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The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown
backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the
depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron
nail through the wrist deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other
side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly,
but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.
The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet
extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the
knees flexed. The victim is now crucified.

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As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists,
excruciating fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode
in the brain -- the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median
nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he
places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the
searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of
his feet.

As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through his muscles, knotting them deep
relentless, and throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to
push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not
exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath.

Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and
the cramps partially subsided. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself
upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.

Hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-renting cramps,
intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his
lacerated back as he moves up and down against rough timber. Then another
agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium
slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical
level. The compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish
blood into the tissues. The tortured lungs are making frantic effort to gasp
in small gulps of air. He can feel the chill of death creeping through his

Finally, he allows his body to die.

All this the Bible records with the simple words, "and they crucified Him"
(Mark 15:24).

What wondrous love is this?

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Medical Insight
Crucifixion Practices

Crucifixion probably first began among the Persians. Alexander the Great introduced the practice to Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans appear to have learned of it from the Carthaginans. ) Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals. Roman law usually protected Roman citizens from crucifixion, except perhaps in the case of desertion by soldiers.
In its earliest form in Persia, the victim was either tied to a tree or was tied to or impaled on an upright post, usually to keep the guilty victim's feet from touching holy ground. Only later was a true cross used; it was characterized by an upright post (stipes) and a horizontal crossbar (patibulum), and it had several variations . Although archaeological and historical evidence strongly indicates that the low Tau cross was preferred by the Romans in Palestine at the time of Christ, crucifixion practices often varied in a given geographic region and in accordance with the imagination of the executioners, and the Latin cross and other forms also may have been used. It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb. (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried. The patibulum, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim's neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign (titulus) on which the condemned man's name and crime were displayed. Later, the titulus would be attached to the top of the cross.
The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death. Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden stipes, on which the patibulum would be secured. In the case of the Tau cross, this was accomplished by means of a mortise and tenon joint, with or without reinforcement by ropes. To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat (sedile or sedulum), often was attached midway down the stipes. Only very rarely, and probably later than the time of Christ, was an additional block (suppedaneum) employed for transfixion of the feet.
John 19:16-18
Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild analgesic. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the patibulum. the hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The archaeological remains of a crucified body, found in an ossuary near Jerusalem and dating from the time of Christ, indicate that the nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. Furthermore, ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin have documented that the nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms.

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the patibulum and the victim, together, were lifted onto the stipes.) On the low cross, four soldiers could accomplish this relatively easily. However, on the tall cross, the soldiers used either wooden forks or ladder.
With a knowledge of both anatomy and ancient crucifixion practices, one may reconstruct the probably medical aspects of this form of slow execution. Each wound apparently was intended to produce intense agony, and the contributing causes of death were numerous.
The scourging prior to crucifixion served to weaken the condemned man and, if blood loss was considerable, to produce orthostatic hypotension and even hypovolemic shock. When the victim was thrown to the ground on his back, in preparation for transfixion of his hands, his scourging wounds most likely would become torn open again and contaminated with dirt. Furthermore, with each respiration, the painful scourging wounds would be scraped against the rough wood of the stipes. As a result, blood loss from the back probably would continue throughout the crucifixion ordeal.
With arms outstretched but not taut, the wrists were nailed to the patibulum) It has been shown that the ligaments and bones of the wrist can support the weight of a body hanging from them , but the palms cannot. Accordingly, the iron spikes probably were driven between the radius and the carpals or between the two rows of carpal bones, either proximal to or through the strong bandlike flexor retinaculum and the various intercarpal ligaments.

Although a nail in either location in the wrist might pass between the bony elements and thereby produce no fractures, the likelihood of painful periosteal injury would seem great. Furthermore, the driven nail would crush or sever the rather large sensorimotor median nerve. The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms. Although the severed median nerve would result in paralysis of a portion of the hand, ischemic contractures and impalement of various ligaments by the iron spike might produce a clawlike grasp.
Most commonly, the feet were fixed to the front of the stipes by means of an iron spike driven through the first or second intermetatarsal space, just distal to the tarsometatarssal joint. It is likely that the deep peroneal nerve and branches of the medial and lateral plantar nerves would have been injured by the nails. Although scourging may have resulted in considerable blood loss, crucifixion per se was a relatively bloodless procedure, since no major arteries, other than perhaps the deep plantar arch, pass through the favored anatomic sites of transfixion. *** Wounds

The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, was a marked interference with normal respiration, particularly exhalation. The weight of the body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the intercostal muscles in an inhalation state and thereby hinder passive exhalation. Accordingly, exhalation was primarily diaphragmatic, and breathing was shallow. It is likely that this form of respiration would not suffice and that hypercarbia would soon result. The onset of muscle cramps or tetanic contractions, due to fatigue and hypercarbia, would hinder respiration even further.

Adequate exhalation required lifting the body by pushing up on the feet and by flexing the elbows and adducting the shoulders. However, this maneuver would place the entire weight of the body on the tarsals and would produce searing pain. Furthermore, flexion of the elbows would cause rotation of the wrists about the iron nails and cause fiery pain along the damaged median nerves. Lifting of the body would also painfully scrape the scourged back against the rough wooden stipes. Muscle cramps and paresthesias of the outstretched and uplifted arms would add to the discomfort. As a result, each respiratory effort would become agonizing and tiring and lead eventually to asphyxia.

The actual cause of death by crucifixion was multifactorial and varied somewhat with each case, but the two most prominent causes probably were hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Other possible contributing factors included dehydration, stress-induced arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure with the rapid accumulation of pericardial and perhaps pleural effusions. Crucifracture (breaking the legs below the knees), if performed, led to an asphyxic death within minutes. Death by crucifixion was, in every sense of the word, excruciating (Latin, excruciatus, or "out of the cross").
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We don’t weep enough.
We don’t spend enough time on Calvary’s slope
watching His hot blood course from His pierced hands;
hands that were placed on little ones’ brows
as He blessed them and drew them tenderly to his side; hands that reached out to the destitute
to give food and drink and meaningful hope;
hands that touched the sick and grieving
to restore life and breath and new-found vigor;
hands that bathed others’ calloused feet
to give comfort and solace and needed relief,
hands that worked as a skilled carpenter,
but ministered as a caring Savior.

We don’t weep enough.

We don’t spend enough time beneath His cruel cross
gazing up at His sweating brow, His contorted face,
His squeezed-shut eyes, His scalding tears of torment, His dropped chin, his clenched teeth,
His twisted torso, His protruding knees, His nailed feet, His near-naked body suspended aloft
for all the world to mock and ridicule and spit upon.
We don’t weep enough.

In our rush from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday,
We forget the stark solemnity of Saturday,
that day given to us to remember, to contemplate, to agonize, to reflect, to ponder, to meditate, to repent, and to cry, to say “Thank You. Oh, Thank you.”
We don’t weep enough.

Mariane Holbrook
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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

by John MacArthur


The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the Christian faith. Christianity is a belief--a series of truths, doctrines, and principles based on the resurrection of Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead by the power of the Father, He proved He was exactly who He claimed to be, and that He accomplished what He came to accomplish. Second Corinthians 4:14 says "that he [God] who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also." Our belief in resurrection life is built on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because He lives, we shall live also (John 14:19).

A. The Declaration of Our Hope

Throughout Scripture we see the hope of resurrection. Death is not a dead-end; it's a thoroughfare to eternity.

1. Psalm 49:15--The psalmist wrote, "God will redeem my soul from the power of sheol."

2. Psalm 73:24--Asaph wrote that God would receive him to glory after he died.

3. Hosea 6:2--Hosea confidently asserted that God will raise up His people so they might live before Him.

4. Isaiah 26:19--Isaiah wrote, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust."

5. Daniel 12:2--"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life."

6. Job 14:14--Job asked, "If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come."

7. Job 19:25-27--Job affirmed, "I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my heart be consumed within me."

B. The Guarantee of Our Hope

1. The resurrection of Christ

The hope of God's people is predicated on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His resurrection guarantees ours. The apostle Paul said, "Now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). No wonder the resurrection of Jesus Christ is mentioned more than a hundred times in the New Testament.

The resurrection may be denied, despised, and mocked. Only a fool would want to explain away the resurrection of Christ, because in so doing he guarantees his eternal doom. The only hope of eternal salvation--of being with God forever in glory, is the resurrection of Christ. To explain it away damns the human race.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single greatest event in the history of the world. It guarantees the resurrection of every saint, no matter what happens to the body. Anyone who denies the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a Christian because he misses the whole point of Christianity.

2. The argument of Paul

In 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul gives a profound argument for the centrality of the resurrection to the Christian faith.

a) There's no good explanation for the empty tomb if there is no resurrection

In verse 13 Paul says, "If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen." That means we have to explain the disappearance of His body in some other way. We have to explain His undisturbed grave clothes somehow. Perhaps someone took His body. Maybe He never was dead--He awoke in the coolness of the tomb, got up, and walked out. But those explanations don't make any sense given the facts.

b) Preaching the gospel is useless if there is no resurrection

In verse 14 Paul says, "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain." The gospel says that men are sinners, and sinners need a Savior. Christ is that Savior. He paid the penalty for sin, conquered death, and rose from the grave. If He didn't rise, then He is dead, and His payment for sin was not accepted. He wasn't powerful enough. Preaching the gospel is useless when there is no good news to proclaim.

c) Faith is useless if there is no resurrection

Then Paul said, "Your faith is also vain" (v. 14). He repeats that statement in verse 17: "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain." It's pointless to believe the gospel if Christ didn't rise from the dead.

d) The apostles were liars if there is no resurrection

In verse 15 Paul says, "We are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." Paul was saying that if Christ didn't rise, all the apostles were liars.

e) The power of sin remains if there is no resurrection

Paul continues in verse 17, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins." If Christ didn't rise, the power of sin remains unbroken. Therefore every man is under the domination of sin, forever damned. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not some negotiable reality; it is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

f) The dead in Christ are lost if there is no resurrection

In verse 18 Paul says, "They also who are fallen asleep [died] in Christ are perished."

In verse 19 Paul concludes, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." If Christ didn't rise from the dead, Christians are the most pitiful people in the world. But Christ did rise!



"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week."


A. Sympathy (v. 1b)

"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary [came] to see the sepulcher."

B. Terror (vv. 2-7)

1. The angel's descent (vv. 2-4)

"Behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and become as dead men."

2. The angel's explanation (vv. 5-6b)

"The angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said."

3. The angel's invitation (v. 6c)

"Come, see the place where the Lord lay."

4. The angel's command (v. 7)

a) To exhort the disciples (v. 7a)

"Go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead."


b) To enlist the disciples (v. 7b)

"Behold, he goeth before you into Galilee. There shall ye see him; lo, I have told you."

Previously Jesus told the disciples, "After I am raised up again, I will go before you into Galilee" (Matt. 26:32). Galilee was the region where the Lord first ministered. That also is where He was first hated and rejected.

In some ways, Galilee was a microcosm of the world. Matthew, quoting Isaiah 9:2, said of it, "The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them who sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up" (Matt. 4:16). Christ commissioned the disciples on a mountain in Galilee, saying, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:19; NASB). Matthew's gospel ends with that Great Commission--Christ sending out His people with the message of the risen Christ.

Appearances of the Resurrected Christ in Jerusalem

Before meeting the disciples in Galilee, Christ appeared to them and others in Jerusalem on several occasions.

1. To Mary

On Sunday morning He appeared to Mary Magdalene near the grave. We will see the specifics of that appearance later in our study (see pp. xx-xx).

2. To Peter

Later on that same day Christ appeared personally to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). The Lord was showing grace to one who so pointedly denied Him.

3. To two disciples

Later that afternoon Christ appeared to two disciples traveling to Emmaus. As they walked, the Lord joined them, teaching them what Scripture prophesied about Himself. Later He revealed Himself to them while they ate together (Luke 24:13-32).

4. To the ten disciples

On Sunday night, the disciples were gathered in a room when the Lord appeared to them. Luke 24:36 says, "As they thus spoke, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they had seen a spirit."

5. To Thomas

Since Thomas wasn't with the disciples that first Sunday night, eight days later Jesus appeared again, only this time Thomas was there (John 20:26-27). When Thomas saw Him he said, "My Lord and my God" (v. 28).

Prior to His ascension Christ appeared to His disciples numerous times. Acts 1:3 tells us that Christ "showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen by [the apostles] forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." But of all Christ's appearances, the most crucial was His appearance on the mountain in Galilee.

C. Joy (v. 8)

"[The women] departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy, and did run to bring his disciples word."

The Greek word translated "did run" is the main verb. The angel said "Go!" and they did, running into the city to find the disciples and tell them that Jesus was raised from the dead.

1. Encountering disbelief

When the women found the apostles and delivered their message, the apostles didn't believe them (Mark 16:13). That confirms that the disciples didn't steal Christ's body--they didn't even believe the resurrection had occurred (cf. Luke 24:10-11, 22- 25)!

2. Making a discovery

When Mary Magdalene told Peter and John about the empty tomb, they followed her to the sepulcher.

a) John and Peter

(1) Their arrival

John 20:4-5 says, "They [Peter and John] ran both together; and the other disciple [John] did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went not in."

