(Psalm 30:4-5) “Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. Does this passage not just sing with the beauty of the resurrection? What glorious truths are stated here! I want you to consider how this passage applies to us.
First we are called to sing praise to the Lord because we who were afar off have been brought near. Though we were once enemies of God, though we once breathed out cursing and bitterness with every breath and with every beat of our hearts, now, by His grace we have granted mercy. We have been transformed; a metamorphosis has taken place. We who hated God and all He stands for have been made new creations in Christ Jesus. We were once rebels; now we are His godly ones. Once we had our place among the children of wrath and were subject to His wrath every moment: but now, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we have been shown mercy and compassion. Instead of giving us what we deserved which is eternity in the fires of hell, God has given us life and a future and a hope (a confident assurance) that He who has begun a good work in us will continue to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
According to His mercy He saved us. His anger was for a moment but having been appeased by the application of Christ’s blood, we are recipients of His favor, His divine love which is for a lifetime, for eternity. Though we were once without hope, being with out God in this world, God has granted us joy and peace and an inheritance that will not fade away, that indeed has been reserved for all who love Christ Jesus. We who were once hopeless are now filled with THE blessed hope, the confident assurance that one day our Lord who has saved us from the wrath of God will return and bring us home to be with Him and then we shall ever be with the Lord. Even now we can say with Job that we know our redeemer lives and will again stand upon the earth. And though this body is destroyed, one day in our flesh, we will see God!
Secondly it is a historical fact, a fact which will be demonstrated in this lesson that the resurrection has occurred. Jesus said that He would rise again after three days and He did so. Even though His disciples were not expecting it, and were basically hopeless; hiding out in an upper room somewhere, when Jesus revealed Himself as having been risen, they were at once filled with joy. It took several times for the truth to sink in but their faith gradually grew until on the Day of Pentecost, they became lions of the Faith and turned the world upside down.
Isn’t it interesting, in light of this glorious truth, how joyless many Christian people are! We who are called by His Name ought to be the most joyful people on the planet. We ought to be constantly singing praises to the Lord for His marvelous grace. We ought to be constantly giving thanks to His holy Name. We ought to be the most thankful, grateful, joyful people around. But many Christians, rather than exhibiting joy, are terribly gloomy. Rather than being thankful for all the blessings of God, rather than looking at all the events in their lives as being brought about by God for our good and His glory, rather than trusting God for all things and living and working as unto Him, many Christians spend their days looking at the wind and the waves.
Indeed, many Christians are filled with bitterness towards those whom they should be witnesses of the grace, mercy and patience of God. Rather than doing whatever they do as unto God, which would be a witness of a transformed life, they look with bitterness at their lot in life and complain before the Throne of Grace in the same manner that the children of Israel complained in the ears of God during their time in the wilderness. In this they conform to the world, look like worldlings, act like worldlings, in the Name of Jesus!
These things ought not to be this way! We must take our eyes off of the winds and the waves of this world and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2 . Paul issues a command to us in Ga 6:9 saying “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” But to do so we must fix our eyes on Jesus. We must stop thinking that somehow we are owed something; that we deserve better. Let me tell you that we deserve nothing but wrath and instead God has lavished grace upon grace in our lives.
As we look at what God would have for us this morning, let us determine to take our eyes off of ourselves. Let us determine as Paul did, to know nothing among anyone but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Let us not be like the worthless slave who lived wickedly and was caught unawares when his Master returned. But instead let us have Paul’s attitude: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1Co 15:10 Rather than having the attitude that we are owed something better, let us consider that we are living in grace; that everything we have and are comes from the hand of God; that we are owed nothing and therefore “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” Lu 17:10
Let our lives reflect that of our Master, Jesus Christ who humbled Himself before the Father. The scriptures tell us that though He was and is God, He did not cling to this; did not sweep His enemies away in the Garden; but rather humbled Himself, laid His life down willingly or as Php 2:7-8 declares “But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. The terrifying demonstration of God’s wrath toward sin and sinners was poured out upon His own Son. Only Omnipotence could bear the crushing load of the sin of multitudes. Isa 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
The stage is set; the awful night of betrayal and trial was over. The horror of the Crucifixion of the Lord of Glory was over. The disciples were hiding in fear that they were next on the list. Only Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, a Pharisee, had been brave enough to bury Jesus’ body.
