Matthew 28: 1- 20, Jesus is Risen!
The women went back to the tomb to finish His preparations because they were unable to do so earlier due to the Passover. When they came upon the tomb, the stone was already rolled away and the chamber, where Jesus' body was supposed to be, was empty. They were confused and perplexed. What had happened? Did the Romans take Him? Did the Scribes do something heinous to His body?
Then, suddenly, an angel appeared, striking fear and awe in them. He told them that Jesus has risen, and to go back to Galilee and tell the disciples. The religious leaders were stunned. They quickly tried to spin the situation to their favor by bribing the soldiers to tell lies saying the disciples stole the body. Then, Jesus appeared, eliminating all doubts and questions. He then gave the final marching orders for the purpose and reason of the Christian life-to know Jesus and make Him known!
1. Sabbath went from Friday at sundown to Saturday evening. Thus, they had to wait to go to the tomb until Sunday morning. The significance here is that this is the reason why we worship Jesus on Sunday and not Saturday, although as Paul states later, day and time is not as important as having our hearts and minds focused upon Him (Rom. 12:1; Col. 2:16-23; Heb. 12:28)!
a. Mary. The first ones to see Jesus arisen were the women. This is very important because in this time and culture, a woman's testimony was irrelevant. Jesus is validating women-their personhood and worth! He goes counter to the cultural norm here to make His point. To reveal Himself to the women first shows that He is the One that is significant, and not our traditions or beliefs. However, it will take several centuries for this reality to set in as far as the church is concerned.
b. Angel. These are messengers for God, and are so awe-inspiring that they strike up fear and make people want to worship them (Judg. 6:22-23; 13:19-20). People think they are gods; however, angels-real ones-always say, fear not, and point to God rather than themselves. Because of their tendency to glow, most Jews believed that angels were made of fire.
c. Galilee was a small fishing village beside the huge metropolis of Capernaum. It was considered religiously insignificant, as Jerusalem was the center of religion for the Jewish people (Ex. 25:8-22; Neh. 11:1-2; Jer. 3:17). In Matthew, chapter 27, we read that the veil was torn, signifying that the Temple and Jerusalem were no longer the center or place to worship; rather, men would now worship wherever their hearts were in Him (John 4:21-24). Beforehand, people had to go to Jerusalem to know God; now, the people of God are called to go to the people!
2. Guard. These were harsh and hardened Roman soldiers who took their jobs seriously. To fall asleep or abandon one's post meant not only execution, but the possibility that their families might also bear the consequences. The priests who had money and influence (Matt. 26:15) would have to put them in their version of a "witness protection program," or they would be hunted down by their fellow soldiers in disgrace. Thus, a true Roman guard would normally not go though this. These may have been killed by the religious leaders who then blamed the Christians, spreading the false reports themselves. They also blamed the guards. It was possible that the guards were overcome with greed and spread the false reports themselves. The bottom line is that lies, manipulation, greed, and pride took over the religious leaders as they sought to squash truth.
a. Elders were the older men of a community (Ex. 4:29; Num. 11:25), probably part of the ruling body of the Jewish religious community called the Sanhedrin. They needed to explain the empty tomb because they could not deny it. They refused to see the veracity of who Christ was and what He did.
b. Gave a large sum of money. Bribery helps force another's will in order to get cooperation and have one's desires met. They were desperate to prove Jesus was a hoax, even though they knew better! Bribery was a common form of getting what you wanted regardless of the truth, what was best for community, or of pleasing God. They did not succeed!
c. If you are committed to your beliefs, and refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to convict you, you will remain in your sins and unsaved!
d. Jesus' resurrection meant He overcame His dead body and was transformed back to life. Lazarus was also raised, but Jesus, in this context, was proving His divinity (John 10:17-18; Acts 13:30-35; Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:50-54; Phil. 3:21; Heb. 7:16-24).
