The Resurrection of Jesus – Matthew 28:1-20

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

April 4, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus

Matthew 28:1-20


Death is the greatest enemy that mankind faces. Every man and woman will face this enemy and history as shown that they even if they manage to win a round or two, they always eventually lose. We who are currently alive do not like the statistic that 100 out of 100 people will die, and so the great quest of mankind is to find a way to conquer death. It is not enough even that someone else somehow manages to defeat death, there must also be a way for us to follow their path and also conquer death.

The various religions of the world strive to satisfy this quest by some means that will give peace to its followers as they face death. Some religions, such as Hinduism, change death from the ultimate enemy that brings finality to life into a gatekeeper into the next life, and the next life and the next life. Death is not a finality, but a pause opening the door to the next cycle of life with the hope that eventually Nirvana can be reached and the cycles can be escaped.

Other religions and philosophies seek to deal with death by minimizing its importance. They share with Hinduism the idea of escaping the pain of life by looking for a cessation of existence, but they do so by denying any sort of soul existence after death. In this way they can embrace death as the ultimate escape from the pain of life and its meaninglessness. Tragically, there are many in our own society that have bought into these nihilistic philosophies that commit suicide to escape their pain as soon as possible.

Most religions, however, do offer the hope of some type of an after life. Generally, those who are good according to its rules or in someway manage to gain the favor of its god or gods, get to exist in some sort of paradise, while those who are not good or did not gain the favor of the god or gods will be punished in some way. The problem is that the promised after life remains shrouded in mystery because no one has ever journeyed there and back to tell the living if it is actually true. You have to place your faith in an unproven and unprovable promise. You will not know the truth until it is too late, and the fact that the prophets and holy men of that religion all die does not generate the greatest confidence in the religion.

There is only one exception, and that is Christianity, for it is the only religion in which its prophet has conquered death and so proving that its promise of eternal life for its followers is true. The resurrection of the Jesus Christ from the dead is central to God’s message of salvation. It is central to our faith and hope in God for eternal life. The resurrection separates Christianity from every other religion.

Each of the gospel accounts records the resurrection of Jesus. Each gives some additional details so that all of them together give us a fairly comprehensive understanding of what occurred that morning. Today we will be examining the account recorded by Matthew with some references to the other accounts. Matthew tells the story from the perspective of the women who first discovered the wonderful news and then proves the fact of the resurrection by the action of Jesus’ enemies. Turn to Matthew 28:1

Going to the Tomb – Matthew 28:1

28:1 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.

It was nearing Sunrise on the first day of the week, which would be our Sunday. The Jews did not name the days but simply counted them from what was to them the only truly significant day, the Sabbath. Jesus had now been in the grave for three days. Remember that any part of a day was counted as a day in that culture. Friday afternoon is day 1. Saturday is day 2. Sunday morning is day 3.

It has been about eleven hours since the Sabbath ended at dusk and now it is early morning. John’s account points out that it is still dark when the women arrived at the tomb. It is just beginning to dawn with the Sun just starting to lighten the eastern sky.

Mary Magdalene had a supreme devotion to Jesus ever since Jesus had cast seven demons out of her. The other Mary mentioned here is the mother of James & Joseph. Also with them, but not mentioned by Matthew is Salome, the mother of James & John as well as Joanna and some others not specifically named. The two Marys and Salome and possibly some of the others had been at the cross when Jesus had died, and both Marys had been present at Jesus’ burial on Friday.

Matthew says that these women come to the garden to look at the grave. Luke tells us they come with more burial spices. They were not able to complete their preparation of Jesus’ body on Friday before the Sabbath began, so they have come back to complete that work. Mark’s account records that as they had walked to the sepulcher they had been wondering who would roll the stone away that blocked the entrance to the tomb. This was an act of love and devotion, but it was also an act that shows either their ignorance or their unbelief. It is possible that the disciples had never related anything to them about what Jesus had said about being raised from the dead on the third day nor did Jesus say anything to them directly, in which case they were left ignorant. If they had been previously told then they are acting in the same unbelief as the disciples. They have come to the grave of Jesus not to see if He was resurrected, but to anoint His body with more burial spices as a beautiful act of their devotion to Him.

The Stone is Rolled Away – Matthew 28:2-3

Their concern about getting the stone rolled away was short lived for God rolled away the stone for them. 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.”

Why did God have the angel roll the stone away? And why through an earthquake? Matthew is the only one that mentions the earthquake. The earthquake made sure that everyone was wide awake to see what was happening. Matthew specifically states this was a severe earthquake. This fact ensures that the claim that would be made later that the guards were asleep could not be true. As someone with personal experience with quite a few earthquakes growing up in Southern California, I can assure you that when an earthquake is severe enough to move heavy stones everyone is awake!

