Matthew 28:1-10 (NIV) 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. 2 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. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook 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 was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then 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.’ Now I have told you.” 8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
What is it that we are invited to check out? What is it that God is calling us this Easter to “come and see?” As we examine the Easter story from all of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I see God invites us to:
Come and see that He is bigger than our fears.
We all have questions about life that we can’t answer, and when we can’t answer those questions it leads to fear. When the ladies went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body there was a looming question in their minds which the Gospel of Mark captures.
Listen to Mark 16:1-4 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
Who will roll away the stone from the entrance? Jesus’ tomb had been sealed by Rome. Since Jesus had predicted He would rise from the dead, Rome took extra measures to secure the tomb. Breaking that seal would have meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. The women should have been afraid of breaking the seal! They should have been asking, “What will happen to us if we get caught,” but instead they asked who was going to roll away the stone!
To ensure none of Jesus’ disciples would come and steal Jesus’ body and then falsely say Jesus had risen from the dead, Roman Soldiers were sent to guard the tomb. We don’t know for sure how many guards were stationed there, but Pilate ordered that the tomb be made as secure as was possible (Matt. 27:65). We know it had to be at least two, probably four guards, but likely even more. The ladies should have been asking, “How will we get past the guards?” but instead they were asking who was going to roll away the stone!
Rolling away the stone was probably the least of the challenges they faced. It’s funny how we can sometimes get focused on the smallest barrier. It’s understandable. They wanted to get to Jesus. They were afraid they wouldn’t be able to do what their heart’s desired to do, to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, because of the heavy obstacle in their way.
How often does that happen to us? We are afraid we can’t accomplish something because of obstacles, because of barriers, because of challenges. Listen, when it is the Lord or the Lord’s will we are pursuing, we can have confidence that God will remove every obstacle that stands in our path.
God wants us to have access to Him and to His power. What these women were about to experience and learn is that they had nothing to fear that morning and would never have to be afraid again. God was going to break the seal with an earthquake! God was going to remove the soldiers. According to Matthew 28, the guards shook like dead men. They obviously ran away. God was going to take care of rolling away the stone by having an angel do that work.
That Roman seal was supposed to seal Jesus’ fate. Listen, when it seems your fate has been sealed by a health diagnosis or dead end at work, just know that at any moment, God can break that seal! When it seems that there are people who are standing between you and your destiny, just know, God can remove them from the scene at any moment. When it seems the weight of the boulder standing between you and your dream is too heavy for you to move, believe that God can, in an instant, move it out of your way.
Don’t live in fear of questions you can’t answer. You don’t have to have all of the answers. The ladies didn’t need to know the answer to their question because God had already planned to take care of it. Listen, we are afraid and worry often about things that God intends to take care of. We don’t have to have all of the answers because He does! Yes, the Resurrection tells us that God is bigger than anything we are afraid of!
Second, The Resurrection invites us to: Come and see God is bigger than our enemies.
Roman authorities had tried to secure Jesus’ place in the tomb. Human strength is no match for the power of God! Putting some burley men with swords in front of Jesus’ tomb was like having a bunch of toddlers guard the world’s strongest man, and even then the comparison fails to communicate what a mismatch it was.
Satan had tried to snuff out Jesus’ life by stirring up dissension against Him and by prompting the betrayal of a friend which led to Jesus being falsely accused and executed. But we see in the Resurrection that no enemy of God is any match for Him!
Colossians 2:13-15 tells us: 13 When you were dead in your sins . . . God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Did you hear that? God made a spectacle of Satan! The cross was a place not of shame, humiliation, and death for Jesus. It was a place of victory where Satan’s agenda was crushed. God accomplished exactly what He had intended on the cross. It wasn’t Satan’s plan that had been laid from before the foundations of the world that was accomplished. It was God’s plan from before the foundations of the world that was accomplished on the cross (Rev. 13:8).
The empty tomb wasn’t a place of finality. It wasn’t the end to Jesus or His ministry as Satan desired it would be. It was the next step, the next part, the next phase of God’s plan to not only redeem us from sin, but to set us free from ever having to be afraid of death! The empty tomb proved Jesus could not be obliterated, and He would not suffer eternal punishment. He rose from the dead proving that death isn’t a final answer. Because Jesus lives, all who choose to live in Him will live forevermore in heaven where Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:19).
Romans 8:11 gives us this assurance: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”
If you are in Christ this morning death is no longer your enemy. One day you will simply be promoted to glory! If you are clothed in Resurrection Power this morning, you can have this assurance that nothing that comes against you can overtake you as well. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
It’s not even a contest between God and the strongest other power that exists. His power is incomparable. Ephesians 3:20-21 says 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The same power that raised Christ from the dead is in every Christ-follower. No enemy can stand up to you because of the power of Christ that is alive in you. And if you need one more Scripture to settle that reality in your mind, how about 1 John 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
Third, the Resurrection invites us to: Come and see God is bigger than anything that binds us.
John’s Gospel gives us the detail in chapter 20 that when Peter and John ran to the tomb to check out what had happened for themselves, they saw the grave clothes that Jesus had been wrapped up in and the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.
If people had stolen Jesus’ body, they wouldn’t have taken time to unwrap Jesus’ grave clothes. They would have carried Him, grave clothes and all out of that tomb. They certainly wouldn’t have taken time to fold up the linens that were around His head. Robbers usually don’t tidy up after themselves. NO! No one had taken His body. What is more, the grave clothes were undisturbed. Careful study of what John saw by every scholar I could read tells us the mummy-like strips of cloth that had been wound around Jesus’ lifeless body were still intact, still in the same shape. No one unwound Jesus to let Him loose. He simply passed through those grave clothes. He would not be confined in life or death by anything.
