The Day Death Died | Matthew 28
Today is the day set aside nation-wide to celebrate what is perhaps the greatest event in the history of the world, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Inevitably, with the celebration of Easter brings to mind the most important question we can ask: Who, exactly, is Jesus? Who is he, and what does that mean for us?
To get into the resurrection spirit, we’re going to read Matthew chapter 28, which is the last chapter in Matthew’s gospel. Leading up to Matthew 28, we see Jesus dying on the Cross, we see Jesus being buried in a tomb, and we see the chief priests and the Pharisees talk Pilate into send a guard of soldiers to secure the tomb, and even set a guard there to make sure no one messes with Jesus’ body. That’s where we’re at when we come to Matthew chapter 28. Jesus is dead, and his tomb is secure.
If you’re able, please follow along; you are welcome to use the blue New Testament in the seatback in front of you; it’s page 17 in those. Angie/Chris is going to come up and read this for us. As he does this, have in mind these two questions: Who is Jesus, and what does that mean for me? Matthew 28, verse 1. Angie/Chris, take it away.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where helay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Thank you, Angie/Chris. Now, remember, before this chapter, what do we know? Jesus is dead. The tomb is secure. That’s what we know! It was early Sunday morning when the two Mary’s went to the tomb of Jesus. And apparently, as they get there, there is an earthquake, and an angel of the Lord descends from heaven and rolls back the stone and then sits on it. That’s what happened right when they arrived. Pretty dramatic events.
Now, you might wonder why the stone was removed from blocking the entrance to the tomb. It wasn’t so that Jesus could get out, right? He was already gone! So the angel moved the stone not to let Jesus out; I mean, Jesus didn’t do something as amazing as rise from the dead only to get stuck behind of a big rock, right? Of course not. He had already risen from the dead and had already left, either by moving the stone himself and then moving it back, or just by being Jesus. Maybe he walked right through the large stone. But, no matter how Jesus did it, the angelmoved the stone for all to see that Jesus was not there. It was moved not only for Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see that he wasn’t there, but for the history books to record the fact that Jesus was not there!
The angel even says this to Mary and Mary in verses 5-6: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” See that he is not there. These same women had just been there when his body was being put there at the end of chapter 27, if you look at verse 61 of the previous chapter. They saw Jesus placed there and the stone being sealed, and now they are there again and they see that he is not there.
This was obviously a surprise to Mary Magdeline and the other Mary. It was obviously a shock to some of the guards, who, as we read, ran into the city to tell the chief priests what had happened. But, here’s the thing: This was no surprise to Jesus. The 1stvery neat thing about the resurrection:
- The resurrection was no surprise to Jesus (5-10).
Of course it wasn’t! He didn’t wake up shocked, “What’s going on!? How did this happen!? I thought I was dead!” No! He wasn’t surprised or shocked. The angel said it in verse 6, didn’t he? “He is risen, as he said.” I mean, just two chapters earlier, Matthew 26:32, Jesus tells the disciples of his coming death, and then says, “But after I am raised up, I will go into Galilee.” Not only did Jesus tell his disciples that this was going to happen, he even told them where he was first going to go after he was raised! Galilee! And that’s the place the angel just told the Mary’s as well, “He is going before you to Galilee.”
So, certainly, this was no surprise to Jesus, and nor was it a surprise to God. In fact, God’s plan from the beginning was to see that his son be put to death, and then to raise him from the dead. Acts 2:23-24- “Long ago God planned that Jesus would be handed over to you. With the help of evil people, you put Jesus to death. You nailed him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead.” This is something very neat about the resurrection of Jesus. It was no surprise to him, and God himself planned it long before it happened. The 2ndvery neat thing about the resurrection:
- In the resurrection, Jesus revealed that there is no limit to his authority.
What we see in the resurrection is that Jesus is so much more than a great man, a great teacher, a great moral person that we should follow. What we see in the resurrection is that Jesus Christ has authority over life and death. Jesus Christ, ultimately, has authority even over sin and Satan. This Jesus is God in the flesh, the resurrected King, and there is no limit to his authority.
In Colossians 2:9-10, Paul puts it this way: “For in him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Just a chapter earlier, Colossians 1:16-17, he puts it this way:“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” That sounds pretty exhaustive as far as Jesus’ power and authority.
This Jesus that is a household name, that we so often talk about flippantly, or just without the reverence and awe that is due his name, this Jesus is a lot more than a cute baby Jesus born in a manger. He’s far more than a good moral teacher or man that we should try and live like. He is God in the flesh, who has authority over life and death, over sin and Satan, and is over us, part of his creation. This King is a just King, and He is also a good and loving King. He’s the type of King that we’d want to have ruling us! Unfathomably, this King with all authority in heaven and earth, loves us even though we haven’t always treated him as King. In fact, he loves us even though we’re hostile toward him, and in particular, his authority.