Verses 6-7 say, "Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lying there, and the cloth, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself." That indicates there had been no struggle; Christ simply arose and left the tomb.

(2) Their response

Verse 8 says, "Then went in also that other disciple, who came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed." John had a heart of faith. He quickly moved from curiosity to faith. Verse 9 says, "For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead." They had heard Jesus tell them about His resurrection, but they didn't understand it. They were unwilling for Him to die, so they eliminated from their minds the need for Him to rise again.

Verse 10 says, "Then the disciples went away again to their own home." They went away to try to determine what happened. They didn't appear to make any serious investigation about the disappearance of Christ's body.

b) Mary Magdalene

(1) Mary's arrival

But Mary didn't leave; she was ever the devoted follower. Verses 11-14 say, "Mary stood outside the sepulcher weeping; and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back."

Mary doesn't appear to have been startled by the presence of the angels. Apparently her sorrow overpowered her ability to realize she was speaking with angels. She responded in a similar manner when she arrived at the tomb earlier. Now she was carrying on a conversation with two angels about the location of Christ's body. Perhaps she assumed they were men. Scripture is replete with occasions when angels took on the appearance of men (e.g., Gen. 18--19).

(2) Christ's disguise

After turning to leave the tomb, she "saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus" (v. 14). Mary was very emotional by this time, and it is quite possible that her state of mind prevented her from recognizing Jesus. But also after the resurrection, no one knew who Jesus was unless He allowed them to. In His resurrection glory He was changed, so He had to reveal Himself to people. How else can we explain the circumstances involving the two disciples who walked and talked with Him, yet didn't know who He was until He disclosed Himself to them (Luke 24:13-32)?

(3) Christ's revelation

Jesus said to Mary, "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him from here, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away" (John 20:15). Mary may have thought the grave was available for only a few days, and that Jesus' body had been moved. Verse 16 says, "Jesus saith unto her, Mary." Jesus addressed her in Aramaic--her own language--which added a personal touch. Instantly she knew who He was. Verse 16 says, "She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master." The title Rabboni, a step above Rabbi, was used only for a highly exalted teacher. Mark 16:9 tells us Mary was the first person to see the resurrected Christ.

(4) Christ's command

In John 20:17 Jesus tells Mary, "Touch me not ["Don't cling to Me"]." That's because Mary grabbed Him. She had lost Him once--she wasn't going to lose Him again. The pain of His death and absence was more than she could bear. Then Jesus said, "I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God" (v. 17).

Two things are important to note from that verse. First, before His death Jesus called His disciples friends (John 15:15). But from this point on He would call them brethren. Why? Because His death and resurrection brought them completely into the family of God. Paul said we "are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). Hebrews 2:11 says Christ "is not ashamed to call them brethren." But most important are the words Christ used to emphasize the new relationship: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." The disciples abandoned Christ to His captors, but in spite of that, He would draw them to Himself. Now they had the same Father, God Himself.

(5) Mary's response

John 20:18 says, "Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her." She was always willing to help her Lord fulfill His divine agenda.

As we return to Matthew 28, let's establish the scene. The women left the empty tomb to tell the disciples. Mary Magdalene returned to the grave, and Peter and John followed. After Peter and John went into the tomb, they returned home. Mary lingered and saw Christ. Now she left to tell the disciples what she saw and heard. While the other women were still on their way to find all the disciples, the Lord supernaturally transported Himself to meet them.

D. Worship (v. 9)

1. Christ's greeting (v. 9a)

"As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail [Gk., chairete]."

There was Christ in His resurrection glory, but what did He say--"Hi"! He greeted them with the normal greeting of their day. It was how people would greet each other as they passed on the roads. In a very simple and warm way Jesus stopped the women and greeted them. Although He was glorified, He had not lost His human tenderness. He communes with holy angels and the Trinity, but He also communes with men and women who walk the dusty roads of life.

2. The women's gratitude (v. 9b)

"They came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him."

They knew He was the risen Christ, so they worshiped Him. He was to be adored, praised, glorified, and honored. They did what Paul says everyone should do: "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11). They paid Him homage as to God.

When I look at the cross I feel sympathy. When I study the resurrection, I sense the earthquake that revealed the empty tomb. I'm filled with terror and the fear of almighty power. Then I become alert and alive to the resurrection, and my heart is filled with joy in seeing the risen Christ. Then I fall at His feet in worship.

Evidence for the Resurrection

Evidence for the resurrection is abundantly available. The women were immediate eyewitnesses of the evidence that the resurrection took place: the broken seal, the empty tomb, the grave clothes, the unconscious soldiers, and the testimony of the angels. But when they touched the risen Lord, they knew He was not a figment of their imaginations. He was no apparition. They held Him by His feet.

Sir Edward Clarke said, "As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Inference follows on evidence, and a truthful witness is always artless and distains effect. The Gospel evidence for the resurrection is of this class, and as a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate."

Professor Thomas Arnold, author of the three-volume History of Rome and an appointee to the chair of modern history at Oxford University, wrote, "The evidence for our Lord's life and death and resurrection may be, and often has been, shown to be satisfactory; it is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece as carefully as every judge summing up on a most important case. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead" (for documentation and attestation from other experts see Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict [San Bernardino, Calif.: Here's Life, 1979], pp. 179-263).

E. Hope (v. 10)

"Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid; go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me."

Their hope was clear. The risen Christ would again manifest Himself. Jesus repeated the same message the angel gave them, thus showing us the source of the angelic message.


Matthew's treatment of the resurrection is simple and unpretentious. It's not something he worked hard at trying to prove. Matthew stated the simple, convincing truth. Before Christ's time on earth came to an end, He appeared to His people so they might confirm His resurrection. From them He selected who would write the New Testament--the record of His resurrection and the meaning of it.

What Does the Resurrection Prove?

1. That the Bible is the Word of God

Over and over again Jesus said He would rise in three days, and He did. The resurrection affirms that the record of Scripture is true.

2. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God

Christ claimed to be the Son of God and to have power over death. His resurrection proves He did.

3. That salvation is complete

Christ conquered sin, death, and hell on the cross, and He rose victorious to prove that He did.

4. That the church was established

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, "I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." The phrase "gates of hades" was a colloquial expression for death. Death couldn't stop Christ from building His church, and His resurrection proved it.

5. That judgment is coming

In John 5:27 Jesus says the Father had "given him authority to execute judgment." He has the power to raise the dead and judge them. Some will experience enter eternal life and some eternal judgment (vv. 28-29). The Judge is alive, and one day His court will be in session to determine the eternal destiny of every man and woman.

6. That heaven is waiting

In John 14:2 Jesus says, "In my Father's house are many mansions.... I go to prepare a place for you." Heaven is waiting; the risen Christ is even now preparing it for His own.

The resurrection proves it all. I trust you not only believe in the resurrection, but also have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, for the one naturally leads to the other.

Focusing on the Facts

1. What does Scripture teach about the believer's hope (see p. 1)?

2. What guarantees the believer's resurrection (see p. 1)?

3. To show the centrality of the resurrection to the Christian faith, Paul presents a classic argument in 1 Corinthians 15. Explain the various statements Paul makes in the course of his argument (see pp. 2-3).

4. How did Paul conclude his argument (1 Cor. 15:19; see p. 3)?

5. Where was Christ planning to commission His disciples to take the gospel to the world (Matt. 28:7; see p. 4)?

6. To whom did Christ appear in Jerusalem after He was raised (see pp. 4-5)?

7. What kind of reception did the women receive when they told the disciples what the angel said (Mark 16:13; see p. 6)?

8. Describe the reactions of John and Peter when they examined the empty tomb (John 20:4-10; see p. 6).

9. What did Mary Magdalene do after Peter and John left the tomb (John 20:11-14; see p. 7)?

10. Why was Mary unable to recognize Jesus at first (see p. 7)?

11. When did Mary recognize Jesus (John 20:16; see p. 7)?

12. Why did Christ refer to His disciples as brethren after His resurrection (see p. 8)?

13. How did the other women respond when Christ personally revealed Himself to them (Matt. 28:9; see pp. 8-9)?

15. What does the resurrection prove? Explain (see p. 10).

Pondering the Principles

1. Read the section on the declaration of our hope (see p. 1). It surveys what the Old Testament says about life after death. As you read through and study the New Testament, make a list of verses that refer to the believer's hope. As your list expands, you will have a definitive record of what Scripture teaches on this subject. You also will have a source of great comfort when you are besieged with the trials of life.

2. When the risen Christ appeared before the women, they worshiped Him. Read Philippians 2:5-11. Why is Jesus Christ worthy of worship? Why did God exalt Him? Who should worship Christ? Verse 5 tells us to have the same attitude Christ did. Verses 1-4 spell out that attitude. Does your lifestyle reveal that you daily confess Jesus Christ is Lord? Don't be just a hearer of God's Word; be a doer (James 1:22). Be open about your love for Jesus Christ, just like the women who fell at His feet.

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)
Matthew 28:7b-10 Tape GC 2402
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The Marvelous Rising of a Rejected Stone

March 30, 1986

Matthew 21:42

"The very stone which the builders rejected
has become the head of the corner;
this was the Lord's doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes."

Last fall Charles Colson was in India. As usual, the crowds he spoke to wanted to hear the testimony of this Watergate criminal turned prison evangelist. Here's the way he described his experience in India:

When I was in India last fall I had many opportunities to tell what Christ has done in my life. The thousands of faces in those predominantly Hindu crowds would nod and smile as I shared my experience. Hindus believe all roads lead to God—if Jesus was my guru, that was fine. They all had their gurus, too.

But when I spoke of the reason for my faith, the resurrection of Christ, the nods would stop. People's expressions changed and they listened intently. The fact of the Resurrection demands a choice, one that reduces all other religions to mere philosophies.

(Christianity Today, March 21, 1986, p. 72)

Christianity socks you between the eyes because it is a religion that says: The really marvelous things in life are not the feelings of the heart but the facts of history. There is a world of difference between a subjective religious disposition and an objective resurrection from the dead.

Put yourself in Athens 25 years after the death of Jesus. You are a religious pluralist. You love to discuss religion. You love to hear about the religious experience of people from all over the world. It's fascinating. Sometimes you even learn something to incorporate into your own life to help you get along better.

Then one day comes a man named Paul to the Areopagus and joins in the discussions. You ask him about his religion. Suppose he said,

I worship Jesus Christ. He was a Jewish teacher and wonder-worker. He lived in Palestine 25 years ago and taught a way of love and truth. His wisdom was unsurpassed. Even in his dying he never gave in to the lower instincts of anger and revenge. His memory is very powerful. His teachings linger on in his followers. His example can have a tremendous influence in your life if you meditate on what he did and said.

Period. That's all.

What would the response have been? Tolerance. Benign interest, perhaps. Nods and smiles of respect. Paul has his guru. The Athenians have their gurus. If it works for you, fine. You have your inner experience. I have mine.

But what if he had said (which he did in fact say, in Acts 17:31!),

"The God who made the world and everything in it ... commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead"?

Well, that is not acceptable in a polite, respectful dialogue about religious experience. Discussions about the relative value of religious experience and declarations about someone's's resurrection from the dead are just not in the same category. That's why the Hindus stopped nodding at Charles Colson. That's why Athenians mocked. That's why Christianity is offensively unique in a pluralistic age. For us everything hangs on a marvelous fact in history, not a marvelous feeling in the heart.

Therefore, in this Easter worship service I want to direct your attention to four marvelous facts in Matthew 21:42. We will approach it like this. We will read a word from Jesus. Then we will read its interpretation by the apostle Peter. Then we will fix our gaze on four marvelous things in Jesus' word.

The word of the Lord is found in Matthew 21:42 at the end of the parable of the wicked tenants. The owner of the vineyard had sent servants to get fruit from the tenants. They had beaten some and killed others. Then he sent his son. But him, too, they cast out and killed.

The meaning is that God owns the vineyard of Israel. It is supposed to bear the fruit of worship and obedience. He has sent prophets and wise men to gather this fruit. And finally he sent his Son. But the leaders of Israel rebel. They will give no fruit. And they kill the Son of God.

Then comes our text in verse 42:

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

It seems obvious to you, I am sure, what this refers to, but lets go straight to the interpretation of the apostle Peter in Acts 4:8-12. Peter and John had been arrested for causing a stir by healing a man and teaching about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (4:2-3). The next day the Jewish leaders (the very ones who had condemned Jesus some months earlier) asked them by what power they were acting. Peter answers, and his answer is an interpretation of Jesus' word about the rejected stone. Starting at the end of verse 8:

Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Notice Peter's interpretation, one part at a time.

Verse 10: the stone is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Verse 8: the builders are the rulers of the people and elders.

Verse 10: the rejection of the stone was the crucifixion of Jesus.

Verse 10: the elevation of the stone to the head of the corner was the resurrection of Jesus.

Verse 12: the implication of this new position at the head is that there is salvation in no other. This is the same point Paul made at the Areopagus: the resurrection declares that Jesus is the Son of God in power: all must repent from other gods and seek salvation in him alone.

