The Death of Death
March 27, 2016
There are moments in time when all of a sudden something happens and everything changes. You can name just about any movie you watch, and there is a moment when all of a sudden, everything changes. We can almost predict it. It’s part of the story, the drama. It’s actually a shock to our system when that doesn’t happen in a movie. We are conditioned for that. It’s actually a very powerful reality in movies, and I want to tell you that the empty tomb of Jesus changes everything. The empty tomb must change our reality, it impacts who we are, how we live, and why we live the way that we live.
Jesus, the Pharisees, and the chief priests had issues. They’re like the Democrats and the Republicans today. In fact they are like Donald Trump and anyone else. They just don’t get along. Jesus was offensive to the chief priests and Pharisees because He undermined their authority. Everything about his ministry bothered them. The fact that the disliked tax collectors, the immoral harlots, the uneducated, the sick, the outcasts . . . all flocked to Jesus – – – really bothered the religious people. They were blemishes to them. They were not only tired of Jesus, they also believed Jesus broke Jewish law when He claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah. They wanted this whole Jesus thing to be over. So, they went to Pilate and finally Pilate agreed to crucify Jesus.
Finally, when it all seems to be over, the Jewish leaders remembered what Jesus had said. Matthew tells us ~
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation (the Sabbath) the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate
63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while He was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’
64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples go and steal Him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”
65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.”
66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66
You can’t stop the work of God. The chief priests and the Pharisees wanted to stop Jesus from being resurrected from the grave, and they thought, We’re going to make a plan and there’s absolutely no way this is going to happen.
It’s important to remember we can’t stop the work of God. If we’re all honest, there are things going on, circumstances in our lives, situations where God wants to bear fruit in our lives, and we put our proverbial foot down, Mm-mm. No way, Lord. You’re not going to do that.
Just like the Pharisees and the chief priests we say, “God, this is unacceptable in my plans.” For the Pharisees and the chief priests, Jesus was unacceptable to their plans. So they were trying every way to stop what God was doing.
Did you notice what’s at the end of verse. They’re saying to Pilate, “Listen, the first deception Jesus told people was that He was the Messiah. We don’t believe He’s the Messiah. But you know what would be worse? If His disciples come and say He’s resurrected from the grave. That would be a huge problem for us. So can you take care of this for us?” Notice what Pilate says. “You have a guard. Make it as secure as you know how.”
Then we see in verse 66, they sealed the tomb with a stone and put guards in front. There were now three obstacles to Jesus being resurrected.
First, there was a stone rolled in front of the door. This was a cave that had a huge rock in front of the door. So there’s a physical barrier, a physical obstacle, to the resurrection of Jesus.
Second, they sealed it. The idea of sealing showed the political authority of Pilate saying “This is all right that we seal this tomb.” So the politics of the day said Jesus isn’t coming out of the tomb.
Third, there’s the guard. Not only is there a physical obstacle and a political obstacle, but now there is a military obstacle.
This is the set up for resurrection Sunday. They’re trying to stop what God is doing. In Matthew 28 we see that those obstacles didn’t work. Although there’s all these obstacles, there’s this big stone, there’s the seal of Pilate, the guards are there. But you’re not going to stop God’s plans.
We see in Matthew 28 ~
1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here, for He has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where He lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.”
8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.
9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” 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 tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
So it’s early Sunday morning and Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are coming to the tomb.
They were coming to finish the anointing process, to put anointing spices on Jesus. They weren’t coming to see a resurrected Savior. They were coming to anoint the body of a dead One. They show up, but and there’s this angel sitting on top of the tomb. There was an earthquake, the stone was rolled back, the guards were frozen in fear.
This angel is sitting on top of the tomb, his face is like lightning. You’ve got to love the angel. It’s the swag of the angel. You don’t ever think about the angel having swag, but they do. He just plops down, and. “The guards shook for fear, and they became like dead men.”
When the women show up, notice what the angel says —
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.”
Jesus told people He was going to be resurrected from the grave. Now I realize today, Easter Sunday, there’s a lot of people who are thinking, You know what? I just don’t believe Jesus was resurrected from the grave. You know what? I have real reasons not to believe in the resurrection. Who can really believe Jesus was dead and He came back to life again? I realize that’s a legitimate argument. I held that argument. I didn’t grow up in church, so I haven’t always believed Jesus rose from the grave.
