THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
Matthew 27:57-28:20, (K. V.: 28:6)
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
Praise God for helping us to finish Matthew’s Gospel study! It’s been an arduous year-long struggle in which we have received abundant grace. Now we are at the culmination of the study. From Msn. Gideon’s message last week, we learned Jesus did not save himself but stayed on the cross so as to save us from all our sins and enable us to boldly enter into God’s presence. From today’s passage, we see Jesus’ resurrection that gives us the hope of ultimate victory and God’s glorious kingdom. We also see Jesus commissioning the disciples to the world. May God bless us to rejoice in our Lord’s resurrection always and bear witness to the gospel of the resurrection to the end.
1. The Burial of Jesus (27:57-66)
After Jesus died on the cross, an evening approached. It was a sad evening when our Lord was taken away from us by the hands of the evil people. And it was about to begin the Sabbath. Because of that, Jesus’ body could not remain on the cross overnight. So, amid sadness and despair, Joseph of Arimathea did something extraordinary. We do not know much about Joseph except he came from Arimathea, which is possibly Ramathaim, the home of Samuel, about 20 miles northwest from Jerusalem. He must have been a secret disciple and many Christians have mystified him (John Chrysostom said Joseph was one of seventy disciples). He was an influential figure with wealth and prestige (he was a prominent member in the Council, that is, the Sanhedrin and he never approved what other Sanhedrin members voted for). Jesus’ death, however, changed him into a different person. Instead of hiding in obscurity, he became courageous and could ask Pilate of the body of Jesus.
In verses 59-60, we see Jesus’ being buried in Joseph’s tomb. Even in his death, Jesus fulfilled what was prophesied through the Prophet Isaiah. Isa 53:9a reads. “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, … .” What if Jesus’ burial was “not with the rich (like the case of Mozart)”? Jesus’ burial would have been in a mass grave for the common people (possibly making it difficult to find the evidence of his resurrection) or he would not have been buried at all. One more thing we need to observe in this burial is that Jesus’ tomb was closed up with a big stone so that nobody would open it up easily. And two Marys witnessed to this burial. Why is Jesus’ burial important? It means Jesus was really dead. It means Jesus shared every aspect of humanity including death. It also means that our sins were buried with him.
Look at verse 62. Here, “the next day” means the one after Preparation Day, which is, the special Sabbath. But on this Sabbath day, the religious leaders went to Pilate to discuss about what to do with Jesus’ body. Somehow they were so paranoid about Jesus even with his death. It is because they figured out what Jesus meant by “rebuilding the temple in three days.” They interpreted it that he would come back to life in three days. They did not truly believe in Jesus’ resurrection but were very much worried about what would happen to the people with Jesus’ body missing. The people might believe Jesus came back to life from the tomb. To the religious leaders, this would be their worst nightmare. They called it the last deception (in the movie, Sherlock Holmes, the villain Sir Blackwood staged his resurrection from the tomb to deceive the entire London). After hearing what the religious leaders said, Pilate granted what they wanted: extra measures to prevent the theft of Jesus’ body. So they secured the tomb with the guards posted, the stone sealed with cord and an imperial seal.
What can we learn from this? Nothing can stop God’s plan no matter how much efforts you put against it. As St. Jerome once pointed out, “The greater their precautionary care, the more fully is revealed the power of the resurrection.”
2. The Risen Jesus (28:1-15)
Verse 1 starts with the phrase, “after the Sabbath.” This was the first day of the week, that is, the glorious resurrection Sunday. It was still dark (Jn 20:1a), for it was early in the morning, and two Marys were on their way to the tomb to embalm Jesus’ presumed dead-body. Verses 2-4 describe what happened to the tomb. In fact, none of the four gospels records how Jesus’ resurrection really happened. All of the gospels simply illustrate the surrounding facts. Here, in Matthew’s gospel, we see an earthquake shaking the tomb, an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone and the guards being so much afraid of the angel that they became like dead men. Surely, Jesus did not need the angel’s help to come out of the tomb. The stone was simply moved for the women and the disciples to see inside the tomb.