That is Peter's interpretation of the word of Jesus in Matthew 21:42. Now we will be able on the basis of this interpretation to go back to Jesus'word and fix our gaze on four marvelous facts.
First, let us marvel at the fact that Jesus predicts his own resurrection before it happens.

He had done this before this moment, and he would do it again. Sometimes he made it plain, for example, when he said: "After I am raised up I will go before you into Galilee" (Mark 14:28; Cf. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:25). But usually he spoke of it indirectly, for example, when he said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19; Mark 14:58; 15:29; Matthew 26:61); or: "No sign will be give to this generation except the sign of Jonah" (Matthew 16:4; 12:39; Cf. 12:41). He often spoke only for those who had ears to hear.

The reason I point out the fact that Jesus predicted his own resurrection is to sow a seed in your mind that I don't have time to develop today. The seed is simply that it is impossible to admire Jesus as a wise and loving teacher while rejecting him as your risen and living Master. It's impossible because if he isn't the risen Master, then he was deluded or deceptive in his life and teaching and so shouldn't be admired. He built his life around a self-understanding that included his own resurrection. If he didn't rise, he is to be pitied as a teacher not admired.

But someone may say, "Aren't you assuming that he said everything the Gospels said that he did? Wouldn't the skeptic who rejects the resurrection but admires Jesus say that the early church made up those sayings to make it look like Jesus expected his own resurrection?"

The answer to that question is that no matter how much of the Gospels you try to strip away as later additions, you never wind up with a mere man. His claims to authority and power are so woven through his words and deeds that critics are dreaming when they think they can peel the onion of supernatural tradition down to the natural core of a mere man. He vanishes. Because a mere, natural man named Jesus with a noble view of love never existed. The Jesus of history knew he was no ordinary man, and we do well to marvel that part of his self-understanding was the assurance that he would rise from the dead. So we should marvel that Jesus predicted his resurrection before it happened.
Second, let us marvel at the blindness of the builders.

"The very stone that the builders rejected has become the head of the corner." It is an amazing thing that the people who should know stones best did not recognize the best stone. Mark 6:6 says, "Jesus marveled because of their unbelief." He said to Nicodemus, one of the "builders," "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?" Jesus was astonished at the blindness of those who should have been the first to recognize him from their knowledge of the Old Testament.

And while we marvel at this let us learn a lesson. Even today there is no guarantee that the "builders"—the religious experts, the university theologians, the clergy—will recognize the stone.

Two years ago a sixty year old theology professor at the University of Leeds in England was appointed Bishop of Durham. In the process he announced that the Resurrection of Jesus was a "conjuring trick with bones." So here is a "builder" who still is rejecting the stone.

Why should we be vigilant about such things in our own churches and colleges and seminaries?
Two reasons:

One is that the bishop's words reached Moslems in Sri Lanka, half way around the world. Immediately they began aggressive visitation campaigns to Christians saying that there is no reason for conflict any more since Christians and Moslems both agree now that Jesus was merely a prophet to be honored, not the Son of God to be worshiped. One Anglican rector in Sri Lanka said, "They are killing us with our bishop's own words." The "builders" are still rejecting the corner stone and in many churches the walls and the mission are in disarray.

The other reason for us to be vigilant as we marvel at the blindness of the builders is something that Iain Murray said recently. He said that the uproar over the the Jenkins affair is puzzling since he has been teaching these things to preparing ministers in the university for years and probably doing more harm there than he can do now that he is a public figure and his cards are on the table.

So let us marvel at the blindness of the builders. And let us learn that academic stature has never been a guarantee of religious insight. And let us be vigilant and examine or church leaders—our pastors our deacons, our board members, our Sunday School teachers—let us examine them carefully to see if they know and accept the stone which many builders have rejected.
Third, let us marvel that the stone which is Now at the head of the corner is the very stone that was once rejected.

Or, to take the imagery away, we must marvel that it is a real man who now reigns at the right hand of God. Yes, he is more than a man. He is the Son of God in power. But the astonishing thing that we gaze at now is this: God the Son came into the world and clothed himself with a human nature in order to die for sinners like you and me. A divine nature and a human nature came together in one Person. And when that Person rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to take his place as the Head of the church and the King of the world, at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, it was a man who went into heaven. He was one of us. He is the same man reigning in heaven today who ate and drank and taught and healed and suffered on earth. The very stone which the builders rejected, THIS one is now head of the corner.

In Luke 24:36-43 the risen Christ appeared to the apostles. They were so amazed that they thought they were seeing a ghost. So Jesus says,

Why are you troubled, and why do questions rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.

And while they still disbelieved for joy, and marveled, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

The risen Christ who reigns in heaven today and intercedes for us with the Father is a rejected stone! He has flesh and bones! He is one of us. And this truth contains good news for now and good news for later. For now it means this:

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

For he too is a rejected stone with pierced hands and flesh and bone!

But not only that. This truth is also good news for the future. Get every ethereal, ghost-like conception of the coming Kingdom out of your head. The God man is not going to rule over invisible spirits and ghosts. "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies." We will eat broiled fish in the Kingdom! We will hold it in our physical hands and stand on our feet. And there will be no more wheel chairs or crutches or cancer or paralysis, or leukemia or allergies or arthritis any more. For we will bear the image of the Son of God, and we will see him and touch him and marvel at him for ever and ever because the divine stone which is now at the head of the corner is the very same human stone that was once rejected.

Paul saw it perhaps more clearly than anyone, and said,

God raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things. (Ephesians 1:20-22)

So that Jesus could say,

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).

And Paul could preach in Athens with unwavering authority:

"God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointedf, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

Therefore, (as we return to Peter's interpretation of our text) "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

O do not be like the builders this morning! Do not reject Jesus Christ. Do not stumble over this rejected stone. The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing and may it be marvelous in your eyes. Amen.

©Desiring God

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Jesus Christ
Alive and with Us to the End

April 23, 2000

Matthew 28

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 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. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 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." 8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. 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 take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me." 11 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. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' 14 And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble." 15 And 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. 16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

If this is true, if this is real - that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead (verse 6), and that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (verse 18), and that he will be with his disciples to the end of the age (verse 20) - if this is true, then nothing is more important in our lives, nothing is more crucial or more urgent or more needful than believing it and becoming a follower of Jesus. I know it's a big if - if this is true, if this is real (you may believe it or not) - but if the premise is true, wouldn't you agree with the conclusion? - nothing is more important for everyone in this room than to believe in him and be his follower.
Authority over All Things

Just think of it. Jesus says in verse 18, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." If this is true, then today Jesus Christ is the Lord of the universe.

He has authority over politics and government; he has authority over all armies and military might;

he has authority over all industry and business (NASDAQ and Dow Jones);

he has authority over science and education - all research and discovery and universities and colleges;

he has authority over all entertainment and media - radio, TV, magazines, ne wspapers, Internet, theater, art;

he has authority over all sports and leisure - over the Wolves and Blazers this afternoon and every other playoff game;

he has authority over all natural phenomena - all weather and floods and volcanoes and earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and global warming and ozone layers;

he has authority over all planets and moons and stars and light and energy and motion and time;

and therefore he has authority over our lives - health and disease and success and failure and life and death.

I don't know where you are this morning. You may or may not believe the testimony of Jesus and his disciples. But I hope you see at least that if -if - it is true that Jesus rose from the dead as the Lord of the universe with all authority in heaven and on earth, then believing it and following Jesus as our Lord is the most important, most urgent, most crucial thing in our lives.
Two Crucial Events

No matter how hard I try to think of an alternative, I can't escape the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ as Lord of the universe with all authority in heaven and on earth is the greatest event in the history of the world - except, perhaps, for one other, the one that happened three days earlier, namely, his death.

So what I would like to do this morning is ponder two events with you - or think together about two claims of Matthew 28: one that Jesus was crucified; the other that Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive and with us to the end. There would have been no need for the resurrection if Jesus had not died; and there would be no saving significance to his death if he did not rise. Both are utterly crucial.
Jesus Has Been Crucified

The time is early Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene and the other women have come to the tomb of Jesus. They see an angel whose appearance is like lightning (verse 3). Then, according to Matthew 28:5-6a, "The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.'" There is the first claim in this text that I want us to focus on: "Jesus has been crucified."

What do we need to know about this event - that Jesus was crucified - so that his resurrection is seen to be what it really is? Here are five things:
1. The crucifixion of Jesus was public.

This thing did not happen in a corner (Acts 26:26). It was not a secret rite. It is not mythological. It is historical and public. There were crowds of people who saw it happen (Matthew 27:39) in an open public place. All the religious and secular leaders were involved. And secular historians of the earliest centuries treated the death of Jesus as historical fact. Tacitus, the Roman historian who was born in AD 55 and who did not follow Christ, explained who Christians were like this:

Christ, from whom they took their name, had been put to death as a punishment during the reign of Tiberius at the hand of one of our Procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for a moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome. (Annals 15:54)
2. The crucifixion of Jesus was painful.

The article on "Cross" in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes crucifixion:

The punishment was meted out for such crimes as treason, desertion in the face of the enemy, robbery, piracy, assassination, sedition, etc. . . . Among the Romans, crucifixion was preceded by scourging, undoubtedly to hasten impending death. The victim then bore his own cross, or at least the upright beam, to the place of execution. . . . The number of nails used seems to have been indeterminate. A tablet, on which the feet rested or on which the body was partly supported, seems to have been a part of the cross to keep the wounds from tearing through the transfixed members. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, ii.42)

The suffering of death by crucifixion was intense, especially in hot climates. . . . The swell[ing] about the rough nails and the torn lacerated tendons and nerves caused excruciating agony. The arteries of the head and stomach were surcharged with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensued. The mind was confused and filled with anxiety and dread foreboding. The victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths. . . . The sufferings were so frightful [Josephus wrote] that "even among the raging passions of war, pity was sometimes excited" (BJ, V, xi, 1). The length of this agony was wholly determined by the constitution of the victim, but death rarely ensued before thirty-six hours had elapsed. . . . Death was sometimes hastened by breaking the legs of the victims and by a hard blow delivered under the armpit before crucifixion. Crura fracta was a well-known Roman term (Cicero Phil. xiii.12). The sudden death of Christ evidently was a matter of astonishment (Mk 15:44). ("Cross," ISBE, Henry Dosker)

So there is no surprise when we read in the gospels that, Jesus gave a "loud cry" (Mark 15:37). His suffering in those last hours was indescribable.
3. The crucifixion of Jesus was planned by God.

Jesus said to his disciples several times that this was his destiny. For instance, Matthew 17:22-23a: "Jesus said to them, 'The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.'" In Acts 4:27-28, the disciples prayed to God like this: "Truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur." The death of Jesus was not a historical fluke or accident or merely the effect of great injustice. It was by the plan of God.

This is the teaching of the New Testament everywhere. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . ." (John 3:16). "[God did] not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all" (Romans 8:32). Jesus was crucified by design, not accident.
4. The crucifixion of Jesus was punishment for sin, but not his own.

This was God's plan - that his only, eternal, uncreated, divine Son should be born as a man, live a perfect life and then die, not for his own sins but for the sins of others. The apostle Paul put it like this in Galatians 1:4, "[Christ] gave Himself for our sins . . . according to the will of our God and Father." And in 1 Corinthians 15:3, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures."

Even more astonishing and confirming of the truth of this is that in the Jewish Scriptures 700 years before the crucifixion of Jesus, the death of Jesus is described like this: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6). His death was punishment for sin. But not his own.

Which leads to one last thing to say about this death.
5. The crucifixion of Jesus is precious.

This not my word, though I love it. It's what those who knew him best taught. Peter wrote, "You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19). And again in 1 Peter 2:7, "To you therefore who believe, he is precious." The crucifixion of Jesus is precious to those who believe, because by that death we are ransomed from sin and guilt and condemnation and hell, and given eternal life.

This is what Jesus came to accomplish: eternal life for all who believe. This is why he was crucified. It was public, painful, planned, punishment (for us!) and precious. My prayer today is that you will all see him for who he is, and that he will become precious to you.
He Is Risen

But he can't be precious to you if he is dead. So the resurrection of Jesus is just as crucial as his crucifixion. So take the final moments of this message and ponder with me this other statement in Matthew 28:6. The angel said to Mary and the others, "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying."

What can we say about the resurrection of Jesus? We could talk for hours about it. If I had time, I would talk about how public it was, because he appeared to so many and for so many days to increase our confidence that it is true and real (1 Corinthians 15:6; Acts 1:3); and how physical it was, not ghostly or mystical (Luke 24:39-43); and how productive it was, because it secured the resurrection of all who trust him (1 Corinthians 15:20).

But I will only linger over two things about the resurrection of Jesus, which correspond to Matthew 28:18 and 20. 1) The resurrection of Jesus was powerful; and 2) the resurrection of Jesus was personal.
1) The resurrection of Jesus was powerful.

This is what Jesus said in verse 18b: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." This is what it means in the New Testament when Peter says, "[He has] been exalted to the right hand of God" (Acts 2:33); and Stephen says, as he is being stoned to death for his faith, "I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56); and Paul says, "Christ is seated at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1); and Hebrews says, "[Christ] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (12:2).

