************ Sermon on Matthew 28 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 31, 2013
"Go and Tell"
I A Plot to Deny Easter (vs 11-15)
A On the flat top of a steep hill in a distant corner of northern Japan lies the tomb of a man who, two thousand years ago, settled down there to grow garlic. He fell in love with a farmer's daughter, fathered three children, and died at the ripe old age of 106. In the mountain hamlet of Shingo, he is remembered by his Japanese name. But the rest of the world knows him as Jesus Christ.
It turns out that Jesus of Nazareth – the Messiah, worker of miracles – did not die on the cross at Calvary, as widely reported. According to local folklore, it was his kid brother who died.
In Shingo, the Greatest Story Ever Told goes like this: Jesus first came to Japan at the age of 21 to study theology. This was during his so-called "lost years," a 12-year gap unaccounted for in the New Testament. He became a disciple of a great master near Mount Fuji, learning the Japanese language and Eastern culture. At age 33, he returned to Judea – by way of Morocco! – to talk up the "sacred land" he had just visited.
The Roman authorities arrested Jesus and condemned Him to be crucified for heresy. But he cheated the executioners by trading places with his brother. To escape persecution, Jesus fled back to the promised land of Japan. This return is billed as the second coming.
In Shingo, an entire museum is devoted to the Japanese Jesus I have just described. You can read all about him in the January 2013 issue of the Smithsonian magazine.
(In my manuscript, all the pronouns that refer to this Jesus are lower case because this is NOT the Jesus of Scripture.)
B Does any of this sound familiar? It should! Because whether it is Japan or Palestine, the result is the same – Jesus remains in the tomb, Jesus does not experience Easter's resurrection. Unbelievers, we see, always plot to destroy the message of Easter. Until I read the Smithsonian article, I thought I had heard every lie about Easter's resurrection. But man's fallen heart is so inventive that new lies keep cropping up to deny the greatest miracle of all time.
Mark Twain once wrote that a lie can go around the world while truth is still lacing up her boots. There is something about human nature that makes it easy for people to believe lies. It was not until the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost that the Jews in Jerusalem heard the truth: Jesus is alive!
With Jonathan, we serve and confess a risen Savior. We do not serve and confess a Jesus Who remains in the tomb.
C You need to feel sorry for the soldiers guarding the tomb. They were caught up in something too big for them to handle. They were told to keep Jesus in the grave. That is like telling the sun to stop or gravity to fail; it just isn't going to happen.
On Easter morning the soldiers knew they were in trouble. The Roman seal had been broken, the stone had been rolled away, and the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb. For a Roman soldier to fail in his duty in such a way was an offense punishable by death (cf Acts 12:19; 26:31-32). But the soldiers were shrewd: They did not report to Pilate or to their superior officers; they reported to the chief priests. They knew that these men were as anxious as themselves to cover up Easter's miracle! Between the chief priests, the elders, and the soldiers, they put together a story that would explain the empty tomb: the body was stolen (cf Mt 28:15).
To seal the deal, the chief priests gave the soldiers a large sum of money. Earlier, they had given money to Judas to betray the Lord (Mt 26:14ff; Mt 27:1-10). Now they give money to the soldiers to buy their silence. Notice what the chief priests do if they have problems? They throw money around; they offer bribes. The chief priests knew that worldly methods work with worldly people. And, just like that, the first lie about Easter's resurrection is circulated.
II They Think Jesus is Dead (vs 1)
A If the chief priests and soldiers denied Easter's resurrection, then the women – at least initially – did not believe it. Listen to verse 1:
(Mt 28:1) After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.Did you catch that? They went "to look at the tomb." Why? To cry. To think. To pray. To mourn. To see the last resting place of Jesus Who was crucified (cf Mt 28:5).
"They went to look at the tomb" (Mt 28:1). They did not go to look at the risen Lord. They did not go to worship Him. They did not go to see if He has risen, just as He said (cf Mt 28:6).
B "They went to look at the tomb" (Mt 28:1). Why? Because they thought Jesus was dead. Because they thought Jesus was still in the grave. Because they thought His crucified body remained lifeless.
And, the disciples were no better. None of them showed up Easter morning to greet the risen Lord. And, all of them had to be told "He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him" (Mt 28:7; cf Mt 28:10). And, we are told that even when a living, breathing Jesus was in front of them, "some doubted" (Mt 28:17).
"They went to look at the tomb" (Mt 28:1). Even though Jesus had taught the truth of His resurrection repeatedly (Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19). Even though Jesus had interrupted three funeral services with a resurrection (Mt 9:18f; Lk 7:11f; Jn 11:38f).
When we look at the Gospel records we notice that every person who saw the resurrected Jesus was surprised and shocked and afraid. Because none of them expected Jesus to be alive.
I repeat what I said moments ago: If the chief priests and soldiers denied Easter's resurrection, then the women – at least initially – did not believe it.
III They Are Told Jesus Is Alive (vs 2-8)
A Very quickly Scripture moves on to the next stage: The women were told Jesus was alive.
"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" (Mt 28:2).
The angel spoke to the women and calmed their fears. "He is not here; he has risen ... Come and see the place where he lay" (Mt 28:6).
