Gospel of Matthew Chapter Twenty-Eight Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
He Is Risen
Verses 1-3: "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow." For me, there are really two ways of looking at the Cross of Jesus Christ: It was and is a joyous moment, the center of history, in which the blessed Hand of God reached out to us from eternity, extending undeserved forgiveness to sinful mankind. Our right response is to believe the eyewitness testimony in Scripture of the Marys who had come to look at the grave; and to have faith in the Lord and the prophetic words of Matthew 26:32—"But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee." I knew, as you probably have known, that in just a few days, in another chapter of this historic account, your Savior and mine would fill the tomb with LIFE as He rose from the dead! And yet there is a second way to look at all this: It is upsetting. I suffered with Him anew while studying the words of Chapter 27 last week, because His death was my fault... and yours, I'm sorry to say. We did it. Our sins caused His terrible death. It seems appropriate that a "severe earthquake" now occurred because His life, death and resurrection truly is an enormous earthquake that rocks our lives, changing everything—forever. An angel who looked like the sun, sat on the huge grave stone that had covered the tomb's entrance. He was pure and bright with God's light, as we are meant to be.
Verses 4-5: "The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.'" The guards now responded like so many in Scripture when confronted by the Lord or one of His messengers—their brains short circuited and they passed out cold like dead men. The angel did not speak to them. They would not hear because they were unconscious. Notice the startling contrast here. The guards could have been awakened but they were not—they were unlikely to listen anyway because their jobs and lives were at stake—they had failed to secure the tomb as ordered. They did not hear, but the women did out of willingness to believe. The Marys had not expected Jesus to be alive, but they were like we should be—willing to look at the evidence even though they were afraid, and if it was true, which it is, to BELIEVE in the Risen Lord.
Verses 6-8: "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.' 8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples." The body of Jesus is gone from this earth. He was fully alive in eternity, He reduced Himself by being born into this world as a human being... He died, He was truly dead, and now He is fully ALIVE once more—forever. And this was no ordinary death. Everyone in humanity carries a death sentence upon our heads... we are all condemned to die, but Jesus took that penalty upon Himself, extended to all who will have faith in Him. We don't have to go to Galilee—He is right here! So let's go where He leads us, with holy fear and great joy, telling others about the Gospel, the Good News about what He has done for us. He is Risen, just as He said.
Verses 9-10: "And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them,'Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.'" It's not every day that we meet someone, a loved one, who was dead and is now alive. Mary and her sister, Martha, had the privilege of greeting their brother, Lazarus, after he had been dead and in the tomb for four days (John 11:1-12:19), but that was different. Scripture is silent on how it happened, but Lazarus, if he was not subsequently killed by the Jewish leaders who were plotting against him, died again in the future from that moment. But Jesus, who lived forever in eternity past, now was and is alive forever. Everything about Jesus Christ is different, more wonderful than anyone who has ever lived or could ever be. He is God. Jesus is Risen—forever.
Verses 11-15: "Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, 'You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.' 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day." To watch the news or listen to it enough is a revelation—we begin to realize that Verses 11-15 contain the method by which humanity runs this world. Bribery and lies are common. False witnesses are everywhere. We can't trust anybody, even ourselves when you think about it. And then, as we are touched by the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we find we can trust Him. He who died for us is "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6) and is worthy of all our faith. He is wonderful. He is Risen and we can be forgiven because of Him.
Verses 16-20: "But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying,'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'" Do you want to see the Lord? The disciples did, and then they actually SAW Him! They WORSHIPED Him, as we all should, "but some were doubtful." Can you imagine? It was really HIM, standing right before their eyes. They Heard His voice, His encouragement, His direction for their lives. It wasn't any doubt about Him being alive... He was right in front of them... it was that they had come to doubt His purposes for them. Here's our challenge: He is, beyond any doubt ALIVE and risen from the dead. Do you trust Him enough to follow Him wherever He might lead, to any future He chooses? Do I trust Him that much? There is a dividing line between faith and unbelief. As Dr. J. Vernon McGee used to say, "that's where the rubber meets the road." Let's trust Him completely right now—and forever.
Lord, thank You. You died for my sins—for me. I am Yours, Lord. No matter where You take me; no matter where I go, I trust in You. Forgive me, Lord, for I have doubted. I praise Your Holy Name and I will follow You. In Jesus Name. Amen.