The right hand of God is the place of ultimate authority along with God the Father. Paul says he is there "Because He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25). The resurrection of Jesus restored Jesus to a place of triumphant all-authority over all things. And from there he works out his saving purposes in the world -with authority over politics and government and industry and business and science and education and entertainment and media and weather and stars and light and energy and life and death. His cause cannot fail. If you have all power and all authority and cannot die, your cause cannot fail.

This is a great reason for following Jesus. He cannot fail. Sin and death and hell and evil and Satan cannot defeat his purposes. He will win. That is a good reason to trust him and follow him. It is suicide to oppose him or ignore him.

But to win us over, Jesus ends his time on this earth, and Matthew ends his gospel with a very personal promise based on the resurrection.
2) The resurrection of Jesus was personal.

Matthew 28:20b, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." This is not a promise only to the eleven apostles, because the promise is "to the end of the age" - this present age of the world in which we live. While there are followers of Jesus in this age (in this world) the promise holds true for all of us - "I am with you always."

Here's the practical value of this promise. You might take the truth of Christ's authority over all things and just turn it into a theological problem. Well, if he has authority over the world, why is it in such a mess? Or: If he has authority over life and death, why did my child or wife or mother die?

But there is another way to respond to the power and authority of Jesus. If you will - and Jesus calls you to this - you can see it as the power and authority to free you from sin and fear and greed so that when you trust his promise to be with you, you are unstoppable in your love. If he is with you to the end, and if he has all authority in the universe, then you can love and serve and sacrifice, and never lose. This is the practical effect of the resurrection of Jesus when you experience it as powerful and personal.

If you trust him to be powerful for you and personally there for you, no matter what, you will be able to live your life not just for your private interests, but, say, for the 1.5 million street children in the Philippines (Action International Ministries -, or for 16 million people in the horn of East Africa who are now threatened with starvation (Newsweek, April, 24, 2000), or for the 255 people groups in the world that no one has even planned yet to pursue with the love of the gospel of Jesus (Joshua Project -
Trusting Jesus to Be All-Powerful and Personally with Us

If Jesus is not all-powerful and not personally with us to the end, and if we don't trust him to be that for us, we will simply ignore the needs of others and live for our own private comfort. Let me give you two examples, and invite you to trust him in this way:

World Magazine last week reported that three children were killed in Bosnia when they wandered into a minefield. One of them, an 11-year-old girl, called for help for hours before she died, but no one would go into the minefield to help her. What would you have done? What would I have done? Could it be that this is why Jesus told us that all authority is his - not so that people would create a theological problem out of it, but so that some follower of Jesus would lift his heart and say: "Jesus, all authority over these mines is yours, and you are with me to the end; if you will, you can keep me from stepping on a mine; and if you will, you can take me to heaven; but this I know, you call me to love that little girl; so trusting your power and your personal presence, I go." That is why Jesus tells us that all authority is his. This is the kind of love that will make many disciples (Matthew 28:19).

And then, as many of you know, Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards died this week in Cameroon in a car accident - Ruby in her eighties and Laura in her seventies. Ruby gave all her life in medical missions among the poor. Laura, a doctor who practiced in India for many years and then here in the Cities, was giving her retirement for the bodies and the souls of the poor in Cameroon. Both died suddenly when their car went over a cliff.
Was that a tragedy? Well, in one sense all death is tragic. But consider this.

Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards, at their age, could have been taking it easy here in retirement. Think of tens of thousands of retired people spending their lives in one aimless leisure after another - that is a tragedy. The fact that Jesus Christ took authority to make Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards valiant for love and truth among the poor and lost and diseased of Cameroon when most Americans are playing their way into eternity - that is not tragedy. And that he took them suddenly to heaven in their old age in the very moment of their love and service and sacrifice, and without long, drawn-out illnesses and without protracted and oppressive feelings of uselessness - that is not a tragedy. Rather, I say, "Give me that death, O Jesus Christ, Lord of the universe, give me that life and that ministry and that death!"

This is why Jesus came. This is why he was crucified. This is why he rose from the dead with all authority and promised to be with us to the end of the age - to create a people whose sins are forgiven, and whose hearts are full of the love of God, and who are so emboldened by the triumphant Christ, that they spend their lives with risk and sacrifice and love to help others know and enjoy the greatness of Christ forever and ever.

Is this not what you were made for? Is there not something in your own soul that witnesses to you that this is true and worthy of full acceptance?

©Desiring God

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Amazing Burial of Jesus Christ--Part 1

John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)
Matthew 27:57-61 Tape GC 2399


Matthew 27:57-65 is a text of Scripture often passed over rapidly. It isn't one many of us are familiar with. Nor does it contain any verses we might remember. It appears to be a routine portion of Scripture that discusses the burial of Jesus Christ. But in actuality it teaches us some astounding truth.

Anyone knowledgeable about the Christian faith is aware of the significance of the cross, where our sins were borne by the Lord Jesus Christ to free us from the penalty and guilt of sin. Just as significant is the resurrection of Jesus Christ--the single greatest miracle the world will ever know. It demonstrates Christ's finished work of redemption and reminds us that His power over death will bring us to glory.

Between the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is His burial. It's a marvelous account of God's intervention into every detail in the life of Christ. We see God's testimony unfold through Joseph of Arimathea (vv. 57-60), the two Mary's (v. 61), and the chief priests and Pharisees (vv. 62-66). They play important roles in the burial of Jesus, validating the truthfulness of Christ's claim to be the Son of God.



Two Key Prophecies

Two explicit prophecies had to be fulfilled in the burial of Jesus.

1. Isaiah 53:9

The entire chapter of Isaiah 53 is devoted to the death of Christ. It says He was despised and rejected, truly a man of sorrows (v. 3). He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (v. 4). He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (v. 5). He was taken from prison into judgment (v. 8). Verse 9 says, "His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, yet [He was] with a rich man in his death" (NASB). That unusual prophecy would be difficult to understand apart from the scenario of Christ's burial. He was supposed to have been buried with criminals, but instead was buried in a rich man's tomb.

2. Matthew 12:40

Jesus said, "Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (NASB). Jesus predicted that there would be three days between His death and resurrection--that He would be in the earth for three days.

Those two prophecies clearly refer to the burial of Christ. God used Joseph of Arimathea to fulfill those prophecies, and thus provide testimony to the deity of Christ.

A. God's Timing (v. 57a)

"When the evening was come."

The "evening" referred to is the early evening of the Jewish day (from 3 P.M. to 6 P.M.). The Sabbath would begin at 6 P.M. and end at 6 P.M. the next day. So the setting of verse 57 is around 3 P.M. By that time Jesus was dead. That fact in itself is amazing--Jesus was nailed to the cross at nine in the morning, but most victims lingered much longer on the cross, some for many days. No one took His life from Him; He voluntarily gave it up (John 10:17-18). Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who ordered His execution, was astounded when He heard Christ was dead so soon (Mark 15:44).

It was imperative that Christ be dead early enough in the day so He could be put in the grave some time on Friday. That day had to be included as one of the three days He would be in the earth (the others being Saturday and Sunday).

1. The preparation

As Jesus yielded up His life He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30) and "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). He who controlled life also controlled death. He who could raise Himself from the dead also willed His own death and Himself into the Father's presence.

a) Its importance

John 19:31 begins, "The Jews, therefore, because it was the preparation." By "the Jews," the apostle John had in mind the Jewish leaders who were hostile to Christ, not the Jewish people. The Greek word translated "preparation" (paraskeue) refers to the day before the Sabbath, or Friday. It was called the day of preparation because Exodus 16:23-30 instructed the Jewish people to keep the Sabbath holy. That meant any food they required on the Sabbath had to be prepared the day before. When God provided manna, the people had to collect enough food on Friday to eat on Saturday. Thus Friday became known as the day of preparation for the Sabbath.

b) Its implications

(1) No body could remain on a cross

John 19:31 continues, "The bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that sabbath was an high day)." That also indicates the day of preparation was Friday because the religious leaders were concerned that the bodies of criminals not be exposed on the Sabbath. But this wasn't just any Sabbath--it was "an high day," a Passover Sabbath. The Jewish leaders were sure to obey all the rules and regulations on Passover. They derived this particular rule from Deuteronomy 21:22-23, which says, "If a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him that day (for he who is hanged is accursed by God), that thy land be not defiled." Apparently they didn't always follow that regulation since historians tell us that bodies were often left on crosses for days. But on this Passover they made sure to perform this particular injunction to the limit.

(2) Death needed to be hastened

The bodies could be removed only after they were dead, and death wasn't likely to occur so soon since they had been on the cross for only six hours. That's why the Jewish leaders "besought Pilate that their legs might be broken" (John 19:31). The Greek word translated "broken" means "to shiver to pieces." The Romans used a large wooden mallet to smash the legs of the victims until their bones were nothing but splinters. That caused the body weight to shift onto the two nail wounds in the wrists, resulting in suffocation of the internal organs. When the victim could still use his legs, he could push himself up to breathe. But once his legs were smashed, the victim had no way to prevent his body from suffocating. The pain would be excruciating.

Following that, the soldiers would give the victim what Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim termed the "coup de grace" (lit., "the stroke of mercy")--the death stroke (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2 vols. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953], 2:613). A soldier would ram his spear into the victim's heart. But since they did that, why bother breaking the victim's legs? Commentators have suggested two reasons. One proposal is that the pain of his shattered legs would traumatize the victim so that the spear thrust would be somewhat of a relief. On the other hand, Edersheim suggests they crushed the legs as an "increase in punishment, by way of compensation for its shortening by the final stroke that followed" (p. 613). The general idea behind the spear thrust and the leg breaking was to cause the victim to die immediately. That way the Jewish leaders could remove the body from the cross and maintain the sacredness of the Sabbath. Yet how inconceivable that they would slaughter the Lord of the Sabbath in an effort to keep the Sabbath! Their twisted thinking was the result of their twisted religious system.

2. The prophecies

a) Christ's unbroken legs

John 19:32-33 says, "Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first [one of the thieves crucified with Christ], and of the other who was crucified with him, but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs." Even in His death prophecy was fulfilled. Psalm 34:20 says explicitly of the dying Savior, "He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken." We know that prophecy was intended for Jesus Christ because of the testimony of Scripture. John 19:36 says, "These things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken."

b) Christ's pierced side

John 19:34 says, "One of the soldiers, with a spear, pierced his side, and immediately came there out blood and water." Since the soldiers already knew He was dead, why did they give Christ the death stroke? One answer is in verse 37: "Again, another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced." That particular scripture is Zechariah 12:10. One prophet said they wouldn't break His legs; another said they would pierce Him. They did exactly what God intended, and thus indirectly certified that Jesus was of whom the prophets spoke.

Verse 34 tells us that blood and water came out of Christ's pierced side--a sign of death. That's a fulfillment of a prophecy from Psalm 69--a psalm that contains prophecies of the crucifixion scene, such as verse 21: "They gave me also gaul for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." Verse 20 says, "Reproach hath broken my heart." Under the intense weight of all the sins of everyone who ever lived or will live, it is not inconceivable that a human heart could rupture. Thus another prophecy was fulfilled.

The spear thrust was so deep that Christ could say to Thomas, "Reach here thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:27). When Thomas needed assurance that he was observing the risen Christ, Jesus gave it to him.

Once it was proven that Jesus was dead, His body had to be removed from the cross. But who would care for His body? The disciples had fled. We're not sure that the apostle John was still in the vicinity (cf. John 19:26). The women (Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children) probably didn't have the means to bury Christ--they were from Galilee, a poor area. Whoever was going to care for the body would have to do so quickly. His body had to be in the grave by 6 P.M. on Friday so the prophecy that He would be in the earth three days could be fulfilled.

B. God's Man (vv. 57b-60)

1. His identification (v. 57b-c)

a) As a rich man (v. 57b)

"There came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph."

(1) His characteristics

He was more than just a rich man. Mark 15:43 says he was a "prominent member of the Council [the Sanhedrin]" (NASB)--the Jewish ruling body that sentenced Jesus Christ to death for claiming to be the Son of God. That verse also says he anticipated the kingdom of God--he had a heart for God's truth. Luke 23:50 tells us he was a good and just man. Verse 51 says he did not consent to condemn Jesus to death. But most importantly he was rich--a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9.

(2) His home

Matthew 27:57 tells us Joseph was from Arimathea. The only thing we know about Arimathea is that it was "a city of the Jews" (Luke 23:51). We assume it was close to the city of Jerusalem since Joseph's own grave was just outside the city. We assume he wouldn't have lived very far from there.

b) As a disciple of Christ (v. 57b)

"Who also himself was Jesus' disciple."

A better translation of the Greek text is that he was "discipled by Jesus." He had become a follower of Jesus. The verb in the text means "to be a learner." He was learning from Jesus, believing what He said. John 19:38 gives us additional information about his relationship with Jesus: he was "a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews." Up to this time Joseph had been a secret disciple because he was afraid of the leaders and what they might do to him if they found out.

