“Emmanuel’s Burial” – Matthew 27:57-66

October 16th, 2016

Matthew 27:57-66

(see also: Mk 15:42-47; Lk 23:50-56; Jn 19:38-42)

“Emmanuel’s Burial”

Aux Text: Romans 8:28-39

Call to Worship: Psalm 2


Service Orientation: Nothing can stop God.   He will accomplish what He has ordained to accomplish.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  — Romans 8:31


No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  — Romans 8:37


Background Information:

  • (v. 57) It is an interesting fact that this is the first and only time we hear of Joseph. He has not been mentioned before in the Gospels, nor does his name appear again after this event.  Yet at the very moment when Christ’s other disciples (save John) had forsaken him, he alone came forward boldly to identify with Jesus.  He did it at great personal cost too, for if Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, as Mark and Luke say he was, his care for Jesus’ body must have ended his career with that court.  The Sanhedrin would have had no use for him once he had shown an interest in their enemy.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 632)
  • (v. 57) Arimathea was a town about twenty-two miles northwest of Jerusalem. This town was the birthplace of Samuel, and its older name was Ramathaim (1 Sm 1:1).  Although an honored member of the Sanhedrin (Mk 15:43), Joseph had himself become a disciple of Jesus.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 564)
  • (v. 57) The Jews had officially threatened to expel any man from the synagogue who confessed Jesus, and this meant cutting such a man off from all connection with the Jewish religion and ostracizing him from his nation. (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1136)
  • (v. 57) This coward became courageous.  He is the only male disciple of Jesus to step forward in chapter 27.  All the apostles are absent.  It took great courage for a highly distinguished member of the Sanhedrin to go by himself to Pilate in order to ask for the body of a convicted and crucified criminal.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 886)
  • (v. 58) As soon as a victim was declared dead, his body was taken down from the cross and ordinarily was thrown into a common grave for criminals, as Isaiah had prophesied the Messiah’s enemies had planned for Him (Isa 53:9). The Romans had absolutely no respect for the corpses, which often were thrown into a grave left open to scavenger animals and birds.  Sometimes the bodies were simply cast onto a burning garbage dump, such as the one that continually smoldered in the Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) just south of Jerusalem.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 294)
  • (v. 58) The body of a victim normally would be given only to a family member. Often, however, even that humane consideration was not permitted, because public desecration of the body by throwing it into an open grave or onto a garbage heap was sometimes used as an additional warning about the serious consequences of opposing Rome.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 295)
  • (v. 58) Pilate was willing to give the body to one that would inter it decently, that he might do something towards atoning for the guilt his conscience charged him with in condemning an innocent person. In Joseph’s petition, and Pilate’s ready grant of it, honor was done to Christ, and a testimony borne to his integrity.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 434)
  • (v. 59) The body was carefully taken down from the cross, washed, wrapped in layers of cloth with the spices in between, and laid in a tomb. Jesus was given a burial fit for a king.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 565)
  • (v. 60) Matthew mentions Joseph’s wealth for historical reasons.  Only a rich (and politically connected) man could gain access to Pilate and actually be granted his request.  And only a rich man would be able to afford “a clean linen shroud” (v. 59), a “new tomb” that was likely cut into a limestone hillside-cave (v. 60), and “a great stone” that was rolled in front of the tomb (v. 60).  Poor men were buried in mass paupers’ graves.  Joseph’s tomb had no other bodies in it; it was brand-new; it was above, not below, ground; and it had the expensive, state-of-the art, rolling-stone feature.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 885)
  • (v. 60) A wealthy person’s tomb would often have a groove sloping down into the doorway, and a stone slab a yard in diameter would be rolled into it. The stone would be easy to roll in, but it would take several men to roll it up the slope to open the tomb.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 565)
  • (v. 61) The two Marys watched everything Joseph and Nicodemus did. They could not tear themselves away.  As soon as the Sabbath was over, they would be back.  It was not likely to be a very restful Sabbath for them.  But for Jesus, all the agony and humiliation were now over.  He had entered into the true Sabbath rest that remains for all the children of God (see Heb 4:9).  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 431-2)
  • (v. 61) It is especially interesting to note that “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (v. 56), in contrast with her “sons of thunder,” is present. “Her presence. . . serves as a foil for her sons’ cowardly absence,” and if she hadn’t yet learned Jesus’ lesson on kingdom greatness, perhaps witnessing his great death taught her “the true meaning of being on [his] . . . left and right.”  Just as Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her (Lk 8:2), this woman must have had those demons of her own pride cast out by Jesus’ seemingly inglorious and powerless yet truly glorious and powerful death.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 888)
  • (v. 63) Jesus may have died, but they remembered that he had said after three days I will rise again. Jesus had only spoken these words to his disciples (16:21; 17:9; 20:19), so Judas may have given them this information.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 566)
  • (v. 63) Even in His death, Christ’s enemies despised Him so vehemently that they would not utter His name, referring to Him only as that deceiver. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 298)
  • (v. 63) The expression “three days and three nights” that Jesus had used in the prediction of His burial (Mt 12:40) did not refer necessarily to three full twenty-four hour days. “A day and a night” was Jewish colloquialism that could refer to any part of a day.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 299)
  • (v. 63) The Talmud, the major Jewish commentary on Scripture and tradition, specifies that “a day and a night makes one onah, and a part of an onah is as the whole.” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 299)
  • (v. 64) Why did the Sanhedrists not place a detachment of their Temple police in front of the tomb about which they seem to know? The answer is that the Temple police had only the Temple area under their jurisdiction and could not be sent anywhere else.  The Roman government would also allow no show of military force outside of the Temple.  So these Sanhedrists go to Pilate to furnish the desired guard.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1144)
  • (v. 64) It is ironic that they remembered what the disciples forgot. In a sense they were giving the disciples too much credit. The shock of Jesus’ death had paralyzed them.  They were just beginning the grieving process.  They were physically and emotionally incapable of carrying out the plot the Pharisees feared.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 432)


