March 27th, 2016 — FEASTER
Auxiliary Text: Acts 26:19-29
Call to Worship from: 1 Corinthians 15
Service Orientation: He is risen! He is risen indeed. Skeptics try to deny it. Satan tries to bury it. But the facts are undeniable. If the resurrection has not revolutionized your life then you do not yet truly believe Christ has risen.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. — Romans 6:4-5
- Matthew records that along with the guard they set a “seal on the stone” (Mt 27:66). A. T. Robertson says this could be placed on the stone only in the presence of the Roman guards who were left in charge. Vegitius indicates the same thing. The purpose of this procedure was to prevent anyone from tampering with the grave’s contents.
After the guard inspected the tomb and rolled the stone in place, a cord was stretched across the rock. This was fastened at either end with sealing clay. Finally, the clay packs were stamped with the official signet of the Roman governor.
A parallel to this is seen in Daniel: “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” (Dn 6:17). (Bill Wilson, The Best of Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, 230)
- Henry Sumner Maine, a member of the Supreme Council of India, formerly Regis Professor of the civil law at the University of Cambridge, speaking on the legal authority attached to a Roman seal, said, “Seals in antiquity were actually considered as a mode of authentication.”
To authenticate something simply means to prove that it is real or genuine. So this seal on Jesus’ tomb was a public testimony that Jesus’ body was actually there. In addition, because the seal was Roman, it verified the fact that His body was protected from vandals by nothing less than the power and authority of the Roman Empire.
Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb’s entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law and power. (Bill Wilson, The Best of Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, 230)
- We are not here immediately concerned with the differences in tradition, but we must use this opportunity to say once more that complete agreement by the evangelists on details and chronology of the story would put the whole NT record under great suspicion of collusion on the part of eyewitnesses and recorders of tradition or possibly editors of the gospels. (W. F. Albright and C.S. Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew, 360)
- (v. 2) Two engineering professors went on a tour of Israel with other Georgia Tech faculty members. They remembered the comments I had made about the large size of the stone. So, being engineers, they considered the type of stone used in the time of Christ and calculated the size needed to roll against a 4-1/2 to 5-foot doorway.
Later, they wrote me a letter containing all the technical terms, but they put their conclusions in simple language on the back of it.
They said a stone of that size would have to have had a minimum weight of 1-1/2 to 2 tons. No wonder Matthew and Mark said the stone was extremely large.
One might ask, “If the stone were that big, how did Joseph move it into position in the first place?” He simply gave it a push and let gravity do the rest. It had been held in place with a wedge as it sat in a groove of trench that sloped down to the front of the tomb. When the wedge was removed, the heavy circular rock just rolled into position. (Bill Wilson, The Best of Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, 226)
- (v. 2) Included in all the things that had happened were the earthquake, the rolling away of the stone, the blazing angel sitting on the stone, and the empty tomb. The soldiers knew those happenings had a supernatural origin, and it was that knowledge that caused them first to shake violently and then freeze in catatonic fear. They did not try to explain what they saw but simply reported it as best they could. It is possible that, because of the guards’ report, the chief priests learned of Jesus’ resurrection even before the disciples did. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 321)
- (v. 11) Two groups hurried into the city: the women and the watchmen. The women were overwhelmed with triumph; the watchmen were overwhelmed with terror. The women were about to confront the world with the most tremendous fact in history; the watchmen would soon confront the world with the most tremendous falsehood in history. With the skill of an artist and the genius of inspiration, Matthew brought the two together: “Now when they [the women] were going [in obedience to Christ], behold, some of the watch came into the city” (28:11). (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 543)
- (vss. 11-15) Matthew is the only Gospel writer who recounts these incidents, which has led some to doubt their historicity because of their obvious apologetic nature. However, if no rumor had ever been circulating, it is difficult to imagine why Christians would make up such a story and put this idea into other people’s minds. And if the tomb were not empty, the religious leaders would have pointed to the evidence of a body. Rather, Matthew is writing for a Jewish-Christian audience who have presumably heard about the charges circulating among the Jews that Jesus’ body was stolen by his disciples, while the audiences of the other evangelists may not have been aware of such charges. Therefore, rather than being a late legend created by the Christian community, in this story Matthew addresses a situation that is of uniquely pressing concern to his readers. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 943)
