Easter Sunday 




TEXT:         Matt. 28:1-20


INTRO:       The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in human history.  The Bible is quite clear that without it there is no salvation for mankind.


(1 Cor 15:17-19)  “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”


Two things become obvious, if Christ has not risen from the dead then what we are doing here today is a waste of time, and if He has risen from the dead than what we do here today has enormous implications for our life now and in the future.


Though many have tried to ignore the supernatural elements of Jesus' life and ministry, they cannot be ignored, to do so leaves us with just another human who died!


ILLUS:    Thomas Jefferson, a great man, nevertheless could not accept the miraculous elements in Scripture.  He edited his own special version of the Bible in which all references to the supernatural were deleted. Jefferson, in editing the Gospels, confined himself solely to the moral teachings of Jesus. The closing words of Jefferson's Bible are these: "There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed." Thank God that is not the way the story really ends!  -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 164.


Easter brings us to confront the reality of God, and the reality of our own lives as sinners, and the choices we make about Christ have everlasting consequences!


PROP. SENT:       The Bible teaches us that we must receive Christ into our lives as the risen Lord if we are to have fellowship with God.


I.      A 'GRAVE' MIRACLE     28:1-10


A.   Death Conquered!    28:1-7

1.  The two Marys here come to finish embalming the body of Jesus, they did not come expecting a miracle!

a.   These were rational, normal people, they were not religious fanatics!

b.   They came with all the normal expectations of any human who had lost a loved one, to pay final respects to Jesus.

2.  They had no idea that Christ would overcome death, this just wasn't a rational concept, the idea of Jesus rising again from the dead just didn't fit in with the laws of physics or nature!

a.   This is the thinking of most people today too!

b.   Yet the idea is not as irrational as one might think, consider the following true incident and what this shows us about the possibility of resurrection from the dead:


ILLUS:   A workman of the great chemist Michael Faraday accidentally knocked a silver cup into a solution of acid.  It was promptly dissolved, eaten up by the acid. The workman was terribly disturbed by the accident. The chemist came in and put a chemical into the jar, and shortly all the silver was precipitated to the bottom. The shapeless mass was lifted out and sent to the silversmith, and the cup was restored to its original shape.  If a human genius can do a thing like this why should we doubt that God can raise the dead? -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 166.


3.  It is strange that both the disciples and these women did not believe that Jesus could or would rise from the dead because Jesus had frequently told them that this was precisely what He was going to do!

a.   It is ironic that the unbelieving religious leaders of Jesus' day knew that Jesus had taught this but his own disciples did not think of it!         

      See Matt. 27:62-65 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.'   So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."  "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how."  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard."

b.   The women or Jesus' disciples were not exactly the type to make up a story like this, they came to embalm Jesus' body, and the disciples were hiding in fear of their own lives!

4.  The guards placed at the sealed tomb were professional soldiers, they were not afraid of battle, but when an angel arrived to roll away the stone they fell as dead men out of fear!

a.   In other words, they fainted out of fear!

b.   These were not men of faith, yet they all saw the same thing and witnessed something supernatural; they later reported exactly what had happened!

c.  This was dangerous to give a story like this, for soldiers that fail a mission like this in the first century were normally executed!

d.  Their story lines up with that of the women who came!

e.  Opposite sides of the coin both in agreement as to what happened to Jesus!

5.  It is quite clear that the soldiers did not take Jesus' body, or that the two women had not taken it; imagine soldiers saying two women moved the stone and stole Jesus' body while they were guarding it!!

6.  The women were also afraid, but they loved Christ so their fear is addressed by the angel unlike that of the soldiers that ran off in fear!

7.  The angel simply announces the good news: "Jesus is risen" just as He had said He would be!

a.  They are now given instructions to go and tell the other disciples who were still hiding in fear and doubt!

b.  The first preachers of the Gospel (which means literally "GOOD NEWS")  were women, ordained by God to preach the Gospel!!

8.  It is clear here that Jesus had conquered death, Christianity is the only religion on earth whose founder's body is not in its grave!!

a.  Jesus did not have the stone rolled away to get out, later He walked through solid walls; the stone was rolled away not to let Him out but to let us IN to witness the power of God and Christ's victory over sin and death!

b.  Christ didn't need the stone rolled away to rise again, but we needed it to witness God's victory and celebrate it with our faith in Christ!