You see, it’s this authority, that many, including maybe some of us in this room, will misunderstand. The statement that the resurrection makes about who Jesus is, some will see first and foremost as a threat. Why? Because…the 3rdvery neat thing:
- Jesus’ resurrection demands a response.
It demands a response. This isn’t something that can be ignored. Ignoring the resurrection makes as much sense as a massive explosion happening in your very neighborhood, and you going, “Huh, weird.” Or just ignoring it altogether! That doesn’t make any sense, does it! No! This event, Jesus’ resurrection, it demands our attention.
Even the chief priests knew that! They responded, though perhaps differently than they should have. In verses 11-15, it tells us some of the guard went into the city, and probably kind-of flipping out, or at least I would be. I can imagine they were not exactly calm when they were telling the chief priests what had happened, right? “Uh, Jesus, uh, dead, uh, earthquake, uh, not dead…uh, big white lights, uh, angel, uh, stone moved, uh, uh.” And then: “Jesus is not there!” They’re probably flipping out, because what they have seen is impossible! And yet, of course, they tell the chief priests what they have seen.
How the chief priests respond—I would say is unbelievable, but I guess it’s pretty believable with what we know about the chief priests and elders. I mean, you have to keep in mind these were the leaders of the Jews, the ones who wanted to see Jesus crucified because they saw him as a threat. They saw him as a threat to their own power and authority even just during his ministry, and even with this incredible news, clearly something BIG happening because they knew for a FACT that Jesus died on that cross, that he was buried, and that Pilate placed these soldiers there! Even with this shocking news, their very first reaction is what?! Self-preservation!
You’d think that with such an amazing thing happening, or even just the potential of such an amazing thing happened, you’d think that they’d forget about themselves for just a moment. But no. How did they respond? They paid the soldiers to tell people that Jesus’ disciples came by night and stole the body of Jesus. Why?! Because if they saw Jesus as a threat before his crucifixion, what is now as a supposed resurrected man? He’s an even greater threat! A threat to their independence, their control, their own little kingdoms.
The thought of a true resurrected King— they weren’t going to have it. In their minds, either they didn’t believe that it was actually true, or it just didn’t matter to them more than their own status and their own king-ship. What was their top priority? Their ownauthority, as chief priests, but also just as people. They wanted full control; they wanted to do as they pleased. And they weren’t going to put up with anything that threatened that.
They knew very well that this news about Jesus raising from the dead, it required a response from them. They couldn’t just sit idly by and pretend like it didn’t affect them. The same is true for us as well. The resurrection of Jesus demands a response. And there’s really only 2 ways to respond. Or at least we can lump all potential responses into two categories.
First, We can be like the Pharisees, who responded with twisting the truth to fit their own agenda, to support them living how they wanted to live. They saw him as a threat, so they straight up lied to the people, they paid the soldiers to lie.
We too can twist the truth. The thought that Jesus has all authority, even authority over us, that’s not easy for us as human beings. We don’t naturally like authority, do we? So, how do we respond to Jesus having all authority? Well, maybe we adjust who he is in our minds: Jesus is a great moral teacher, a great man that we can learn a lot from. So that’s how I’m going to think of Jesus. That’s how I’m going to treat him. That’s twisting the truth to make it fit our desires better, and listen: I think most of us don’t even realize we do this. We don’t want Jesus to really have all authority, we don’t want to see him as KING OVER ALL. So, we’ll think of Jesus how we want him to be, instead of how he actually is according to God’s Word.
We can twist the truth in other ways too. You know, sure, Jesus is God! Yes, I believe that, Ryan. He is God, and he died to show his love for us. What he wants from us is to try and live good lives, in fact becausehe died for us. He was showing us how to live like him! That’s what he wants from us. Listen, that’s close, sort-of, but not really. Here’s the real truth about who we are and who Jesus is. And here’s the real truth of how he wants us to respond.
The truth of the matter, whether we want to admit it or not, is that we think we have things under control. We think we have a good grasp on our lives, doing whatever we think is best, likely being good people, even very good people. What we don’t realize, is that we all start our lives as our own Kings, our own gods. We see this clearly in Scripture. Isaiah 53:6a- “We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.”
It starts as soon as we come into the world. We all love children, I hope, but we also know, that from the very beginning, life is all about them, yes? The youngest of children are their own kings, in theirminds. They have all the authority, it’s all about them. And if we’re honest, we don’t really grow out of this. It shows itself in different ways as we get older, and maybe we get better at disguising it, but we think we know what’s up, and generally, the center of our universe is us. We want to do what we want to do, and be who we want to be. Whether we realize it or not, what we have done is that we have tried to unseat the One who is truly on the throne. We want to be king! How offensive is that to the true King? The only Creator?
