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He Has Risen

Matthew 27:62-28:20
Key Verse: 28:6

In the previous passage, we learned about Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial. However, Jesus’ life did not end in death. Today, we will learn the truth behind Jesus’ resurrection; what really happened and what story was fabricated to cover up this truth. Through studying this passage, may we personally accept Jesus’ resurrection as the truth and have the living hope of the kingdom of God in our hearts.

Part 1: Jesus’ Tomb Secured in Vain

All four gospels in the Bible give an account of Jesus’ resurrection. However, each one is unique according to what the author wanted to emphasize. In Matthew’s gospel, we can see that Matthew’s intent was to reveal the truth behind Jesus’ resurrection and describe how a story was fabricated by the chief priests to cover up the truth and stop it from spreading.

Verse 62 says, “The next day, the one after preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.” The day after preparation day was the Sabbath and going to Pilate, who was a Gentile, on the Sabbath day was against the law. Although they pretended to honour the Sabbath, they completely disregarded it when they had an urgent request for Pilate. What did they say to Pilate? They said, “Sir, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’” They addressed Pilate saying “Sir” in order to gain his favour. But more interestingly, the chief priests and Pharisees had remembered what Jesus had said to them quite some time ago. Jesus rarely spoke about his death and resurrection in public but in Matthew 12, when the Pharisees and teachers of the law had asked Jesus for a miraculous sign, Jesus had said, “But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

If the chief priests and Pharisees truly believed that Jesus was a “deceiver”, they should have ignored what Jesus had said and moved on. After all, Jesus’ death had been confirmed and he had been buried. This was what they had wanted all along, so they should have been celebrating their victory. But they were not victorious at all. Instead, they were haunted by Jesus’ words that he would rise again after three days and decided to take action to against this. They said to Pilate, “So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal and the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” They pretended to be worried that the disciples would steal the body and also seemed concerned that the people would be deceived by the disciples. However, this was just an excuse to cover up their real worry that Jesus would really rise again after three days just as he had said. If Jesus were to rise again, the news would spread quickly among the people, so they quickly enlisted Pilate’s help to secure the tomb in order to put a stop to Jesus’ resurrection.

What was Pilate’s response? Pilate fully agreed to their request and even offered the service of his own guards to secure the tomb saying, “Take a guard. Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” He granted their request because he too was worried that Jesus would rise again from the dead. After all, it had been Pilate who had given permission for Jesus to be crucified. Therefore, he was responsible for Jesus’ death. Pilate had probably had many restless and sleepless nights after sentencing an innocent man to death and he saw this as an opportunity to put his conscience to rest. So with Pilate’s permission, the chief priests and Pharisees made the tomb doubly secure by putting both a seal on the stone and posting highly trained guards who would keep watch over the tomb around the clock. In this way, out of fear and worry, Jesus’ tomb was made secure. Later, we will find out that their efforts to secure the tomb were in vain.

Part 2: Jesus’ Tomb Found Empty; He has risen!

Chapter 28, verse 1 says, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” It was before sunrise and probably still quite dark outside, but these two women went to look at the tomb out of their love and faithfulness to Jesus. Other gospels say that they had brought with them spices and perfumes to anoint Jesus’ body. Then something astonishing happened. Verse 2-4 say, “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” Only the strongest and most courageous men were chosen to be Roman guards. However, when these guards saw the glory of the angel of the Lord, they were gripped with fear and became utterly helpless. They shook and became like dead men and failed to guard the tomb.

Then the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid for I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” These two women were given the best news anyone could ever receive. They received the news that Jesus had been raised from the dead, just as he had said! Jesus could not be bound by death or any human measures to secure the tomb. The empty tomb was clear evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.

Many people fear death and see it as the ultimate and devastating end. Death seems to be the final conqueror of mankind. Thinking about death can make people fatalistic, depressed and lose meaning in life. At the extreme, some people take their own lives because of this kind of fatalistic thinking. For others, this is the rational for taking it easy and enjoying life, eating and drinking and doing whatever their hearts desire. Movies about end of the world such as “2012” have made the concept of death more “real” and within reach to viewers. Has anyone watched this movie? What did you think about it? When my grandfather passed away about 6 years ago, the reality of death struck me and at that time, death seemed like the ultimate champion.