- (v. 12) The guards had a decision to make, and it appears that “a sufficient sum of money” (28:12) helped make up their mind. (Fear of death from the hands of Pilate might also have been on their minds, but it is the money that Matthew follows.) That term “sufficient sum” is intriguing to me. It seems to imply that some bartering was going on. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 895)
- (v. 13) “This day,” however, has an elastic quality to it, as does this tall tale. Most lies stretch well, don’t they? The disciples-theft theory stretched into the middle of the second century, when the church leader Justin Martyr wrote against it (Dialogue 108), and also into the so-called enlightenment and post-Enlightenment eras when it found its fullest life, so to speak, in the writings of Reimarus in the eighteenth century. Still today, from time to time this theory is “resurrected” (pun again intended) in various forms. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 896)
- (v. 13) Can you imagine a witness appearing in a court of law to announce to judge and jury, “Sirs, I consider myself a credible witness to the event I am about to describe because I was sound asleep when it happened?” The story was ludicrous. If the guards were asleep, how could they know what happened? (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 544)
- (v. 13) Once again the instinctive concern of the Jewish leaders relates to expedience and the people’s reaction, not to the truth. The story they concoct shows how desperate they are for an explanation, for if the guards were asleep, they could not know of the alleged theft; and if one of them awoke, why was not an alarm sounded and the disciples arrested? Molesting graves was a serious offense in the ancient world, subject at times to the death penalty. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 591)
- (v. 14) The chief priests and the elders used the deception which they expected of the disciples; cf. 27:64. (W. F. Albright and C.S. Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew, 359)
- (v. 15) The chief priests use bribe money to commission the soldiers to spread lies, while the resurrected Jesus uses the promise of his presence to commission his followers to spread the gospel (vv. 16-20). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 590)
- We feel sure, however, that Matthew is not recording this merely to tell an interesting story about “The Guard, Stationed, Scattered, and Bribed.” As was indicated earlier, he was writing to the Jews, though he was aiming also for the conversion of a much wider circle. What he is doing in conveying this truthful account found in 27:62-66; 28:3, 4, 11-15, is this: he is showing how utterly ridiculous is the denial of Christ’s resurrection; in other words, how well-founded is the true account of what happened in Joseph’s garden. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 995)
In most areas of everyday life we know instinctively to operate on the basis of truth instead of feelings and preferences. Yet, when it comes to the most important questions in life, questions that deal with grand, eternal realities, why would we want to disregard the question of truth? Do we really think God governs the world based on what we prefer? Mt 28:1-15 reports to us the event in all of history, and our response to it should be based on truth, not feelings. Our eternity hangs on whether the resurrection of Jesus Christ actually happened. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 356)
People are gullible, especially when religious beliefs and prejudices are involved. To the relief of the Sanhedrin the thoughtless multitudes accepted the lie. As a maxim of propagandists says, “If a lie is repeated often enough, people will believe it.” The “news” of the theft of the body became part of Jewish anti-Christian teaching from the beginning. Repeating the lie has been a popular rabbinic way of refuting the fact of the resurrection ever since. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 545)
The main objection to the resurrection is simple. Resurrections just don’t happen. But you need to pause there. I agree. Totally. That is the point. Resurrections don’t happen. If they did, then the resurrection of Jesus would be no big deal. It would be a bit like me saying, ‘Jesus is the Son of God because he recovered from illness.’ Getting better is common; getting resurrected is not. In the normal course of events, resurrections don’t happen. But the Bible is claiming that this is not the normal course of events; it is the ultimate extraordinary event. So instead of dismissing it we need to ask, ‘What happened?’ and ‘What proof is there?’ and then go on to consider the implications. (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 100)
Tim Keller, at the Gospel Coalition conference in 2013, made an intriguing statement: ‘Resurrection makes Christianity the most irritating religion on earth.’ Why is that? Because you can argue about ethics, doctrines, rituals until you are blue in the face; people are free to believe what they want. What does it matter? But the resurrection means everything is changed. If Christ is not raised, then Christians are to be pitied for wasting our lives. But if Christ is raised, then that means it would be insane to ignore Him and His claims. (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 109)
The questions to be answered are . . . How do I know that Jesus has been raised from the dead? So what if He has?
Answer: The evidence is overwhelming no matter what Satan or the naysayers may say. Since Christ has risen, I can face tomorrow, and all fear is gone. Life is worth the living just because He lives.
The Phrase for the Day is . . . He is risen! He is risen indeed!