And even in this kind of outright rebellion, this kind of hostility toward our Creator, even with us not giving God his rightful place in our lives, resisting that, he still loves us. This is the shocking part, the CRAZY part. His love for us is the reason that Christ’s death and resurrection took place. You see, we can do nothing about being our own Kings and treating ourselves as our own gods. We can’t fix that on our own, nor can we fix the clear penalty for that, for our sin, which is eternal death. BUT, Isaiah 53:6, I didn’t actually finish the verse when I read it earlier. Let’s read the whole verse this time:
“We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The Lord has laid on JESUS our sin and shame. The is the reason Easter is worth celebrating! Why Friday and today together are reasons for infinite joy. That eternal death I brought up earlier. Rom. 3:23- “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Then, Romans 6:23- “The wages of sin is death.” That eternal death, even though in today’s culture that’s not popular to bring up, that doesn’t fit within our paradigm of positivity, it’s biblical truth that must not be ignored BECAUSE, it’s what reveals how unfathomable it is that that Jesus became our Substitute.
“The Lord has laid on him the iniquity, the sin, of us all.” The death we deserved to die, Jesus died in our stead, and then he rose from the dead. What does that have to do with us? Maybe we get the death part, but what about the resurrection? Where does the resurrection fit in? 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 says,“Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks to be God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We sang it earlier! Victory in Jesus! That’s not just some old, traditional hymn, it’s biblical truth!
Through the work of Christ, our redemption has been accomplished. This is an awesome thought: what Jesus did with his infinite authority. He didn’t merely lord it over us and demand submission. He emptied himself and became a man, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The 4thvery neat thing, really summarizing what we just said:
- Jesus used his absolute authority over all things to accomplish our redemption.
Who is Jesus? Not just a great man. Not just a great teacher. Certainly not a charlatan with magic tricks. He is KING of the universe. And this King, inscrutably, also willingly became our Substitute. He took our place. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And then he rose from the dead, winning for us victory over sin and death. He is risen. We have victory in Jesus, because that day was the day that death died. Our curse from the beginning, our wages from the beginning, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and for the first time were told that they would no longer live forever. That wage that we earned, the wage we earn every single day when we fail, when we rebel, when we want to be our own kings, that wage we earned, which death, has now been reversed in Christ’s resurrection! Death itself has died. How do we respond to Jesus the King and our Substitute? How do we respond to Jesus’ death and his resurrection?
We don’t respond by pretending like that has a limited relevance to us. Or a limited bearing on our lives. Because it certainly does not. We respond instead by turning from our own little Kingdoms (which to us are so impressive, but really they’re nothing), and we turn to Jesus our only Substitute and true King. When we trust in Jesus alone, we are saved, we ourselves are resurrected, from death to life.
We often think we know what’s up, and maybe you think you’re good with God because you’re a good person, but listen, the only true and right response to the gospel is collapsing in the arms of Jesus. Absolutely trusting in him alone, because we can’t save ourselves. When it comes to trying to earn favor with God, we can’t even hold ourselves up. So, instead we collapse and we trust in Jesus, his death and resurrection. When we do this, we are born again, and we now are new creations with a completely new purpose. That’s the 5thVery Neat Thing about the Resurrection.
- Jesus’ resurrection gives us an entirely new purpose.
And that purpose we see in the last few verses of Matthew 28: Jesus tells us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This is our new purpose. To learn to obey everything that God has commanded, not merely because we’re obligated to submit to his authority, because, gosh, he’s God whether we like it or not. But because this great God over all, with all authority and power and dominion, looked down on ants like us, and loved us so much that he sent His son to die. True obedience to God is not reluctant, nor coerced, nor forced. It’s our greatest JOY! God used his great authority to save us from our sin, and now we are FREE to submit to him as King.
The question for us, today: Is Jesus truly our King? Have you placed your faith in Jesus, trusting in his work alone for salvation? Not trying to hold yourself up, but collapsing into his arms, trusting in him. Saving faith is so much more than just acknowledging that God exists and that Jesus came to die for your sin. Real belief, the kind of saving faith that we’re talking about here, involves repentance and faith in Christ. So, have you trusted in Jesus alone for your salvation? Are you, as Jesus said here, seeking to obey all that God has commanded? Is Jesus King over your entire life? Not that we don’t struggle, but does the trajectory of our lives reflect that we are no longer our own Kings, and instead we have placed our faith in Christ, the true King, and our Substitute?
If Jesus is God, if he’s the resurrected King, who now has ascended and sits at the right hand of God the Father, having been given all authority in heaven and on earth, then that changes everything. Don’t miss this. Don’t be deceived into thinking that you’re a Christian because maybe your parents were Christians or because you live in the US, so, by default, you’re a Christian, or because you’re trying to be a good person. Don’t buy into that. That’s not saving faith in a resurrected King.
Instead, see Jesus as he truly is, trust in Him alone for salvation, and find the greatest joy you can find in submitting every part of your life to Him. Today, for those of you who havebeen born again, celebrate the new life you have because you were raised from the dead with Christ. And for those of you who have not truly believed: you can experience the resurrection today by truly recognizing him as your Substitute and as your King. Listen: believe. Collapse. He’s the only one we can trust with our lives.