In rolling the stone away, the angel would have broken the Roman seal that most likely would have been put on the grave. Matthew 27:62-66 recounts the concern of the chief priests and Pharisees that Jesus’ disciples might come and steal Jesus’ body. Pilate told them to go ahead and secure the grave with their guard, and in all probability this also would mean the grave would be sealed with a Roman imprint as a warning to anyone that might want to open the tomb. To break Rome’s seal was to risk the Roman army to come after you. Any man would have been very afraid to break the seal of Rome, but the seal was no concern to God. No matter how great and glorious man’s power may seem to himself, it is nothing before God. Rome needed to be fearful of Him.

But again, why have the Angel roll the stone away? It would not have been to let Jesus out. As the various post-resurrection appearances of Jesus demonstrates, Jesus’ resurrection body was not bound by the same material space limitations as you and me. Jesus was able to appear in a room full of disciples without the door being opened (John 20:19), and yet He could be touched and could eat (John 20:27 & 21:12-15). Comparison of the various accounts implies that Jesus may well have already been out before the stone was rolled away. So if the stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out, why was it rolled away? To let the women, and later Peter and John, in!

The angel of the Lord then sat down on top of the stone that he had rolled away. The angel was the divine answer to the women’s earlier concern. His appearance was dazzling and the whole scene had a dramatic effect on those that were present to see it.

Fearful Guards – Matthew 28:4

The effect on the guards was unnerving to say the least. 4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. The soldiers present were struck with divine fear. The earthquake would have been scary enough and would have left them somewhat jittery to begin with, and the fact that it was a strong earthquake occurring only three days after the previous one that had occurred after Jesus’ death did not help. However, their great fear here was of the angel. The word shake here is the same root word as “earthquake.” In a sense, the earth had been shaken when the angel did his work and now the guards were shaken because they could see the angel. The fear was so great that they became like dead men. They had fainted and fallen unconscious.

An Empty Tomb

From the accounts of both Luke and John it appears that it was at this point that the women arrive upon the scene. They see the stone rolled away and they enter the tomb, but they did not see the angel. Mary Magdalene runs back to tell Peter that the body of the Lord had been taken away and she did not know where to look for it. Peter and John go back to the tomb with her at a later time to see that the tomb was indeed empty and that Jesus’ burial clothes were lying where Jesus’ body had been with the face cloth rolled up by itself to the side. Peter and John then left and Mary stayed for a while. It was at this time that Jesus showed Himself to her, and then sometime later to Peter as well. But all this happens after the scene Matthew records.

Angelic Announcement – Matthew 28:5-6

Here in our text we find that the angel now reveals himself and seeks to bring comfort to the women that are remaining. 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.” While the soldiers were frozen in fear, the angel brought comfort and assurance to the women. He told them, “do not be afraid.” Yes, there was much that would bring fear, but relief from that fear came from the angel himself that had frightened them. He would not harm them. In fact, he knew why they had come and would give them guidance in their quest. He knew they were looking for the body of Jesus which had been crucified. The angel gave the first announcement of Jesus’ resurrection to these women. 6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”

The tomb had been opened so that they could see for themselves that what the angel was telling them was true. Jesus was no longer there. He had risen just as He had said. God’s grace had come to mankind in a new and powerful way. The women were not rebuked for their unbelief, but comforted and encouraged that what they had not dared to believe was now true. Jesus had conquered death. All of His promises were true. This was not news they were to keep to themselves. They were to tell the others.

Angelic Instructions – Matthew 28:7-8

Verse 7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” 8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. With a mixture of emotions they hurried back to Jerusalem to report all that had just occurred. Fear was still present simply because of the overwhelming nature that supernatural experiences have on mortal man. Great joy was present because of what they had been told by the angel, but their joy would increase even more, for as they are returning, they run into Jesus Himself.

Seeing Jesus – Matthew 28:9

Verse 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.”

Jesus greeted them in a common greeting of the day, cairete / xairete, which we can translate as “hail,” “rejoice,” “be glad” or “greetings.” He said it to put them at ease and not startle them. They immediately recognize Him and fall before Him taking hold of His feet to worship Him. The bowing and taking hold of his feet are acts of humility that also brought assurance, for now they had seen and touched Him. Jesus was real and tangible, not an apparition or a figment of their imagination. Jesus repeated the statement the angel gave them to remind the disciples of the command He had given them earlier in Matthew 26:32 for them to meet Him in Galilee after He had been raised from the dead.

In this simple account Matthew demonstrates that Jesus was resurrected from the dead in a tangible, physical body. But Matthew does not leave the proof of the resurrection here. He goes on to reveal the activities of Jesus’ enemies and in so doing demonstrates that even His enemies attested to His physical resurrection by their response.

The Guard’s Report – Matthew 28:11

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.