Joseph had to act fast because Jesus had to be buried before the Sabbath began on Friday night. So far the Jewish leaders were performing their role in God's plan--they were in a hurry to get Him down from the cross. Pilate could have left Jesus hanging on the cross, but he honored their request because he didn't want to offend them. He'd been blackmailed enough by them in the past (John 19:12).

How Many Days Was Christ Dead?

Some people have difficulty reconciling what Jesus said in Matthew 12:40 about the length of His stay in the grave: "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Does that mean Jesus had to be in the earth three full days and nights? No. Many commentators take that view and back the crucifixion to Thursday, so the three days and nights are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with His rising on Sunday. The obvious problem with that view is that we are left with a fourth- day resurrection. Yet all the passages in Scripture dealing with this issue indicate He was to rise on the third day. That eliminates the need for interpreting Matthew 12:40 as referring to three 24-hour periods. The phrase "three days and three nights" was simply an idiom of the Jewish people referring to a three-day period.

For example, if you were to say, "I'm going to San Diego for three days," does that mean you'll be there for three 24-hour periods? Not necessarily. It could mean you'll be there for a few hours one day, all day the next day, and a few hours the third day. That is how Scripture refers to Christ's burial.

In Luke 24:21 the disciples traveling the road to Emmaus were bemoaning the death of Christ, saying, "We hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel; and, besides all this, today [Sunday] is the third day since these things were done." They understood that the Lord's prophecy of His resurrection wasn't going to take place after three 24-hour periods, but on the third day, which from Friday would be Sunday. After all, Jesus said He would "be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matt. 16:21). Matthew 17:23 repeats, "They shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again." The chronological, historical references to the death of Christ indicate a third-day resurrection, not one following three 24-hour periods. When Jesus referred to three days and three nights, we can conclude He was referring to a part of three 24-hour periods. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (who lived around A.D. 100) said, "A day and night are an Onah [a portion of time] and the portion of an Onah is as the whole of it" (Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbath ix.3; cf. Babylonian Talmud Pesahim 4a).

2. His commitment (v. 58)

"He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered."

a) A high price

Joseph was taking a great risk when he did that. He didn't know what Pilate might do to him. After all, Pilate had had enough of the Jewish leaders, who blackmailed him with their threats to report him to Caesar if he didn't crucify Jesus. Furthermore, Joseph would have had to explain why he wanted the body since he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the body of leaders who wanted Jesus dead. In addition, since he wasn't a member of Jesus' family, what could Joseph have said to convince Pilate to give him the body, other than that he was a follower of Him? There was no good reason for Joseph to have expected to receive the body.

Joseph surely realized that once word got out that he intended to bury Jesus Christ, and that he was himself a disciple, he would have lost his reputation and social standing. His actions may have put him in a situation where he no longer could do business with people. The price of his commitment was very high.

b) A deep love

Joseph was committed to a man who was dead and not yet risen. That is a remarkable commitment. So convinced that Jesus was who He claimed to be, Joseph stepped out in faith and courageously gave Him the dignified burial He deserved. He was drawn by his love for Christ, even if it meant losing everything he valued in life.

According to Matthew 27:58 Joseph had to beg Pilate for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded that Jesus' body be given over to Joseph. Mark 15:44-45 tells us Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus died so soon, so he checked with a centurion who had been at the scene to verify that He was dead.

3. His actions (vv. 59-60)

a) He carried the body (v. 59a)

"When Joseph had taken the body."

Perhaps Joseph carried Jesus' body himself. According to the latest archaeological discoveries, his tomb was close to the cross, so he wouldn't have had to carry the body very far. One of the spots believed to be the burial place of Jesus Christ is called "The Garden Tomb" or "Gordon's Calvary." God ensured it was near enough so Joseph would be able to bury Him by Friday night.

b) He wrapped it in linen (vv. 59b)

"He wrapped it in a clean linen cloth."

John 19:39-40 tells us another man was with Joseph: Nicodemus (cf. John 3:1-21). Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel, no doubt another member of the Sanhedrin. Both men were prominent in the nation. Verse 39 says Nicodemus "brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes." The Jewish people didn't embalm their dead; they anointed the body with a heavy load of spices to keep the smell of death from permeating the area until the body was buried. Myrrh was a liquid and aloes was a powder; the two were mixed together. Joseph brought fine linen (Matt. 27:59). The women helped Joseph wrap each limb and the torso of Christ's body with the fine linen, and then provided a special napkin for His head.

c) He laid it in the tomb (v. 60a)

"[He] laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock."

The Garden Tomb was cut by hand out of a wall of rock acting as the face of a low cliff. Just off to its right is another rocky cliff that resembles a skull. Beneath that cliff is a highway where many believe Jesus was crucified. If that indeed is the place, Joseph would have carried Christ's body only a short distance to his tomb.

d) He rolled a stone in front of the tomb (v. 60b)

"He rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed."

The stone was required because of grave robbers. It was a common practice for people to be buried with their belongings, some of which were valuable. Furthermore, the body had to be protected from animals and birds. Today at the Garden Tomb is a great trough holding a huge circular stone that can be rolled across the entrance.

The burial was accomplished before the end of Friday. Matthew 27:62 says, "Now the next day, that followed the day of preparation." Jesus was in the grave before that next day, Saturday, so the prophecy would be fulfilled when He rose on Sunday, the third day. The events surrounding the burial of Jesus Christ were orchestrated by God to fulfill specific prophecy. He would be three days in a wealthy man's grave.

I don't know what caused Joseph of Arimathea to publicly manifest himself as a follower of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it was the earthquake, the darkness, the graves opening, and the veil of the Temple ripping from top to bottom (Matt. 27:45, 51-54). Perhaps it was simply his love for Jesus and the agony he felt watching Him endure pain and suffering on the cross. One thing we can be sure of: God worked on his heart to bring to pass the fulfillment of prophecy.


A. Their Description (v. 61a)

"There were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary."

Mary Magdalene came from Magdala, a village on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee. The other Mary was the mother of James and Joseph (v. 56). John 19:25 calls her the wife of Clopas, or Alphaeus. (Matthew 10:3 refers to James as the son of Alphaeus to differentiate him from James the son of Zebedee.) She was one of the ladies who followed Him from Galilee to attend to His physical needs by providing food and sustenance. Other ladies had been present during the crucifixion and burial, but they apparently left with Joseph and Nicodemus (v. 60). Only these two women remained.

B. Their Significance (v. 61b)

"[They were] sitting over against [opposite] the sepulcher."

They were probably in deep sorrow and agony. If Joseph of Arimathea was used by God to confirm the deity of Christ through fulfilled prophecy, these two women were used to affirm the same through first-hand testimony.

1. They saw the evidence

Matthew 28:1-5 says, "In the end of the sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher. And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning; and his raiment white as snow; and for fear of him the keepers [Roman guards] did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not." These two women felt the ground shake and heard the angel. We do not worship someone we hope came out of the grave--we have eyewitnesses who saw the empty tomb, evidence that the resurrection had occurred.

2. They were commanded to give testimony

The angel continued, "I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead" (vv. 5-7). These two women were given the command to give testimony to the resurrection of Christ. Verse 8 says they "did run to bring his disciples word."

3. They met the resurrected Christ

Verses 9-10 say, "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid; go tell my brethren."

God used two women who couldn't bear to part with Christ for very long. They left for a time on the Sabbath day, but they came back that third day--perhaps hoping against hope that what He said might come to pass. It did, and they saw the evidence. God honored their faith by allowing them to give testimony to what they saw. However feeble their faith may have been, it certainly was stronger than that of the disciples. Some people believe the twelve disciples fabricated the account of the resurrection to carry on their program, but they didn't see the evidence first- hand; the women did. The truth is that the disciples were reluctant to believe what the women said (Luke 24:6-12). Thomas was reluctant to believe when he heard from the other disciples who had seen their risen Lord (John 20:24-25). So God gave us first-hand witnesses to spread the word of the resurrection. Through eyewitness testimony and fulfilled prophecy in the burial of Christ, God was at work vindicating Jesus Christ as His Son.

Focusing on the Facts

1. What is the greatest miracle the world will ever know (see p. 1)?

2. What two prophecies had to be fulfilled in the burial of Jesus Christ (see pp. 1-2)?

3. Whom did God use to fulfill those two prophecies (see p. 2)?

4. Why did Christ have to be buried before the end of Friday (see p. 2)?

5. What is the day of preparation (see p.3)?

6. Why did the Jewish leaders ask Pilate to break the legs of Jesus and the two criminals who were crucified with Him (see p. 3)?

7. Why didn't the Roman soldiers break Christ's legs (John 19:32-33; 36; see p. 4)?

8. Why did the soldiers thrust a spear into Christ's side (John 19:37; see p. 4)?

9. Describe Joseph of Arimathea (see pp. 5-6).

10. How can you reconcile Matthew 12:40 with the other prophecies that say Jesus would rise on the third day (see p. 6)?

11. What did Joseph risk when he stepped forward to claim the body of Jesus (see p. 7)?

12. Why was it important that Joseph's tomb close to the site of Christ's crucifixion (see p. 8)?

13. Who helped Joseph with the preparations for Christ's burial (see p. 8)?

14. Describe the two Marys who remained across from the entrance to Christ's tomb (see p. 9).

15. How did God use those two women to confirm the deity of Christ (Matt. 28:1-10; see pp. 9-10)?

Pondering the Principles

1. Isaiah 53 is a moving characterization of Christ's death on the cross. It precisely describes how our Lord felt on the cross. Another chapter like it is Psalm 22. Read both. Record all the words and phrases that describe how Christ felt and how He appeared. Meditate on them. Ask God to help you better understand the pain and suffering that Christ endured on your behalf. Then memorize 1 Peter 2:24-25: "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (NASB).

2. John 19:38 tells us that Joseph was a disciple of Christ, "but secretly for fear of the Jews." That means when he stepped forward to claim the body of Christ, he exposed himself as a follower. To be a true follower of Jesus Christ requires that you be identified with Jesus. Besides your Sunday visits to church to worship God, how else do people see your commitment to Christ? Joseph exposed himself as a follower of Christ probably at a great cost to himself. What has following Christ cost you? Read Matthew 16:24-26. Are you trying to save your life or have you found your life because you lost it for Christ's sake? Don't be a secret disciple! Step out in faith and be identified with Christ.

Added to the John MacArthur "Study Guide" Collection by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Amazing Burial of Jesus Christ--Part 2

John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)
Matthew 27:62-66 Tape GC 2400


One of the greatest and most essential attributes of God is His sovereignty, sometimes referred to as the supremacy of God. God rules over all things and controls all things. The ramifications of this doctrine are beyond our ability to comprehend, yet it is essential that we realize its truth. The Bible teaches unequivocally that God is the supreme ruler in the universe.

A. God's Sovereignty in Scripture

1. 1 Chronicles 29:11-13--"Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name."

2. 2 Chronicles 20:6--"O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? And rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the nations? And in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?"

3. Job 23:13--"He is of one mind, and who can turn him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth." God never vacillates between opinions.

4. Psalm 115:3--"Our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased."

5. Psalm 135:6--"Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places."

6. Proverbs 21:30--"There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord."

7. Isaiah 46:10--"My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."

8. Daniel 4:35--"[God] doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"

9. Ephesians 1:11--"[He] worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

B. God's Sovereignty in Action

Those verses tell us that God is in charge. All the billions of isolated circumstances in the world do not function at random. The designer has a purpose and objective for each one. It's enough for us to understand how rapidly a computer can come to a conclusion based on identifiable data. But to understand how the infinite mind of God can collect, collate, and harmonize every bit of data that exists in the universe and make it all work for His will is beyond our comprehension. To get a small grasp on that reality we need to realize two ways that God rules in the world.

1. Through miracles

At times God supernaturally interrupts the natural course of events to accomplish His purpose. He overrules natural law with supernatural power. There is no scientific explanation for a miracle.

a) Creation was the greatest miracle of all--God created everything that exists in only six days (Gen. 1).

b) Another miracle was a cataclysmic flood--God drowned the entire world except for eight people and two of each kind of animal (Gen. 6-8).

c) Many supernatural plagues descended on Egypt, including the death of the first born of everyone who didn't believe in God (Ex. 5-13). God miraculously overruled the course of nature to lead His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

d) God parted the Red Sea for the people of Israel to pass through, and then allowed it to drown the armies of Egypt who followed in pursuit (Ex. 14).

e) God brought water from a rock (Ex. 17:1-6).

f) God provided manna from heaven and birds to eat when the people desired flesh (Ex. 16:1-13).

g) On one occasion God caused the shadow of the sun to go backwards on a sundial (2 Kings 20:8-11).

h) On another occasion God caused the sun to stand still, which means the earth stopped revolving. Amazingly enough that didn't result in total destruction (Josh. 10:12-14).

i) During the rebellion of Korah, God allowed the ground to open and swallow all who rebelled against Him (Num. 16). The miracle was that the ground swallowed only those who had sinned and not the others.

j) The walls of Jericho fell flat--apart from any natural phenomena--to allow entry to Israel's army (Josh. 7).

k) Samson had such incredible strength that he was able to kill thousands of people (Judg. 15-16).

l) God made an axehead float through the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 6).

m) God raised a dead boy through the prophet Elisha (1 Kings 17:17-23).

n) God miraculously provided food for a widow (1 Kings 17:8-16).

o) On one occasion a donkey talked (Num. 22).

p) God took Elijah to heaven without his dying. He caught

him up in a whirlwind in a "chariot of fire" (2 Kings 2:11).

q) During King Belshazzar's feast, handwriting miraculously appeared on a wall (Dan. 5).

r) God closed up the mouths of lions to prevent them from eating the prophet Daniel (Dan. 6).

s) Three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were not even singed after being thrown into a fiery furnace (Dan. 3).

t) The prophet Jonah survived for three days in the belly of a great fish (Jonah 1-2).

