Dead And Alive
DEAD AND ALIVE
We have been studying Matthew for a long time and now we come to the end…and that is “Good News.”
- Now, I don’t mean that it is “Good News” that we are finally about to finish our study of Matthew….hopefully our study has been a beneficial one.
- The end of Matthew is “Good News” because here in these verses Matthew speaks of an “Empty Tomb.”
- It is because of the empty tomb that we have hope.
- It is the empty tomb that reassures us that Jesus was who He claimed to be…that Jesus truly was the Son of God.
- It is the empty tomb that confirms to us that our faith is not in vain.
- It is the empty tomb that reassures us that one day our Lord will come again and judge this world….and when He does those of us who have been and are faithful to Him will be raised to put on a glorious body suitable for heaven itself.
- If the tomb is not empty…then we of all people are to be pitied the most.
Now, as we go through this passage it seems that Matthew really wants to make the point that when Jesus died on the cross…He was really dead.
- And there is a reason for that.
- If Jesus did not actually die then He is a liar and we are fools…and all that we believe is false…and our faith has no foundation to stand on.
So Matthew seems to make every effort to point out that Jesus was really dead.
- He doesn’t want any of those rumors started about Jesus swooning…or passing out on the cross….and them taking Him down….and then Him reviving in the coolness of the tomb.
- Matthew doesn’t want any of that. Matthew wants every one to know that Jesus was dead.
- So look at what he says. Look at Matt 27:57-58.
57 And when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given over to him.
Now, what you need to know is that back then, the death of a condemned man on the cross did not mark the end of his humiliation.
- You see, Rome wanted to make the point that “you had better not cross them or the consequences will be humiliating, not just at death but afterwards as well.”
- So what Rome would do is they would deny a crucified man the dignity of a proper burial.
- Instead, they would throw his body on the trash heap to rot where everyone could see it.
- And the public would get the message that you had better not mess with Rome.
The only way you could give a crucified man a proper burial is if you had permission from the Roman magistrate in charge of the area.
- And not very many people were willing to go and ask.
But in Jesus’ situation some one did.
- A man named Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus.
- And the verse says that Joseph “had also become a disciple of Jesus.”
But there is something else I want you to know about this man…it is found in the gospel of Mark in chapter 15:43.
- Mark says that Joseph of Arimathea was a “prominent member” of the very council that condemned Jesus.
- Now, if Jesus were not really dead…would this “prominent member of the council” not say so?
- Matthew and Mark are both telling us that Jesus was really dead.
And if you look at Mark 15:44 when Joseph makes his request for the body of Jesus and Pilate is surprised that the body is already dead.
- And so in verse 44 he asks a centurion if that was possible.
Now, this is the same centurion that Matthew spoke of back up in verse 54.
- This man was trained in the art of execution…it was his job.
- He knows how to kill men…and he knows when men are dead.
- And notice his words back up in verse 54.
- “Truly this man was the Son of God”.
- He “was” but not any more! Why?
- Because he is dead!
- The cross had succeeded!
- Matthew is telling us that Jesus was really dead!
So in vs. 57 and 58 Joseph of Arimathea asks for the body of Jesus…and Pilate orders that the body be given to him.
- This Roman governor is not going to do that unless this body is really dead.
But now Matthew is not through. To make sure that everyone knows that Jesus was really dead he tells us about the actions of Joseph in verse 59.
- They take Jesus’ body down from the cross and they wrap it in linens…and lay it in the tomb.
- Now, to do that is going to take some rolling, some moving.
- And in the process, any movement….any twitch….the slightest flinch….the faintest breath…any thing that might indicate that Jesus was still alive and Joseph would not have left Him in that tomb and all wrapped up in those linens.
- Joseph’s actions show that Jesus was dead and that they had no expectations of any kind of any resurrection.
- In fact, Joseph, certain that Jesus was dead, had a large stone rolled against the entrance of the tomb.
- Matthew is stressing to us that Jesus was dead!
Did you hear me? He was dead!
- Now don’t let that slip by you so fast that you miss the magnitude of that.