In verses 5-8, we see the angel addressing the women. Let us read verses 5-6. “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.’” The angel first assured the women of peace. Think about what happened to the guards. He then explained to them about the one and only reason why the tomb was empty. It was because Jesus rose from the dead. And it was according to Jesus’ promise. Finally, the women were invited to see the place where Jesus lay and commanded to go “quickly” to give his disciples the joyous news. According to the angel, the disciples would see Jesus in Galilee and Jesus would go ahead of them. Why Galilee? The first reason of Galilee is that Jesus had prophesied that he would meet them there. The second one be that Galilee was the place where they would restore their first love with their master.
Look at verses 8-10. With mingled fear and joy, the women ran to tell the good news to the disciples. Suddenly, however, Jesus met them and greeted them with a traditional greeting, “Greetings! (in Greek, Χαίρετε! (Ce-re-te)!).The women then clasped his feet and worshiped him. It possibly means they knelt before him to worship him. Jesus again told the women that he would meet the disciples in Galilee. Note two things in this scene. First, Jesus called the disciples as his brothers. It means we are part of the same heavenly family along with him. So, Heb 2:11 says in the same spirit, “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” Second, the women could clasp Jesus’ feet, which means, he was not a ghost or a hologram. Jesus’ resurrection body was fully human.
Look at verses 11-15. Here, Matthew explains how and why the stolen-body theory spread and contrasts the chief priests’ commissioning the soldiers through money with Jesus’ commissioning the disciples through the heavenly authority. The guards reported to the chief priests everything: the earthquake, the angel, and the empty tomb. Their report echoed the women’s witness to the disciples. Again, the religious leaders were not that interested in the truth. They were concerned about their people believing the risen Jesus. So they used a lump-sum payment, a hush money, to silence the soldiers. It was told that the story of the disciples stealing Jesus’ body was still circulated in the days of Justin Martyr (AD 160). To suppress the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, other people came up with some other stories such as Jesus’ being replaced with someone on the cross or Jesus’ not dying but severely wounded. No matter how hard the enemies of the gospel try to silence the truth, it would not succeed.
3. The Great Commission (28:16-18)
Look at verse 16. The scene was changed from Jerusalem to Galilee. How did they respond to Jesus? They worshiped him. Though some doubted like Thomas, the majority of the disciples restored their first love with him and genuine faith in him. What authority does Risen Jesus have? All authority in heaven and on earth. Once Jesus was offered of all the kingdoms of the world without the cross by the devil. But he refused it and now he has received even the dominion of heaven from the Father. This authority provides the basis for the commission. What is the scope of the commission? “All nations.” The Greek word for this can be translated as “the Gentiles.” And it echoes the blessings promised to Abraham (all peoples on earth will be blessed through him). So there would be no distinction in terms of the gospel.
At the heart of this commission is to make disciples. Jesus’ ministry has been focused on discipleship. Now he again emphasizes it. What are two essential elements of the discipleship ministry? “Baptizing” and “teaching.” The former requires the personal relationship with Jesus and repentance and faith. So, it does not happen in one day nor through only one person. Possibly with lots of painstaking and with many people’s help and shepherding can one person truly receive the baptism. Note the phrase “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It further means that the baptism enables one to enter into the new covenant.
What about “teaching”? It surely has something to do with “the Bible study.” But the focal point is Jesus’ teaching and obedience. Look at verse 20b. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus was named Immanuel (“God with us”) at His birth (Mt 1:23), and now He promises to be with His disciples to the end of the age. Perhaps, Matthew was most moved by Jesus’ being with him.
Last Friday, we discussed how we tried our best to obey Jesus’ commissioning. Dr. Jason shared how God helped establish a seemingly impossible international mission house church. Someone even said we need another Msn. Anastasia through Stem Cell research. Msn. Susanna crossed the Pacific Ocean to serve the campus mission, too. Some members experienced a long separation for the mission like Msn. Mary Bahn and Msn. Mary Kim. May God richly reward such precious acts of faith.
In conclusion, we learned that nothing can stop God’s plan like extra guards or even the imperial seal couldn’t block Jesus’ resurrection. And it gives us eternal joy and victory. We all are the witnesses to the Risen Jesus even though we were not at the tomb but because of our faith. And we called to go and make disciples of all nations. What we are doing, that is, building the personal relationship with Jesus and studying His word is tantamount to the discipleship ministry. May Jesus be with us always as we obey Jesus’ last commission, world mission command.