3. The Eleven. This indicates the remaining disciples, whom, as the Gospel of John records, went back to their former way of life (John 21:1-3). Now, once again, they encountered a "mountain top" experience. This time, it was Jesus' final orders. All that was important started with a couple of sentences.
a. Mountain. It was common, in biblical tradition and texts, for God to reveal Himself in mountain settings.
b. Some doubted. The magnitude of Jesus' resurrection was beyond mere comprehension; without seeing it for themselves, as Thomas asked for and received, many refused to believe. Others truly believed by faith and worshipped Him. For us, although we do not have Jesus physically showing us His hands and feet (John 20:26-28), we do have the Spirit that reveals the truth to us. Jesus said, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20: 29). Jesus did not fit the expectations of the people, the religious leaders, or, the disciples. A total change in worldview had to occur before He could be accepted fully (Phil. 3:1-14).
c. All authority refers to Jesus being fully God, having all omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence; thus, He is the ruler over the entire earth. This is also a reference to Daniel 7:13-14.
d. This passage has classically been called, "The Great Commission," as these are the marching orders for our faith and practice! This is also the hallmark passage for evangelism and missions!
e. Make disciples refers to what rabbis did, that is, take people under their wing and teach them the Scriptures and procedures of the Temple and life. Thus, they could then become rabbis, and so forth. There were few formal schools then; and, even after going to a formal school as Paul did, becoming a disciple was still paramount, as it is yet today! The Jews baptized, but not in the name of people, but rather, for repentance. Jesus is God and He saves; we respond by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Eph. 1:3‑14; 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 1:18‑2:16; 15:1‑8). The difference is that rabbis made disciples like themselves, with their traditions and beliefs. We are called to make disciples like Christ, and teach His precepts and ways!
f. Baptize meant conversion and identification; the person was to become identified as a person of faith and as a follower of Christ. It does not presuppose a ritual, but rather a mindset. The physical act of baptism is essential (not for salvation), as it is a public showing of our faith and commitment. The specifics of how and when are not as important as the faith and obedience to follow Christ (Matt. 4:18-19).
g. Teaching means to show what is in the Scriptures, how to understand God's Word, what is God saying to us, and how to live by God's Word. Personal instruction helps us understand and then apply His precepts into our lives. We are to live for Him and to serve Him. For the rabbi, this meant the Law, Commandments, and the Prophets. Now, it also means the teachings of our Lord.
h. This passage is also a testimony to the Trinity, that there is One God and there are three personalities of God.
i. All nations refers to Gentiles, as in people who are pagan and not Jewish. Jesus' dominion is all people in all places. He is not limited to time and space! This means Christianity is to all people, Jew as well as Gentile, beyond traditions and religions, and regardless of ethnicity or birthright. Isaiah also predicted this event (Isa. 42:6; 43:10; 44:8). Christ is cross-cultural; He is for all peoples in all times. Only pride can keep a person from Him! This theme occurs throughout Scripture, and was originally stated to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3).
j. Observe. We are called to learn what to believe and to obey. We do this by observing; it is cemented in us by doing! This passage is called "practical holiness." Jesus calls us to observe (to learn and grow) and then to do it!
k. Always be with you. The great comfort we have is that the God of the universe, our Creator and Lord, knows us, loves us, and will be with us! This also refers to Jesus being fully God. One of Jesus' names is Immanuel, which means "God is with us (Matt. 1:23)."
Jesus is risen-He is risen indeed-Hallelujah!
Jesus has all authority! He proved this by not only being God, but by being willing to come as a man to this earth and live the life we could not, nor would not do. He overcame our sins and our enemies (John 12:31; 16:33; Rom. 6:1-7; Rev. 1:17-18)! He kept His promise that He made to Adam to redeem us, and then He sent the Comforter to lead us on (Acts. 1:3; 2:24-35; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30-32; 13:33-37)! Jesus is risen. This means He conquered death (Acts 2:24; Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:50-58). We too, in Him, will undergo a similar transformation, as we live for Him, forgive in His name, are justified (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:17), and will arise in eternity (John 11:25-26; Rom. 6; Eph. 1:18-2:10; Col. 2:9-15; 3:1-4; 1 Thess. 4:14-18; 1 Pet. 1:3).
