Easter Sunday

Matthew 28:1-10

Words have power. They have the potential to build us up or tear us down. They have a profound ability to strengthen us or weaken us. The Bible tells us the tongue is like a small rudder on a huge ship; it can make the ship turn wherever the pilot choses. It is like a tiny spark that can set a great forest on fire. In the same way it can set a whole life on fire. Many of us still hear the words of our parents or grandparents well into our adult years. They still echo in our thoughts either building us up or tearing us down. Words not only influence us as individuals, but they can also sway entire nations. Let me give some examples. Who said, “I have a dream…” ? Martin Luther King. Those four words helped peacefully advance American civil rights across our nation. How about these words? “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Ronald Reagan June 12, 1987 in his Berlin Wall Speech. Try this one. “That’s one small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind.” Spoken by Neil Armstrong in 1969 while he stepped off Apollo 11 on the surface of the Moon. I remember watching those first steps on a black and white tv as a little kid. Those words took our breath away as a nation. Words have tremendous power.

This morning I want to look at three words found in the Bible that changed the world. If you have your Bible, open with me to Matthew 28. Listen for those three words (Read Matthew 28:1-10). Did you hear them? They are: He has risen. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! Those three words changed the world unlike any before them or since. Why are they so important? They are God’s answer to our greatest fear, our greatest question: What happens after we die?

That reminds me of a little boy named Brian in an Easter program. He was supposed to recite a key verse in an Easter program: “He is not here, He is risen.” Unfortunately, Brian couldn’t remember what to say, so the director quietly whispered his line to him. Renewed with confidence, he grabbed the microphone and triumphantly shouted, “He’s not here; He’s in prison!” When Jesus rose from the dead He freed us from the prison of the fear of death.

I’m going to unpack two things for us this morning: 1) What Jesus resurrection proves, and 2) Why His resurrection matters.

I. What Jesus resurrection proves. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said (Matthew 28:6). Jesus said He would rise from the dead and He did. What does that tell us about Him?

A. His Person. It tells us He is who He said He is – the Son of God. Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6). Jesus didn’t say, “I am a way.” He said “I AM THE way to God.” Jesus claimed to be the only way to Heaven. He claimed to be absolute truth, the ultimate source of life.

Jesus is saying something more though. He is saying I AM GOD. In John 11:25 Jesus said very similar. He said, I am the resurrection and the life. In other words, Jesus is saying I am the One who raises the dead and gives them life again. Only God has the power over life and death. Jesus is saying He is God.

Many people believe in Jesus. But they believe He was merely a good teacher, nothing more. The problem is He can’t be good teacher and lie at the same time. That would make Him a false teacher. Jesus is saying He is more than good. He is God, the One who gave meaning to the word good. C. S. Lewis said it this way: A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’d either be a lunatic – on the level of a man who says he’s a poached egg – or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. The resurrection proves Jesus is who He said He is – God incarnate.

B. His power. No one takes my life from Me. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again (John 10:18). No one took Jesus life. He gave it. No force could take His life or hold Him in the grave. No one takes My life from Me. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again. The Romans didn’t take it. The Jews didn’t take it. He gave His life when He knew the work on the cross for sinners had been completed. Three days after He was buried, He took His life up again. When the angel rolled away the stone, Jesus wasn’t there because He’d already risen. The stone wasn’t moved to let Jesus out, but to let the world in! There are some 15 instances in the NT of what Jesus did after He rose from the dead proving He was physically alive.

He walked around Jerusalem for 40 days. He ate with His disciples showing He was not a ghost. He talked with people. They touched Him. At one point, He offered Thomas the doubter to put his finger in the nail holes of Jesus’ hand and his hand in His side where the spear had pierced Him. He told Thomas, Do not be unbelieving, but believing (John 20:27). On another occasion, He was seen by more than 500 people at once. The point is, Jesus rose from the dead. His tomb is empty. I’ve seen it more than once, it’s empty. Unlike the tombs of Abraham or Mohammed or Buddha – Jesus tomb is empty.