The question to be answered is . . . Why does Matthew go into such detail about Jesus’ burial?


Answer:  Because we learn there that God keeps His Word, His word is Truth and Truth always wins, and God will ultimately humiliate anyone who attempts to stop Him from being faithful, true, good, righteous and loving.


There is a strong tendency to rush immediately from His death to His resurrection, mentioning His burial only in passing.  Yet Matthew’s account of His burial conveys several astounding truths that give remarkable testimony to the superintendency of God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 291)


The burial of Jesus assures us that Jesus was really dead and that his resurrection was a true resurrection.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 630)


The burial of Jesus is the second of the core doctrines of Christianity listed by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor 15:  “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve” (vv. 3-5).  It occupies a significant amount of space in each of the four Gospels:  ten verses in Matthew, six verses in Mark, six in Luke, and five in John.  But we do not generally give much thought to Jesus’ burial.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 629)


The Word for the Day is . . .Overcome


What does Matthew teach us from Jesus’ burial?:

I-  Trust God Who will overcome any obstacle to keep His Word.  (Mt 27:57-60, 64-66; see also: Nm 23:19; 1 Sm 15:29; Ps 16:10; 18:5; 49:15; 86:13; Isa 53:7-9; Hos 13:14; Jon 2:2; Jn 12:24; Acts 2:22-36; 1 Cor 15:1-58; Phil 1:6; 2 Tm 1:12-13; Ti 1:2; Heb 3:14; 10:23; 12:1-5; 2 Pt 1:10-11; Rv 2:7, 10-11, 17, 25-28; 3:5, 11-12, 21, 21:7)


They had not realized one thing–that there was not a tomb in the world which could imprison the risen Christ.  Not all the plans in the world could bind the risen Lord.  Anyone who seeks to put bonds on Jesus Christ is on a hopeless assignment.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 438)


At the time Matthew wrote this Gospel, the story was being promoted by the Jews that the disciples had stolen the body.  Justin confirms the fact that the Jewish people charged Jesus’ disciples with stealing the body and reporting Jesus to be alive.  But Matthew’s account shows the impossibility of this happening with the securely guarded tomb.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 319)


They did not realize that no tomb in the world could hold the Son of God.  He is Victor over death and the powers of darkness.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 319)


They little thought what they were doing; they little thought that unwittingly they were providing the most complete evidence of the truth of Christ’s coming resurrection.  They were actually making it impossible to prove that there was any deception or imposition.  Their seal, their guard, their precautions, were all to become witnesses, in a few hours, that Christ had risen.  They might as well have tried to stop the tides of the sea, or to prevent the sun rising, as to prevent Jesus coming out of the tomb.  They were caught in their own craftiness (1 Cor 3:19): their own devices became instruments to display God’s glory.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 287)