B.   Disciples Cheered!    28:8-10

1.  As the women head for the guys in hiding Jesus meets them on the way and restates what the angel had already told them, and commissions them to preach the good news to the rest of the disciples!

a.  They react to Christ's presence by falling down and clasping his feet!

b.  This was an Eastern custom of a servant to its master, showing willing submission by clasping the master's feet as a sign of obedience.

c.  They also worshipped Jesus, they clearly understood that Jesus was not merely a man, He was God!

2.  For these women, and for the disciples they shared the news with, all this came as a great surprise!  And what a great one it really is!


ILLUS:   Our three-year-old, Nicole, was as anxious for Easter to come as she had been for Christmas to come. Since my wife was expecting our third child in just a few weeks, many persons were giving us baby gifts since this was our first child in this church. Nicole had picked out a new dress and Mom had given her a new white bonnet. As we stopped at a store to buy her a new pair of shoes to go with her outfit, she once again said, "I can't wait for Easter, Daddy!" I asked her, "Do you know what Easter means, honey?" She replied, "Yes." "Well, what does Easter mean?" In her own sweet three-year-old way, with arms raised, a smile on her face, and at the top of her voice she said, "Surprise!" What better word could sum up the meaning of Easter! Surprise, death! Surprise, sin! Surprise, mourning disciples! Surprise, modern man! He's alive!  -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 162.


3.  Jesus promises to meet with them all, our faith is based on real hard facts, many people witnessed the resurrected Lord on several occasions, this is not the result of people's wild imaginations!


II.  A 'GRAVE' MISTAKE!    28:11-15


A.   Details Clear!    28:11

1.  Note that when these soldiers report to the chief priests that they don't make up a better story that could have made them look better, like a "huge group of men overpowered them and took the body" instead they tell the truth!

a.  It is tragic to realize that they told the truth about the miracle of Jesus' resurrection and yet failed to follow Christ!

b.  Yet, many people today do this also, they believe that Jesus is God but they don't follow Christ or accept Him as Lord and Savior of their lives!

2.  They knew that Jesus was no longer dead, the stone being rolled away by a supernatural being, seeing the angel themselves and fainting for fear, and of course the empty tomb!

a.  The symbol of Christianity is not just the cross, it is also the empty tomb!

b.  To this day there is no evidence that Jesus' body ever stayed in that tomb although it is very clear that He was put there after He died!


ILLUS:   When the Garden Tomb was discovered in 1885, the godly General Gordon was convinced that this was the place where the body of Jesus had lain.  There is a traditional tomb inside the wall of modern Jerusalem, but no certainty attaches to the site.  The Garden Tomb, hidden for centuries, was covered with rubbish twenty  feet high.  When they first cleared the spot, with great caution they gathered all the dust and debris within the tomb and carefully shipped it to the Scientific Association of Great Britain. Every part of it was analyzed, but there was no trace of human remains.  If this is the real tomb of Christ, then Jesus was the first to be laid there and he was also the last. -- Alliance Weekly


3.  These men told the truth even though it could cost them their own lives for failing in their mission, but it did not move them to accept Christ!

a.  Knowing the truth alone will not save you!

b.  You must accept Christ as savior in order for the truth to impact your soul!


B.   Deliberate Cover-up!    28:12-15

1.  The chief priests were not happy with this news!  They devised a cover-up.

a.  They ask the guards to say they fell asleep, which would mean certain death to the guards!  So they promise to make sure they get immunity from punishment!  They also pay the soldiers a "huge" sum of money to buy their loyalty!

b.  The soldiers agree to go with the cover-up since they could both become rich and also be safe!

2.  The cover-up itself was ridiculous...but is still the story most people who refuse to accept Christ's resurrection believe today!

a.  Think of the inconsistencies in the story: 

(1.  If they were really asleep they could not have known who stole the body for they were sleeping, yet in the cover-up story they know who did it while they slept!

(2.  The grave clothes that wrapped Jesus were still in the tomb, still in the position as they had wrapped Jesus' body.  While it was known that grave robbers sometimes broke into tombs to steal the fine clothes (and the Bible does say that Jesus was wrapped in "fine linen") it was not a practice for robbers to break in to steal a naked body and leave the clothes!!!