The question is, what difference does this make? It means because Jesus is Who He said He is, then what He said He would do for us is true as well. The Bible says God’s mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power to help those who believe in Him (Eph. 1:19-20). The same power that raised Jesus from the dead can help you rise above whatever problems you are facing. If Jesus took care of our greatest problem – death, then He take care of all the little ones as well. The Bible says the same power that raised Jesus is the same power God gives us to overcome our fear of death and allows us to really live for the first time. We can know God’s forgiveness, peace, and joy. The reason we need to trust Christ is not because we may die tonight so much as it means we can live today. What does Jesus resurrection prove? Jesus is God and He has the power to change my life. And, He has!

II. Why Jesus resurrection matters. The angel said, Come see the place where He was lying (Matthew 28:6). This was God’s invitation to see for themselves the grave was empty. Jesus was risen. After watching this angel appear like lightening, effortlessly move the massive stone, experience an earthquake, and then watch the Roman guards fall like dominoes in fear, the last thing these women wanted to do was get any closer to Jesus tomb! The invitation was from God. He wanted the women to see for themselves the tomb was empty. This morning God is inviting you as well to see that Jesus tomb is empty and know why it matters. Let me give you three reasons.

A. Our fears are conquered. Fear is the one consuming emotion that depicts our world. Covid-19 proved that. Not long ago we held a Covid-19 panel where I asked two friends, a medical doctor, Dr. Scott French, and a lawyer to speak about the medical and legal concerns of the pandemic. Dr. French pointed out the greatest fear that Covid-19 surfaced is the fear of death. When you believe this life is all there is, there’s nothing more after this – death is a terrifying reality. Covid-19 unleashed a world-wide tsunami of fear of death.

When the women came to the tomb, the first thing the angel told them was not to be afraid. The angel said, “Do not be afraid…” (Matthew 28:5). Then, a short time later they saw Jesus. The first thing He tells them is to not be afraid. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10). The reason they’re told to not be afraid is because Jesus rose from the dead. The Bible tells us those who have placed their trust in Christ do not need to be afraid because Jesus conquered our greatest fear, the fear of death when He rose from the grave. The book of Hebrews says, He has set free all those who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying (Heb. 2:15). The Bible says the fear of death is a bondage, a prison. You may believe all the commercials that say we’re getting better. You can recapture your youth if you take this product. The truth is, we’re getting older. The numbers don’t lie: 10 out of 10 people die.

Jesus settled the issue of the death and the fear of death on the cross. That’s why He came. Jesus is our sin-bearer who conquered death, so we don’t have to live in fear of death anymore. Jesus said because He lives, we will live as well. We can be sure where we go when we die. The Bible says the moment a believer dies, he is present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).

Maybe you’re afraid of another kind of death. Maybe you’re living in fear of financial bondage. Will I have enough money to be able to retire? What happens if the economy crashes? Can I count on Social Security to be there? How am I going to afford medical costs?

Maybe you’re living in a fear of relational death. What if I my marriage doesn’t make it? What if I experience rejection again? What if I never meet the right one?

Maybe you’re living in a fear of vocational death. What if I lose my job? What if this company fails? What if I can’t find another job?

Because Jesus conquered death, our greatest fear, there is no need too great that He cannot meet. God’s invitation to see the empty tomb is ours as well. He is speaking to you when He says,

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 11:28-29). For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7, NKJV). Why does Jesus resurrection matter? God broke the power of death and the fear of death. Because Jesus lives, we will too. There is life beyond the grave. A second reason is…

B. Our failures are forgiven. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead… (Matthew 28:7). Then Jesus said…go and take word to My brethren… (Matthew 28:10). Why weren’t Jesus disciples the first to see the empty tomb, to see Jesus? The women were the last ones to leave Jesus when He hung on the cross and the first ones to see His empty tomb. Where were Jesus’ disciples? They were hiding in fear. You may remember, all of the disciples abandoned Jesus. They left Him at the time of His greatest need. It’s not an accident the angel calls them disciples and Jesus calls them My brethren. They may have a abandoned Jesus, but God had not abandoned them. God wanted them to know His forgiveness.