There is absolutely nothing we as human beings can do to champion over death. Death cannot be avoided with any amount of knowledge or riches, so all humans will eventually succumb to death. However, Jesus became the reigning champion over death through his resurrection from the dead. Through his resurrection, we can confirm that Jesus’ death was for the forgiveness of our sins. Furthermore, when we accept that Jesus again rose from the dead defeating the power of death, we also become spiritual champions in life because of Jesus. We do not need to fear death or lose meaning in life because through Jesus’ resurrection, we are given the living hope of the kingdom of God. For although death came into the world through the sin of one man named Adam, life came into the world through one man Jesus Christ.

When the two women in this passage heard the words, “He has risen,” their joy and meaning of life were restored. After my grandfather’s death, I was emotionally shaken and very sorrowful thinking about how scary and sudden death could be in taking away a loved one. But when I accepted that through Jesus’ resurrection, we have living hope of the kingdom of God, I could entrust my grandfather to God and look forward to seeing him later in the kingdom of God. To me, Jesus’ resurrection means that Jesus has already conquered death. This means I do not need to fear death at all. Instead, I can focus my time and energy to serve Jesus with a champion’s spirit in everything I do. Practically, I thank God gave me a champion’s spirit so that I could struggle with message preparation amidst exam preparations.

Likewise, even when we experience death or troubles around us, instead of feeling fatalistic or hopeless, may God give us a champion’s spirit in everything we do and help us to hold onto the living hope of the kingdom of God in all circumstances. Our life on this earth is temporary and can be compared to a small dot, while life in Christ and in the kingdom of God can be represented by a horizontal line extending to eternity.

What then did the angel say to the women? The angel said, “Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He had risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” The message of Jesus’ resurrection had to be delivered quickly to others, so the angel urged the women to go ‘quickly’ and deliver the message to Jesus’ disciples. Matthew further emphasizes this urgency by repeating the command “Go” three times in this passage. First the angel said, “Go quickly and tell...” Jesus later says, “Go and tell…” Finally, Jesus commissions his disciples saying, “Go and make disciples…” May those who hear the resurrection message, go out and spread it quickly to others.

How did the women respond to the angel’s message? They obeyed. Verse 8 says, “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” While they were on their way to deliver the news to the disciples, Jesus suddenly met them, saying, “Greetings.” The women ran to Jesus, clasped his feet and worshiped him. This event signifies that we can grow in faith and meet Jesus more personally when share the resurrection message with others. However, we can also see the beautiful relationship between these two women and Jesus. These women had followed Jesus all the way from Galilee and had watched Jesus’ crucifixion from a distance. Watching Jesus being crucified must have been very painful and was probably the most sorrowful event in their lives. Out of their love and memory of Jesus, they had even come to anoint his body in the tomb. Jesus was their true object of worship and their wholehearted worship shows their joy, thanks, restored meaning of life and hope in Jesus. In the same way, may Jesus be our true object of worship through our obedience to his words.

When the author of a book dies, their words are no longer life giving. However, because Jesus rose again from the dead, his words are alive and life-giving. The fact that the Bible is the world’s best-selling book reveals that many people believe that the Bible is the truth and a source of life. In John 6:63, Jesus says, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” May we study and put Jesus’ words into practice daily, so that we can be filled with spirit and life.

Part 3: Spreading the Truth of Jesus’ Resurrection

Let’s read verse 11, “While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.” Here, we see two different events happening in parallel. The women were on their way to deliver the message of Jesus’ resurrection to his disciples. Meanwhile, the guards were going into the city to report what had happened to the chief priests. The guards had witnessed everything and now knew the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. At this point, they should have confessed and believed in Jesus but instead, they ran to report the event.