(3.  The disciples were not brave enough to come and steal Jesus' body! They weren't even brave enough to be around the cross; they all fled in fear of their own lives before Jesus died!  (Only John seems to have been at the cross with Jesus' mother Mary for a time)  They were not likely to brazenly steal Jesus body if they were in hiding themselves!

(4.  It would have taken much more than a couple of women to move the huge stone away!

(5.  A small band of frightened disciples would have been no match for professional well armed soldiers!

b.  The cover-up was ridiculous!!

3.  All of this was merely a "smoke screen" to avoid the real message, Christ was victorious!  They wanted a different message to come through!


ILLUS:     It was June 18, 1815, the Battle of Waterloo. The French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the Allies (British, Dutch, and Germans) under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of semaphore signals to find out how the battle was going. One of these signal stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral.   Late in the day it flashed the signal: “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N---D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- -.” Just at that moment one of those sudden English fog clouds made it impossible to read the message. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war. Suddenly the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The message had four words, not two.  The complete message was: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N- - -DE-F-E-A- T-E-D- - -T-H-E- - -E-N- E-M-Y!" It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow was turned into joy, defeat was turned into victory!   So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb on the first Good Friday afternoon. Hope had died even in the hearts of Jesus' most loyal friends. After the frightful crucifixion, the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding had crept in on the friends of Jesus. They had "read" only part of the divine message. "Christ defeated"  was all that they knew. But then on the third day--Easter Sunday--the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding lifted, and the world received the complete message: "Christ defeated death!" Defeat was turned into victory;  death was turned to life!  -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 165-166.


4.  It is tragic that it was the religious people of Jesus' day that avoided the truth, and that those who did know it like the soldiers were more interested in money than they were their souls!

a.  But isn't this still often the case today?

b.  Are we much different?


III.  A 'GRAVE' MESSAGE!   28:16-20


A.   Decision & Choice!    28:16-17

1.  Even after Jesus was seen by many people, some believed, some doubted!

a.  Ultimately we will have to choose which way we will respond, you cannot straddle the fence!

b.  What will you do with Jesus?


ILLUS:     About 1930, the Communist leader Bukharin journeyed from Moscow to Kiev.  His mission was to address a huge assembly.  His subject, atheism.  For a solid hour he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity, hurling argument and ridicule. At last he was finished and viewed what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men's faith. "Are there any questions?"  Bukharin demanded. A solitary man arose and asked permission to speak. He mounted the platform and moved close to the Communist. The audience was breathlessly silent as the man surveyed them first to the right, then to the left. At last he shouted the ancient Orthodox greeting, "CHRIST IS RISEN!" The vast assembly arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of an avalanche, "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"  -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 167.


2.  There is no middle ground with Christ's resurrection, you cannot call Him a great teacher and avoid what He taught, that He was the only way of salvation:  He is either who He says He is, or a madman, what decision will you make!?  Your eternal destination hinges on how you answer that question!


B.   Duty & Calling     28:18-20

1.  Jesus' final instructions before returning bodily to heaven:  "Tell the good news ("Gospel") to all!"

2.  Jesus promises here that He will always be with His children!

3.  We have the greatest message for mankind, there is victory even over the sting of death and sin!


ILLUS:    A little boy and his father were driving down a country road on a beautiful spring afternoon. Suddenly out of nowhere a bumblebee flew in the car window. Since the little boy was deathly allergic to bee stings, he became petrified. But the father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, and then released it. But as soon as he let it go, the young son became frantic once again as it buzzed by the little boy. His father saw his panic stricken face. Once again the father reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to his hand. There still stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. "Do you see this?" he said. "You don't need to be afraid anymore. I've taken the sting for you." And this is the message of Easter. We do not need to be afraid of death anymore. Christ faced death for us. And by His victory, we are saved from sin. Christ has taken the sting! First Corinthians 15:22 asks:  "Where, oh death, is your sting?" Christ has taken the stinger for us. He has risen! Fear is gone. New life is ours.  -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 167.


4.  What will you do with Christ today?


CONCLUSION:   All other religions have the bodies of their founders still in the grave, only Christianity has an empty tomb!  The power of death could not hold God's son, and those who embrace God's son will also be victorious over the grave!  Only real faith in a living Christ can bring you eternal life.  The choice is still "believe" or "doubt."  What's your choice?