“’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.' And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.'” (Matthew 28:7-8)
At Friday Study Ministries, we are studying the Gospel of Matthew, and this sermon for Easter Sunday is a “preview" of what was to come. We will continue studying the events leading up to all this, but today we take an intense look at the victory of Jesus over sin and death. He told His followers on a number of occasions and in many ways that He was soon to die, but they did not understand and believe because they did not want to. J.N.D. Anderson, born in 1908, became a missionary to Egypt, learning Arabic in the process. He said about the death of Jesus and His resurrection, “Men and women disbelieve the Easter story not because of the evidence but in spite of it.” We learn from eye-witness testimony in Scripture, confirmed in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit, that “He has risen,” just as He said.
There is orderliness to the universe. Time, motion, gravity… the physical laws that govern and limit us are quite real, and so is the miracle of Christ. We actually long for stability in our lives or we, with our present limitations and frailty, fear that life might lapse into chaos. A miracle reaches outside of what we call “reality,” accomplishing what is thought impossible for the sake of something more. In the resurrection of Jesus, we are brought to the One who created us in the first place and now re-creates us in His love. Faith in Him enables us at last to discern what is real and lasting, in a world system that is obviously falling apart. We need REAL stability in life, found only in our Lord, as seen in the words of Hebrews 13:8—“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” We at last find safety, peace and meaning, in the risen Lord.
The wondrous complexity of matter and energy is like a universe-sized neon sign carrying the words, “I was CREATED by Someone infinitely Greater.” We need to realize that we didn’t create ourselves, and it's also true of the universe. The making of technological devices such as “smart phones” involves a laborious process over many years, and the development of such technology is a never-ending process. That's true of our bridges, airplanes, buildings, medical advances and every human endeavor. Yet in the beginning, God simply SPOKE and everything was finished and complete. Ask Him about it and learn that He can do anything, including the bringing of LIFE out of death.
One of the interesting things about the Old Testament prophesies, is how the prophets often spoke in the present and past tenses about future events. Unlike us, God is in the past, present and future and also outside of time altogether. In this context, of special interest is Isaiah 53, a prophecy about Jesus Christ, written hundreds of years before He would appear on earth. That chapter says about Him: “He is despised… rejected… a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… Smitten by God… wounded for our transgressions… bruised for our iniquities… by His stripes we are healed… the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all… He was oppressed… and afflicted… as a lamb to the slaughter… cut off from the land of the living… His grave was with the wicked, but with the rich at His death… it pleased the Lord to bruise Him… an offering for sin… He shall bear their iniquities… He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” He died for you and me.
What was it like for Jesus Christ on that cross?—“Him who knew no sin (became) sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). None of us can imagine what it would be like for a sinless Being to suddenly and overwhelmingly be confronted with sin. As David in Psalm 22 prophesied about the thoughts and words of Jesus on that cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?... All those who see Me laugh Me to scorn… there is none to help… all my bones are out of joint… They pierced My hands and my feet… they look and stare at Me… They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…” But then in Verse 24, the prophecy continues, “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He HEARD…”
When Jesus cried out to the Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus was HEARD—it was our sins upon Him that blinded Him to the Presence of the Father. He was HEARD, just as you may sometimes feel unheard, but the truth is that God hears, understands and responds. Notice that the suffering of Jesus was purposeful and done in love. He bore our iniquities; He bore our sin. Without Him, we would die forever, but He died for us, “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). There is purpose in suffering.
Paul the Apostle lived a life of suffering and joy greater than most of us. He learned that both the wonderful and the awful in our lives can carry great purpose and meaning, larger than our comprehension. Here’s how he put it in Colossians 1:24—“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” What is “lacking” in the sufferings of our Lord? The answer is—nothing is lacking! He did it all. But then comes our part: Your sufferings and mine have meaning. Not only are we brought to maturity through trouble, but life is not just about “me”—our lives are meant for God and for each other. We are His people. We benefit from the life and new life Christ has given to us, but in addition, what we become through suffering is also “for the sake of His body, which is the church.” There is PURPOSE for others in what has happened to you.
Isn’t it wonderful that we are not God? In today’s Scripture, a couple of obscure women were selected to be among the first to hear about the risen Christ. Other women also came to the tomb, as reported in Luke 24:1. Many people might choose the collective leadership of the world, the “stars” of then and today, to learn of the resurrection of Jesus, but God chose a few ladies to be eye-witnesses at that wonderful moment. As recorded in Scripture, they experienced a “great earthquake” as an “angel of the Lord descended from heaven” (Matthew 28:2), and “rolled back the stone” from the tomb. They were instructed to “go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead,” coupled with a promise they would see the Lord in Galilee. And they did what we all should do: RUN to do God’s will.
God is not limited by our small understanding of who He is. He is everywhere, in all times, with the power to do anything, and with the love to change us for the good. Imagine their excitement as “they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and RAN to report it to His disciples,” as seen in Matthew 28:7-8. Our God is mighty. He is the Victor over sin and death. The words of the Bible are eye-witness accounts of His power, majesty and love. He has Risen, just as He said. Will you trust in Him? Let’s run quickly and do His will.
Father, I believe in Jesus, God the Son, who suffered and died for me. I confess my sins, Lord Jesus, and I place My faith in You. I run to You. I am Yours, Lord. Thank You for loving and forgiving me. In Jesus Name. Amen.