The facts from Matthew:
I- Christ died on the cross. (Mt 27:32-61; Mk 15:21-47; Lk 23:26-56; Jn 19:17-42)
II- Jesus had adversaries that wanted to erase any memory of Jesus from the face of the earth. (Mt 2:13; 12:14; 16:21; 17:23; 21:33-45; 26:1-4; Mk 3:6; 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 11:18; 12:1-12; 14:1; Lk 9:22; 18:32; 19:47; 20:9-19; Jn 5:18; 7:25; 10:10; 11:53; 1 Cor 2:7-8; Col 2:13-15)
It is interesting to note the means that the Jewish authorities used in their desperate attempts to eliminate Jesus. They used treachery to lay hold of him. They used illegality to try him. They used slander to charge him before Pilate. And now they were using bribery to silence the truth about him. And they failed. Magna est veritas et praevalebit, ran the Roman proverb; great is the truth and it will prevail. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 441)
“Nothing is so easy as to deceive one’s self; for what we wish we readily believe.” —Demosthenes (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 35, 53)
In 27:62-66 and 28:11-15 we have what I’ll call the unbelievable disbelief of the Jewish leaders. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 892)
Whatever the root of their worries, we know, and they shall soon learn, that their security measures (note the word “secure” in vv. 64, 65, 66) all prove ineffective, as ineffective as Daniel being “sealed” in the lion’s den (Dn 6:17). All they had to do was make sure that one tomb was secure for three days. Just three days and then the thought and threat of Jesus would forever be buried in the annals of history. But it all backfired. God broke in! (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 893)
The chief priests and the elders are the first people in the history of the world to hear the good news of Easter. However, to them it is the worst news. Their worst fears have been realized. By taking such high security measures, they only added to the validity of Jesus’ resurrection. If they left the tomb alone, it would have been easier and more reasonable to say that the disciples stole the body. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 894-5)
If the disciples stole the body, why did not the Sanhedrin or the Roman governor arrest the disciples, bring them to trial, cross-examine them as to the whereabouts of the body, and convict them of grand larceny, tampering with the governor’s seal, and grave-robbing? Nothing would have put a swifter end to the report of the resurrection than a body identified as Jesus of Nazareth. There was of course no body to produce. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 545)
Once again the religious leadership conspires to rid themselves of Jesus’ ministry (cf. 16:21; 21:23; 26:3-4). As in the earlier scene where the chief priests and Pharisees laid aside their theological and political antagonisms to collaborate in securing the tomb (27:62), the religious leaders again conspire together because of the threat to their religious and political power base if the truth of Jesus’ resurrection gets out. If Jesus were known to be raised, as he predicted, it would be a validation of his messianic claims, and the people will turn to him–which thousands do at Pentecost and thereafter (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:1, 7). (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 944)
The “swoon theory” proposes that Jesus did not actually die but went into a deep coma, or swoon, from the severe pain and trauma of the crucifixion. While in the cool atmosphere of the tomb and with the stimulating aroma of the burial spices, He revived and was somehow able to unwrap Himself and escape after the grave was opened. When He showed Himself to the disciples, they erroneously assumed He had been raised from the dead. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 318)
The “no-burial theory” contends that there was actually no interment, that Jesus was never placed in the tomb and therefore would not have been in it on Sunday morning. His body was instead thrown into a mass grave for criminals, according to Roman custom. But neither the Jewish leaders nor the Roman guards would have bothered to secure and seal the tomb if they knew Jesus’ body was not inside. Not only that, but to disprove Jesus’ resurrection they would only have had to retrieve His body and put it on display. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 319)
The “hallucination theory” maintains that everyone who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus simply experienced a hallucination, induced by an ardent expectation of His resurrection. But Thomas was not the only believer who was slow to believe the Lord was alive again. Every gospel account makes clear that most of His followers, including the apostles, did not believe, either before or after the crucifixion, that He would be raised. Besides that, how could more than 500 people hallucinate in exactly the same way? (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 319)
The “telepathy theory” proposes that there was no physical resurrection, but rather God sent divine telepathic messages to Christians that caused them to believe Jesus was alive. But that theory, among other things, makes the God of truth a deceiver and the apostles and gospel writers liars. And if such mental images did come from God, they were defective and slow to produce the intended result, because in a number of instances Jesus was not recognized when He first appeared to individuals and groups who knew Him intimately. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 319)
Muslims, for example, say that Jesus didn’t go to the cross, but rather the individual who died on the cross only looked like Jesus. According to the Quran, this is what Mohammed taught. This is a point where the two dominant religions in the world–Christianity and Islam–diverge, and notice that this is a point of truth, not of preference or ideology or opinion. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 358-9)
The “séance theory” suggests that a powerful spiritualist, or medium, conjured up the image of Jesus by means of occult power and that His followers were thereby deluded into thinking they saw Him. But if that were so, how did they hold onto His feet, put a hand in His wounded side, and eat a meal with Him? Séances deal strictly in the noncorporeal and ephemeral and are not made of such physical and tangible things as those. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 319)
The “mistaken identity theory” is based on the assumption that someone impersonated Jesus and was able to dupe His closest friends and companions into thinking he was really their Lord come back to life. But the imposter would have had to have himself scourged, crowned with thorns, pierced in his hands and feet, and wounded in the side to make such an impersonation even close to convincing. He would also have had to mimic Jesus’ voice, mannerisms, and other traits to an unimaginable degree of perfection. He would have had to steal Jesus’ body from the tomb and hide it. He would also have had to be an insider among Jesus’ followers in order to identify and talk convincingly with the many people he met during the appearances. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 319-20)
The “theft theory,” which contends that someone managed to steal the body and hide it, is the only one that attempts to explain the missing body. But the only ones who might have had a motive for stealing it were the disciples, in order to try to fulfill Jesus’ prediction that He would rise from the dead on the third day. That, as Matthew explains in the present passage, was the explanation promulgated by the Jewish leaders. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 320)