Both the women and the guards were delivering the same message of Jesus’ resurrection; however, there was a big difference in how the recipients of the message responded. Later, we see that the disciples receive the resurrection message from the women and share it with others. But how did the chief priests respond? They were stubborn and unable to see this amazing work of God. Instead, they called an emergency message with the elders to devise a plan. They decided that the best idea was to fabricate a story and spread it among the people so that the truth of Jesus’ resurrection would be suppressed. In the beginning of the passage, the chief priests seemed to have been concerned about protecting the people from deception. However, ultimately, it was they themselves who unleashed the greatest deception of all in order to cover up the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.

The chief priests gave the soldiers a large sum of money and fed them the story they were to spread. They said, “You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” The story that the chief priests fabricated was highly flawed. First, the guards had been hired to keep watch over the tomb throughout the night, so they should not have fallen asleep. Also, if the guards had really been asleep, they could not have known that the disciples had come and stolen Jesus’ body. In their desperate attempt to stop people from knowing what really happened to Jesus, the chief priests came up with this contradictory story and bribed the soldiers with money to spread it among the people. When the soldiers were told that spreading this story would keep them out of trouble, they did as they were instructed by the chief priests. Verse 15b says, “And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day,” and this is very true.

Even in today’s society, there is an entire collection of false stories about Jesus’ resurrection. The most prominent one is the story mentioned in this passage and is known as the “Stolen Body Theory”. Other people speculate that Jesus had a twin brother or that he merely fainted. But we can see that these stories do not match up with what is written in the Bible and rather, they are further attempts to cover up the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Sadly, many people believe these made-up stories rather than the words of the Bible. There is a constant battle between truth and falsity regarding Jesus’ resurrection. Just as the soldiers in the passage spread the lie among the people, this is happening in our society through media, literature and even university professors. However, in this passage, Matthew clearly distinguishes between the truth and the lie that was fabricated by the chief priests, so that we as readers can know and believe the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Sometimes, worldly ideas can plant doubt in our hearts about the words of God even after we personally accept Jesus’ resurrection as the truth. I pray that we may we always return to the Bible as our spiritual foundation and truth. May we have spiritual discernment to tell apart what is true and what is false about Jesus and have the hope that the truth will be spread.

In the past, I thought it was sufficient to study the Bible and keep it to myself. But I learned that in order to fight the battle against deception, I need to share the truth with others. Although I feel like I am only one among so many students at U of T, I ask that God give me courage and strength to share the Bible with my friends in pharmacy school.

Finally, the eleven disciples met Jesus in Galilee on the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. Verse 17 says, “When they saw him, they worshipped him...” However, there were some doubters among his disciples and according to the other gospels, Jesus allowed them to feel his hands and his sides as proof of his resurrection. Then Jesus commissioned his disciples saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” These eleven disciples of Jesus passed on the truth of Jesus resurrection generation after generation by word of mouth, making new disciples and through writing their accounts of Jesus’ resurrection in the four gospels. Although there will always be people trying to suppress the truth about Jesus, may we trust that the Bible is the word of truth and may disciples be raised, so that the resurrection message can be spread to many people.

Finally, Jesus did not just leave the disciples to carry out this commission alone. He gives all this disciples this promise in verse 20b, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Although Jesus ascended into heaven and is residing there now, he promises to be with us in Spirit, through the Holy Spirit, to strengthen and give us wisdom as we serve him.

I thank God for teaching us through this passage that Jesus has been indeed raised from the dead. Nothing could hold him back and he became the final champion over death. Although people try to cover up the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, I am thankful that this passage revealed the truth behind Jesus’ resurrection and how people tried to cover it up by fabricating a story. May we stand by this truth written in the Bible and have the hope that this message of Jesus’ resurrection can be spread throughout Canada and the whole world. When we personally accept Jesus’ resurrection as the truth, we no longer need to fear death or live fatalistically. Rather, we can live with a victorious, champion’s spirit holding onto the living hope of the kingdom of God.

Let’s pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for teaching us the full truth behind Jesus’ resurrection today. Many people try to suppress the truth, but I thank you for teaching us what really happened. When we face deception or doubts about Jesus, may we hold onto the words of the Bible as our foundation and source of truth and share this resurrection message with others. Thank you for blessing this conference abundantly with your words.

I prayed in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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