Without the resurrection, we do not have Christianity-as in saving faith. We just have some great rules and precepts to live by. Well, so do the Buddhists (1 Cor. 15:1-19)! A dead man, no matter how good and great, cannot save anybody. Buddha has saved no one! The difference is we are transformed, and saved for eternity-not just for here and now (John 10:4; 16:10; 2 Cor. 5:20). We are not called to save souls. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. Rather, we are called to help the "soul bearers" to learn and grow!
The people then, as well as now, were confused about the end times and wondered if this was the end of an age or a new beginning. Jesus did not fit the expectations of the religious leaders or of His disciples. The religious leaders rejected Him. The remaining disciples had to surrender their will to His in order to know who He was and what He was doing in them (John 3:30). We cannot make disciples of others until first we, ourselves, become disciples of Jesus (2 Pet. 1:13)! The disciples bore witness to His call to make disciples of all nations; they were His witnesses and His messengers. What will you do about this today (Acts. 1: 22; 4:2, 10, 33; 2 Cor. 5:20)? The key to implement this is to realize who Jesus is-and His authority! When we have acknowledged His authority, then we can allow His work in us. Then, He can use us in the lives of others. The opportunities and potentials are limitless (Luke 10:17-20; John 15:7; Acts 20:24)!
1. What does a typical Sunday morning look like for you?
2. What does this passage mean to you? How has its outcome been-on your attitude and mindset of who Christ is-in your life and in the world?
3. What does it mean that Jesus conquered death and gave us victory and grace?
4. If you had been there with the Marys, what would your response have been? Would you have been surprised? After all, He did say He would arise (Matt. 27:63; Mark 8:32-32)!
5. Why do you think we worship Jesus on Sunday and not Saturday? Does it make a difference?
6. Why did Jesus choose to appear to the women first? Consider that in that time and culture, a woman's testimony was irrelevant.
7. Do you see Jesus as being "countercultural" in this Gospel? How so? Why not?
8. Galilee was a small fishing village; so, why was Jesus concerned about this place and not Jerusalem? What does it mean for us today?
9. What would be some of the motivations of why hardened Roman soldiers would leave their post, an offence that would cause their demise?
10. Why were the Elders so motivated to explain the empty tomb? Why would they deny the veracity of who Christ was and what He did? How is this mindset still in some people today?
11. Do you believe that if you are committed to your beliefs (those that are not focused on Christ), and refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to convict you, you will remain in your sins and be unsaved? Why, or why not? If so, why? What are the barriers that keep you from knowing Christ? If your beliefs were untrue, would you want to know?
12. If a non-Christian came to you and asked what Jesus' resurrection meant, what would you say?
13. Many refused to believe, while others truly believed by faith and worshipped Him. What may be the factors for these contradictory views? Why would some believe? Why would some refuse?
14. What makes this passage the marching orders for our faith and practice? What have you done? Where are you lacking? What do you need to do?
15. What does make disciples mean to your church? What has your church done with Christ's most important call? Why do so few churches and Christians do this?
16. Jesus tells us He will always be with you. How can this help give you motivation and comfort?
17. What does Jesus' statement, all authority, mean to you? How can this get deeper in you so you understand further that He is God, He is all powerful, He is all knowing, and, He is present everywhere? What would that mean to your spiritual walk with Him?
18. How can knowing that we who are in Christ will undergo a similar transformation, as we will live for Him and forgive in His name, and that we are justified and will arise in eternity, better motivate us to share our faith?
19. Why is it that without the resurrection, we do not have Christianity? Why is it that we cannot make disciples of others until we first become disciples of Jesus ourselves?
20. What can you do to help your church see the veracity of The Great Commission and do a better job of knowing Christ so they can then make Him known? What would your church look like doing this? What would your neighborhood look like?
© 2004, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org