The Jews proposed the ridiculous story that the guards had fallen asleep. Obviously, they were grasping at straws. But the point is this: they started with the assumption that the tomb was vacant! Why? Because they knew it was! (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 221)
The trouble with all the so-called solutions of the problem of the empty tomb is that not one of them is reasonable even on the surface. The stolen body, the swoon theory (according to which Jesus did not really die), mass hallucination, etc., etc., all are absurd. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 996)
Where have God’s terrific twelve gone? In Matthew 27 the Twelve’s treasurer betrayed Jesus, the apostles’ leader denied him, and the rest fled. The irony here, as Donald Hagner points out, is that Jesus’ “opponents took Jesus’ words about rising from the dead more seriously than did the disciples.” The Jewish leaders remembered Jesus’ word while the apostles apparently forgot it. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 893)
The truth is exchanged for the lie simply because the lie seems easier to live with. (R.C. Sproul, If There’s a God, Why Are There Atheists?, 76)
In the first place, if their story had been true, the Jewish leaders could surely have found the stolen body with little difficulty. . . . . The failure of the Sanhedrin to make such a search is strong evidence that they themselves actually believed Jesus was raised. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 324)
The cover-up story which the priests and elders concoct as a result then enables Matthew to explain the current charge of grave robbing which we noted (in the introductory comments to 27:62-66) as the likely reason for Matthew including the guard in his account at all. It was because this story was still current in Jewish circles, as a countermeasure to Christian preaching of Jesus’ resurrection, that it was important for Christians to set the record straight. But at the same time the fact that the priests must resort to this lie underlines that the tomb really was empty; even the priests cannot deny that fact. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 1104)
It did not really matter to them whether or not Jesus was raised, just as it did not matter that Jesus had performed marvelous miracles before their own eyes. Some of the chief priests had stood beneath the cross, taunting Jesus and saying, “Let Him come down from the cross, and we shall believe Him” (27:42). But their duplicity was now exposed, because the resurrection was a greater miracle than coming down from the cross would have been, and yet they did not believe. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 321)
The religious leaders had accused Him of working miracles in the power of Satan, of being an associate of sinners, of breaking God’s law by healing on the Sabbath, and of blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah and God’s Son. They perverted both biblical and rabbinical justice in order to convict Him, employed blackmail to get Him crucified, used armed force to try to keep His body in the grave, and now engaged in bribery to hide the truth of His resurrection. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 322)
The religious leaders must thus keep the guards out of trouble with Pilate. So they tell the guards, “If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” There has been a devious collaboration between the religious leaders and Pilate already, in which both sides have attempted to use the other for their own purposes. It would do Pilate no good to have rumors circulating that Jesus has been raised from the dead, so the Jewish leaders are confident that they can maintain a collaboration with Pilate to hide the truth of the empty tomb and at the same time cast the disciples in a negative light for trying to perpetuate a deception of Jesus’ resurrection. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 945)
Other people have suggested that the disciples cleverly distracted the soldiers and sneaked the body out while the guards were not looking. But had they found such courage, how did they manage to draw all the soldiers far enough away to prevent their hearing the giant stone’s being moved? And how did they manage to keep the grave cloths just as they had been when covering Jesus’ body. Had the disciples tried such a maneuver, they would have been in the utmost hurry to get Jesus’ body out as quickly as possible. They had no reason to take off the wrappings, because the body would already have started to decompose. In addition to that, the body would have been much easier to carry while wrapped. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 325-6)
The members of the Sanhedrin were nobody’s fools. They were clever, crafty men. But the best they could do was to launch a propaganda offensive against the truth. In the face of growing reports of the risen Christ having been seen and handled, all the Sanhedrin could do to avoid a public hue and cry over that empty tomb was to concoct a foolish lie. The fact that their propaganda cannot stand five minutes’ serious investigation shows to what extremes the religious leaders were driven by the resurrection of Christ. He was alive and they could not deny it. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 545)
If these were Roman guards under Roman law, they would have paid with their lives for falling asleep on the job (28:13). Since they were assigned to the Jewish authorities, they went to the religious leaders badly in need of a cover-up. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 574)
What irony that the chief priests were forced to bribe the guards to spread the very lie that the chief priests had tried to prevent! This may have seemed like a logical explanation, but they didn’t think through the details. Why would Jesus’ disciples, who already had run off on him at his arrest, risk a return at night to a guarded and sealed tomb in an effort to steal a body–an offense that could incur the death penalty? If they had done so, would they have taken the time to unwrap the body and leave the grave clothes behind? (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 574)
If this had occurred while the guards were asleep, how could the guards possibly have known that the disciples came during the night and stole the body? If this truly happened, why didn’t the religious leaders arrest the disciples in order to prosecute them? The story was full of holes and the guards would have to admit to negligence on their part, so getting them to spread this rumor required a large sum of money. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 574)
The idea that Jesus never really died on the cross can be found in the Koran, which was written in the seventh century–in fact, Ahmadiya Muslims contend that Jesus actually fled to India. To this day there’s a shrine that supposedly marks his real burial place in Srinagar, Kashmir. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 192)
While reputable scholars have repudiated this so-called swoon theory, it keeps recurring in popular literature. In 1929 D. H. Lawrence wove this theme into a short story in which he suggested that Jesus had fled to Egypt, where he fell in love with the priestess Isis. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 192)
Christianity has died many times and risen again, for it has a God who knows the way out of the grave. —G. K. Chesterton
It is interesting that our culture cries and expects the absolute TRUTH when it comes to the chemicals in our food supplies, environmental contaminations, government cover-ups, and the skinny of breast-implants. But when it comes to finding out about the moral obligations of our private lives, (telling the truth, our sexual behaviors, and upholding our contracts) everything is relative.
