Matthew 28:1-15

31 Mar 2024

Matthew 28:1-15

Passage Matthew 28:1-15

Speaker Ben Tanner


Passage: Matthew 28:1-15
Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

You'll find the reading in your sheets that you received at the door. And this morning's reading is from Matthew, chapter 28, verses one to 15.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 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 white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here.

He has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples he has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you so.

The women hurried away from the tomb, afraid, yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them. Greetings, he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, do not be afraid.

Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. There they will see me. 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, telling them you were 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.

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.

Thank you so much, Helen, for reading that for us. Let me add my welcome to that of Neil. My name is Ben, and if we've not met, I'm one of the team here. And it's great to see you and wish you a very happy Easter. But what we're going to do now is we're going to have a bit of a think about that passage that we just red.

It's on your sheets. It will help me. If you can see it on your sheets, that'll be useful. But I'm going to pray. I'm going to ask God to help us as well.

And then I've actually got a friend of mine who's going to help me today. Because today is a very exciting and special day. So why don't I lead us in a quick prayer. Father God, thank you so much. That there are days that change everything.

The day we first meet that loved one, the day that we were born. The day when we. When special things happen to us. Maybe we graduate or we get that job, or we go to that interview. The day we retire.

Father, there are days that change everything for us. But I pray that this day, the Easter day, the first Easter day we would see, doesn't just change everything for us, but changes everything in world history. So help us to see that now. I pray. And would you do that work in our hearts by your spirit, amen.

Amen. Fantastic. Well, it being a special day, I have got one of my friends who is with me, so if I can have my first friend out, that's brilliant. I'm going to give you this microphone here, and I say, look at you, you looking interesting. Who are you?

I am, of course, the great Sherlock Holmes. Very good, very good, fantastic. And you're going to help me with looking at this passage, aren't you? Indeed, indeed. Brilliant.

How are you going to do that? Well, we have three questions hidden under seats, so that we can try and work through and find things out. So if you could cheque under your seats. Fantastic. You're looking under your seats, it'll look a bit suspiciously like an envelope, maybe, and it should have a number on it.

Can you just wave an arm in the air if you see an envelope? There's one over there. There's one over there, and there's one over there. That's good to see. That's great.

Great. Well, shall we start off, then, with question one, who has number one? He's got one with number one written on it. There we go. Wonderful.

So first we're going to look at. Is it possible? Is that what it says? Do you want to read it? Is it possible?

What's it saying?

Doesn't seem very scientific. Interesting. Well, yes, a good argument, that one scientific method does say that things need to be observable, testable and repeatable. Observable, of course. Meaning we can see it, but I can't see it?

Happened. It happened. Happened too long ago. We can't see it. Testable.

How can I create an experiment to show that it happened? We can't really, can we? And repeatable. Well, it's not like we can go back to good Friday to see if Jesus rose again. I see what you're saying there, Sherlock.

You're saying that it's not very scientific. How can we possibly believe that somebody would rise from the dead. Hmm. Do you know, actually our passage does help us out a little bit there. It said that little.

Number two, there was a violent earthquake because an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, going to the tomb. He rolled back the stone, the stone that covered up Jesus tomb, and he sat on it. In other words, there is no embarrassment here in the Bible that what happened then was something that was super natural. It was something that only God himself could do, something that came from heaven. And here's the thing, the Bible is really clear that on that first Easter, God did something that isn't usual.

But some of you guys are thinking, okay, okay, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah. But that's the problem. That's the problem with you guys. You Christians, you see, you believe there's God out there and you trust him with all the confusing bits. But here's the question for you.

If you believe that there is a God who created life, surely it's not that hard to think that if he did it once, creating life, then he can bring somebody back to life as well. But some of you guys are thinking, hey, okay, okay, that's fine. So for you christians, you believe there's a God who made life. I don't believe there's a God, but I want to challenge that slightly. I want to push back on that.