. . . God often works by contraries:  when he means to give victory, he will allow us to be foiled at first; when he means to comfort, he will terrify first; when he means to justify, he will condemn us first; when he means to make us glorious, he will abase us first.  A Christian conquers, even when he is conquered.  When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security.  (Richard Sibbes; The Bruised Reed, 95)


They, therefore, wished to take special steps to guard the tomb.  Back comes Pilate’s answer:  “Make it as safe as you can.”  It is as if Pilate all unconsciously said:  “Keep Christ in the tomb–if you can.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 438)


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 lions’ 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)


Although the account of Jesus’ burial is extremely terse and sober, we must never forget that here, as through the whole gospel, the Evangelist is telling the story of the Christ.  The absence of biographical details focuses all attention on the main point, namely, that the path of humiliation walked by God’s Anointed descended all the way to the grave, the place where death reigns supreme and mercilessly imposes its curse (see Gn 3:19).  Christ was dragged down to the place of deepest human humiliation and defilement and imprisoned behind a heavy stone.  Even His closest friends thought He was gone for good, a figure from the past who now would be forgotten.  Thus Jesus endured not only pain and suffering and the curse of death but even the terror of the grave, so that He could save His people from this forever.  (H. N. Ridderbos, Matthew, 540-1)


Their fear of what they call “this last deception” as well as their mention of the third day shows that they had understood Jesus’ words about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days.  They know Jesus had promised to prove he was the Messiah by his resurrection.  They did not believe him.  They would not believe him even after his resurrection, but they wanted to do everything they could to keep this terrible thing from happening.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 632)


“Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”  But how?  How can anyone secure anything against the shattering power of Jesus’ resurrection?  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 633)


From a human perspective, therefore, providence seems even more astounding than miracle.  In miracle, God “simply” replaces natural events and circumstances with those of His own special making, usually within a short period of time and often instantaneously.  Providence, however, involves the infinitely more complex task of taking natural events and circumstances, as well as the limited but real freedoms of human and demonic minds and wills and, often over vast periods of time, superintending all of those elements in the flawless fulfillment of His own foreordained plans.  Multiplied myriads of individual and seemingly random plans, choices, actions, and events continually work together in a divinely-synchronized strategy to perform God’s predestined plan.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 289)


II-  God’s Word is truth.  Truth always overcomes even when truth is branded a lie.  (Mt 27:63-64; see also Dt 32:4; Ps 31:5; 119:160; Dn 4:37; Jn 8:36; 17:17)


Easter means you can put truth in the grave, but it won’t stay there. — Clarence W. Hull


Magna est veritas et praevalebit (great is the truth, and it will prevail)!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 896)


Augustine was right when he said that we love the truth when it enlightens us, but we hate it when it convicts us.  Maybe we can’t handle the truth.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 36)


Evil in itself is self-defeating; it exists as a parasite, as a moocher, for evil can have appeal only by falsely identifying with something that is good, even while it perverts the good.  God ultimately overcomes evil not by exercising His superior power, but by expressing His superior quality.  When God withdraws everything good—light, love, peace, joy, friendship, kindness, pleasure—there will be nothing left that has any goodness in it…and that is hell!  Satan will be bound by the simple act of God withdrawing everything that is good and leaving evil to itself; there will be nothing left but hell.

Overcoming and withstanding evil is not to meet evil on its own ground and thereby cheapen our approach.  Rather, we overcome evil by bringing God and His goodness into every situation, evidencing the values of the spiritual qualities of life. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 80)


People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.  — Blaise Pascal


We humans have a fatal tendency to try to adjust the truth to fit our desires rather than adjusting our desires to fit the truth.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 32)


It’s the Second Council of Deceit.  In 27:62 the Jewish leaders assembled before Pilate.  Now they assemble with “the elders” (likely the Sanhedrin; v. 12).  This Council is convened because someone told the truth.  Parenthetically, that is too often why church councils are convened–to deal with truth-tellers who are spoiling some sacred tradition.  Religious prigs are always keeping watch for wild boars who might knock to the floor encased relics in the glass cathedrals of Christendom.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 894)