The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, because the vast masses of a nation are, in the depths of their hearts, more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad.
The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them more easy victims of a big lie than a small one, because they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big ones. Such a form of lying would never enter their heads. They would never credit others with the possibility of such great impudence as the complete reversal of facts.
Even explanations would long leave them in doubt and hesitation, and any trifling reason would dispose them to accept a thing as true. Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most imprudent of lies, a fact which all bodies and individuals concerned in the art of lying in this world know only too well, and therefore they stop at nothing to achieve this end. (Adolph Hitler; Mein Kampf)
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. — Winston Churchill.
Watergate involved a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aides to the President of the United States–the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean, turned state’s evidence, that is, testified against Nixon, as he put it, “to save his own skin”–and he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on–two weeks! The real cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, the fact is that all that those around the president were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody’s life was at stake. But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, execution. Every single one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead. Don’t you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned? That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities? None did. (Charles Colson, “An Unholy Hoax?” Breakpoint commentary, March 29, 2002)
III- Jesus’ followers believed Christ rose from the dead. (Mt 28:1-13; Mk 16:1-14; Lk 24:1-49; Jn 20:1-21:14; Acts 1:22; 2:24-31; 3:15; 4:2, 10, 33; 5:30; 10:40-41; 13:29-30, 34, 37; 17:3, 18, 31-32; Rom 1:4; 4:24; 6:4-9; 7:4; 8:11; 10:7-9; 1 Cor 6:14; ch 15; 2 Cor 4:14; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20; Phil 3:10-11; Col 2:12; 1 Thess 1:10; 2 Tim 2:9; Heb 3:20; 1 Pt 1:3, 21; Rev 1:5)
People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they’re true, but people won’t die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 247)
The way these accounts fit together makes the narrative compelling, and it may not be overstating the case to say, as Matthew Arnold once did, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is “the best attested fact in history.” Lawyers in particular have found this to be true, such as Frank Morison, Gilbert West, J. N. D. Anderson, and others. Sir Edward Clark, a well-known English lawyer, wrote, “As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the first Easter day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. As a lawyer I accept it as the testimony of men to facts that they were able to substantiate.” (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 640)
Dr. Paul L. Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, concluded that, “If all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy or archaeology that would disprove this statement.” (Bill Wilson, The Best of Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, 216)
Theologian Gerald O’Collins put it this way: “In a profound sense, Christianity without the resurrection is not simply Christianity without its final chapter. It is not Christianity at all.” (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 206)
We need to doubt many of our beliefs in order to know if they are true. If you believe that doubt is evil, especially doubt of theological teachings, this truth may be hard to digest. I think, though, that doubt is a God-given ability that helps us to take what we hear and test its truth. In fact, I think God wants us to doubt what we hear, even from a minister’s mouth, so that we know why we believe what we believe. (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 171).
Doubt does not, indeed cannot, exist in a vacuum. Without some knowledge I cannot doubt at all. It is the light of truth that doubt becomes a possibility. But doubt cannot ever have the last word. Only truth can establish doubt. Truth demands that we doubt what does not conform to truth. (R.C. Sproul; Doubt and Assurance, 10)
The Messiah was supposed to fight God’s victorious battle against the wicked pagans; to rebuild or cleanse the Temple; and to bring God’s justice to the world. Jesus, it appeared, had done none of these things. He had suffered the typical injustice of the world; he had mounted a strange and apparently ineffectual demonstration in the Temple; and he had died at the hands of the pagans rather than defeating them gloriously in battle. No Jew with any idea of how the language of messiahship worked could have possibly imagined, after his crucifixion, that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Lord’s anointed. But from very early on, as witnessed by what may be pre-Pauline fragments of early creedal belief, the Christians affirmed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, precisely because of the resurrection. (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 47-8)
On a logical level, the Christian worldview is the only one that is not self-refuting. Moreover, because it is based on historical events, it can be proven. Most religions are, and have always been, based on myths. Christianity is unique in that it is founded on specific historical truth claims, notably the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The historical evidence is sufficient to compel agreement from any fair investigation of the facts. So Christianity is not just a creed or a philosophy or good ideas about how to live our lives. It is truth. (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 317)
Seek the truth, Listen to the truth, Teach the truth, Love the truth, Abide by the truth, And defend the truth, Unto death. —John Hus (Dr. Chris Thurman, The Lies We Believe, 163)
Why We Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead:
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Christian faith is a foolish fantasy. However, if the resurrection of Christ did occur, it confirms His life, message, and atoning work. It is the basis of our hope of life beyond the grave. Christ is alive, and the evidence is overwhelming. Here are some of the reasons we can be so sure.
- Jesus predicted His resurrection (Mt 16:21; Mk 9:9-10; Jn 2:18-22).
- The OT prophesied it (Ps 16:10; compare Acts 2:25-31; 13:33-37).