Then of course we the healings wrought by Jesus and the miracles of the apostles. There have been times when God accomplished His eternal purposes in ways that interrupted the flow of natural history.

2. Through providence

God also uses providence to accomplish His will in the world. You won't find the word providence in the Bible. It's like the word Trinity: The word isn't in there, but the theological concept is. Rather than overruling or interrupting the natural course of events, He manipulates and uses those events to accomplish His own ends. That's what is meant by the providence of God.

In a sense providence is a greater miracle than a miracle. It seems to me easier for God to instantly overrule the natural flow of events than use a diverse number of events, circumstances, and attitudes occurring within the limited freedom of men and demons to accomplish His will. But that is precisely what God does! That's why the Psalmist says He has power over all.

a) The testimony of Scripture

Throughout the Bible you can find God using thunder, lightning, rain, hail, frost, ice, snow, cold, heat, sunshine, bodies of water, rivers, animals, birds, beasts, nations, governments, kings, princes, rulers, and governors- -He uses everything and everyone to meet His desires. The seemingly random choices we make may appear to be detached from any sovereign control, yet God sets the birth and death of every man. He sees all we do, think, and say. He uses our good and our bad. He uses the free choices of men--and even demons--to fit perfectly into His eternal purposes.

(1) Proverbs 16:1--"The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord" (NASB).

(2) Proverbs 19:21--"There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."

(3) Jeremiah 10:23--"The way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Men think they're doing what they want to do, but the fact is that what they do fits into a grander scheme.

(4) Philippians 2:13--The apostle Paul said, "It is God who worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure." He controls everything--even sin. He allows some, prevents some, and limits it for His purpose.

(5) Proverbs 16:9--"A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps."

(6) John 5:17--Jesus said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Even though He was on earth, He affirmed that they were still working in concert to bring about God's eternal plan.

Most of the time God does not use miracles to accomplish His will. He did use them in the days of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, Christ, and the apostles. Only during those four periods of redemptive history do we see miracles as anything near the norm. The remainder of the time God uses providence.

b) The testimony of God's servants

(1) Joseph

(a) The decision of his brothers

Joseph was one of twelve brothers. His brothers hated him because he was the favorite son, so they decided to kill him (Gen. 37:20). But after noticing a group of traders traveling to Egypt, they decided to sell Joseph into slavery instead (v. 27).

(b) The decision of Potiphar's wife

In Egypt Joseph became the servant of a man named Potiphar (Gen. 39:1). Potiphar's wife liked the way Joseph looked, so she decided to seduce him. But Joseph didn't want to have anything to do with her, so he ran (vv. 6-12). She grabbed his coat as he ran, and then falsely accused him of intending to rape her. Joseph was then thrown into prison (vv. 13-20).

(c) The decision of Pharaoh

While in jail, Joseph met a prisoner who had an unusual dream. Joseph interpreted his dream (Gen. 40:1-19). Later, Pharaoh had a dream and asked if anyone could interpret it for him (Gen. 41:1-8). He was told that Joseph could interpret his dream (vv. 9-13). So Joseph was brought to Pharaoh, interpreted his dream, and Pharaoh made him prime minister of Egypt (vv. 14-44).

So far in this story there have been no miracles. The decision of the brothers, the decision of Potiphar's wife, and the decision of Pharaoh have led Joseph from being sold into slavery to becoming the second in command of all Egypt.

(d) The decision of Joseph

Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh's dream indicated that seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine. During the seven years of plenty, Joseph collected a 20 percent tax from the people of all their food and grain and stored it to feed the nation during the seven years of famine (vv. 34-35, 48-49). As the seven years of famine began, the people in Joseph's homeland soon ran out of food. So they came to Egypt to beg for food (Gen. 41:57; 42:2). But to get some they had to go to Joseph.

If Joseph's family had not gone to Egypt, they would have perished in Canaan. And that would have been the end of the twelve tribes of Israel. Genesis 45:4-5 records what eventually happened when the brothers came to Joseph: "Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me here; for God did send me before you to preserve life."

God could have picked up Joseph in a cloud, dropped him into Egypt, and instantly made him prime minister. That would have been a miracle. But God didn't use a miracle; He used providence. The seemingly random choices of many people accomplished God's perfect plan. Joseph further explained God's purpose, "For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in which there shall neither be plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me here, but God" (vv. 6-8). In Genesis 50:20 Joseph concludes, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (NASB).

(2) Ruth

Naomi's son violated the law of God by marrying a pagan Moabite woman named Ruth. They lived with his mother, brother, and sister-in-law in Moab for ten years (Ruth 1:4). Then he and his brother died, perhaps as a result of divine judgment, leaving Naomi with her two daughters-in-law (v. 5). As a result of Naomi's testimony, Ruth said, "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God" (v. 16). She came to faith in the true God. Out of the sin of a disobedient man God brought Ruth and Naomi together, which resulted in Ruth's salvation. Naomi took Ruth back to her land (v. 19). One day Ruth was gleaning in the field of a man named Boaz, who was related to her dead husband (Ruth 2:1-2). Under Jewish law Boaz could take Ruth as his wife, which he did (Ruth 4:9-10). She became the grandmother of David, putting her in the Messianic line (vv. 21-22). There was no miracle, just providence.

(3) Esther

One of the most striking illustrations of God's providence in the Old Testament is the book of Esther. Surprisingly enough, the book of Esther never mentions the name of God. Yet clearly the main character in the book of Esther is God. There are no miracles recorded in that book, but God is at work in a way even beyond the miraculous. In an incredible series of providential events, God brought about His will. And in this case, His will was to preserve the nation of Israel.

(a) The setting

The setting is the kingdom of Persia, where the Jewish people had been taken in exile. The book begins by chronicling the deposing of Vashti, the queen (1:10-22). The king wanted a replacement for Vashti, and he wanted her to be the most beautiful girl in the kingdom (2:1-4). As it happened, a Jewish man named Mordecai was foster father to his beautiful niece, Esther. He was a keeper of the king's gate (2:19), and realized this might be a wonderful opportunity for her to live in the palace of the king and be a good influence. So she entered the queen's beauty contest and won (2:16-17).

(b) The plot

No one knew Esther was Jewish--Mordecai had instructed her to tell no one (2:10). Meanwhile, a high official named Haman persuaded the king to stamp an edict to annihilate all the Jewish people (3:8-11). Haman was actually seeking to kill Mordecai, whose devotion to God offended him (3:5).

(c) The deliverance

Esther found out about the plot. Since she was in a position to influence the king, she pleaded with him on behalf of her people (7:1-6). The king favored Esther and Mordecai, spared the Jewish race, made Mordecai the prime minister, and hanged Haman on the gallows Haman had built for Mordecai (7:7; 8:17). Thus the nation of Israel was preserved. God was in control of every single event.

Despite those incredible illustrations of God's providence, there is no more graphic account in all Scripture of God's sovereignty than the death of Jesus Christ. God used human and Satanic forces combined to kill His Son. He controlled the hated of the Jewish leaders, the hostility of the Romans toward those leaders, the defection of the disciples, the betrayal of Judas, and the denial of Peter. Jesus came into Jerusalem on the very day Daniel prophesied He would (Dan. 9:25; cf. Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977], pp. 115-139). While the people were selecting their Passover lamb, He came as the true Passover lamb. He died on the very day the Passover lambs were slaughtered. Every single detail was covered. And it was all accomplished by the free choice of evil men and demons. But even that was the work of God.

Acts 4:27-28 says, "Against thy holy child, Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the nations, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." With their own independent choices and within the framework of their sin, they all did what God laid out for them to do. As Psalm 76:10 says, "Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee."


In the burial of Christ we see the providence of God at work. And He accomplishes his will through three groups of people.


Joseph was the man God used to fulfill two prophecies: that He would be with a rich man in his death (Isa. 53:9) and that He would be three days in the earth before His resurrection (Matt. 12:40).


Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph were used by God to affirm the deity of Christ by giving testimony of the evidence of the resurrection.



A. The Context of the Scene (v. 62)

1. An important day (v. 62a)

"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation."

That's a roundabout way of saying it was the Sabbath. The day of preparation was always Friday. All the meal planning had to be done in advance because the people weren't allowed to do any work on the Sabbath. This particular Sabbath was special--it was a Passover Sabbath, the holiest day of all in the Jewish calendar.

2. An uncommon alliance (v. 62b)

"The chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate."

The chief priests and Pharisees represent the Sanhedrin, the religious ruling body in Israel. The chief priests were Sadducees, and the Sadducees and Pharisees were theological enemies who had little to do with one another--except on one other occasion (Matt. 21:45-46). The one thing they could agree on was the need to eliminate Jesus Christ. Yet it wasn't enough for Him to be dead; they were afraid of one more thing. So they formed a contingent to meet with Pilate.

The phrase "came together unto Pilate" means they probably went into the praetorium or palace. The day before when they brought Jesus to Pilate, they sent Jesus in alone. They didn't accompany Him because they didn't want to be defiled for the Passover by entering a Gentile dwelling (John 18:28). Apparently this was a clandestine visit. As long as there was no one to see that the leaders were violating their own rules, they went right in. They also were on an important mission from their standpoint, so they weren't concerned about legalism. Murderers don't hold a high priority for ceremony. They hated Jesus more than they loved their own law, so they violated it.

B. The Command of the Leaders (vv. 63-64)

1. Subvert a prophetical claim (v. 63)

"Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again."

a) The leaders' contempt

They referred to Jesus as "that deceiver." The pronoun translated "that" indicates their desire to keep Him far removed from them. Then they called Him a "deceiver"--a seducer of the people. They held Christ in great contempt. Their hatred extended even beyond His death.

b) The leaders' concern

The chief priests and Pharisees were concerned about Christ's claim that He would rise again after three days. He gave them that prophecy after certain scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign (Matt. 12:38). Jesus replied, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet, Jonah; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (vv. 39-40). They understood what He meant. Jonah went into the fish and then came out. They understood Jesus to say He would be buried and then rise again. Even the disciples didn't understand that much--they thought He was talking figuratively. They didn't realize He was speaking of His literal death and resurrection (John 20:9). Nevertheless, the Jewish leaders wanted to prevent any rumors of resurrection from springing up.

2. Eliminate a potential fabrication (v. 64a)

"Command, therefore, that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead."

The Jewish leaders were still giving orders to Pilate. He continued to be intimidated by his fear of their reporting him to Caesar in the case of another conflict. The leaders weren't afraid Christ would rise; they were afraid the disciples would fabricate a resurrection to keep the movement alive. The irony is that the disciples had no such thought. They were afraid to do anything, let alone recognize the importance of the resurrection of Christ to their movement.

Jesus' Teaching about the Resurrection in the Gospel of Mark

Jesus taught the disciples about His resurrection many times. He taught them in Matthew 16:21, 17:23, and 20:19. Mark records numerous occasions when He taught His disciples this fundamental truth.

1. Mark 8:31--"He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and by the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." Amazingly enough, Peter then rebuked Him (v. 32).

2. Mark 9:9-10--"As they came down from the mountain [after the transfiguration], he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying to themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." The disciples couldn't handle that teaching because they couldn't believe He would ever die.

3. Mark 9:31-32--"He taught his disciples and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him."

4. Mark 10:33--Jesus said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him; and the third day he shall rise again."

The disciples still didn't understand His teaching. John 20:9 says that after Peter and John saw the empty tomb, "as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead."

3. Avoid a permanent deception (v. 64b)

"The last error shall be worse than the first."

They considered the first error to be Jesus' triumphal entry. Jesus came riding into the city on a colt, fulfilling prophecy (Matt. 21:2-5; Zech. 9:9). The people laid out their garments and branches before Him (v. 8). As Jesus rode into the city, the people cried out, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest" (v. 9)! They showered on Jesus all the messianic accolades. The Jewish leaders saw that as a tremendous deception. The whole city went out to Jesus, thinking He was the Messiah.

The leaders threatened Pilate that if the first deception caused such an uproar, there would be even greater problems if the disciples were able to fabricate Christ's resurrection. That's why they commanded Pilate to put a guard around the tomb to prevent the disciples from stealing the body.

C. The Complacency of Pilate (v. 65)

"Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch [or, "Take a watch"] go your way, make it as sure as you can."

He gave them a Roman guard. Pilate wanted only to brush this problem away. He had had enough of their commands by now.

D. The Consequence of Providence (v. 66)

"So they went, and made the sepulcher secure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."