It is interesting to me that the Chief Priests actually feared that something was going to happen. Now they voiced it in terms of fearing that the disciples would come and steal the body and then claim that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. But the fact that they feared at all speaks volumes about how they viewed Jesus.
Accordingly they went to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, the man they forced into crucifying Jesus and releasing the murderer Barabbas, and they made a very strange request; probably no such request had ever been made before. They actually asked him for a Roman guard to protect the tomb from the disciples; they had no idea that the disciples had less faith than they did. Pilate gave them a Roman guard to protect the tomb and a Roman seal was placed on the tomb to further secure it.
Consider the elaborate measures that were taken; very sophisticated precautions for a dead man don’t you think? The Roman army was the most efficient, most fearsome fighting machine in the world: their skill on the battlefield was legendary and only the Parthian cavalry had been able to hold them off temporarily because of their skilled archers. These soldiers were the most disciplined men one could have used; any violation or infraction of their duties was punished by death. And so we have these valiant, disciplined, powerful men; the most powerful guard man could muster, now standing guard over the tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Roman Seal, whose breaking by any unauthorized person or persons meant death, was intact over the door of the tomb.
But even these powerful legionnaires with their fearsome weapons and their Roman Seal were not ready for what happened next.
Events were about to unfold which would shake the foundations of the earth, all the way to the Imperial throne of the Roman Emperor. Consider that Jesus had been placed in Joseph’s tomb on the day of Preparation, which would have been Wednesday evening since the Religious leaders didn’t want anyone hanging on the Cross upon sundown when the Passover began. And we are going to be looking at all the Gospels to get a clear, complete picture of all that took place; kind of like the life of Christ in Stereo. Let’s begin with (John 20:1) where we read thus…1Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came* early to the tomb, while it was* still dark, Turn now to Matt 28:1-2. “Now after the Sabbath, (which would be Sunday) as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. Note the picture here; it is of mourners going to pay their last respects at the grave rather than those who have come to see a resurrected Lord. These have come to pay their last respects to one whom they loved. Luke’s Gospel says that the women were coming to anoint the body of Jesus with spices which is what one did at a burial.
It is plain to see that they didn’t believe that He would rise again even though He had told them on several occasions. In their minds they believed that this was the end of wonderful experience. It’s over and now they are planning to go back to their old lives. But something had happened! Events were unfolding that would cause them to forget their sorrow for the joy that would fill their souls. Verse 2 tells us “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.
Remember that Joseph of Arimathaea had a tomb in a garden where he buried the body of Jesus and we read in Matt 27:59-60 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. Was this the shroud of Turin? Many people think so. But the scriptures clear this up as John specifically declares that Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped the body in strips of cloth soaked in spices. This was the same manner that Egyptian mummies were wrapped. Soaked in the mixture of myrrh and aloes the strips of cloth would harden into a cocoon shape. The body was wrapped to the neck and a separate cloth was used to cover the face. No shroud of Turin!
After preparing the body thus, we read in verse 60and (Joseph) laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. These grave stones were in a track that went downhill so that gravity would roll it into place. Then the Romans had come and had set an official Roman Seal on the stone. The average weight of these stones was somewhere between 1½ to 2 tons. Humanly speaking this is as difficult as it can get. Roman Guard, Roman seal, 2 ton stone; in the circumstances now facing the mourning women, this stone was an obstacle that stood between them and the body of Christ: or so they thought.
But for God, nothing is impossible. In John 20:2 we see that while the women were approaching the tomb they looked and saw* the stone already taken away from the tomb. Matthew’s gospel tells us that the Angel of the Lord had come down and rolled the stone away and sat upon it. We understand that this was done, not to let Jesus out but to let others in to see that He was risen indeed. Matthew gives us a vivid description of the Angel saying…3And his appearance was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow. This angel literally blazed with heavenly glory. Note the result: 4The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. So much for the invincible Roman Army! “What then shall I do when God riseth up? And when He visiteth, what shall I answer him?” Job 31:14
Do you want to know how you would act if Jesus showed up at your door? Look at the Roman Soldiers. Oh, you say, I’m a Christian. I will not be struck dumb with fear. John, “Beloved disciple” a very real Christian fell down at Christ’s feet as dead.