Since in their hatred for Jesus, chief priests and Pharisees were united, it is really not very surprising that these two groups co-operate in expressing their concern to the governor with reference to Christ’s promise that on the third day he would rise from the dead.  Even though the chief priests, being Sadducees, did not believe in the resurrection, the issue at present is not really any question regarding the factuality of that article of faith.  The point is:  neither the chief priests nor the Pharisees want to lose their hold on the people!  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 981)


It is remarkable that while the disciples failed to understand Christ’s predictions regarding his resurrection (Mk 8:31; 9:31; cf. 10:33), even when these were uttered in very clear, unfigurative language (Mk 9:32), the Pharisees and their associates did understand and did remember them, even though to them they had been couched in veiled phraseology (12:30; 16:4).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 981)


It is exactly because these leaders are themselves such dishonest people (see 28:11-15) that they mistrust Christ’s disciples.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 982)


An executed man lost all dignity–it was common to simply leave the body to rot away and then throw the remains into a common grave.  Had the Romans taken Jesus’ body, no Jews could have confirmed his death, and opponents could have disputed his resurrection.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 565)


Sure, the disciples might try to steal the body and then claim “He is alive!”  But surely they noticed, as we have, that the apostolic band hasn’t played a tune lately.  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)


Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  We believe that the unexamined faith is not worth believing.  Furthermore, contrary to popular opinion, Christians are not supposed to “just have faith.”  Christians are commanded to know what they believe and why they believe it.  They are commanded to give answers to those who ask (1 Pt 3:15), and to demolish arguments against the Christian faith (2 Cor 10:4-5).  Since God is reasonable (Isa 1:18) and wants us to use our reason, Christians don’t get brownie points for being stupid.  In fact, using reason is part of the greatest commandment which, according to Jesus, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37).  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 29)


It is logically possible that the universe is eternal and therefore didn’t have a cause.  In fact, it is one of only two possibilities:  either the universe, or something outside the universe, is eternal.  (Since something undeniably exists today, then something must have always existed; we have only two choices:  the universe, or something that caused the universe.)  The problem for the atheist is that while it is logically possible that the universe is eternal, it does not seem to be actually possible.  For all the scientific and philosophical evidence (SURGE, radioactive decay, and the Kalam Cosmological Argument) tells us the universe cannot be eternal.  So by ruling out one of the two options, we are left with the only other option–something outside the universe is eternal.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 92-93)


Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith.  If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God.  (James Tour, Nanoscientist)


III-  God humiliates anyone who attempts to stop Him from being faithful, true, good and righteous.  He will overcome. (Mt 27:65-66; see also: Gn 42:36; 45:5; 50:20; Ps ch 2; 37:24; Dn 6:1-28; Mt 24:13; Rom 8:28-39)


He was buried, to make his death the more certain, and his resurrection the more illustrious.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 434)


The purpose of the Jewish leaders and of Pilate was to prevent a hoax.  But the Lord’s purpose was to take even their unbelieving antagonism and use it to prove the reality of Christ’s resurrection and deity.  Even Jesus’ enemies helped assure that, in order for His resurrection to be genuine, He would have to be supernaturally raised.  Despite their later efforts to spread the rumor that the disciples did indeed steal Jesus’ body (Mt 28:11-14), they knew that they themselves had made that impossible.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 301)


The very lie we bank on to repel God will be what we will be forced to swallow in humiliation.  —Pastor Keith


Scientists gag on their unscientific explanation for creation because science cannot scientifically explain why there is something rather than nothing; or how you get something from nothing. — Pastor Keith


By sealing the stone and posting a guard, the chief priests did all they could to make themselves look ridiculous on Easter Sunday.  The very thing they tried so hard to prevent was the possibility that Jesus’ disciples might come and steal his body.  So when it was clear to all that the tomb was empty, what did the chief priests bribe their guards to say?  That Jesus’ disciples came during the night and stole the body while the guards were sleeping!  How could anyone take such nonsense seriously?  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 434)