And to help me with that, I'm going to ask my first witness. Can I have the professor, please? The professor, I'll borrow this if that's. You can take the seat on there if you like. Sherlock.

Hello, professor, good to see you. Hello. Hello. Good morning, everybody. Good morning.

It's always good to have a resident professor that you can turn to. I live back there. Excellent. You and your knowledge. And I've lost my notes, but hell no, they're here.

That's good. Now, professor, we've just been thinking about how if there's a God and he made life, then it's understandable that he could bring somebody back from the dead, right? Yes, but if there isn't a God, that gets a bit more complicated. But here's my question for you, professor. With all your vast knowledge, how did life begin if there isn't a God?

Well, we don't know exactly, but we assume that many, many years ago, in a big, big model of chemicals, some special chemicals called amino acids or something like that. Amino acids? Yes, yes, thank you. I do have lots of knowledge on it. Yes, I do.

They began piercing themselves, piecing themselves together into proteins. It's hard to know how this came through, how this came about. Because amino acids are made by proteins, and proteins are made up of amino acids. So how did life begin? We can only really say, it just did.

It just did. So, amino acids, a bunch of chemicals, they're needed to make proteins, but proteins are needed to make amino acids. So one of the big questions that we've got is, where did life come from? If we don't believe there's a God? We just have to say that at some point, something happened to start life.

And that's not something that we can test, we can't go back and recreate it, it's not something that we can repeat, it's not something that happens all the time, life just spontaneously kicking into action. And it's not something that we can observe, is it, professor? We can't look and see that we cannot. In other words, if you're here and you don't believe in a God, then you believe that sometimes things happen that don't follow the rules of nature. Sometimes things happen that seem to happen by miraculous chance.

Now, if that is the case, could that not have happened on that first Easter Sunday? Either God did something amazing, or, just by chance, something equally as amazing as life first happening could have happened again. So, is it possible? Yes, but. Professor, perhaps.

Sorry, but, Sherlock, perhaps. Thank you very much, professor. That could lead us on to our next question. Is it possible? Yes.

Yes. Well, that does bring me to my second question. Who has number two? Question number two under their seat over in the corner there? Can you read it nice and loud.

What does it say? Say it again. Is it true? Hmm? Does it say anything else on there, or just.

Yes. What if it's made up? Is it true? What if it's made up? Okay, so it's possible that something supernatural happened, but this kind of thing doesn't happen all the time.

How do we know that they didn't just make it up or make a mistake? I mean, they didn't even have electricity back then. Couldn't they have just got it all wrong? Hmm, very good question. So if it's theoretically possible that something like this might just have happened, the question is, is what we've got in front of us really true?

Did they just make it up? Are they just being naive? That's a great question. They didn't even have electricity back then. Hmm.

Well, here's the thing. Christians have believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and we believed it right the way back to the time of Jesus. And at the time they weren't, without people challenging them. In fact, we heard it this is an odd thing to do, actually, is the person who was recording it tells you about an argument that was being used against Christians at the time. Do you know what?

Why don't we find out a little bit more about that argument? I'm going to call my second witness, who is a centurion. A centurion. Have we got a centurion? We do.

Fantastic. A remarkably good, a remarkably centurion esque person.

Hello, Centurion. Hello. So we're just hearing about what people are saying about this Jesus fellow who apparently rose from the dead. What do you have to say about that? No, no, of course he didn't rise from the dead.

No, no, no, not at all. No. What happened was some of my soldiers who were guarding the tomb, they fell asleep and somebody came and stole the body. So some of this centurion soldiers guarding the tomb, they fell asleep, somebody came and stole the body. Now, let me ask you a question, Centurion.

Who would steal the body? Well, of course, it wasn't us, and it wouldn't have been the jewish people. No, no, we don't like the idea of this Jesus character rising from the dead. Hmm. Yes.

And of course, if we had the body, then we would produce it and put this whole Christianity thing to bed once and for all. No, it must have been some of his disciples that stole the body. Yes, some of his disciples. Some of the disciples stole the body, we think maybe. But many of those disciples went on to die for saying that Jesus rose from the dead.

They wouldn't die for something they knew to be false. Are you telling me that a bunch of disciples in the middle of the night would roll a stone the size of those big millstones that you see on the moors, would roll a stone out of place and steal a body, all whilst some soldiers were asleep through it all? I don't like your tone, young man. No, no, don't like your tone one bit. No, no.

You see. No, no. You're implying that I've made a mistake. And we Romans, no, we don't make mistakes. Well, apart from falling asleep.

But we don't make mistakes. No. Hmm. Hmm. I see.

I'll rest my case with you, Centurion. Thank you very much indeed. You see, it's not that christians aren't used to people asking questions. This was unusual. And as Christianity exploded onto the scene in the first century, people were asking questions.

People were saying, surely a man couldn't have come back from the dead. And yet. Yet christians believed it. What's more than that? Matthew gives us some more evidence.

Did he see? Matthew tells us the names of some of the people who were there on that first Easter Sunday. Now here's the thing. Let's imagine that I wanted to make something up. Let's imagine that I wanted to tell you that flying pigs really do exist.

And in fact they live over at Totley hall and they fly in flocks over the church on sunrise. And let me tell you, I know that because Claire Rose over here, Claire Rose saw it only the other day. Now what would you do if I told you that. Let me borrow a microphone, some of our young ones. What would you do if I told you Claire Rose has seen some flying pigs?

Come on then, Henry. What would you do? I wouldn't believe you. You wouldn't believe me? What would you do?

I would have looked for myself. You'd want to look for yourself. But why? Because Claire Rose has seen it. Why?

What would you do? How would you verify whether I'm telling the truth? Somebody help me here. Go on, Bethany, say you're a liar and stick my tongue out at you. You'd say I was a liar and stick my tongue out.

Do you know what I might do? I might ask Claire Rose because she's right here. And I might go to Claire and I might say, hey, Claire, are there really flying pigs over Totley? No, no, you see, Claire's right here. I've given you her name.

You could go and speak to her. There are names and names and names of people, even in this passage. We saw two of them, Mary and the other Mary, who from, from the rest of the passage you can see who she is. And then the disciples, who are all named. In other words, real people with real names say they saw this and people could go and speak to them and put them on trial.

But there's one more piece of evidence here. You see, Jesus does something that we think is brilliant. But the people then thought was very strange. You see, before Jesus appeared to any of his brothers, he appears to his sisters. Sisters, by the way, who were the last people at the cross and the first people at the grave.

And in fact they spent a lot of Easter Saturday there as well. Now that would be a strange thing for Matthew to write if he was making it up. Why? I'm going to email professor again. Professor coming out.

Thank you. Thank you. Fantastic. Professor, why would it be strange if you were making up a story to have the women here be the first people who saw? Well, if those of you who don't know, it's a very sad thing, actually.

But in those days, the Romans and the Greeks and all the jewish people would believe. Would not believe that a woman was trustworthy in court. Believe it not trustworthy in court. They weren't thought as reliable. It was sad, but it would have been a really bad idea to have made up a story where women were the first witnesses.

It just wouldn't make any sense. It wouldn't make sense. Now, that's a silly argument to us today, because we know men and women are, of course, equally trustworthy and made in the image of God and equally valued. And in fact, that's one of the things we're going to learn later on. But in those days, you simply wouldn't, if you were making it up, have chosen somebody who couldn't testify in court.

You wouldn't have done it unless it really happened. Unless it really happened. I think they are three great reasons that we can know that this truly and really happened. He includes counter arguments. It's not that he was speaking into a vacuum.

He includes real names, people who went on to die for what they said they saw. And he makes the first people, people who, at the time, people would have thought were unreliable witnesses. It's not true they are reliable, but at the time, they would have been thought to have been unreliable. Sherlock. Okay, okay, okay.

Well, very interesting stuff, but that does bring me to my third question. Who has question number three? Where was that? Is that over here? Excellent.

What does it say on there?

So what? And anything else?

So what? What difference does it make? Thank you so much, Sherlock. I think this changes everything. Absolutely everything.

Some of. Some of us have been sat in this room multiple times this week. One of the times we sat in this room was for a Thanksgiving service for somebody who died. And this changes everything. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, it means that we don't have to be afraid of death.

It means that death isn't the end. It means that he can raise us from the dead, too. We'll think a bit more about that in a moment, but I think it tells us even more than just that. You see, we saw, didn't we, that Jesus first turns up to people that were looked down on in society, people who weren't able to testify to in court. What Jesus is doing here is he is showing that the Easter message is for absolutely everybody.

That everybody in Jesus eyes, is dignified and equal and worth and made in God's image. That means that if you are somebody who feels looked down on by people around you, who feels prejudged or somebody who thinks, do you know, I'm not good enough. The Easter message says absolutely everybody is welcome to know Jesus, but it does more than that. Did you notice both the angels and Jesus go on about going to Galilee? Why does jesus do that?

And if you know your Bible, why does Jesus talk about going and seeing them in Galilee when he's going to turn up in Jerusalem at least a couple of times in between? Well, it's because Galilee is called Galilee of the Gentiles. That's the people who aren't religious. In other words, if you are here and you aren't religious and you look around at people around you and think they know all this christian stuff, they're all very religious, they're the right type of person for Easter, then you are exactly the right type of person for Easter. Jesus comes to those who society looks down on.

He comes to those who aren't religious, aren't part of the jewish people. Jesus comes for absolutely everyone, for rich and for poor. For those who, who are at the top of society and those who are pushed to the margins, Jesus comes and offers hope to all of us.

And that means one more thing. It means that we should do the same. And all saints, this is a part that should cut us to our hearts. If Jesus, if the resurrection message is for everybody, then do you treat people in that way?

If Christ the Lord is risen in deed, is Christ the Lord risen in your deeds? Who is it who you talk to after church? Do you always flock to the attractive people, to the people like you, to the people whose society holds up as great, great people to be around? Or actually, do you spend time thinking about and looking out for those on the margins, those who are prejudged? Do you spend your time looking out for and speaking to people?

Well, people who aren't particularly religious? Because that seems to be what, Easter. That seems to be who the Easter message is. Four. You see, Easter gives us hope.

Hope beyond the grave, hope of life beyond death. But Easter also shows us a saviour who offers intimacy to each and every one of us. In fact, we see that, don't we? What do the women do? They grab hold of Jesus feet.

If you were with us during our Exodus series, think how hard it was for Moses to see God. He had to be put in a cleft of a rock. They had a huge, great tent that he could have to go to. Here. The women, they cling on to Jesus feet.

God offers us that kind of intimacy.

You see, Easter is a message for every one of us. Easter is a message of intimacy with God for each and every one of us. And Easter is a message of hope. Hope even in the face of death itself. Hope that Jesus has risen.

I rest my case.

Elementary, my dear Watson. I mean, vicar. Let me sum up my findings. It would seem to me that not only could this have happened with supernatural powers at play, but it seems the most plausible explanation. And if it's true, then it changes everything.

It changes how we live, how we view ourselves, and how we view death. I can therefore conclude that Christ is risen. Hallelujah. He is risen indeed. Hallelujah.

Thank you so much. I'm going to pray and then hand back to Neil. Father God, thank you so much for the truth of Easter. Thank you. That Jesus really is risen from the grave.

Thank you. That that changes us as we look at death. It changes how we live now. It changes how we view ourselves. It changes.

It changes everything. Father. So, Father, would it be that. Yes, Christ the Lord is risen? Indeed.

Would he be risen in our deeds, and would he be risen in our hearts as we approach that day when finally we will close our eyes on this life? Would we do so with gospel hope? I pray. Amen.