These guards have the same reaction. And the Angel speaks no word of comfort to these terror stricken men. He just lets them shake and lie there.
But to those who love the Lord, 5The angel whom the writer of Hebrews describes as …ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? Heb 1:14 said to the women, “Do not be afraid; Lovelier words could not have been spoken. The emotions of these women had been tossed about much like the disciple’s boat on the Sea of Galilee. And when Jesus appeared, walking on the sea, their fear grew more intense. But then He spoke these wonderful words, “It is I, do not be afraid.” When He had spoken, peace flooded their hearts as surely as the storm calmed and the sea grew still.
The Angel didn’t stop there. His next words gave them renewed life and hope and joy as He said…for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. I know that you saw Him dead upon the cross. I know that you watched a Joseph and Nicodemus prepared His body for burial and laid Him in this very tomb. I know that you have been filled with sorrow and despair at the loss of your Friend. But I have news for you. He has risen! In Luke 24:5-7 we read “and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6“He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
Matthew 28:6 reads “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come; see the place where He was lying. Now seeing the place where our Lord had lain was an experience. Not only was the body not there but the wrappings which, soaked in the spices had hardened into a cocoon of sorts, was lying there in a manner in which you could see the shape of the body; but without a body. In other words, you could look down the hole and see emptiness. Jesus has risen just as He said.
The angel then sent these first witnesses of the resurrection to the disciples. We read their instructions in verse 7“Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” Notice that the women didn’t stay around to ask questions. Instead we read 8And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. Remember our opening passage; their weeping endured for a short time. They had experienced the dark night of the soul as they mourned the death of Christ. Oh but joy came with resurrection morning and how great was their joy.
As they were going we read in 9And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10Then Jesus repeating the words of the Angel said* to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Turn now to John 20. John focuses on Mary Magdalene. Some commentators say that Mary left before the other women and did not see the risen Lord. Having departed from tomb we read in verse 2So she ran* and came* to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said* to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Though women were not considered reliable witnesses in those days, the disciples, who also were grieving, were moved, at least by curiosity to the point that Peter and John decided to check it out.
Verse 3 tells us So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5and stooping and looking in, he saw* the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6And so Simon Peter also came*, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw* the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. The Shroud of Turin has been debunked by the Word of God! Peter saw the cocoon shaped wrappings and was filled with wonder.
8So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. Not that He was risen but that something had happened…9For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10So the disciples went away again to their own homes. They went away scratching their heads and wondering but not realizing all the ramifications of the wonderful event that had just transpired.
Now Mary Magdalene, who had followed the men stayed behind, filled with despair at the lost of the body of the Lord. We read in verse 11But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12and just as the other women had, now she saw* two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. In her great grief she did not realize that these men were angels. 13And they said* to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said* to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter and John hadn’t believed. She had turned to them for an explanation but they went away without giving her anything.
Before the angels could respond Christ appeared by her side for God now speaketh to us by his Son; none but he himself can direct us to himself. Mary longed to know where her Lord’s body had been taken, and now, behold He is there. 14When she had said this, still filled with anguish she turned around and saw* Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. John Gill says that this may be due to the fact that she was weeping and her eyes were clouded by the tears. But the scriptures again tell of the compassion of the Lord. In (Psalm 34:18) we read that The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Here was one who was crushed in spirit and broken hearted. See how Jesus delivers her from her anguish and opens both her physical eyes and the eyes of her understanding. 15Jesus said* to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said* to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16Jesus said* to her, “Mary!” With the speaking of her name the lights came on. He said it in that familiar tone He had always used. And just like when He broke bread before the two whom He had journeyed with on the road to Emmaus, so here too was that familiar mannerism which opened her eyes. She turned and said* to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17Jesus said* to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”
Again we see a transformation; the tears of sorrow were gone, replaced by shouts of joy. Instantly she was off to tell the disciples. 18Mary Magdalene came*, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her. For Mary Magdalene all doubts were dispelled with the last shades of night. Though weeping endured for the night, the darkness was dispelled as Jesus revealed Himself to her and she too was filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Turn to Matthew 28:11-15 where we find the second group of witnesses, hostile witnesses at that; the Roman soldiers. “Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. It is interesting how the guard came to the Religious leaders for help. But the reason is clear; they had failed in their duty and the penalty was death by burning. They had the sentence of death hanging over them. 12And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they came up with a plan. Note first that “they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,” they bribed the soldiers who were only too eager to comply if their lives were saved. Here was the plan 13and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ Now I have stated before the absurdity of this statement.