The powers of this world are only tools in the hand of God:  he is always using them for his own purposes, however little they may be aware of it.  They are the instruments by which he is forever cutting and polishing the living stones of his spiritual temple, and all their schemes and plans will only turn to his praise.  Let us be patient in days of trouble and darkness, and look forward.  The very things which now seem against us are all working together for God’s glory.  We only see half now:  a little while longer, we shall see all; and we shall then discover that all the persecution we now endure was, like “the seal” and “the guard” (v. 66), tending to God’s glory.  God can make the “wrath of man praise him” (Ps 76:10 KJV).  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 288)


Let us recognize before we do warfare that the areas we hide in darkness are the very areas of our future defeat.  Often the battles we face will not cease until we discover and repent of the darkness that is within us.  If we will be effective in spiritual warfare, we must be discerning of our own hearts; we must walk humbly with our God.  Our first course of action must be, “Submit…to God.”  Then, as we “resist the devil…he will flee” (Jam 4:7).  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 16)


That the Pharisees went to Pilate on the day after Preparation Day means that they went on the Sabbath–a clear violation of their own laws.  But they were in such a hurry to make sure that Pilate had secured the tomb, that they willingly broke their own laws.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 566)


The infinite wisdom of God foresaw the objections of unbelievers and provided against them.  Did the Son of God really die?  Did he really rise again?  Might there not have been some delusion as to the reality of his death?  Might there not have been imposition or deception, as to the reality of his resurrection?  All these and many more objections would doubtless have been raised if opportunity had been given.  But he who knows the end from the beginning prevented the possibility of such objections being made.  By his overruling providence he ordered things so that the death and burial of Jesus were placed beyond a doubt.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 285)


The history of the church of Christ is full of examples of a similar kind.  The very things that have seemed most unfavorable to God’s people have often turned out to be for their good.  What harm did the persecution do to the church of Christ after Stephen’s death?  Those who were scattered “preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4).  What harm did imprisonment do St. Paul?  It gave him time to write many of those letters which are now read all over the world.  What real harm did the persecution of bloody Mary do to the cause of the English Reformation?  The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church.  What harm does persecution do the people of God at this very day?  It only drives them nearer to Christ:  it only makes them cling more closely to the throne of grace, the Bible, and prayer.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 287)


He must have meant one of two things, as Matthew Henry suggests.  Either Pilate was laughing at the leaders for their folly–imagine setting a guard to watch a dead man!–or, more likely, he was mocking them for their fears.  It was if he were saying, “Do your worst, try your wit and strength to the uttermost; but if he be of God, he will rise in spite of you and all your guards.”  That is what Charles H. Spurgeon thought the words meant.  He described the priests begging Pilate “to do what he could to prevent the rising of their victim.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 632)


Tertullian wrote:

We are but yesterday, yet we have filled all that is yours:  cities, islands, fortresses, towns, meeting places, even camps, tribes, companies, the palace, the senate, the forum.

We have left you only your temples…

You say, we are vanquished. Yes, when we have obtained our wishes.  Therefore we conquer in dying; we seize the victory at the very moment we are overcome.  Bound to a stake, we are burnt on a heap of wood:  this is the attitude in which we conquer, it is our victory robe, our triumphal entry…

Your cruelty, however great, is a better advertisement for us than for you.  The more you mow us down, the more we grow.  The blood of Christians is seed.


The Pharisees wanted Pilate to seal the stone to make sure that no one would steal Jesus’ body and claim he had risen from the dead.  They tried to take every precaution that his body would remain in the tomb.  The first deception they referred to was Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah; the last deception would be a falsified claim to rising from the dead that would be used to support the first.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 567)


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, 895)


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)


Jesus was given a burial in style, in a private tomb owned by one of the wealthiest men in the city.  Some believe that His burial is recorded in the Gospels merely to cause people to understand that Jesus was really dead.  That may have had something to do with it.  But I think it had to do with the beginning of His exaltation.  He had said on the cross, at the end of His ordeal of being forsaken by the Father, “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30).  He had completed the work and paid the price.  The humiliation was finished.  From that moment on, God was determined that His only Son should be exalted forever and ever.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 810)


Perhaps he swooned and was somehow able to revive and convince his followers that he had triumphed over death.  That is extremely improbable, of course, though some nineteenth-century rationalists were foolish enough to suggest it.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 630)


That fear was totally unfounded, because, despite Jesus’ repeated teaching about it, the disciples still did not believe that He would literally rise from the dead. . . . Even when Peter and John came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty, “as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (Jn 20:9).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 300)


