Click here, Matthew 28:1-10, for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version.
A good sermon or bible study of this lesson will have to begin by looking back to Matthew 27:55-66, and reading forward to Matthew 28:11-15.
Doing this will help you realize that between Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and the guards posted at the tomb, we can be sure that there is absolutely trustworthy, continuous, eye-witness evidence that:
- It was Jesus of Nazareth up there on the cross and not a look-alike imposter.
We know this for sure because Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were close companions of Jesus and would recognize him.
- Jesus really, actually died on the cross on Friday, just before evening, the start of the Sabbath.
We know this for sure because Mary Magdalene and the other Mary heard him cry out WITH A LOUD VOICE, saw him breathe his last, and heard what the Centurion said. Joseph of Arimathea had personal, direct contact with the body and would have known if there was still any life left in the body.
- The body of Jesus was taken from the cross and placed in a known tomb.
We know this for sure because Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, saw Joseph of Arimathea take the body and prepare it for burial, and then sat opposite the tomb.
- The body of Jesus was not secretly removed from the tomb by his followers.
We know this for sure because the opponents of Jesus - the chief priests and Pharisees - had the Roman Governor, Pilate, place Roman guards at the tomb to prevent this very sort of hoax. The guards sealed the tomb with a stone and kept a 24 hour watch.
- The body of Jesus was not in the tomb when the angel of the Lord opened the tomb at dawn on Sunday.
We know this for sure because Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and the Roman guards, were there and witnessed these events.
- Jesus is resurrected, and is not a ghost.
We know this for sure because Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were met by Jesus. Jesus greeted them. They heard him; saw him; and were able to touch him. They recognized him and worshiped him. His body was a resurrected body, but it was actually, factually, really the same Jesus they knew before.
- Jesus is resurrected, and this is not a hoax.
We know this for sure, because in fact we know that the guards were paid to spread this false rumour. Oddly enough, even today people make lots of money writing books promoting this false rumour.
So what? So why is this such Good News?
In order to really get the Good News of Easter, it is important to get our hearts and minds focused on who brutally degraded and killed Jesus, and why they did that.
Well. Let's suppose Jesus had lived a long and happy life and died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by loved ones. If he had then been resurrected on the third day, that would be pretty good news. We could still preach sermons about "Love Is Stronger Than Death." Which is for sure true. And most days is good enough news for me.
Or. Let's suppose that some ordinary person - say, Mary Magdalene - was resurrected. Same thing as before. "Love Is Stronger Than Death." Still is good enough news.
But suppose we learned that someone truly bad - say, Adolf Hitler - was resurrected. Wow! Not such good news. In this case I'd rather that death was a permanent condition.