stop the resurrection of Jesus Christ now apparent to all. Secondly, they couldn’t prevent the angel from showing this to the world. In fact, the soldiers shook and became like dead men. This probably means that they fainted from the fright. The power of this angel is seen in the way he easily rolled the stone away. The small stones placed to seal a tomb required about 20 men to move. This was a large stone. God sent this angel to show the women, and in fact the whole world Christ was risen. God wants people to know the Good News; Christ has risen, sin has been conquered.
Empty Tomb’s Message
The Empty Tomb had a message for the disciples as it has for us. It says to science and philosophy, Explain this event. It says to history, Repeat this event. It says to time, Blot out this event. It says to faith, Believe this event.
Secondly, Behold The Angel’s Word
Matthew 28:5-6a: But the angel answered and said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.
a. Don’t Be Afraid
The angel’s appearance probably caused the women to tremble. They saw his power and beheld his glory. It was only natural for them to be afraid. They recognized the angel as servant of God. About 30 years before, the angel Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid. Gabriel had brought Good News concerning the Messiah. In the same way, this angel assured these women that there was nothing to fear. He too had Good News to share, Jesus the Messiah wasn’t in the tomb. He was alive, risen from the dead just like He had promised. I am sure that their minds raced as they remembered the crucifixion. The angel assured them He had been crucified for our sins, but now He was risen.
b. Come And See
Matthew 28:6b: Come see the place where the Lord lay.
The angel showed them the empty tomb to remove any doubts that they may have had. The angel had been sent from God for this very purpose. The Lord rewarded these devoted followers by allowing them to be the first to see the empty tomb. Mark gives more details on this.
Mark 16:1-6: Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us? But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away — for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
John’s Gospel adds that the linen clothes were found in the tomb. Jesus had no need for them and left them like a butterfly leaves the cocoon behind. The women would have seen all of these things. They saw the empty tomb and heard the angel’s words. I am sure they believed that a miracle had taken place. They believed Christ had risen indeed.
Garden Tomb’s Soil Analyzed
When the Garden Tomb was discovered in 1885, the godly General Gordon was convinced that this was the place where the body of Jesus had lain. There is a traditional tomb inside the wall of modern Jerusalem, but no certainty attaches to the site. The Garden Tomb, hidden for centuries, was covered with rubbish twenty feet high. When they first cleared the spot, with great caution they gathered all the dust and debris within the tomb and carefully shipped it to the Scientific Association of Great Britain. Every part of it was analyzed, but there was no trace of human remains. If this is the real tomb of Christ, then Jesus was the first to be laid there and he was also the last.
c. Go And Tell
Matthew 28:7: And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.
The angel now commanded the women to go quickly and tell the disciples the Good News. The disciples needed to hear the Good News too. They must tell the disciples that Jesus would appear to them in Galilee. Everyone needs to hear the Good News. You have heard the Good News of salvation. Are you telling others about it? You might say to me witnessing is not my gift. I am not an evangelist. You don’t have to be an evangelist to tell others the Good News. We just bear witness of what Christ has done for us. We simply share how he has saved us. The first ones to preach the Good News of the resurrection were these women.
Matthew 28:8: So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. The women obeyed immediately. They didn’t wait till they had all their theology worked out or had gone to Bible College. They had seen and heard the Good News. Now they couldn’t wait to tell others about the Lord. Good News is for sharing. Let’s not keep it to ourselves. Let’s follow the example of these devoted ladies!
Thirdly, Behold The Risen Lord
28:9-10: And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, Rejoice! So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.
It is when we are obeying God’s Word that He comes to us. They had chosen to go along the right path and Christ appeared to them on the way. He rewarded their obedience! Jesus met the women and spoke to them. The word translated, all hail, or greeting, χαίρω is usually translated rejoice. All hail! can also be translated, Grace. What a marvelous greeting for the Resurrection Day! God’s grace is most clearly seen in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Christ encouraged them to rejoice, for He had conquered sin, death and hell. Christ is victorious, He is risen. Shouldn’t we rejoice in God’s rich grace toward us? Jesus is alive and has appeared to many.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8: Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
In response the women fell at Jesus feet in adoration. They loved Jesus and He was alive again. They rejoiced as Jesus told them to. Their response was right and fitting. They held His feet and worshipped. They cherished being at Christ’s feet. We too, ought to cherish spending time at Christ’s feet. The risen Lord is worthy of our love and devotion!
You notice that Jesus called the disciples His brethren. This revealed that believers were now a part of God’s family. This is another reason to rejoice. Jesus said this to Mary Magdalene in John 20:17: Jesus said to her, Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.
b. Don’t Be Afraid
Matthew 28:10a: Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid.
Perhaps they were fearful of Christ who rose from the grave. Perhaps they felt unworthy as they knelt before the Holy One, Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. His resurrection proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was God’s Son. Whatever it was Jesus sensed fear in their hearts and immediately removed it. Like the angel, Jesus told the women not to be afraid. This was not a time for fear but for rejoicing and praise.
c. Go And Tell
Matthew 28:10b: Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.