- The tomb was empty and the grave clothes vacant. If those who opposed Christ wished to silence His disciples, all they had to do was produce a body, but they could not (Jn 20:3-9).
- Many people saw the resurrected Christ. They looked on His face, touched Him, heard His voice, and saw Him eat (Mt 28:16-20; Lk 24:13-39; Jn 20:11-29; 21:1-9; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Cor 15:3-8).
- The lives of the disciples were revolutionized. Though they fled and even denied Christ at the time of His arrest, they later feared no one in their proclamation of the risen Christ (Mt 26:56, 69-75).
- The resurrection was the central message of the early church. The church grew with an unwavering conviction that Christ had risen and was the Lord of the church (Acts 4:33; 5:30-32; Rom. 5:24).
- Men and women today testify that the power of the risen Christ has transformed their lives. We know that Jesus is alive not only because of the historical and biblical evidence but also because He has miraculously touched our lives. (Kurt E. DeHaan).
In the ancient world women were so marginalized that their testimony was not valid in a court of law. So if the Gospel writers were making up the resurrection story (all four mention the women–see also Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24:1-12; Jn 20:1-18), they would not have included women as witnesses. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 899)
“He has risen, as he said” (v. 6). The angel’s words remind us of Jesus’ own words. Our Lord predicted his death and resurrection six times in Matthew! (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 901)
They (the 12) had not believed Jesus’ many predictions of His resurrection, and, now that He had been crucified, they were hopelessly dejected and afraid. If anything, they had even less belief in His resurrection after His death than they had had before.
When the women reported Jesus’ resurrection to the eleven apostles and the other believers with them in Jerusalem, “these words appeared to [the apostles] as nonsense, and they would not believe them” (Lk 24:11). Their personal prejudices and human understanding, common to most Jews of that day, prevented them from accepting the idea of the Messiah’s death, thereby making belief in His resurrection impossible. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 324)
The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that–like it or not–they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 218)
* to Mary Magdalene, in Jn 20:10-18;
* to the other women, in Mt 28:8-10;
* to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, in Lk 24:13-32;
* to eleven disciples and others, in Lk 24:33-49;
* to ten apostles and others, with Thomas absent, in Jn 20:19-23;
* to Thomas and the other apostles, in Jn 20:26-30;
* to seven apostles, in Jn 21:1-14;
* to the disciples, in Mt 28:16-20.
And he was with the apostles at the Mount of Olives before his ascension, in Lk 24:50-52 and Acts 1:4-9. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 234)
Seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing. What you believe determines the meaning of what you see. The disciples saw a resurrected body when Christ rose from the dead, but they believed they saw a ghost because they believed in ghosts, but not in the resurrection. — Stuart Briscoll
As Montaigne put it, “We are born to inquire into the truth; it belongs to a greater power to possess it.” (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 165)
It’s not only okay to doubt, but I believe it’s often fundamental in order to grasp the truth. You can’t have secondhand beliefs and be emotionally healthy. Constructive doubt can help you solidify your own beliefs. (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 173)
“The truth must essentially be regarded as in conflict with the world; the world has never been so good, and will never become so good that the majority will desire truth.” —Soren Kierkegaard (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 53, 59)
There is no way of knowing what the Truth is unless you know the Truth. And there is no way of knowing the Truth unless you believe there is Truth. — Frank Peretti
Doubt can help lead us from error to truth. Doubt can be a vital tool for the achievement of assurance. (R.C. Sproul; Doubt and Assurance, 10)
Doubt forces us back to first principles. (R.C. Sproul; Doubt and Assurance, 10)
The Resurrection is God’s “Amen!” to Christ’s statement, “It is Finished.” — S. Lewis Johnson
My high school science teacher once told me that much of Genesis is false. But since my high school science teacher did not prove he was God by rising from the dead, I’m going to believe Jesus instead. — Andy Stanley
IV- The lives of those who truly believe this are forever radically changed. ( Jn 15:15; 1 Cor ch 15; Rom 6:6; 8:18-25; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10, 17; Gal 3:25; 4:7; Eph 2:19-22; 4:11-32; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Rv 21:5)
People cannot change truth, but truth can change people.
As Pascal said, “I believe the witnesses that get their throats cut.” (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 362)
“He had an Easter faith in a Good Friday world.”