Jesus knew His disciples would forsake Him. On the evening they left Jesus He told them they would fall away. That the Bible foretold the Shepherd would be struck down and His sheep, the disciples will scatter (Zech. 13:7).

The truth is all of us have let God down. We’ve all done things we regret. We’ve all failed. We’ve all done things that disappointed God, disappointed others, disappointed ourselves. Jesus came to bear our sin, to take our punishment for the things we’ve done wrong. The Bible says Jesus came to forgive, not to condemn. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross (Col. 3:14, NLT). The word canceled means to cause to cease to exist. When Christ died on the cross, He caused the record of all our sin to cease to exist. (Jesus)Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24).

There are two keys on my computer I use a lot: Backspace and Delete. Both erase mistakes, typos, words I start to write then need to undo. When I do, there’s not a trace of the mistake left behind. It is completely gone as though it had not been there. The Bible says that’s what Jesus forgiveness means. It erases all your sin without leaving a trace.

God wants you to know this morning, regardless of who you are, or what you’ve done, your debt of sin was canceled on the cross. Christ paid for it in full. All that is missing is for you to accept God’s invitation of forgiveness. He paid it all so you can stop nailing yourself to your cross of guilt and regret. You may feel like you’re failure is too great. You’ve let God down one to many times. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). There is no sin too great God cannot and will not forgive if we come to Him and ask His forgiveness. Why is Jesus resurrection important? Our failures are forgiven. A third reason…

C. Our future is secure. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). A number of years ago I went to the hospital to visit a man whom I’d never met. He’d been diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. The doctors told them there was nothing they could do. No surgery. No medication. No hope. They shared with him the only thing he could do was go home and enjoy life the best he could. There was nothing they could do for him.

I will never forget stepping into his room. The air was thick with the fear of death. His face was haggard worn by fatigue, his eyes filled with dread. As I began talking with him, he said he wanted to believe in Christ but wasn’t sure what it was he needed to believe. He’d never examined Christ’s empty tomb. He’d never heard the angels words: His is risen.

For the better part of two hours, we explored Jesus empty tomb and its significance. We covered every inch of it; why Jesus died on the cross, that He was buried, and that He rose again from the dead. Jesus said what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul? (Mk.8:36). Life in this world was slipping between his fingers. He knew what mattered was his soul.

When I left his room that day, he was a different man. The thick chains of the fear of death holding him in bondage were gone. He understood Jesus cross canceled the full debt of his sin. The hope of eternal life was real to him. His future was secure because of Christ. God’s peace and joy

that are greater than our understanding was his. His entire countenance was dramatically changed. For the first time he understood the meaning of those three words: He has risen!

Invitation: Some of you are living in fear. You’re not sure you’d go to Heaven if you died.

I’m going to ask you to put your trust in Christ this morning. Trusting Christ is making a commitment to follow Him. In making that commitment, I’m going to ask you to come forward to pray and trust Christ. Jesus said, Whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven (Matt. 10:33). When couples get married, they make their commitment publicly before God, family and friends. Trusting Christ is a commitment God does not want us to keep to ourselves.

A Prayer to Accept the New Life Jesus Offers

Dear Jesus. I believe You are who You say You are – both Lord and Savior. You came to earth to die on the cross for sinners. You proved it by rising from the dead conquering sin, death, and the grave. Jesus, I ask You to forgive me of my sins and come into my life. You said he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Lord, I believe and I thank You for the gift of Your forgiveness and eternal life. I want to commit my life to You. I want to know You personally as my Lord and Savior. I pray this in Your Name Lord Jesus. Amen.

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