The Power of New Life/November 12, 2017

Second Baptist Lincoln
Nov. 12, 2017
Dr. Stephen Wisthoff

 The Power of New Life 

 Matthew 28:1-10                  

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,  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."

It might feel a little strange this morning to hear a whole sermon about the resurrection of Christ – two weeks before Thanksgiving and six months before Easter.  We have become accustomed to only hearing sermons about the resurrection on that high holy day of the year, Easter. However, I’m not sure it is possible to study through the book of Matthew as we have been doing these last few months, and not speak of the resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Everything we are, have been, and ever hope to be is anchored on the reality of the resurrection.There would be no Christianity without it (1 Cor. 15:14). Basically, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, all elements of our faith are affirmed as true. It is interesting that there are still many different responses to the Resurrection even after 2000 years. Many people embrace it while others will outright reject any possibility of the resurrection. 

So what are the reactions to the resurrection?

Rationalism --  Some reject the resurrection because it does not fit into human reason. Due to the scientific fact that cells die when deprived of oxygen and cannot be regenerated, the idea of resurrection is disproved scientifically.I always think of Thomas Jefferson when I think of rationalists.  Having come out of the age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, he only believed that which could be scientifically proven.  So he edited his own Bible to exclude passages that relate to miracles and the supernatural.  He didn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ and likely didn’t believe in heaven or the afterlife. Resurrection defies reason.  This humanistic view assumes that only what can be observed and explained in naturalistic terms can be true. Rationalism rejects the resurrection as it does all other miraculous elements of scripture.

Unbelief-- Unbelievers don't reason away the reality of the resurrection; they just refuse to believe the truth. Simple unbelief is a denial of what is fact.        And the resurrection is perhaps the most indisputable fact in all ancient history, based on reliable evidence and testimony from many witnesses.

Doubt - Doubters question the resurrection. Like the apostle Thomas, he doubted the resurrection until he could put his fingers on the nail prints in the hands and the spear wound in the side of Jesus. There is honest doubt, exhibited by a true seeker desiring to have his questions about the resurrection resolved. Thomas didn’t remain in his doubt, but rather continued as a faithful follower of Jesus. Then there is hypocritical doubt, reflected by the person who continues to question long after the available evidence is made clear.

Indifference - The indifferent person doesn't care if the resurrection is true or not. He can't see that it makes any claim on his life, and it isn't on his list of priorities. He is simply not interested.

Ignorance - Some people are not familiar with the facts of the resurrection. They may not even know about it.

Hostility  - Some respond out of hostility to the resurrection. They make a vociferous effort to discredit it. A few even see it as their duty to write against the resurrection.

Faith  - Sadly, all those reactions are wrong and unnecessary. The proper response is faith, belief, affirmation, and application of the reality of the resurrection to one's life.

How does scripture treat the resurrection?

In the gospels.  The four gospels are a response of faith to the resurrection. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They weren't forced to believe; they believed because they were overwhelmed with the evidence, as were all who became a part of the believing community. It is the response of faith that we will see in our study of Matthew 28:1-10. Some people are under the illusion that the Bible is a miscellaneous collection of spiritual truths. But every book in the Bible has a specifically designed beginning and ending. In the case of Matthew's gospel, ending with the glory of the resurrection--the greatest event of all time.

In Acts.   The first sermon ever preached by the early church was the resurrection (Acts 2). The reality of the resurrection became the theme of all apostolic preaching. Peter again preached on the resurrection in Acts 4 and 10. Stephen preached the resurrection in chapter 7. Philip preached the resurrection in chapter 8. Paul preached the resurrection many times throughout the rest of the book.Whenever the church gathered for worship, it was focused on the resurrection.  Even met on the first day of the week commemorating the resurrection.

In the epistles. The theme of the epistles is the resurrection.

2 Corinthians 4:15--"He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also."  Galatians 1:1--"By Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."  Philippians 3:10--Paul said, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." 

The book of Revelation affirms that Christ has a right to the earth because He was once dead and is now alive forevermore (1:18). The theme of the New Testament is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it is the foundation of all our HOPE: Jesus said, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Jesus also said, "I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). The resurrection is the core of all we believe.

Matthew describes the resurrection from the viewpoint of a group of women and the emotions that their actions revealed. That is a important and refreshing way to view the resurrection. We will not coldly analyze the resurrection, but I pray we will feel it.

The emotions of the women (vv. 1b-10)

At the Tomb (v. 1b)  -   "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary [came] to see the sepulcher."  Women have a tremendous capacity to love. Those women loved the Lord Jesus Christ more than anyone. They had ministered with Jesus in Galilee. They provided food, hospitality, and even money and resources for Him and His disciples as they carried on the Galilean ministry (Luke 8:1-3). They traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover with Jesus and His disciples. They had been with Him at the cross (Matt. 27:56) and when He was buried (27:61). Now they returned on the morning of the third day. They were loyal, devoted, and sympathetic.

Their purpose is that they came to see the grave, not the risen Lord. As many times as Jesus had promised the resurrection, their faith could not accept it. Mark 16:1 says, "When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." It is possible that the previous night, when the Sabbath ended, some shops might open, and the women would be able to purchase spices. Their purpose was not to see a resurrection, but to anoint a corpse.

Their problem -  Mark 16:3 tells us that as the women walked to the tomb, "they said among themselves, Who shall roll away the stone for us from the door of the sepulcher?" What's more, they had no idea the tomb was being guarded by the Romans.Their experience had to be terrifying.  The angel appeared to them and revealed to them that he was not there.  Verse 2 says, “Behold there was an earthquake.” And the stone rolled away.  The angel opened the door to the grave not just to let the women in, but to allow the whole world to see that Jesus wasn't there. When the women arrived, they went in and saw He wasn't there (Luke 24:3). When Peter and John arrived, they went in and saw the linen wrappings undisturbed and the head wrap in a separate place (John 20:6-7). There was no turmoil--no evidence that someone hurriedly unwrapped the body and threw the wrappings on the floor. The wrappings lay just as they had been wrapped about Christ' body--only His body was gone. And at that point, their terror turned to rejoicing.  They knew they had witnessed the impossible.  They knew that their Lord was alive and that the words of the Angel were true.  They ran to tell the disciples what they experienced. 

Why were the women the first to see the angel and the risen Christ? I like to think that He rewarded their faithfulness. Since the women had unselfishly served the Lord in the past, they were to be specially rewarded. It has been said that supreme love deserves supreme privilege. But the main point is that they saw the angel and the living Christ because they were there. If anyone else had been at the tomb, they would have seen the angel and Christ, too.

It's good to be present when the Lord does wonderful things. The closer you stay to the Lord and what He's doing, the more you're going to enjoy what He's doing. I would rather experience it myself than hear about it from someone. I praise God for people who are where the Lord is working. They're with His people when they gather together to worship Him. They're present when His Word is taught. They're ready to get on their knees before Him. They're using their gifts in the Lord's service. As a result, they experience firsthand the active power of God.

I hope we will be like those women. What we lack in faith, may we make up for in devotion. What we lack in understanding, may we make up for in loyalty. God will confirm your weakness and turn it into strength because you're faithful and loyal enough to be where He is when He's working. Amen.