This is what the resurrection does: it opens the new world, in which, under the saving and judging lordship of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, everything else is to be seen in a new light. (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 244)
There’s no question, even among the most secular of scholars, that around 2,000 years ago an entirely new religious movement and community were formed–almost overnight. And immediately, hundreds of people started claiming that Jesus rose from the grave, even when it meant they could die for such a claim. A fast-growing movement of people, which now makes up one-third of the world’s population by some estimates, survives as a result. So how do you explain that? If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus, then there’s a burden of proof to provide some other convincing explanation for how the church began. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 358)
“First,” he said, “they (the Jews) had been taught ever since the time of Abraham and Moses that they needed to offer an animal sacrifice on a yearly basis to atone for their sins.” (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 251)
“Second, Jews emphasized obeying the laws that God had entrusted to them through Moses. In their view, this is what separated them from pagan nations. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 251)
“Third, Jews scrupulously kept the Sabbath by not doing anything except religious devotion every Saturday. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 251)
“Fourth, they believed in monotheism–only one God. While Christians teach a form of monotheism, they say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 251)
“And fifth, these Christians pictured the Messiah as someone who suffered and died for the sins of the world, whereas Jews had been trained to believe that the Messiah was going to be a political leader who would destroy the Roman armies.” (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 251)
“What’s odd is that these early followers of Jesus didn’t get together to celebrate his teachings or how wonderful he was. They came together regularly to have a celebration meal for one reason: to remember that Jesus had been publicly slaughtered in a grotesque and humiliating way. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 253)
Simon Greenleaf, famous nineteenth-century professor of law at Harvard wrote, “All that Christianity asks of men. . . is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions, in human tribunals. . . The result . . . will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability and truth” (Testimony of the Evangelists, Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice, 46). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 326)
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we don’t have to worry about a thing He said, because it was a lie. But if Jesus rose from the dead, then we must accept everything He said, for His authority is absolute. Jesus closes this chapter and the Gospel as a whole by claiming, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (v. 18). Jesus’ absolute authority based on the resurrection means that He has authority over life and death. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 363)
Many times Christians say, “I’ve decided to make Jesus the Lord of my life.” I hate to break it to you, but you didn’t have a choice in the matter. Jesus is Lord over your life. Scripture says that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:10-11). The question is not whether or not Jesus is Lord; the question is, “Will you submit to Him as Lord now or when it is too late?” (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 364-5)
When the truth is in your way, you are on the wrong road.
“Jesus Changes Grave Situations.”
Well over three hundred verses are concerned with the subject of Jesus’ resurrection in the NT. We are told that this event is a sign for unbelievers (Mt 12:38-40); cf. Jn 20:24-29) as well as the answer for the believer’s doubt (Lk 24:38-43). It serves as the guarantee that Jesus’ teachings are true (Acts 2:22-24; 1 Cor 15:12-20) and is the center of the gospel itself (Rom 4:24-25, 10:9; 1 Cor 15:1-4). Further, the resurrection is the impetus for evangelism (Mt 28:18-20; Acts 10:39-43), the key indication of the believer’s daily power to live the Christian life (Rom 6:4-14, 8:9-11; Phil 3:10) and the reason for the total commitment of our lives (Rom 7:4; 1 Cor 15:57-58). The resurrection even addresses the fear of death (Jn 11:25; 1 Cor 15:54-58; cf. Heb 2:14-15) and is related to the second coming of Jesus (Acts 1:11; Rv 1:7). Lastly, this event is a model of the Christian’s resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:2; 1 Cor 6:14; 1 Thes 4:13-18) and provides a foretaste of heaven for the believer (Phil 3:20-21; 1 Pt 1:3-5). For a popular treatment that addresses these and other aspects, see Gary R. Habermas, The Centrality of the Resurrection. (Gary R. Habermas & J.P. Moreland, Immortality – The Other Side of Death, 245)
The apostles are not offering people a new religious experience, though that will come as well. They are not telling them that they can now go to heaven when they die, though they will, if they believe, there to wait until the resurrection itself. Nor are they telling them that God has done an extraordinary miracle that shows how powerful he is, though he has. They are to go and tell the world that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is the world’s true Lord and to summon them to believing obedience. And that is exactly what they do. (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 242-3)
The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. — James A. Garfield
Worship Point: Satan seeks to destroy life, hope, purpose meaning and significance from the human experience (Jn 10:10). Jesus has come to make all things new (Rv 21:5). Worship Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 11:25; 14:6).
Gospel Application: Realize Jesus came to earth and lived the perfect life we, as creatures created in God’s image and likeness were supposed to live; and Jesus died the death we, as sinners justly deserving God’s punishment, deserved to die; and Jesus rose again to prove His promises are all true.
Spiritual Challenge: Live in the reality that Christ is risen from the dead. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Application to the fact of the Resurrection: That cannot be as completely comprehended in a sanctuary. It requires a party motif.
Of all forms of deception self-deception is the most deadly, and of all deceived persons the self-deceived are the least likely to discover the fraud.
The reason for this is simple. When a man is deceived by another he is deceived against his will. He is contending against an adversary and is temporarily the victim of the other’s guile. Since he expects his foe to take advantage of him he is watchful and quick to suspect trickery. Under such circumstances it is possible to be deceived sometimes and for a short while, but because the victim is resisting he may break out of the trap and escape before too long.
With the self-deceived it is quite different. He is his own enemy and is working a fraud upon himself. He wants to believe the lie and is psychologically conditioned to do so. He does not resist the deceit but collaborates with it against himself. There is no struggle, because the victim surrenders before the fight begins. He enjoys being deceived. (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 88)
Having truth will not keep us from deception, but having a love for the truth will. (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 179)
Easter means you can put truth in the grave, but it won’t stay there. — Clarence W. Hull
FEASTER — Solemn Assembly:
Because of the resurrection, we now can know that our lives have significance, purpose, meaning, hope.