"Come and see." What did they see? On the outside of the tomb they saw the angel, the trembling soldiers, and the stone that was rolled away. On the inside of the tomb they saw the graveclothes lying on the stone shelf like an empty cocoon, still wrapped in the shape of Jesus' body (Jn 20:5-6). And, they saw the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head (Jn 20:7).
Let me also tell you what they did not see. They did not see Jesus' body. They did not see evidence of a grave robbery. Nor did they see any signs that the soldiers struggled to keep Jesus' body from being stolen.
B I want you to notice that "Come and see" was quickly turned into "Go and tell."
(Mt 28:7) ... go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.'The news of Easter's resurrection is not a secret. It is meant to be shared. It is meant to be broadcast. It is meant to be proclaimed.
"Go quickly and tell his disciples." Tell them what? Tell them that Jesus Who was crucified has risen. Tell them that Easter's resurrection has happened. Tell them that He lives.
Isn't it amazing that the women were even sent to the disciples? After all, the disciples should have been expecting the news, waiting for the news, looking for the news. But, instead, they questioned it even when they heard it. We see that our Lord knows the hearts of men. Our Lord understands our struggle to believe. Our Lord is aware of our doubts and fears and unbelief.
C "Come and see." "Go and tell." "So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples" (Mt 28:8). They didn't waste time. They didn't walk. They didn't jog. They ran. They ran because they had good news to pass on. They ran because they had the best news to tell the disciples. They ran because the angel had told them to "go quickly" (Mt 28:7).
What faith. What obedience.
IV They Meet the Risen Lord (vs 9-10, 16-20)
A "Suddenly Jesus met them" (Mt 28:9). They met the risen Lord. "They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him" (Mt 28:9).
Now, compare the two women to the disciples. What are we told about the disciples?
(Mt 28:16-17) Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. (17) When they saw him, they worshiped him ...When the disciples meet the risen Lord their response is exactly the same as the women.
Whether you are one of the women or one of the disciples, when you meet the risen Lord you worship Him.
So, what is this worship? It is NOT what we call worship – a formal worship service with the preaching of the Word, sacraments, prayers, songs, and offering. What is this worship? It is a response to the revelation of the deity and majesty and authority and power of Jesus.
Matthew uses the same Greek word to describe the leper who knelt before Jesus and asked Jesus to make Him clean (Mt 8:2). The word is used again with Jairus who knelt before Jesus when his daughter died and asked Jesus to make her alive (Mt 9:18). The same word describes the behavior of the apostles when Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm (Mt 14:33). And, when the mother of James and John knelt down before Jesus and asked for a favor, the same word is used again (Mt 20:20).
The word "worship" describes an act of submission and adoration. It is a response of a lesser to the power of the greater. In this case, it is a response to the revelation of the deity and majesty and authority and power of Jesus. When the women and the disciples meet the risen Lord they fall to His feet in adoration and awe. Of course they do: because He was crucified, died, and buried but now He lives.
We have all heard about the "Alpha Male." In the animal world this is the male of a species that has proved his dominance and strength in a herd. He is the one in control. It is his wishes that are followed. The word "worship" describes the submission offered to the Alpha Male. He is in control. He is in charge. His wishes are being followed. As Jesus Himself put it, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Mt 28:18).
B In an act of worship, the deity and majesty and authority and power of Jesus as the risen Lord are recognized. Notice what happens next: the risen Lord gives a command. To the women He said, "Go and tell" (Mt 28:10). To the disciples He said, "Go and make" (Mt 28:19). Jesus wants all the world to know that He is the risen Lord. Jesus wants all the world to worship Him, the risen Lord, in the same way as the women and the disciples. Jesus wants all the world to follow His commands. Jesus wants all the world to be disciples.
The women are to do to the disciples what the disciples – and the church – are to do to the world. All because He has risen! All because death could not keep hold of Him. All because His body did not remain in the grave.
C The risen Lord wants disciples who worship Him. The risen Lord wants disciples who obey Him and submit to Him. But Jesus goes about this differently than any other rabbi. In first century Palestine the most promising students would ask a rabbi if they could follow him; the rabbi would test and examine them and then make a decision on whether or not they could be his disciple. So typically the student would ask the teacher.
Now, think about Jesus and the apostles. Did Jesus wait for the apostles to approach Him? No. Instead, He searched them out and commanded them to follow Him (cf Mt 4:18ff). And, He commands the apostles and the church to do the same: "go and make disciples of all nations ..." We are given a glimpse, a small glimpse, that we do not choose to follow Jesus; rather, He chooses us to follow Him.
The risen Lord wants disciples. What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who follows the Master. A disciple is someone who learns from the Teacher. A disciple is someone who wants to be like the Rabbi in his or her service of God. Jesus, the risen Lord, wants people who follow Him, who learn from Him, who imitate Him.
The Lord has risen! The Lord has risen indeed. He is not in the grave. He has risen, just as He said.
This risen Lord wants our worship. This risen Lord wants our obedience and submission. This risen Lord wants disciples.
Today, we are so very thankful that Jonathan, by grace, is one of these disciples. And, we are thankful for every other disciple of the risen Lord who is here this morning.
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