When you are asleep are you aware of what is going on around you? No! But no one, it seems ever questioned this statement. Now the question must be asked; why, if Jesus hadn’t risen, didn’t the Pharisees and the Roman soldiers just go and get the body and end this whole charade? That’s all they had to do. Joseph of Arimathaea was a member of the Sanhedrin and so they would know where the tomb was. It wasn’t in a secret place. Now we must speculate that either the Pharisees went to the tomb themselves and say the empty grave-clothes or they took the word of the Roman guard whose demeanor spoke volumes about what had taken place. And so they came up with a plan to spread a lie about the disciples and the body of Jesus saying 14“And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15And 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.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, it was time for Jesus to reveal Himself to the disciples. Note; they had been told by Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, that Jesus had risen from the dead and still they were unmoved. Peter and John had seen the empty tomb and the hollow grave clothes with their own eyes; nothing! The two men had told of seeing Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Still nothing! Though they were filled with wonder at the information they remained unmoved.
But this indifference was about to end.
Back in John 20, we read in verse 19So when it was evening on that day, notice that all these events happened in one day…the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, (as I stated before, they believed they were next on the list, that it was open season on those who followed Jesus and they were full of fear…Jesus came and stood in their midst and said* to them, “Peace be with you.” Luke 24 gives us the reaction of the disciples and it wasn’t “Hey look guys its Jesus guys. Nice to have you back man. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Consider that the men from the Emmaus road had just burst in and 35They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:35) when suddenly…36While they were telling these things, (remember that they were behind locked doors) He Himself stood in their midst. And He spoke those words of comfort. Now again, notice the reaction of the disciples; which would be the reaction of anyone who thought they were safe and secure behind locked doors and who suddenly realized they weren’t alone! 37But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.
38And He seeking to bring comfort to their sorrowful, fearful hearts, said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Consider that Jesus had sent at least 3 groups of witnesses to the disciples. They had all delivered the same message, Christ’s message. “I have risen from the dead. You saw Me crucified and buried but here I stand before you alive. I told you that I have power over life and death. I told you that I would be betrayed into the hands of wicked men who would crucify Me. But I also told you that I would rise 3 days later. Now look! 39“See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (John 20:20) tells us “And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Back in Luke 24) 40And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43and He took it and ate it before them.
Now it was that they believed though their belief, their faith would be complete on the day they saw Him rise into heaven. Now it doesn’t say so but I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t dance around the room singing praises to God and worshiping their beloved with shouts of joy. I believe that at that moment, their happiness knew no bounds.
Now consider this: this same Jesus Christ is our Lord too. He has come to us, relieved us of our burden of sin, translated us from the kingdom of darkness and made us sons and daughters of God. He has removed our filthy rags and clothed us in the robe of righteousness. He has removed that horrible, unfeeling stony heart and replaced it with one of flesh. He has revived our dead spirits and the scriptures tell us that He has made us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
With that Holy, once for all sacrifice has come freedom and deliverance from a bondage that was far worse than any slavery that man could ever devise. Divine favor has been lavished upon us in Christ Jesus our Lord who has washed away our sins in the cleansing stream of His precious blood. Where once there was only weeping and bitterness and a fearful looking forward to the wrath that we have incurred for our sins, now there is joy for the Glorious Lord of Hosts has delivered us from our slavery to sin, self and Satan. Where once there was misery now there is grace upon grace!
As we ponder these truths let us do so with the renewed desire to live for Jesus with all of our hearts. Let us take our eyes off of our petty troubles and remember that God is directing all things that come to pass in our lives: that all things are working together for our good and His glory: that He is indeed at work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. I call upon you to “Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; of a truth weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:4-5