APPLICATION: If the Resurrection is True —
A- Jesus has authority over sin and death and is the key to eternal life. (Dn 7:13-14; Mt 28:18; Lk 10:22; Jn 3:35; 10:17-18; 11:25; 14:6; 17:2; 1 Cor 15:26-28, 54-57; Rom 6:23; Eph 1:18-23; Phil 2:9-11; Rv chaps 19-22)
The resurrection is the proclamation of the fact that God is fully and completely satisfied with the work that His Son did upon the Cross. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25, 244)
Because Christianity’s influence is so pervasive throughout much of the world, it is easy to forget how radical its beliefs once were. Jesus’ resurrection forever changed Christians’ view of death. Rodney Stark, sociologist at the University of Washington, points out that when a major plague hit the ancient Roman Empire, Christians had surprisingly high survival rates. Why? Most Roman citizens would banish any plague-stricken person from their household. But because Christians had no fear of death, they nursed their sick instead of throwing them out on the streets. Therefore, many Christians survived the plague. (Kenneth L. Woodward,“2000 Years of Jesus”)
If survival of the fittest is the accepted world view that would make death as the ultimate enemy of our life, then certainly survival of death would be the ultimate good. So, why do Darwinians have such an allergy towards the resurrection?
Marx, you’ll recall, called religion “an opiate” for the people. Yet Marx had it exactly backwards, at least as far as his words pertain to Christianity. Opium deadens the senses; Christianity makes them come alive. Our faith can infuse a deadened or crippled marriage with meaning, purpose, and–in what we so graciously receive from God–fulfillment. Christianity doesn’t leave us in an apathetic stupor–it raises us and our relationships from the dead! It pours zest and strength and purpose into an otherwise wasted life. (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 151)
B- Jesus loves us more than you can imagine and wants us to enjoy being “In Christ”. (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8; 6:23; 8:1, 39; 1 Cor 15:18-22; 2 Cor 1:20; 5:17-21; Gal 3:26; Eph 1:3-14; 2:6, 13; 3:6, 20-21; Phil 3:7-11; 4:7, 12, 19; 1 Tm 1:14; 2 Tm 1:13; Phlm 1:6)
If evolutionary optimism is squelched by, among other things, the sober estimates of the scientists that the universe as we know it today is running out of steam and cannot last forever, the gospel of Jesus Christ announces that what God did for Jesus at Easter he will do not only for all those who are “in Christ” but also for the entire cosmos. It will be an act of new creation, parallel to and derived from the act of new creation when God raised Jesus from the dead. (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 99)
“We have become so obsessed with facts that we have lost all touch with truth.” —Ted Koppel (Os Guinness, Unriddling Our Times, 67)
It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 54)
The resurrection isn’t just a surprise happy ending for one person; it is instead the turning point for everything else. It is the point at which all the old promises come true at last: the promises of David’s unshakable kingdom; the promises of Israel’s return from the greatest exile of them all; and behind that again, quite explicit in Matthew, Luke, and John, the promise that all the nations will now be blessed through the seed of Abraham. (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 236)
C- Life has significance, purpose and hope when you make Jesus your Prophet, Priest and King. So it’s time to party! (Lk 10:20; Jn 16:22; Rom 5:1-2, 11; 8:18-25; 1 Cor 15:12-32, 58; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Rv 19:7)
Rejecting the resurrection is spiritual suicide. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 318)
Each year at Easter I get to preach on the Resurrection. In my sermon I always say to my skeptical, secular friends that, even if they can’t believe in the resurrection, they should want it to be true. Most of them care deeply about justice for the poor, alleviating hunger and disease, and caring for the environment. Yet many of them believe that the material world was caused by accident and that the world and everything in it will eventually simply burn up in the death of the sun. They find it discouraging that so few people care about justice without realizing that their own worldview undermines any motivation to make the world a better place. Why sacrifice for the needs of others if in the end nothing we do will make any difference? If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world. (Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, 211-2)
My question–that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide–was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man. . . a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: “What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?” It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy? (Leo Tolstory, A Confession)
When Paul says, “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink,” he does not mean, “Let’s all become lechers.” He means, there is a normal, simple, comfortable, ordinary life of human delights that we may enjoy with no troubling thoughts of heaven or hell or sin or holiness or God—if there is no resurrection from the dead. And what stunned me about this train of thought is that many professing Christians seem to aim at just this, and call it Christianity.
Paul did not see his relation to Christ as the key to maximizing his physical comforts and pleasures in this life. No, Paul’s relation to Christ was a call to choose suffering—a suffering that was beyond what would make atheism “meaningful” or “beautiful” or “heroic.” It was a suffering that would have been utterly foolish and pitiable to choose if there is no resurrection into the joyful presence of Christ. (John Piper; Desiring God, 219)
If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about. (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 257)
‘If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, nothing else matters.
If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, nothing else matters.’
— Jaroslav Pelikan
CHRIS IS RISEN
HE IS RISEN INDEED