Sealing the stone doesn't mean they sealed it with glue. They probably put some wax on the stone and on the wall of the cave, and then ran some string through the wax. If anyone moved the stone, they would have to break the string. Thus the Romans would have known if the tomb had been tampered with. The wax itself may have been stamped with a Roman imprimatur so that the offender would know he was violating Roman law. Additionally a group of Roman soldiers were set as a guard in front of the grave. The tomb was very secure.

There are people today who believe that the disciples stole the body of Christ. But Matthew 27:66 proves they didn't. God made sure that a group of Christ's enemies made the grave secure. There was no way the disciples or anyone else could have stolen Christ's body. The only way Christ could have come out of the grave was by the resurrection. Once again God used the wrath of men to praise Him.

If there had been no guard to watch the tomb and no seal set on it, we would have great difficulty in preaching a message that Jesus rose from the dead without someone claiming it never happened. They could get away with saying that the disciples took His body, and that someone took on Christ's identity and made a few appearances. But the unbelieving world itself made sure that there's no other possible explanation for the missing body of Jesus Christ other than the resurrection. Later, in Matthew 28:11-15, the guards were bribed to deny the resurrection--another testimony to its reality.


God used Joseph of Arimathea to fulfill prophecy. He used the two Marys to give first-hand testimony to the empty tomb, evidence of the resurrection. And He used the chief priests and Pharisees to give forceful proof that Jesus indeed rose from the dead.

How does all that remarkable display of God's providence relate to you and me? Romans 8:28 says, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." All things are controlled by God to work together to fulfill His eternal purpose for His own beloved children. The doctrine of God's sovereignty and providence is not just for theologians. When you can't explain the trouble you're experiencing, you need to understand the providential power of a sovereign God who controls everything in the universe for your good and His glory. Remember that He demonstrated His ability to do that in the death and burial of Jesus Christ. Everything that happens in your life--including trials--somehow fits into the plan of God. He is in control. He hasn't abandoned His throne. Our hope and confidence is in God, who providentially, and if need be miraculously, controls all things for His own eternal purposes.

Focusing on the Facts

1. What is one of the most essential attributes of God (see p. 1)?

2. What are some of the things Scripture teaches about that attribute (see p. 1)?

3. Cite some examples of how God intervened through miracles (see pp. 2- 3).

4. What is the other method God uses to accomplish His will in the world (see p. 3)?

5. What are some of the things God uses to meet His desires (see p. 4)?

6. Cite some scriptures that reveal how God uses men to fulfill His plans (see p. 4).

7. Explain how God used Joseph to preserve the twelve tribes of Israel (see pp. 5-6).

8. Explain how God directed circumstances to put Ruth, a Moabite, into the Messianic line (see pp. 6-7).

9. Explain how God used Esther to prevent the annihilation of the Jewish race (see pp. 7-8).

10. What does Acts 4:27-28 teach about God's involvement in the death of Jesus Christ (see p. 8)?

11. Why did the chief priests and Pharisees form an alliance to visit Pilate (see p. 9)?

12. What concerned the chief priest and Pharisees about Christ's claim that He would rise the third day (see p. 10)?

13. What did Jesus teach about His resurrection (see pp. 10-11)?

14. What was the first error the Jewish leaders believed Jesus had perpetrated on the people (see p. 11)?

15. What is significant about the fact that Christ's enemies set a seal on His tomb and placed a guard in front of it (see p. 12)?

Pondering the Principles

1. We saw how God providentially led Joseph, Ruth, and Esther to accomplish great things in His eternal plan (see pp. 5-7). Look back on your life both before you were a believer and after. Make a list of the things God did providentially to lead you to Christ. Then make another list of the things God has done to bring you to where you are now in your Christian life. Thank God for how He has led you in the past. Glorify Him as a result of His faithfulness to you.

2. Read Romans 8:28. As a result of this study, how do you plan to view the present and future circumstances you find yourself in? How will you respond when others make decisions that effect your life, whether good or bad? Remember to fulfill a key phrase in Romans 8:28, "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (NASB, emphasis added).

Added to the John MacArthur "Study Guide" Collection by:

Tony Capoccia
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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ--Part 1

John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)
Matthew 28:1-7a Tape GC 2401


The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Everything we are, have, and ever hope to be is predicated on the reality of the resurrection. There would be no Christianity without it (1 Cor. 15:14). Conversely, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, all elements of our faith are affirmed as true.

A. The Reactions to the Resurrection

There are many possible reactions to the resurrection.

1. Rationalism

Some reject the resurrection because it does not fit into human reason. This humanistic view assumes that only what can be observed and explained in naturalistic terms can be true. Rationalism rejects the resurrection as it does all other miraculous elements of redemptive history.

2. Unbelief

Unbelievers don't reason away the reality of the resurrection; they just refuse to believe the truth. Simple unbelief is a denial of what is fact. And the resurrection is perhaps the most indisputable fact in all ancient history, based on reliable evidence and testimony from many witnesses.

3. Doubt

Doubters question the resurrection. There is honest doubt, exhibited by a true seeker desiring to have his questions about the resurrection resolved. Then there is hypocritical doubt, reflected by the person who continues to question long after the available evidence is made clear.

4. Indifference

The indifferent person doesn't care if the resurrection is true or not. He can't see that it makes any claim on his life, and it isn't on his list of priorities. He is simply not interested.

5. Ignorance

Some people are not familiar with the facts of the resurrection. They may not even know about it.

6. Hostility

Some respond out of hostility to the resurrection. They make a vociferous effort to discredit it. A few even see it as their duty to write against the resurrection.

7. Faith

Sadly, all those reactions are wrong and unnecessary. The proper response is faith, belief, affirmation, and application of the reality of the resurrection to one's life.

B. The Role of the Resurrection

1. In the gospels

The four gospels are a response of faith to the resurrection. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They weren't forced to believe; they believed because they were overwhelmed with the evidence, as were all who became a part of the believing community. It is the response of faith that we will see in our study of Matthew 28:1-10.

Some people are under the illusion that the Bible is a miscellaneous collection of spiritual truths. But every book in the Bible has a specifically designed beginning and ending. In the case of Matthew's gospel, the ending the glory of the resurrection--the greatest event of all time.

2. In Acts

The first sermon ever preached by the early church was the resurrection (Acts 2). The reality of the resurrection became the theme of all apostolic preaching. Peter again preached on the resurrection in Acts 4 and 10. Stephen preached the resurrection in chapter 7. Philip preached the resurrection in chapter 8. Paul preached the resurrection many times throughout the rest of the book.

3. In the epistles

The theme of the epistles is the resurrection.

a) Romans 6:4--"Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father."

b) 1 Corinthians 15:4--"He rose again the third day according to the scriptures."

c) 2 Corinthians 4:15--"He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also."

d) Galatians 1:1--"By Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."

e) Ephesians 1:20--"Which He [God] wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead."

f) Philippians 3:10--Paul said, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection."

g) Colossians 2:12--"God ... raised him from the dead."

h) 1 Thessalonians 1:10--"His Son ... he [God] raised from the dead."

i) 1 Peter 1:3--"[God] hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

The book of Revelation affirms that Christ has right to the earth because He was once dead and is now alive forevermore (1:18). The theme of the New Testament is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Here is the foundation of all our hope: Jesus said, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Jesus also said, "I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). The resurrection is the core of all we believe.

Each of the four gospel writers presented the resurrection in a unique way, picking out certain elements of the event to reinforce certain spiritual truths in the minds of the readers. As we study Matthew's account of the resurrection, we will draw from Mark, Luke, and John to enrich and fill out the scene so that we may appreciate all its great truth.

Mark, Luke, and John take different approaches, yet all four describe the same historical truth. There is no contradiction--all the facts are in perfect harmony.

Matthew describes the resurrection from the viewpoint of a group of women and the emotions that their actions revealed. That is a wonderful and refreshing way to view the resurrection. We will not coldly analyze the resurrection, but I pray we will feel it (For an apologetic, reasoned discourse on the resurrection, see chapter 5).



"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week."

A. The Day After the Sabbath

The phrase translated "in the end of the Sabbath" is a unique construction in the Greek text (opse de sabbaton). The best way to translate it is "after the Sabbath." And it would be consistent with the context to translate it "long after the Sabbath." It expresses the idea that a certain interval of time had passed since the Sabbath. The Sabbath ended Saturday at sundown. The next phrase tells us how much time had passed since then: "as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week." The Greek phrase again uses the word sabbaton (sabbath). The Greek text is literally translated: "at day one with reference to the sabbath." The Jewish people did not give each day a separate name, such as Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and so on. They named the days numerically with reference to the Sabbath, such as day one after the Sabbath, day two after the Sabbath, day three after the Sabbath, and so on through the week. It was Sunday morning near dawn, and perhaps as many as ten hours passed since the Sabbath.

B. The Third Day

This was the third day the Lord had been in the grave. He was put in the tomb on Friday, was there all day Saturday, and was there a short time on Sunday. Mark 16:2 says, "Very early in the morning of the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun." Luke 24:1 also says, "Very early in the morning." John 20:1 says, "While it was yet dark."

The stage was set because it was the third day. Many times Jesus said He would rise from the grave on the third day (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mark 9:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; 18:33; John 2:19-22). And He repeated the prophecy throughout the latter days of His ministry.

Ending an Era of Sabbaths

The Sabbath had been the special day of rest for centuries following creation. But the Sabbath Jesus spent in the grave was the last authorized Sabbath. It was the end of an era of Sabbaths, and the beginning of a new day of worship--the Lord's Day. Nineteenth century English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon had a wonderful way of explaining the transition. It went something like this: We gather together on the first rather than upon the seventh day of the week because redemption is even a greater work than creation. Like the apostles, we meet on the first day of the week, and hope that Jesus may stand in our midst, and say, "Peace be unto you." Our Lord lifted the Sabbath from the old and rusted hinges whereon the law had placed it long before, and set it on the new golden hinges that his love had fashioned. Instead of placing our day of rest at the end of a week of toil, He placed it at the beginning of the rest that "remaineth ... to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9). Every first day of the week we were to meditate upon the rising of our Lord, and seek to enter into fellowship with Him in His risen life. (MOODY: WE CAN'T DOCUMENT THIS? MAY WE KEEP IT ANYWAY?) That's why we meet on Sunday, not on the Sabbath.


A. Sympathy (v. 1b)

"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary [came] to see the sepulcher."

Women have a tremendous capacity to love. Those women loved the Lord Jesus Christ more than anyone. They had ministered with Jesus in Galilee, and attended to His needs. They provided food, hospitality, and even money and resources for Him and His disciples as they carried on the Galilean ministry (Luke 8:1-3). They journeyed to Jerusalem for the Passover with Jesus and His disciples. They had been with Him at the cross (Matt. 27:56) and when He was buried (27:61). Now they returned on the morning of the third day. They were loyal, devoted, and sympathetic.

1. The identity of the women

Matthew 28:1 identifies Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and the wife of Clopas or Alphaeus (cf., Matt. 27:56; John 19:25). But they were not alone. Matthew focuses on just those two women. Mark 16:1 adds that Salome, the mother of James and John and the wife of Zebedee was there (Matt. 27:55). Luke 24:10 says that Joanna, the wife of Chuza, who was a steward of Herod (Luke 8:3), was there. John mentioned only Mary Magdalene, but he used the plural pronoun translated "we" in John 20:2.

2. The intention of the women

a) Their purpose

Matthew 28:1 tells us they came to see the grave, not the risen Lord. As many times as Jesus had promised the resurrection, their faith could not accept it. Mark 16:1 says, "When the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." It is possible that the previous night, when the Sabbath ended, some shops might open, and the women would be able to purchase spices. Their purpose was not to see a resurrection, but to anoint a corpse.

John 19:39-40 tells us He had already been anointed with in excess of 70 pounds of myrrh and aloes, and then wrapped in linen brought by Joseph of Arimathea. The Jewish people held to a tradition that might explain the women's desire to anoint Christ's body again. They believed that on the fourth day after death, the spirit left the body permanently because the body was so decayed. That tradition is seen in Martha's response to the Lord when He wanted her brother Lazarus's tomb opened. She said, "Lord, by this time he stinketh; for he hath been dead four days" (John 11:39). She believed it was too late for Jesus to do anything. Perhaps the four women came on the third day to Jesus' grave because they realized they had only one more day to anoint Him before His body decayed. One last time they wanted to reach out in love and sympathy to the One they adored. Even though He was dead, they wanted to preserve His body for those last remaining hours.

b) Their problem

Mark 16:3 tells us that as the women walked to the tomb, "they said among themselves, Who shall roll away the stone for us from the door of the sepulcher?" What's more, they had no idea the tomb was being guarded by the Romans, or that it was sealed and couldn't be opened. They anticipated arriving in an empty garden and needing the help of someone to roll the stone from the front of the tomb.

B. Terror (vv. 2-7)

1. The angel's descent (vv. 2-4)

a) The revelation of the angel (v. 2a-b)

(1) The earthquake (v. 2a)

"Behold, there was a great earthquake."

