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Matthew 28:1-10-1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

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.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that 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. 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.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 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.”

“He is not here. He has risen, just as He said.” That declaration by the angel was the most thrilling and transformational message those women had ever heard.  Everything they had been thinking about Jesus’ death, everything they had dreaded because of His death, was changed in an instant by a miraculous reality. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, who had been laid in a borrowed tomb on the Friday before, had been raised from the dead. 

How did the women wrap their minds around what had happened? How do we? They were invited to “Come and See” the place where His body had been to prove to them that Jesus had risen from the dead.

There was a lot of evidence for the Resurrection that a person could “come and see.” A violent earthquake was something that had to have been felt. How many of you have ever felt an earthquake? Right? Even a slight quake would be noticeable. The fact that Matthew recorded it tells me he felt it, or the women felt it, or many felt it.  It’s described here as violent, so it had to have been experienced by several people.

The stone had been moved, so clearly something had happened. It was very heavy, so it wasn’t easily moved. The women weren’t the only ones to see the angel at the tomb. Roman guards were there, and they basically fainted when everything went down. Soldiers who could stomach all kinds of blood and gore were scared to death by what they saw. They experienced the earthquake. They saw the stone move away from the tomb’s entrance, and they saw the angel.

A reading of the account from John’s gospel, in chapter 20, reports that the grave clothes Jesus had been wearing, the linen strips that had been around His body and His head, were lying in the same position they had been in when Jesus had been placed in the tomb.

If you were a detective and were studying a crime scene, what would you make of those grave clothes, neatly folded and in the exact position where they had contained Jesus’ body? Would grave robbers take time to unwrap a body and wind or fold the cloths up neatly in the same way?  Could Jesus have just suddenly awakened after being beaten to a pulp, after being crucified, after a spear had been run through His side, after He had been wrapped in strips of linen and still have had the strength to get free from the grave clothes and fold them up again? The answer to that is, “No!” The only plausible explanation is that His body simply passed through those grave clothes.

You’ll remember when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus came out of the tomb wearing his grave clothes and had to be unbound by other people, but not so with Jesus. When He was resurrected, He left every hint of death behind.

John 20:8 tells us that when John went into the tomb and saw the evidence of the grave clothes, he believed. He saw the evidence, and he believed. The invitation to “come and see” is the invitation for every one of us to examine the evidence for the Resurrection for ourselves, to see and believe!

What other evidence is worth a look?  Well, the guarding of Jesus’ tomb was a big deal. It’s talked about in Matthew 27. His tomb was sealed by the heavy stone which would require several people to move it in or out of place. It was a physical barrier for Jesus’ followers.

The tomb was also secured by a Roman seal, a symbol of human authority. That seal was a rope that went across the width of the stone that covered the tomb’s entrance. On each side of the doorway there was a glob of wax that secured the rope over the stone. If you moved the rope, you would break the seal. Those guards knew their very lives and at the minimum, their livelihoods, would be on the line, if that seal was broken. That Roman seal carried legal authority. To break the seal was to defy Roman authority.

In addition to a physical barrier and the barrier of legal authority, there were the soldiers themselves, human barriers, who would have been fully equipped with swords, shields, spears, daggers and whatever else they had at their disposal. They were going to guard the tomb with every ounce of strength and military prowess they possessed. They weren’t going to be tricked by Jesus’ disciples, and they certainly weren’t going to fall asleep.

In Matthew 28, we read that some of those guards who had seen everything that had happened and had been so terrified of the earthquake and angel went into the city and reported to the chief priests what had happened. A resurrected Jesus was a big problem for those who called for His death.

So, the chief priests and elders created a plan. They tried to get ahead of the Resurrection story by creating their own version of events. They paid the soldiers a large sum of money to do damage control. Those soldiers were supposed to spread the false narrative that Jesus’ disciples came during the night and stole him away while they were asleep. How in the world could Jesus’ disciples come during the night and remove a huge boulder and remain undetected by guards who had been charged with keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb at all costs?  The fact that the tomb was so well guarded gives us a certainty that His body couldn’t have been stolen.

Isn’t it interesting that at no time was there any record of any disciple being arrested and charged with grave robbery? Oh, the story was circulated, but the silence of the Jewish authorities to act on their accusation is a significant testimony to the fact that Jesus was alive! They knew they could never back up their story with an actual arrest!

There is a lot more evidence that can’t be dismissed. Jesus appeared multiple times to many people. Twelve times to be exact. His followers claim to have seen Him alive and not for a short time, but repeatedly over 40 days. They didn’t just have a dream about Him or a vision of Him. They touched Him. They talked to Him. They ate with Him. In Luke 24, Jesus took a post-Resurrection walk with two of His disciples. In one of the Jesus-sightings, there were 500 people who saw Him. Read about it in Romans 15:6.

I love Acts 1:3-4 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

It takes time to have a meal. When you are eating with someone, you are aware of who you are with, and you are aware that food is going down your gullets. That is a real, physical experience. Those who were present knew they were eating, and they knew they were eating with Jesus who was once dead and was very much alive!

