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First The Cross, Then The Glory!
Every year thousands of people climb a mountain in the Italian Alps, passing the "stations of the cross"
to stand at an outdoor crucifix.
One tourist noticed a little trail that led beyond the cross.
He fought through the rough thicket and, to his surprise, came upon another shrine.
It was a shrine that symbolized the empty tomb.
It was neglected.
The brush had grown up around it.
Almost everyone had gone as far as the cross, but then, they stopped.
One such person is Thomas Jefferson.
- How sad that so many stop at the cross.
- How sad that for so many the life of Jesus ends at the tomb.
- How sad that they have no concept of Jesus being risen in glory.
Undoubtedly, he was a great man, but he could not accept the miraculous.
He edited his own special version of the Bible, and deleted all references to the supernatural.
Jefferson, in his editing, ends the Gospels with these words:
"There they laid Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the grave and went away."
He didn't believe, he couldn't believe, in a Jesus, Who was risen in glory.
Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15:20: ""But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
- Thank God that the Gospels do not end Jefferson's way.
- Thank God that the Gospel story does not end with the despair and heartbreak of Christ's death,
but rather with the joy and hope of life eternal.
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."
The angel told the women in Matt. 28:6: "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay."
We have no eyewitness to what went on in the tomb on Easter morning.
And the Spirit of God does not tell us a single detail about the actual resurrection.
- No one was present in the tomb when Christ's body suddenly came to life again.
- No one was present in the tomb when Christ's body suddenly materialized outside the burial wrappings.
- No one was present in the tomb when Christ walked through its wall into the fresh air of the early morning.
- No one was present to see any of these miraculous happenings.
So, how do we know that Christ has risen in glory?
For the Gospel writers the reality of the resurrection is confirmed by the empty tomb
and the appearances of Christ to many eyewitnesses:
We accept its reality by faith for we have not seen the empty tomb or the risen Lord.
- The women
- The Emmaus travelers
- Peter, John, James
- The rest of the Twelve
- Then a group of 500 believers
- And finally, the Apostle Paul (cf.1 Cor 15:5-7)
We have one detail about Christ's resurrection: "a violent earthquake."
Remember, there was also an earthquake when Christ died.
The earth shook and the creation shuddered when the Lord of glory died.
At that time the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy people, were raised to life. (Matt. 27:52)
When the earth shook for the second time in three days the Lord of glory was raised to life -- raised in glory.
There are many who do not understand or believe the resurrection.
Why is that?
The resurrection is not understood or believed because many people do not understand Christ's death.
They do not understand that He, though sinless and perfect, had to die in our place and for our sin.
And, unless you believe this you will not believe that Christ had to rise from the grave in order to bring
to completion His work as Redeemer.
Paul puts this together in Romans 4:25: "He was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification."
The Lord tried to tell him once, but he replied, "Never Lord! This shall never happen to you." (Mt. 16:22)
- Peter did not understand that Christ must die on the cross for his sins.
- Peter did not understand Christ's purpose here on earth.
The empty grave cannot be understood or appreciated until the cross is understood.
We must understand our need for a Savior before we can understand or believe what happened that first Easter morning.
The empty tomb must be viewed from the foot of the cross.
Easter Sunday must be viewed in the light of Good Friday.
Only then can we understand that He was raised in glory.
Matthew tells us about "an angel of the Lord" at the tomb on that Sunday morning.
The angel of the Lord "rolled back the stone and sat on it" (vs 2).
Many people have thought the angel rolled the stone away so Jesus could get out of the tomb.
But a body that could pass through burial wrappings, a body that could enter the locked room
where the disciples were meeting, did not need a stone moved in order to get out of the tomb.
The angel rolled the rock away to let the women in.
They were eyewitnesses to the empty tomb!
The empty tomb, together with Christ's appearances, were the proof that "He has risen, just as he said." (Verse 6)
They were proof that He has been raised in glory.
At the end of Matthew 27, we read that the tomb was made "secure by putting a seal on the stone
and posting the guard." (Matt. 27:66)
Guards were posted to make sure that the stone stayed put.