First, notice that this takes place at the same time that the women are returning from the tomb. Apparently, after the guards had regained consciousness, at least some of them had started back to Jerusalem.

Second, notice that it is only some of the guard. There are a couple of possible reasons for this. The guard had been frightened out of its wits by the earthquake and seeing the angel and some of them may have simply fled after they had recovered enough to walk – run – away. They had enough and would have preferred to take their chances as deserters than experience anything like what they had just seen again. In addition, even if none of the guard had run away, they could not all return to Jerusalem together without risking attracting Pilate’s attention, which is something they did not want to do. Remember that these soldiers were under orders to guard the tomb through the third day. If they abandoned their post before that time, it would be insubordination that could result in being put to death.

Third, notice that they report to the chief priests instead of Pilate. Matthew 27:6 records that they had been put under the authority of the chief priests, so it would be proper for them to give their first report to them. In addition, as already mentioned, they would have been afraid to report directly to Pilate for fear of being put to death for failure to accomplish their mission of guarding the tomb of Jesus.

Fourth, notice that the guards tell the chief priests all that had happened. They did not make anything up. They did not make excuses for themselves, for what excuse could they make? They were risking their lives no matter what they did, for if the chief priests did not believe them and became angry, then they could have those soldiers put to death for negligence of duty. The soldiers thought the truth to be their best defense, so they told them all that had occurred. That would have included the earthquake, the angel and the missing body of Jesus.

The Priests’ Plot – Matthew 28:12-15

Verse 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.

The chief priests now call for the elders, the Sanhedrin, to assemble so that they might figure out a plan to deal with this situation. Notice that there is no questioning of the soldiers about what happened. Their story was taken at face value to be the truth. This lack of challenge to the soldiers’ story demonstrates that they believed the soldiers. What they had been told was the truth.

This story should have shaken them to the core and resulted in their repentance on the spot. This was an obvious great work of God and it demonstrated that Jesus’ claims were true. But they refuse to recognize the truth. They are blinded by their own sin and instead develop a plan to try and deny the story. They bribe the soldiers to assist them by lying about the situation as a damage control measure.

This is a factor we must keep in mind as we proclaim the gospel to others. We cannot argue them into the kingdom. We cannot overpower them with all the facts that prove Jesus’ claims. When someone rejects the Lord Jesus Christ they also reject the truth and its claim on their lives. They willfully and knowingly hold to what is not true simply because that is what they want to believe. Paul describes this condition of sinful man in Romans 1 in several ways including that they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (18), and “they exchange the truth of God for a lie” (v. 25).

There should have been immediate repentance on the part of the chief priests and elders at the news brought to them by the soldiers, but instead they reject the truth and seek to cover it up with a lie. Do not be surprised as the responses you get from people. They may even agree with you while you are talking with them, but they reject it anyway. That is the deep sinfulness in the heart of man. That may even be the response of some here today. You know the truth, but you refuse to heed it, and so you continue to live your life according to the lies and deception of your own mind.

The soldiers had been in a nearly hopeless situation. It initially appeared that no matter what they did they could lose their lives for negligence of duty. Now it seemed to be a win, win situation. Instead of the chief priests being mad at them and demanding their lives, they make a deal where they would both be protected from anything Pilate might want to do to them, and they are paid a large sum of money.

The deal may look attractive to those who reject God, but as Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? No matter what price was paid to the soldiers for lying about what they had seen, it was not enough to cover the cost of their souls which became condemned by their willful rejection of what they themselves knew to be true. Jesus Christ had conquered death.

The attempt to cover up the resurrection of Jesus with a lie did not work anyway. The account of the bribe to lie was found out and reported and so the very attempt to cover up the truth became another testimony to it. All that the chief priests and elders would have to do to prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead was produce His body. If the disciples had actually stolen the body it should not have been that hard for them to arrest the disciples and find the body, but they knew the truth and did not even bother to look for the disciples. Jesus was no longer dead, so there was no body to find.

“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”

The Response of the Disciples – Matthew 28:16-20

The other gospels recount Jesus’ first appearances to them in Jerusalem and on the road to Emmaus, but Matthew jumps ahead to their meeting with Jesus in Galilee where they had been instructed to meet Him. It was there that Jesus gave them further instruction and gave them their commission for what they were to do for the remainder of their lives after He had ascended to heaven.

“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.”

The reason that we are here today is because the disciples did exactly that. They went out and made disciples who were then baptized and learned to follow Jesus’ commands. Those disciples in turn did the same with others and so on down through the generations to the present. We still strive to do the same thing, and all of it because Jesus rose from the dead proving His sacrifice for sin was sufficient and that His promise of eternal life to His followers is true.

If we die physically we will be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) and will eventually receive a resurrection body at the Lord’s return while Jesus’ disciples who are alive at that time will be transformed and receive their resurrection bodies without ever dying (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55).