Jesus repeated the same command that the angel had given to them. Go and tell my disciples to go to Galilee where they will see me. Why does Jesus repeat the same command? Because it’s very important. Everyone needs to hear the Good News. This chapter climaxes with the Great Commission in verses 18-20. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all the nations. Mark 16:15-16: says this: And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. The Good News is that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.
The eternal destiny of every soul depends on their response to Jesus Christ. We have been commanded by Christ to preach the Good News to everyone. This includes Christ’s death and His resurrection. Romans 4:25: who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. The early Church constantly preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Josephus, the famed Jewish historian, lived from A.D. 37 to 95. He also records the death and resurrection of Jesus as a fact. Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man: for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him; for He appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians so named from Him, are not extinct at this day.
Fourthly, Behold The Liar Speaks
John Singleton Copley, one of the great legal minds in British history and three times High Chancellor of England, wrote, I know pretty well what evidence is, and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never broken down yet.
a. They Received The Truth
Matthew 28:11: Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.
While the believers were worshiping the living Christ, the unbelievers were plotting to destroy the witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. By now, some of the soldiers had realized that they were in a desperate plight. The Roman seal had been broken, the stone had been rolled away, and the body was not in the tomb. For a Roman soldier to fail in his duty was an offense punishable by death. But the soldiers were shrewd: They did not report to Pilate or to their superior officers; they reported to the Jewish chief priests. They knew that these men were as anxious to cover up the miracle as were the soldiers themselves!
The chief priests and religious leaders heard what actually happened. They had the truth clearly presented to them. They also heard Jesus Christ predict that He would die and rise three days later. Therefore, they must have known for sure now that Jesus was the Messiah. What would they do in response to this?
b. They Rejected The Truth
Matthew 28:12: When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers.
They rejected the truth. They refused to believe the truth even though the evidence was overwhelming. The events surrounding Christ’s death, the darkness, the earthquakes, the temple veil being torn were more than convincing. Now they had the eye witness report of the soldiers. But the religious leaders refused to submit to their Messiah. The miraculous account of the resurrection didn’t matter to them. The religious leaders had lied and bribed in order to kill the Son of God. They couldn’t change sides now even if it was the truth. One lie always leads to more. They solved their problems with money before and now would do it again. Since they had rejected Jesus Christ before His death they had no intention of accepting Him now and being exposed as corrupt wicked men.
c. They Resisted The Truth
Matthew 28:13-15: Saying, Tell them, His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept. And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure. So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
They chose to oppose the truth by spreading a lie. Not only would they not believe in the Messiah, what’s worse, they tried to keep others from doing the same. Between the chief priests, the elders, and the soldiers, they put together a story that would explain the empty tomb: The body was stolen. If you reject the truth you will believe the lie. By examining this story, we see that it actually proves the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus’ body was stolen, then it was taken either by His friends or His enemies.
· His enemies wouldn’t steal the body. They were trying to prevent this from happening.
· The guard was posted to stop the disciples stealing the body. Matthew 28:62-66
· Would all of soldiers on the watch fall asleep at the same time?
· How did the soldiers know what happened if they fell asleep?
· How did the disciples move the stone? More than 20 people would be needed.
· Why would the disciples unwrap the grave clothes before leaving the tomb?
· The disciples were afraid. They were in hiding. Why would they come to the tomb?
· If the resurrection was a lie, why did the disciples preach it risking their own lives?
We looked at five things from Matthew 28 today.
1. Behold The Empty Tomb. Jesus Christ is not here.
· Man, Satan, death and hell could not hold Him down. The tomb is empty.
· God has opened the tomb for all to see. Conclusion: Jesus is God’s Son.
· Have you considered the resurrection? Have you believed in Jesus Christ?
2. Behold The Angel’s Word. Jesus is risen.
· Don’t be afraid. The angel brought Good News; Jesus is risen.
· Come and See the empty tomb. He is not here; He is risen, just as He said.
· Go, Tell the disciples they will see Me. Command: Share the Good News.
3. Behold The Risen Lord. Rejoice and share the Good News!
· Rejoice and Worship. We serve a risen Savior. Christ brings us to God.
· Don’t be afraid. Christ has saved us, sanctified us, made us His brethren.
· Go, Tell the world. He is Lord. Commission: Make disciples of all nations.
4. Behold The Liar Speaks. Expect some to deny the Truth!
· They received the truth. Act on the truth lest you believe the lie.
· They rejected the truth. Don’t be shaken by liars who choose not to believe.
· They resisted the truth. Don’t be led astray by deceitful people.
· Expect opposition! Not everyone accepts the truth. It doesn’t fit their plans.
5. Behold The Lord Is With Us. He has received all authority & power!
· Are you making disciples of all nations? Obeying the Great commission?
· Are you taking the Gospel to the lost? Christ is with us; He will help us!
Benediction 2 Corinthians 13:14: