IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




The Good News

Date: Feb. 5, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

Matthew 27:62-28:15

Key Verse: Matthew 28:6

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.”

After the last Presidential election, fake news has now come into the spotlight.  Some people have said that fake news have influenced the outcome of the election.  Internet companies such as Google and Facebook have faced criticism for unintentionally promoting fake news stories.  What exactly is fake news?  Wikipedia defines it as “unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political or other gain.”  So a newspaper like “The Onion” would be considered news satire, because everyone knows it is fake and the purpose is to entertain.  But a news headline like “Denzel Washington endorses Donald Trump,” when the truth is he did not endorse any candidate, is considered fake news.  Fake news wasn’t just discovered last year, it has probably been around since news existed, but now it is getting national attention.  And it isn’t just the internet, mainstream media such as radio, TV, magazines and newspapers are being criticized as well, by the American people.  When asked about the fake news, Denzel responded, and this you can actually find on You Tube, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed.  If you do read it, you’re misinformed…So what a responsibility you all [the media] have – to tell the truth.”  The truth – this is what people need to hear.  Sometimes the truth can be bad news, or very difficult news.  Sometimes the truth can be good news.  One thing is for sure, real good news is always true, and it is never fake.  Today, as we are very near the end of the book of Matthew and our series “Kingdom,” we have reached the pinnacle and will be given some real good news.  In fact, it is known as THE Good News.

In the past few weeks, as we studied the final day and the final hours of Jesus’ life, we were hit with some hard, heavy news.  Jesus was wrongly sentenced to death, then crucified, and last week we learned about his death.  Thank God, that is not how the story ends, and today we get to the good news.  Again, truly good news is always true.  Fake good news is never good, because fake news always intends to mislead.  So how can we tell if a story is true?  There needs to be true evidence, true facts, and true witnesses.  God will provide these things right now.  Look at v.62-63, “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.  ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’’”  Notice that they have acknowledged Jesus’ death, by saying, “while he was still alive.”  Also notice their continued hatred of Jesus, even after he died.  They would not even mention his name, they called him a deceiver, but they perceived something interesting.  They remembered that he said “After three days I will rise again.”  They were worried about this!  Why?  Because no one had ever rose from the dead before, especially someone who predicted their own resurrection.  If he can predict his resurrection, and then he in fact rises from the dead, then there must be some truth to his words.  He cannot be an ordinary man.  He must be the Messiah.  He must be the Son of God.  The religious leaders may have been thinking, “Oh no, we can’t have that…”

Has anyone ever seen the movie, “The Godfather?”  It’s not a religious movie, in fact it is about gangsters and organized crime.  But there’s a lesson the godfather teaches his son, and it’s this, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”  It is interesting how the religious leaders remembered, and even considered Jesus’ words, but Jesus’ own disciples forgot what he had said.  Perhaps their hatred of Jesus made them watch him more closely, and now they feared that even after his death, he would gain influence.  His disciples, not only the eleven, but all of his followers might get the crazy idea to fake his resurrection, and that was the last thing they wanted.  They wanted the memory of Jesus to forever go away, so they consorted with Pilate.  With Pilate’s permission, they stationed guards around the tomb, and sealed it.  The seal on the tomb consisted of a string that extended from one side of the entrance (in this case the large stone that blocked the entrance) to the other, and in the middle was a piece of clay stamped with a signature of the Roman Empire.  Breaking this seal could incur the death penalty.  Do you see what God is doing here?  He is using his enemies to become the first witnesses to the resurrection.  It is not so much a privilege, as it is a judgment on them and a display of his power and providence.  He is going to shut their mouths so they have no excuse to deny him.  Friend or foe, eventually everyone will acknowledge the Lord.  God here has provided the first witnesses to his resurrection.

The time has come for the main event.  Look at 28:1, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.”  Jesus was crucified on Preparation Day, the day before the Sabbath.  He remained in the tomb on the Sabbath, when the religious leaders stationed guards and sealed the tomb.  The third day has arrived, which was the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the week.  The first day of the week, as you all know by now, is Sunday.  The Mary’s took rest on the Sabbath, in obedience to the Law, and the day after came to the tomb.  Look what happened in v.2-3 “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow.”  What happened?  There was a violent earthquake!  Jesus has risen from the dead!  He burst through the iron grip of darkness and death, it exploded and gave way to light and life.  Death has been swallowed up in victory!!  He put his foot on the neck of death and cut of its ugly head, and vanquished the foe for us forever.  He broke free from the chains of death, and kicked open the gates of hell.  He has risen, and he has risen in glorious victory!  An angel of the Lord came down to do him honor.  The angel rolled back the stone and sat on it.  He broke the seal like some crusty old spider web and rolled the 1-ton stone away like it was made of foam.  See here, a symbol of the open tomb.  Death has been defeated, the tomb is open, and the way of life now open to us all.  Can you hear Christ calling to you, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. (Eph 5:14)”  Jesus gives us the victory over sin and death, the victory is ours in Christ Jesus!  The angel rolled the stone away, and then he sat on it.  Maybe he folded his arms too, and stared at the soldiers.  “What’re you gonna do?”  “Go ahead, make my day.”  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  There were at least 2 guards, some have suggested at least 4, or 16, or even more, but they were powerless before the angel.  They shook and became like dead men, terrified.  See how God easily brushes away all the schemes of wicked men.

The angel said to the women in verse 5, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.”  The angel knows who the friends of Jesus are.  The angel even acknowledges the crucifixion and death of Jesus.  He tells the women “Do not be afraid.”  Indeed, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has made everlasting peace with us.  Notice though, the angel says no such thing to the soldiers.  He says to them, “stay right there.”  Just kidding.  Those who reject Christ will remain in fear, but those who seek him will find peace.

Now here comes the good news.  Can we all please read v.6: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.”  This is the Good News: He has risen!  Why is this such good news?  Because his resurrection is the sign that our sins have finally, forever, been taken away.  Jesus came to give his life as a ransom.  A ransom is a form of payment to free someone from slavery.  His death was the payment that set us free from slavery to sin, which required death from all of us.  God accepted his sacrifice.  By Jesus’ death your sins have been forgiven.  By his resurrection, then, you are declared: righteous!  By his resurrection, you are justified in the sight of God.  Only through Jesus is this possible.  Your money cannot save you.  It cannot make you right before God.  Your good works cannot save you.  Your good looks cannot save you.  Only Jesus can save you, all that is required of you is to believe in the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and you shall receive the righteousness that comes only by faith.  How is this good news truly good?  Because there is evidence.  Jesus predicted his death and resurrection at least 3 times to his disciples.  The resurrection proves his word is true.  That means you can believe that He is the Son of God.  You can believe that He is the Messiah.  You can believe that he will come again, and take you to be with him, forever.  So you can believe that you too, will receive a resurrection into eternal life, and a new body like his, free from corruption, and free from sin.  There is more evidence.  The angel invited the women to “Come and see the place where he lay.”  The body was gone, risen indeed, as the angel had said.

The angel also told them to go quickly and tell Jesus’ disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he will show himself to them in Galilee.  Verse 8 says “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”  What a strange mix of emotions: afraid, yet filled with joy.  Excited, yet terrified.  They believed their beloved master had risen from the dead, but they were not sure what to make of it.  What would he do?  What would he say?  He’s alive!  But.. but..  Look at v.9, “Suddenly Jesus met them.  ‘Greetings,’ he said.  They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him.’”  Woooah.  They just ran into Jesus.  They were the first to see the living Lord.  And Jesus’ first word: “Hello.”  But they clasped his feel and worshipped him.  They were able to touch him.  The evidence for his resurrection doesn’t get better than this.  They also recognized something greater than the Master and Teacher they knew, they recognized his deity.  Jesus is God.  He was their God, and they worshipped him.  What a wonderful faith.  See what he says now in v.10, “Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  Their faith was rewarded; Jesus gave these women a great privilege, as they were the first people on earth to be able to proclaim the good news of his resurrection.  He repeated most of what the angel said in v.7, but with a notable difference.  Jesus said, “Go and tell my brothers.”  Jesus called his disciples “brothers.”  See the great love and compassion Jesus has for his disciples.  They had denied him.  They had deserted him.  They did not believe all he said.  They were sinners, but he came to die for them.  He still loved them, and his grace overflows even more, to where we are called brothers and sisters of Jesus, and of one another. We are all one family, brothers and sisters, in Christ.

 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”  The world does not know God because the world rejects the truth about God.  The truth is evident: in creation, in nature, in the seasons, even in the wonder of the human body.  But the truth of God is suppressed by wickedness, even those who have seen God, do not glorify him nor give thanks to him (Rom 1:18-21).  It is not because of ignorance the truth of God is not known, but because of wickedness and immorality.  We see the same case here, in the Roman soldiers and religious leaders, who seek to suppress the truth and create fake news.  Look at v.11-12, “While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.  When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money.”  The soldiers had become witnesses to the resurrection, and they testified to the chief priests.  The chief priests didn’t say, “Man, you crazy!” but they could not deny the reports.  The fear of the soldiers was all too real.  And if it were many soldiers, it was even harder to deny.  The guards could not lie about the event, because lying about it would cost them their lives.  Their job was to guard the tomb, and failure meant death.  Why would the guards be so convicted to tell the story at the risk of their lives?  Because it was the truth.

The chief priests were forced to own up to this truth.  Their own plans backfired and now instead of preventing the resurrection it confirmed it.  What might happen if they deny the Roman soldiers’ story, and had them killed?  I think they might try to kill the chief priests before that happens.  When told the truth what did the religious leaders do?  They tried to suppress it, and they made up fake news, and bribed the guards with money.  Look at v.13-14, “telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’  If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’”  The chief priests were devious, diabolical, and cunning.  Rather than acknowledge the resurrection, they kept people in the dark.  They were misleading people for their own political gain.  Even Pilate would be confronted with the truth of the resurrection.  As governor, if he heard that his soldiers allowed the seal to be broken, or if he heard that his soldiers were sleeping, he was bound to punish them.  But the chief priests knew how to appease his wrath.  It is sad, that while the chief priests knew how to turn away the wrath of Pilate, at a great cost, they rejected the way to turn away the wrath of God, which was free.  Judgment would remain on them not only for crucifying the Lord, but also suppressing this life giving truth.

The soldiers were also complicit in this sin of spreading fake news for the love of money.  Look at v.15, “So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.  And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.”  This story was meant to mislead many people to think that the resurrection did not happen, but it has many flaws.  If the soldiers were asleep they are admitting that they were not doing their job.  They would not even be able to see who it was that stole the body.  What’s more, the stone on the tomb was sealed and heavy.  The disciples would have to first break the seal.  Moving the stone would require several people, it would take a long time and make a lot of noise.  It would be hard to believe that a Roman guard would not wake up.  Fake news crumbles under scrutiny.  Truth stands the test of time.  Fake news eventually disappears, but the truth lasts.  Fake news is devoid of power when exposed, but truth always has power.

What gave Jesus’ disciples boldness when preaching about the resurrection?  If the resurrection was a lie, or if they stole the body would they not give up at some point?  All of the disciples were persecuted for preaching the resurrection.  Peter and John stood in the Temple Courts and witnessed boldly before the Sanhedrin.  Paul endured persecution, hardships, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks and prison in order to proclaim the resurrection.  Peter was eventually crucified upside down.  James, the brother of Jesus (not the apostle), was thrown 100 feet off the roof of the Temple.  Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India.  The apostle James, the brother of John, was beheaded by King Herod (Acts 12:2).  John was deep-fried in hot oil and survived.  What gave these disciples such power, conviction and resolve?  It was that they saw and believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They saw that Jesus was the true King, the Son of God, and they saw the eternal kingdom and how this world is opposed to it.  They found the way into that kingdom through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and shared the good news no matter what the cost, because their hope was secure through Jesus’ resurrection.

There is power in the resurrection of Jesus Christ because it is the truth.  Matthew provides the evidence of that glorious event, but we can also see the evidence all around us here.  The resurrection is the foundation of the church.  The church exists because of that great event.  The main message of the church is to preach Christ crucified for our sins and to proclaim his resurrection.  We see the truth of the resurrection work itself out as the church grows.  We also see evidence of the resurrection in our own lives.  It has the power to change us.  The resurrection is our comfort, in that we see our sins have been taken away.  There is also comfort in difficulties, knowing God is faithful, loving, compassionate and kind.  The resurrection is our hope, because since Jesus was raised from the dead, so will we be raised, and be made like him.  Here is our hope – that our perishable bodies will be raised imperishable, our dishonor will be raised in glory, our weakness will be raised in power, and our natural bodies will be raised as spiritual bodies (not just a spirit, but a spiritual body, a body with flesh and bones, but with qualities of a spirit, like angels, or like Jesus’ body.  Our bodies today have a lot in common with animals, but in that day they will have more in common with angels, and Christ’s body) (1 Cor 15:42-44).

The resurrection proved that Jesus is the Son of God, because it proved that everything he ever said was true.  He will come again one day, as he promised.  He is the Messiah, and he was raised from the dead and revealed to be our eternal king.  The resurrection was the inauguration of a new kingdom, and a new age.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Good News.  All you need to do to enter in to His kingdom is to repent, and believe the Good News.  He has risen!

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Deuteronomy 23:1-25

Key Verse: 23:14

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