- The next time you deal with death.
- The next time you lay a loved one to rest.
- The next time you are at the funeral home going through the pain of death.
- You keep in mind that God Himself knows what you are going through because he has been there, not just as a mourner, but as a corpse.
- There is no dimension of our humanity that God has not tasted,
- None! The body was dead and the body was God’s.
But Matthew is not through. Look at chapter 26:62.
62 Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 “Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.
- Now, a “guard” could exist of anywhere from 6-60 men.
- So no one is going to steal Jesus’ body.
- And they “set a seal on the stone”…they may have crossed that stone with some straps and put a wax seal where the two straps crossed…and then they would imprint that wax with the governors seal…and to violate that seal was punishable by death.
- These Jewish leaders…and the Roman governor was intent on Jesus’ body staying in that tomb.
Now, look at Matthew 28 starting in vs. 1: Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
- Are these ladies convinced that Jesus was dead?
- If not, why did they come to a grave?
Now, look at vs. 2: And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; 4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead;
- These ladies were looking for and expected to find a dead body in that tomb!
- And when it is not there, they are “afraid…startled…amazed.”
What happened to the body?
- Did they make a mistake and go to the wrong tomb?
- No, because back up in verse 61 of chapter 27 they watched where His body was laid.
- They knew exactly what tomb He was in.
Did the disciples steal the body?
- If they did why would they go around afterward subjecting themselves to harsh treatment and death all for a lie?
- And besides, how could they get the body with all these Roman guards there?
Did the enemies of Jesus steal the body?
- If they did, then when the disciples started preaching that their Lord had been raised from the dead….why didn’t they present the body and prove them to be liars?
What happened to the body?
Listen, God did not roll that stone out of the way to let Jesus out.
- He rolled it out of the way to let us in!
- He let us in so that we each have to answer that same question….where is the body?
Well there is no need to wonder. The only thing to wonder about is, “Will you hear the word of God on the matter?” Look at verse 6 again.
- The angel of the Lord says, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”
- What is symbolized by the stone is verbalized by the angel!
- Matthew wants us to know that Jesus was dead…and now He is alive!
But Matthew isn’t through! Look at verse 8 at the reaction of the ladies.
“And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.
- Can you blame them?
- This would scare you to death!
- Knowing that someone was dead…and then being told that He is now alive…you would walk away wondering what in the world is going on!
So the ladies go to report to the disciples…and look at what happens in vs. 9: And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.”
- The angel had told them that He had risen…now they get hands on proof.
Vs. 11 Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
- You have to really respect these Jewish leaders because they maintained their integrity or should I say, their lack of integrity, all the way through!
- Wow, just how stubborn, how blind, how arrogant can you be…after all that took place at the crucifixion…the darkness from the 6th hour to the 9th….the tearing of the veil in the temple from top to bottom…the earth shaking and the rocks splitting…and the tombs opening up and the bodies of many of the saints being raised up…
- And then you have a severe earthquake and an angel descending from heaven and rolling the stone away…and the guards see him and they shake with fear…and that tomb is empty…
- All these things take place and still these Jewish leaders refuse to believe!
And with this account, God, through Matthew, has given indisputable proof that still exists today that Jesus was all that He claimed to be…that He is the Son of God….that someday our Lord will return and judge this world…He has given us the empty tomb!
- And the thing that we each must do is decide…will we listen to the proof and be faithful disciples of Christ…or will we stubbornly deny the proof and harden ourselves just like these Jewish leaders?
Is it all a lie? Or is it the truth? If it is the truth…and Matthew says it is…God says it is….and the empty tomb says it is….then I hope that you are courageous enough to do that which the truth demands. Look at vs. 16:
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. ”
All through the gospel of Matthew, Matthew has been calling us to discipleship…not just people who have been baptized…He has called us to die to ourselves….and take up the cross and follow after Him.
- Why? Why should I die for Him?
- How do I know that if I lose my life that I will save it?
- Well, the answer is, HE did. He gave His life to God…and now He lives.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023