You see, I have come to believe, nothing will stop God from accomplishing His plans and purpose. We may not like it, we may not agree with it, we can look at this crazy world and see the terrorism and hatred, but God didn’t create that. We did! We want to be god, and we play god . . . but God comes to us and says I have a better plan for you. It’s a plan which will give you the real and true life, but you’ve got to believe in the unbelieveable.
Christianity would have never gotten off the ground 2,000 years ago if they just produced the body. When all this stuff starts going on, He’s resurrected from the grave. All they had to do was say, “No, no! Look His body is right here. Here he is!”
Christianity would never have gotten anywhere. But they weren’t able to produce the body. Why? Because He wasn’t there. The stone was removed. He was risen just like He said.
Now what happens next is exciting, because notice what the angel says to Mary and the other Mary. The angel said ~
6 Come, see the place where He lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead
First the angel says, “Come and see.” Then the angel says, “Go and tell.”
This is important for us — all of us need to come and see, and then we need to go and tell.
I realize a lot of people only come to church on Easter and Christmas. I’m not poking fun at people. I once was one of those people. The difference was I did it within Judaism. I went to Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur worship services. I was a 2 times a year person myself.
So, I understand why a lot of people don’t come to church. I mean, think about it. The songs. They’re good songs. The praise team and choir are good. Most messages are good. But, after you hear me for a couple of weeks you figure you’ve heard everything I have to say. Then, we have to do this again?
Or maybe it’s the miracles. They’re hard to believe. I’m with you! Or you don’t like all of the people. Or the music isn’t your style of music. Or I’m not speaking in your style. Or you’re just not sure about this Jesus stuff. We could go on with the lists of reasons not to come. I’ve been there and add to it, when I went, most of the service was in Hebrew!
This is all important because when we come here and when we leave here, we are called to be the church. We are to be the people who represent the work the Holy Spirit has done in our lives, and sometimes, I’ll be honest, we just don’t do a good job of it. There’s nothing worse than a grumpy and grouchy Christian.
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So, the angel told the women to “Come and see. . .” It’s the same thing I tell you this morning, and really it’s the same theme every Sunday . . . come and see . . . come and experience . . . come and open your heart to the possibility that this Jesus is really who He says He is. It’s not who I say He is, it’s who He says He is.
You see, when we come here, we come together in order to have a profound experience with the reality of the resurrection. That’s really a weekly event. We come together as a community to celebrate the reality of what we’re celebrating today. I want you to experience the reality of God’s story in your life. But, it’s not good enough just to come and see.
The angel doesn’t say, “Listen, ladies, the tomb is empty. I’ve got some comfortable recliners for you and some Arnold Palmers. Sit down. We’re going to have a pot luck. Kick back and relax.”
No! The angel says, “Come and see.” They see! Then immediately he said ~ “Now go and tell His disciples that this is all really happening.”
They’re excited, and all of a sudden Jesus shows up. He says, “Rejoice.” They start worshiping Him. Then what does He say? “Let’s all hang out here and hug and sing Kumbaya?” Of course He doesn’t say that. He told them, “Now go and tell my disciples.”
We come and see so that we can have profound experiences with the reality of the resurrected Jesus. Once we have that experience we need to go and join God’s story in the world. Coming to church becomes fulfilling when we are also simultaneously joining God’s story in this world.
I want to encourage you and challenge you. There’s nothing more fulfilling than after you have a profound experience with the resurrected Jesus than to put on that faith and be part of changing the world in Jesus’ name.
That’s where all this faith stuff gets worked out into reality. I want you to experience what it means to have your life changed because of Jesus and for Jesus.
I want you to find yourself in the midst of His story. Not my story, or anyone else’s story. It’s your story placed into God’s story. When that happens you will want to serve God. When you find yourself in the story, not only coming and seeing but going and telling, then it hits you — “Oh, this is why we come to church, because it’s a family reunion and then we scatter throughout the world blessing people in Jesus’ name.”
You see, worship, being the church, what we do on Sunday’s is not about judging what’s good and not good. It’s not American Idol. I never really watched the show. But we can easily turn into Simon Cowell’s. We can be people who have no talent, and criticize and make fun of others. Honestly, the guy sings as bad as I do . . . and that’s bad. He can’t sing, but he can sure make fun of everybody who tries to sing. I’m here to tell you – – – we should rather be a singer, than the guy sitting there critiquing people who are trying.