That was the second earthquake in Jerusalem in three days. When Christ died, an earthquake split rocks open and opened graves (Matt. 27:51-52). In this second earthquake God again demonstrated His presence. But that's nothing new. There was an earthquake in Exodus 19:18 when God gave Moses the law. In 1 Kings 19:11 God caused an earthquake as He spoke to the prophet Elijah. In the future an earthquake will mark the coming of the Lord (Joel 2:10). Revelation 6, 8, and 11 describe earthquakes related to His return. In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus referred to the earthquakes that will precede His return (Matt. 24:7).

(2) The angel (v. 2b)

"For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven."

What caused the earthquake? Most people conclude that Christ's resurrection did. But Matthew tells us that the earthquake occurred because "an angel of the Lord descended from heaven." When the angel touched down on the garden, it created seismic shock waves. The Greek word translated "earthquake" is seismos, from which we derive the English word seismograph. No doubt the women felt it as they approached the tomb.

b) The role of the angel (vv. 2c-3)

(1) To move the stone (v. 2c)

"[He] came and rolled back the stone from the door."

Notice that Matthew doesn't say the angel let Jesus out of the tomb. Since Jesus had the power to raise Himself from the dead, He certainly didn't have to wait in the tomb until an angel moved the stone so He could get out! No one actually saw the resurrection take place. The women experienced the seismic ramifications of the angel's descent and the other phenomena that accompanied the resurrection. But the resurrection itself was invisible because no one was in the tomb to see it. Christ came out of that grave on His own. The angel didn't move the stone to let the Lord out; he moved it to let the women in so they could see that Jesus was already gone.

How did Jesus get out of the tomb? In the same way He entered the room where the disciples were meeting eight days later: "Then came Jesus, the door being shut, and stood in the midst" (John 20:26). The same way He came through a wall into the upper room is the same way He passed through the rock of His grave. It wasn't a problem for Him since He was in His glorified form.

And the angel opened the door to the grave not just to let the women in, but to allow the whole world to see that Jesus wasn't there. When the women arrived, they went in and saw He wasn't there (Luke 24:3). When Peter and John arrived, they went in and saw the linen wrappings undisturbed and the head napkin in a separate place (John 20:6-7). There was no turmoil--no evidence that someone hurriedly unwrapped the body and threw the wrappings on the floor. The wrappings lay just as they had been wrapped about Christ' body--only His body was gone.

(2) To attest to the resurrection (v. 2d)

"[He] sat upon it."

After the angel moved the stone, he sat on it to act as the heavenly witness to what had happened. You can imagine the Jewish leaders felt secure that Jesus was dead and buried, and His body held captive in a tomb. But little did they know that all their efforts only served to validate His resurrection.

As the women arrived in the garden, they saw that the tomb was open and the stone rolled back. At this point we need to look at John's gospel to see how Mary Magdalene responded to what she saw. We can't be dogmatic, but it seems that John's narrative fits best in this chronology. John 20:1-2 says, "The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved [John], and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him." All Mary saw was that the grave was open. She apparently didn't notice the angel.

As we return to Matthew's narrative, Mary Magdalene left to tell Peter and John that the body had been stolen. The other women remained and had the wonderful experience of encountering an angel.

(3) To represent God (v. 3)

"His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow."

That his face was like lightning represents the the essence, deity, and brilliance of the character of God. You might compare it to the Shekinah of God as it was transmitted to Moses, whose face radiated the glory of God (Ex. 34:29-35). Matthew also says the angel's garment was white as snow, which represents God's purity and holiness. This holy angel bore the imprimatur of God. He is described in a way that distinguishes him from a man or a demon. He is identified as the agent of God, and was a living witness to the risen Christ.

c) The reaction to the angel (v. 4)

"For fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men."

Matthew used the same Greek root for "shake" as he did for "earthquake" in verse 2. So the earth quaked and the guards shaked! They not only shook, but also became as dead men. They lapsed into a temporary coma out of sheer terror. Fear can paralyze people to the point where they become unconscious. The guards saw something they were unable to comprehend. The women also were afraid, but were sustained by the angel.

2. The angel's explanation (vv. 5-6b)

a) Offered (v. 5a)

"The angel answered and said unto the women."

A better way to translate that is "the angel explained and said." Some things need explaining even when someone isn't asking questions. This situation definitely needed one: Where was Christ and what was the angel doing there?

b) Examined (vv. 5b-6b)

(1) He calmed the women's fears (v. 5b)

"Fear not."

The soldiers had reason to fear when the angel appeared. But those who loved Christ had no reason to fear.

(2) He knew the women's objective (v. 5c)

"For I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified."

The angel knew why the women came to the grave. That had to be a comfort to them. They came to find a corpse, not to see a resurrection. They came out of devotion to anoint a dead body. God didn't rebuke them for their weak faith--He was gracious. They loved the Lord Jesus Christ. In spite of their doubt and despair, God recognized their love and responded in grace.

(3) He confirmed Christ's resurrection (v. 6a)

"He is not here; for he is risen."

The literal translation of the Greek text is "he was raised." The Greek word indicates that it was a resurrection from the dead. There's no question that Christ had died. That's why at the crucifixion the Roman soldiers, who were experts at death, didn't break His legs. They thrust a spear into His side to be sure He was dead. These same women, along with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, observed His body closely when they wrapped it with spices. They knew He was dead.

The Greek verb in Matthew 28:6 is an aorist passive, indicating that Jesus was raised. The Bible emphasizes that He was raised by the power of the Father (Rom. 6:4; Gal. 1:1; 1 Peter 1:3). Jesus also was raised by His own power. In John 10:18 He says, "I have power to lay [My life] down, and I have power to take it again." And Romans 8:11 says He was raised by the power of the Spirit. The entire Trinity is responsible for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(4) He recalled Christ's prophecy (v. 6b)

"As he said."

The angel reminded the women that Jesus said He would rise on the third day.

3. The angel's invitation (v. 6c)

"Come, see the place where the Lord lay."

Luke 24:3 says they went into the tomb. The angel appeared in the tomb and gave them the same speech: "He is risen; he is not here" (Mark 16:6). It was a difficult message to believe the first time, so the angel repeated it to emphasize the incredible reality that so stunned the minds of the women.

Luke 24:4 and John 20:12 tell us a second angel accompanied the first angel--one was at the head of where the body once laid, and one was at the feet. That beautiful picture is reminiscent of the Ark of the Covenant. On the top of the Ark of the Covenant was the Mercy Seat, where atonement was made for sin. Angels were positioned on both sides of the mercy seat. In the tomb the angels were positioned on either side of the absent body of Christ--the same body that was offered as the satisfaction for the sins of the world.

Luke 24:5-7 says that the two angels gave the women an additional message: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, "The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." Verse 8 tells us that the women finally remembered Jesus' words.

4. The angel's command (v. 7)

a) To exhort the disciples (v. 7a)

"Go quickly, and tell his disciples that He is risen from the dead."

I might have been tempted not to tell the disciples. After all, they weren't at the tomb. The disciples were vacillating and weak. They denied and abandoned the Savior. Yet God didn't want them to know a moment's anguish or misery. He wanted the women to tell them as soon as possible that Christ was raised from dead. So we see God extend His grace to the disciples.


Why were the women the first to see the angel and the risen Christ? First Corinthians 1:27 says that God chooses the weak to confound the strong. It is also true that He rewards the faithful. Since the women had unselfishly served the Lord in the past, they were to be specially rewarded. It has been said that supreme love deserves supreme privilege. But the main point is that they saw the angel and the living Christ because they were there. If anyone else had been at the tomb, they would have seen the angel and Christ, too.

It's good to be present when the Lord does wonderful things. The closer you stay to the Lord and what He's doing, the more you're going to enjoy what He's doing. I would rather experience it myself than hear about it from someone. I praise God for people who are where the Lord is working. They're with His people when they gather together to worship Him. They're present when His Word is taught. They're ready to get on their knees before Him. They're using their gifts in the Lord's service. As a result, they experience firsthand the active power of God.

I hope you will be like those women. What you lack in faith, may you make up for in devotion. What you lack in understanding, may you make up for in loyalty. God will confirm your weakness and turn it into strength because you're faithful and loyal enough to be where He is when He's working.

Focusing on the Facts

1. What are some of the possible reactions to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Explain each one (see pp. 1-2).

2. To what end does Matthew build his gospel (see p. 2)?

3. What was the topic of the early church's first sermon (see p. 2)?

4. What is the theme of the New Testament epistles (see p. 3)?

5. What makes Matthew's approach to the resurrection unique (see 4)?

6. How many days had Christ been in the grave at the time Matthew 28:1 identifies (see p. 4)?

7. Name the women who went to visit Jesus' tomb on Sunday morning (see p. 5).

8. Why did the women go to the grave (Mark 16:1; see pp. 5-6)?

9. What does the earthquake in Matthew 28:2 symbolize? Explain (see pp. 6-7).

10. What caused the earthquake (see p. 7)?

11. Why did the angel roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb (see p. 7)?

12. Describe the reaction of Mary Magdalene upon seeing the tomb was empty (John 20:1-2; see p. 8).

13. Describe the appearance of the angel. What does his description represent (Matt. 28:3; see pp. 8-9)?

14. How did the guards react when they saw the angel (Matt. 28:4; see p. 9)?

15. According to Matthew 28:5-6 and Luke 24:5-7, what did the angel tell the women (see pp. 9-10)?

16. Who is responsible for the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Explain (see p. 10).

Pondering the Principles

1. The women who visited the grave of Jesus Christ on the third day came because they were motivated by one thing: their love for Him. Look up the following verses: Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; Psalm 97:10; 1 John 3:17-18; 4:19-21. Based on those verses, what does love for Jesus Christ mean? Give some examples of how you have manifested your love for Jesus Christ. If there are times your love for Him has fallen short of what it should be, confess that right now. Ask God to help you manifest your love for Christ by loving others and obeying His Word.

2. Read Philippians 3:10. What did Paul want to know or experience about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Read John 14:19, Romans 4:25, and Romans 8:11. What do those verses tell us about the effect of the resurrection on our past, present, and future? Ask God to give you the knowledge that Paul sought.

Added to the John MacArthur "Study Guide" Collection by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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* * * Four Important Things To KNOW: #1) For ALL (Americans, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist, Asians, Presbyterians, Europeans, Baptist, Brazilians, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc.) have sinned & fall short of the glory of God. #2) For the wages of above (see #1) are DEATH (Hell, eternal separation from God, & damnation) but the Gift (free & at no charge to you) of God (Creator, Jehovah, & Trinity) is Eternal Life (Heaven) through (in union with) Jesus Christ (God, Lord, 2nd Person of The Trinity, Messiah, Prince of Peace & Savior of the World). #3) For God so greatly loved & dearly prized the world (Americans, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist, Asians, Presbyterians, Europeans, Baptist, Brazilians, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc.) that He even gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, that whosoever (anyone, anywhere, anytime - while still living) believes (trust in, relies on, clings to, depends completely on) Him shall have eternal (everlasting) life (heaven). #4) Jesus said: "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, & THE LIFE. No one (male/female - American, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Asian, Presbyterian, European, Baptist, Brazilian, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc. ) comes (arrives) to the Father (with GOD in Heaven) EXCEPT BY (through) ME (no other name). *** This wonderful loving GOD gives you the choice - - - (Rev. 3:20) {Please note that church membership, baptism, doing good things, etc. are not requirements for becoming a Christian - however they are great afterwards!!!} *** Jesus said, "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction (Hell, damnation, eternal punishment), and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life (Heaven, eternal happiness, forever with God), and only a few find it.

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But these are written so that you may
believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the
Son of God, and that by believing in
Him you will have life. Jn 20:31

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call on Him while He is near. Let the
wicked forsake his way and the evil
man his thoughts. Let him turn to the
Lord, and He will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for He will freely
pardon. "For My thoughts are not
your thoughts, neither are your ways
My ways," declares the Lord. "As the
heavens are higher than the earth, so
are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow come down
from heaven, and do not return to it
without watering the earth and making
it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed
for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My word that goes out from My
mouth: It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and
achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth
in peace; the mountains and hills will
burst into song before you, and all the
trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the
pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle
will grow. This will be for the Lord's
renown, for an everlasting sign, which
will not be destroyed." Is 55

O Lord, you have searched me and you
know me. You know when I sit and when
I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying
down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know
it completely, O Lord. You hem me in -
behind and before; you have laid your
hand upon me. Such knowledge is too
wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where
can I flee from your presence? If I go up
to the heavens, you are there; if I make
my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide
me and the light become night around
me," even the darkness will not be dark
to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. For you
created my inmost being; you knit me
together in my mother's womb. I praise
you because I am fearfully and wonderfully
made; your works are wonderful, I know
that full well. My frame was not hidden
from you when I was made in the secret
place. When I was woven together in the
depths of the earth, your eyes saw my
unformed body. All the days ordained
for me were written in your book before
one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts,
O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would
outnumber the grains of sand. When
I awake, I am still with you. Search me,
O God, and know my heart; test me
and know my anxious thoughts. See
if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Ps 139

But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up,
that I may show My power in you, and that My
Name may be declared in all the earth. Ex 9:16

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
- - Isaac Watts

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