Methinks that word, Make it as sure as you can, looks like a banter, either, [1] Of their fears; “Be sure to set a strong guard upon the dead man;” or rather, [2] Of their hopes; “Do your worst, try your wit and strength to the utmost; but if he be of God, he will rise, in spite of you and all your guards.”  I am apt to think, that by this time Pilate had had some talk with the centurion, his own officer, of whom he would be apt to enquire how that just man died, whom he had condemned with such reluctance; and that he gave him such an account of those things as made him conclude that truly he was the Son of God; and Pilate would give more credit to him than to a thousand of those spiteful priests that called him Deceiver; and if so, no marvel that he tacitly derides their project, in thinking to secure the sepulcher upon him who had so lately rent the rocks, and made the earth to quake.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 436-7)


“Spare not death, do thy worst.   You will only make me better than before.”   — George Hebert


Fenelon pointed out that sin is self-defeating.  “We refuse ourselves to God, who only wants to save us.  We give ourselves up to the world, which only wants to tyrannize over us and destroy us.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 65)


The overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang and its consistency with the biblical account in Genesis led Jastrow to observe in an interview, “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth.  And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover…That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”  (“A Scientist Caught Between Two Faiths:  Interview with Robert Jastrow,” Christianity Today, August 6, 1982)  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 84-85)


Space observations are becoming so supportive of the theistic worldview that George Will muses, “Soon the American Civil Liberties Union, or People for the American Way, or some similar faction of litigious secularism will file suit against NASA, charging that the Hubble Space Telescope unconstitutionally gives comfort to the religiously inclined.”  (George Will, “The Gospel from Science,” Newsweek, November 8, 1998)  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 98)


Worship Point:  Worship the One who will overcome.   And what He wills to do is loving—what is best.


“Jesus Changes Grave Situations.”  (Sign seen on a church billboard)


Dorothy Sayers, “The incarnation meant that for whatever reason God chose to allow us to be  limited to suffer and to be subject to sorrows and death.  He has none the less had the honestly and the courage to take His own medicine.  He can ask nothing from us that he has not exacted from himself.  He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worse horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death.

He was born in poverty, he died in disgrace he suffered infinite pain, all for us, and he thought it well worth his while.  (Tim Keller; The Deity of Jesus)


Wouldn’t it be great if God always gave you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows?  We do have a God like that.  —Tim Keller


Gospel Application:  God ordained, from before the creation of the world (Eph 1:3-6), that Jesus would live the life we were supposed to live and die the death that we deserved to die; so that in Jesus, we could become triumphant as well.  (2 Cor 5:21; Rom 8:31, 37)


I believe that in Christ Jesus my sins have been fully and freely forgiven, and I am a new creation.  I have died with Christ to my old identity in Adam.  I have been raised with Christ to a new life.  I am seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God has given to me the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I am joined with angels, archangels, and all the saints in heaven.  God is my Father, and if He is for me, who can be against me?  Because of who I am in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  In fact, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.  Christ Jesus is my life!  Everything in my life here on this earth is working out for good according to the purposes of God.  Christ Jesus Himself dwells within me.  I have been called according to the purposes of God.  These things I believe and confess, because God, my Father in heaven, says they are true.  Amen!  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 96)


Spiritual Challenge:  Live your life as an overcomer.  Live in the reality of the omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion, justice, and providence of God.  Because it is all true.  


The meaning of Easter for him is by no means confined to hope beyond the grave.  He, like the gospel writers, sees Jesus’ resurrection as the start of a new world, a new creation, in which Jesus is already ruling and reigning as Lord.  Nobody could accuse Paul of being unaware of the paradox of making such claims.  Some of his most striking statements of the point are written from prison.  And in that context, it is Paul who articulates most strikingly what the resurrection means not just for the world in particular, vital though that is as the overall context, but also for the ordinary life of every Christian, child, woman, and man.  (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 246)


Amy Carmichael once penned these thoughts:  Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they won through step by step by little bits of wills, little denials of self, little inward victories by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph no spiritual maturity.  That is the work of the moment.  (Tim Hansel; Holy Sweat, 130)


So What?:  If God is for us, it really doesn’t matter who is against us (Rom 8:31).  In Christ, we will always be more than conquerors.  (Rom 8:37)





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