SO . . . how did Mary and Mary respond? They were fearful and they were full of joy. When Jesus sees them He said, “Rejoice. Don’t be afraid.”
I also believe that’s Jesus’ counsel to you and I today! Don’t be afraid! We all know what it’s like to be filled with fear. We all have it. Could we just be honest about that? We all struggle with fear. Think about the word fear, f-e-a-r — false expectations appearing real.
We think tomorrow is guaranteed! We think we deserve the good! We deserve health, victories, jobs, happiness, wealth. You name it and we think we deserve it. So, we have these expectations which appear real, but in reality we don’t know what tomorrow brings. But our call is to trust that God knows. And God will walk through any and every situation with us.
So our struggles with fear are real because there are just certain things you and I are not in control of.
The presence of Jesus will change your fear to a powerful joy. Joy is not situational or circumstantial. Joy is a matter of the heart. It’s a heart which says – – “God, you are God and I trust you.” In the same way you choose fear — you can choose to trust God and rejoice. From a Christian perspective, Christians with joy is the best testimony of the finished work of Jesus Christ. We have more power than we know what to do with, we just don’t believe we have the power and strength.
But the Romans needed to squelch what was happening so they devised a plan. The guards went to the chief priests and said, “You are never going to believe what happened. There was an earthquake, and there was this crazy angel, and he opened the tomb and he sat down on it. We freaked out. And now He’s gone.”
12 And when the chief priests had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers
13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’
14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. – Matthew 28:12-15
Now I hope you realize this is a bad cover up. This is like “The dog ate my homework.” It’s a horrible excuse and alibi. They slept through it all. Really!?!? But . . . then again, what about us?
Have some of us been spending every ounce of energy not to deal with the fact that the tomb is empty. If Jesus did conquer death, then we have to deal with Him. Don’t miss the fact that your ambivalence to dealing with Jesus is still dealing with Jesus. God created each one of us to have to deal with Jesus. It’s the question Mary and Mary were asking – – – What have you done with Jesus?
If Jesus is who He said He is the only response is absolute allegiance. Because if He conquered death, He’s the only One who’s ever done that. That’s powerful, isn’t it? I want to encourage you today. If you’re here and you’ve never made that decision to align your life with the One who broke the bonds of death, the One who conquered the grave, the One who gives you the ultimate hope in the world, that there’s more to life . . . IF and only IF you believe this, but you’ve never said YES to Jesus, then let today be the day! It’s really the only logical thing to do about a totally illogical event.
I’m here to tell you, because I know what happens now. You say that and someone says, “Well, God will never accept me the way that I am.” He accepts you exactly the way you are. But you know what’s awesome about who God is? He loves us too much to keep us the way we are. He’s changing all of us. We never arrive. We’re all in process. It’s just a matter of if we’re going to say, “God, I’m willing to let you do the work you want to do on me from inside. I’m going to let you move in and change this life from the inside.” God is not afraid of where you’ve been or what you’ve done. What you’ll find is that if you turn to Jesus today He’s already been waiting for you to turn. Just come.
I want to finish with this thought from the Apostle Paul. In Romans 8 ~~
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. – Romans 8:35, 37
Paul asked a great question! Romans 8 is one of the most profound chapters of the Bible. Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Paul answers with a resounding NO!!
He says we are more than conquerors! Let me end with this thought about what that statement means. It literally means we are “super-conqueror” who are “completely and overwhelmingly victorious.” “To over conquer, conquer with success to spare. To demoralize their opponents.”
To give a current example of this would be to look at the score of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball tournament game against Mississippi State yesterday. Connecticut is seeking their 4th straight championship. At the end of the 1st quarter the score was 32-4. After 3 quarters it was 84-20. That’s what Paul means when he was talking about our being more than conquerors. And friends we have that because Jesus broke the hold death has over us.
We are more than conquerors. That’s part of the image of God, it comes through Christ in us. What makes us more than conquerors, it is the victory we have through Jesus.
Queen song – We are the Champions. Voted the most popular song in history.
We are the champions, my friend, and we’ll keep on winning ‘til the end.
It may not always feel that way, but that is our identity. We are the champions, we are more than conquerors. The battle ultimately belongs to the Lord, through Him we are more than conquerors.