Those early Christ-followers knew they had received an assignment from the Resurrected Jesus. They were to make go and make disciples. They were to preach the Good News about His resurrection. They were to heal the sick. The book of Acts tells us they understood the assignment. They got the memo. They wasted no time. Signs, miracles, and wonders were everywhere as the early church operated in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ was with them in a new way because of the Resurrection. He lived on the inside of them through the Holy Spirit.

There is tremendous historical evidence, extra-biblical evidence, that most, if not all of the apostles, were killed for their witness. By extra biblical, I mean people outside of the Bible writers, wrote about those happenings. Why would so many people undergo tremendous suffering for a lie? If the Resurrection had been a hoax, there is no way they would have given their lives to continue to tell the story!

What about the conversion of Paul? Read the books of Acts. He vehemently opposed Jesus’ followers. Paul persecuted the early church. He was glad for them to be killed. He lived to make life hard for Christians. He was committed to stamping out the Jesus movement…until he met the Resurrected Christ for himself. This is weighty evidence, friends.

His conversion was going to put him between a rock and a hard place. He was leaving the camp of the Pharisees, people who no doubt had respected his zealous pursuit to persecute Christians. He was the “it” boy in that crowd, and he was leaving his status behind. He had worked very hard to rise to the top of the religious elite. He was forfeiting everything he had worked so hard for.

He wasn’t going to receive a warm welcome by the side he had been persecuting either. It wasn’t going to be easy to become “one of them” and gain their trust. He couldn’t just “blend in” to their ranks. If Christ hadn’t changed his life, how would he have survived everything he did? Whippings, beatings, being stoned, and being shipwrecked because of his faith in Christ, and yet, he didn’t waiver? Come on!

“Before we can reason the resurrection out of history we must reason Paul and Christianity out of existence. We must admit the miracle or frankly confess that we stand before an inexplicable mystery.”—Dr Philip Schaff

The only explanation for Paul’s conversion, devotion to preaching the Gospel and the writing of much of the New Testament is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The fact that Christianity spread so quickly should be further proof to us all. There was an explosion of growth as people began to believe in Jesus for salvation. The whole message hinged on the Resurrection. It wasn’t just part of the story; it WAS the story. If Christ hadn’t been raised, there was no hope for anyone else to live in the power of the Resurrection, but because so many people saw Him after His death, those people became credible witnesses to the power of the Resurrection and people began to follow Jesus in droves.  Be reminded, that the growth happened in the very place where He died. Wouldn’t people have been trying to distance themselves from Jesus out of fear that they would be Rome’s or the Jewish religious leaders’ next targets?

Some of the greatest evidence for the Resurrection, in my opinion, began even before the crucifixion. Jesus prophesied about His death and resurrection three times. (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23 and 20:17-19.) How could He have predicted what would happen and then somehow control the place and manner in which He would die? Those who sought to kill Him wouldn’t have catered to His wishes. They wouldn’t have wanted to help His cause. He wasn’t in cahoots with His enemies, and yet He foretold what would happen to Him, and all happened as He said it would.

You may know that there are prophecies in the Old Testament about the manner in which Jesus would die. They were written down hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth. Did you know that crucifixion wasn’t even a thing at the time in which those prophecies were written? Those prophecies were recorded at a time when no one had ever seen a crucifixion. Enter that into the evidence for Jesus being Who He said He was.

How much evidence does a person need to believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

Paul said this in I Corinthians 15:13-14-13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  Why would Paul and the other apostles give their lives for a useless cause?  What you believe about Jesus’ death, burial AND resurrection isn’t inconsequential. It has lasting, eternal consequences.

In John 11, Jesus asked a woman named Martha, a very pointed question. 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” Do you believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life?

Forgiveness of sin is possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus paid a price we couldn’t pay and paid a debt He didn’t owe, so that we could be made right with God by having our sins forgiven. What happened on the Cross is critical, yes, but we cannot leave the empty tomb out of the story. The whole Gospel is about Jesus who died AND rose again. The Resurrection proved Christ’s divinity and power to forgive sin. Victory over sin, Satan, and death and eternal life in Heaven is possible because Jesus rose from the grave!

I Corinthians 15 says it so well:  1Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…

When God raised Jesus from the dead, He was declaring His satisfaction and approval of the payment Christ made on our behalf on the cross. On the cross, Jesus cried, “It is finished.” He did what He came to do. When Jesus rose from the grave, it was as if God the Father said, “Your finished work was accepted.”

There is no spiritual life, no living hope, no eternal life in Heaven without both the Cross and the Empty Tomb. The Resurrection changes everything. Because of the Cross and the empty tomb, we can have a full earthly life and perfect everlasting life.

Jesus rose, and because He did, you and I can, too.  I am a Christian today because I believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. I have a personal, daily relationship with Him through the forgiveness of my sin and the dedication of my life to Him. Because I have given Him my life, He has made His home inside of me.

A story is told of an African Muslim who became a Christian. His friends asked, “Why have you become a Christian?” He answered, “Well, it’s like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn’t know which way to go. There at the fork were two men, one dead and one alive—who would you ask which way to go?”

Some of you are at a fork in the road this morning. What you have been doing, the path you have been traveling, it isn’t working for you. You have an opportunity to encounter One who has overcome everything life brings, including death itself. As for me, I am going to follow the One who once was dead, but is now alive forevermore. 

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