No one killed Jesus. He willingly laid down His life (John 10:18). Nothing controlled Him. Nothing bound Him or subdued Him. He chose to do the Father’s will. He wasn’t coerced or manipulated to do what the Father asked. He lived in full control while choosing to yield to all God asked of Him.
Because of the Resurrection, we can also live in full control. No, we can’t control all of our circumstances, but there is Resurrection power available to us to enable us to respond to them as Jesus would. We can also be free from controlling substances, vices, and addictions that would seek to squelch our lives and keep us isolated.
When addictions take over our lives we become people who are bound or controlled by the desire for that addiction, and it is a downward spiral because addictive desires are NEVER satisified. Whether you are addicted to gambling, shopping, food, sex, money, work, social media, computer games, or people’s opinions or a substance such as tobacco, nicotine, alcohol or illicit drugs, that addiction will take over parts of your life and even your whole life. You will have to hide your behaviors at times from others. You will have to compromise your convictions and integrity to keep obeying your desires. There will be guilt and shame that drape you and shroud your life. There will be moments of isolation and torment because the grip of addiction is so strong.
However, the Resurrection reminds us Jesus is stronger! He is stronger than your addiction. Just as Jesus passed through those binding grave clothes, you CAN come through any addiction and live once again in control of your life. You can have the power to say “no” and to live apart from that which seeks to bind and enslave you.
Fourth, the Resurrection invites us to: Come and see that God is bigger than our doubts. Mary Magdalene had been in the company of the disciples. Jesus appeared to her in the Garden after the Resurrection. He called her by name. They had a conversation. She reached out and touched Him. She wasn’t hallucinating. It wasn’t a dream or mirage somehow appearing as a figment of her grief-stricken imagination. She saw Him.
Thomas, the disciple who is known for his doubt, heard her testimony, but no one else’s presumptions or declarations could convince Thomas. He had to see for himself.
He exclaimed, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25) I know it’s a big thing to believe, the Resurrection. To have watched what Jesus endured and to think about someone rising from the dead was a big miracle to accept. It just fits into the box in our minds that we have marked “impossible.” However, Jesus said in Mark 9:23 “Everything is possible for Him who believes.” Thomas just needed some help believing. Jesus proved that not only was He willing to come from heaven to earth to help people believe in Him, but He is willing to come to us in our doubts and help us believe in Him as well. Jesus let Thomas investigate His wounds. He let him come close. The transformation from doubt to faith was instantaneous as Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” To me, that is another compelling reason to believe in the Resurrection. When doubters and scoffers turn to committed believers, you know they have experienced something very convincing, something real.
The Resurrection doesn’t need you to believe in it in order to be true. You and I believing in something isn’t what makes it so. What makes the Resurrection so is the empty tomb, the empty grave clothes, and the appearances of Jesus to so many. In fact Jesus appeared to over 500 people after the Resurrection. In addition to that, the disciples went on, almost all of them if not all of them, to be martyred for their faith. How many people do you know who would be executed for a lie? Why continue to follow Jesus and spread His message if it wasn’t true? There was no earthly motive, no financial gain or status to gain from doing so. It is true because it happened whether we can conceive it is possible or not.
What can cause a scoffer to move from doubt to faith? Examination of the evidence. There is more evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ than for Elvis Presley faking his death and being seen all over the country since the 1970’s but many are more inclined to believe Elvis is alive rather than Jesus! God didn’t ask us to believe in the Resurrection because He said so. No, there is overwhelming evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Like Thomas, maybe you just need some help this morning believing. Ask Jesus to come to you, and you will become convinced of His existence. It doesn’t offend God that you have doubts. Many of us as believers still deal with doubts. We simply choose to give them to Jesus and let Him unravel them one at a time.
I think it takes far much more faith to be an atheist than to be a Christian. For example, let’s say you come upon a table filled with beautiful and delicious food. For me it would be a much greater leap of faith to believe that nothing put it there versus someone prepared it all. When we look at the world around us, the beauty of creation, the consistency of the times and seasons, the laws of science and physics, the complexity of the human body and brain, to think that all of these are the result of some cosmic nothing rather than a Grand Designer is preposterous to me. As I have put my faith in Christ Jesus alone, I have no doubts about God’s Creative work and His interest in me as an individual in His creation. I have no doubts that He was proactive in sending Jesus to pay the price for my sins. I have no trouble believing He has made a way for me to be at peace with Him and for me to obtain salvation through what Christ has done for me by His sacrifice on the cross. Why do I believe those things with such conviction? Because I have presented my doubts to God, and He has proven Himself to me.
Come and see that God is bigger than your fears.
Come as see that God is bigger than your enemies.
Come and see that God is bigger than anything that binds you.
Come as see that God is bigger than your doubts.
That is the invitation of the Resurrection this morning. Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic or He is Lord. The Resurrection begs you to come and see for yourself that Jesus Christ is Lord!
The last point I want to make is simply this. Those who have seen must go and tell. The women at the tomb were the first evangelists, the first to share the Good News of the empty tomb. There is no other event in all of history that has so shaped history and transformed the lives of people for the good than the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Why do I give my life to the preaching of the Gospel and to trying to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Because like Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord,” and once you see Him, you can’t keep it to yourself!