And, the seal was the emperor's seal, which was a warning that all those who attempted to move the stone.
Anyone that would try to move that stone would face possible death.
Yet, the angel rolled away the stone!
The guards were so afraid of the angel "that they shook and became like dead men." (Verse 4)
- He "rolled back the stone and sat on it." (Verse 2)
- He broke the seal.
- He ignored the soldiers.
- And, to add further insult, he sat on the stone.
There is a power higher and higher than Caesar's present at that tomb, and the soldiers knew it.
The angel said to the women: "You are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay." (Matthew 28:5-6)
"He has risen, just as he said." (Verse 6)
Matthew has four instances where Jesus prophesied His resurrection.
(Matthew 16:21; 17:9,23; 20:17-19; 26:32).
Now He has risen, "just as he said."
"Come and see the place where he lay." (Verse 6).
The angel invites them to look into the empty tomb.
The women see the burial wrappings shaped as if there still was a body inside.
They saw that the burial wrappings were empty. (John 20:6,7)
Jesus has been raised in glory!
The women are then told: "Then go quickly and tell his disciples:
'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' " (Verse 7)
The two women have been given fantastic news.
At the end of chapter 27 Joseph took Jesus' body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, placed it in the tomb.
- The news is too good to keep for themselves.
- This is news that must be passed on.
Then, a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb.
"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb." (Mt 27:61)
On Easter morning, the two ladies are at the tomb again.
- They were watching to see what happened to Jesus' body.
- They were watching to see where Jesus would be buried.
- They were watching to see if His body would be safe from any further degradation.
"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went
to look at the tomb." (Matt. 28:1)
Did you catch that?
They see the open tomb, they see the soldiers frozen with fright, they see the angel sitting on the stone.
- They went to look at the tomb.
- Their intention is to keep watch over the tomb.
- The two Marys come to the tomb to keep watch.
The tough guards are scared of the angel, so you can understand that the women would be scared.
- This scared the two Marys.
- They are terrified of the angel.
They are afraid that something has happened to the body of Jesus.
After the angel told them the good news of the resurrection of Jesus, the women "hurried away
from the tomb, afraid, yet filled with joy" (Verse 8).
In the Greek language it is clear that theirs is a "great" joy.
The women are filled with tremendous joy!
There are Christians with real and serious problems, and dreadful burdens.
- They rejoice because Jesus is alive!
- They rejoice because what Jesus had prophesied had now come to pass.
- They rejoice that Jesus has been raised in glory.
- They rejoice because theirs is a living Savior and living Lord.
- The women rejoice because Jesus is completely triumphant over death, hell, and the grave
- The women rejoice because Christ's resurrection is the guarantee of their own resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:20)
- The women rejoice because their faith, their hope, and their love has not been in vain.
They have every reason to mourn, to be sad, and to be filled with gloom and dread.
Yet they, with us, also have every reason for joy - real joy!
The Savior has risen.
He has been raised in glory.
"Christ the Lord is risen today. Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high. Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav'ns, and earth reply: Alleluia!"
The women "ran to tell his disciples" that the Lord had risen in glory!
They simply had to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive!
- They ran!
- They were excited!
- They were happy!
- They were ecstatic!
- They were filled with undescribable joy!
And they had to tell them as soon as possible.
Entrusted to us is the good news, the great news, the best news -- that Jesus has risen in glory.
But how many of us are so excited about this great news that we can hardly wait to pass it on?
Good news -- the Good News of the Gospel -- is not meant for hoarding.
It is meant to be shared!
We must pass it on!
We are to tell others of the risen Lord.
The women have seen the empty tomb.
As they leave the garden they meet the risen Lord.!
Notice what they do:
Worship is the proper response to the risen Jesus.
- "They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him." (Verse 9)
- And, when the disciples saw the risen Lord, they also "worshiped" Him. (Verse 17)
Our worship proclaims our belief that Jesus is our Lord and our God;
Christ has risen in glory!
Let us rejoice.
Let us tell others!
Let us worship Him!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at email@example.com