What is your response to the resurrected savior? Do you hold to some bribe from the world such as fame, fortune, pleasure that keeps you from believing the truth? Or do you believe and fall at Jesus’ feet to worship Him as did the women on that glorious morning? I pray it is the latter and is demonstrated in every aspect of your life as you strive to live for His glory in all that you say, do and think.

The Lord Jesus Christ is risen!

Sermon Notes – 4/4/2010

The Resurrection of Jesus – Matthew 28:1-20


Has anyone conquered _________, and can they enable me to do the same?

Hinduism: Death is not a ____________, but a door to the next cycle of life. Nirvana escapes that cycle

Nihilistic philosophies: Death is the ultimate ___________from the pain and meaninglessness of life

Most religions: There is some type of life after death – but no one has been there and back to ________it

Christianity: Jesus ___________death & gives life to His followers – spiritually & eventually physically

Going to the Tomb – Matthew 28:1

The women arrive while it is still __________ and it is just beginning to dawn

Mary _____________, Mary (the mother of James & Joseph), Salome, Joanna and other women

They have come with __________________to complete the work they were not able to finish on Friday

The Stone is Rolled Away – Matthew 28:2-3

The severe _____________ makes sure that everyone is awake

In rolling the stone away, the angel would have broken the ___________________

The stone did not have to be rolled away to let Jesus ______. It was rolled away to let the women _____

Fearful Guards – Matthew 28:4

The _________would have been scary enough, the sight of the ______causes them to shake & then faint

An Empty Tomb

The women arrive and find the tomb _________. _________leaves to tell Peter and comes back later

Angelic Announcement – Matthew 28:5-6

The angel ____________ himself and spoke to the women that remained.

The angel announced to them that Jesus had _________ back to life.

Angelic Instructions – Matthew 28: 7-8

The angel told the women to tell the ___________Jesus was risen and for them to meet Him in Galilee

Fear was present from the _____________experience. Joy came from hearing that Jesus was ________

Seeing Jesus – Matthew 28:9

On their way back, Jesus met and greeted them and they fell in ____________ of Him

By taking ___________ of His feet, the women demonstrated Jesus was physically resurrected

The Guard’s Report – Matthew 28:11

Some of the guard had returned at that same time to report to the _______________.

Some of the guard may have __________. If all the guards returned together, ______might have noticed

They report to the __________________ instead of Pilate.

They tell the chief priests _____that had happened – the earthquake, the angel and Jesus’ missing body

The Priests’ Plot – Matthew 28:12-15

The story of the soldiers is ______ questioned, but instead of repenting, they bribe the soldiers to _____

Do not be surprised when people reject Jesus in favor of what they _________ to believe

The chief priests and elders both bribe and _________ the soldiers

All they had to do to prove Jesus was still dead was find His _______- but they did not even look for it

The Response of the Disciples – Matthew 28:16-20

The Lord’s command was ____________ by the disciples and those that followed to the present time

We are to also obey the commission and make ____________ by going, baptizing and teaching.

Jesus has promised His followers both eternal spiritual life and a future ___________ resurrection body


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – 1) Write down all the verses mentioned. 2) Count how many references are made to Jesus being alive. 3) Talk with your parents about the importance the resurrection of Jesus.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What are some of the ways that various religions strive to answer the great question of death? How do those answers comfort their followers? What makes Biblical Christianity different from every other religion? When did the women arrive at Jesus’ tomb and why did they go there? What is the significance of the great earthquake? Why was there a guard at the tomb? What effect did the angel’s presence have upon the guards? Did Jesus need the stone rolled away to exit the tomb? Why was it important that the angel rolled the stone away? Examine the four gospel accounts and determine who came to Jesus’ grave that morning. What did Mary Magdalene do when she found the tomb was empty? Who was present when the angel first announced Jesus resurrection? When did Mary find out Jesus was resurrected? What were the women to do with the news the angel had announced? Why did the women leave the tomb with both fear and great joy? What did the women do when they met Jesus? How do their actions prove that Jesus was physically resurrected? When did the guards report to the chief priests? Why were only some of the guards there? What risk were the guards taking in returning to Jerusalem? What did they tell the chief priests? Did the chief priests believe the guards’ report – why or why not? Why did the religious leaders bribe the guards to lie and offer to protect them from Pilate? How do those two actions demonstrate that the story of Jesus’ resurrection was true? How could the religious leaders have easily proven that Jesus did not rise from the dead? Why didn’t they do anything to try to prove Jesus was still dead? What is the foundational reason that people reject the story of Jesus? What was the response of the disciples to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 28:19-20? What evidence does their response give to the claim that Jesus did rise from the dead? What is your response to the resurrected savior?

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