During Holy Week this year I read the account of Jesus’ path to the cross in the Gospel of Matthew. Events like the Last Supper, washing the disciples’ feet, praying in Gethsemane, and Judas’ betrayal all lead to Christ’s ignominious murder on the cross. But Matthew 28 relates the account of the resurrection. I saved reading that chapter for Easter Sunday. As I eagerly imbibed the words, the Holy Spirit pressed several reflections onto my heart.
Here they are in sequential order from verse 1 to verse 20.
The Resurrection (vv 1-10)
- Two women–Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary”–were the first ones up on the first day of the week to go see Jesus. (v. 1)
- Angels are not chubby babies sitting on clouds and playing the harp. Angels are supernatural creatures created by God. Although they are spiritual beings they can take on many forms such as a man in white clothing. The humans who see angels always react in fear, just as the soldiers and women did. (vv 2-5a)
- Often we are disappointed when someone we seek cannot be found. But for these women and all of humanity, the best news in the world was that Jesus was not where they expected him to be. (v. 5b)
- If you’re going to tweet or post a verse of Scripture on Easter, consider Mt. 28:6, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” It’s the best announcement the universe has ever heard.
- Don’t skip over the “as he said” clause in v. 6. In the chapters leading up to the resurrection, Jesus Himself often said that what was happening had to occur in “so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” All of this, even the incomprensible evil of the cross, happened according to a plan designed for our good and God’s glory. (v. 6)
- How often had the women experienced both “fear” and “joy” at an announcement? I imagine it must have been a strange complex of emotions. (vv 7-8).
- While the ESV Bible translates the Greek word chairete as “Greetings.” The word is better rendered “rejoice” or “hail” and it is in the imperative. Jesus’ first word after the resurrection is an authoritative command to worship. (v. 9)
- Notice Jesus does not refuse the womens’ worship. He is the only person who ever lived who can rightfully accept the worship of humankind. (v 10)
The Plot to Discredit the Resurrection (vv 11-15)
- Most skeptics of the Bible focus their criticisms on the historical reality of the resurrection. They claim that “redactors”–later editors of the Bible–changed people, places, names, and events of Scripture so that it would look like the resurrection actually happened. The truth, they say, has been obscured by these redactors and Jesus was merely an excellent philosopher. He was a good and moral teacher we should learn from, but He is not the savior of humanity, nor is He alive. Although these theories experienced a resurgence in the mid-19th century, verses 11-15 show that denying the resurrection was a tactic critics have used since the first Easter. (vv 11-15)
Jesus Appears to the Disciples (vv 16-17)
- “Some doubted him” shows there’s no proof–even seeing Jesus bodily resurrected–that is sufficient to believe in Him as the Messiah. One can only believe in the person and work of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in his or her heart. Stop looking for proof that Jesus is who He says He is and start praying for a new heart to believe the Good News.
The Great Commission (vv 18-20)
- The end of Jesus’ earthly mission means the beginning of our “Great Commission.” (vv 18-20)
- Jesus is the only person to have ever walked the earth who earned His reward (“all authority in heaven and on earth”) by perfectly obeying the Law. (v. 18)
- Many have argued that since “go” is a participle in the Greek, the beginning of verse 19 could be phrased, “As you are going,therefore, make disciples.” This translation implies that Christians are to make disciples as they are living their every day lives. Going to the grocery store, showing up at work each day, eating dinner with the family, playing weekend softball games–all of these common happenings and more are opportunities to make disciples of Jesus Christ. (v. 19)
- The Great Commission is a fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (emphasis added). Jesus commissions His followers to make disciples of all nations thereby bringing blessing to all the families of the earth. The Gospel, therefore, clearly contains multi-ethnic implications. (v. 19)
- Jesus commands believers to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Following Jesus is a Trinitarian endeavor.
- The Great Commission is not meant only for missionaries or especially Spirit-filled people. It is meant for everyone and it is a command. (v. 20a)
- The great encouragement Jesus gives His disciples as He explains the Great Commission is that He will be with them. As He ends His earthly ministry Jesus circles back to his birth “‘Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel'” (which means, God with us)” (Mt. 1:23). God’s presence is the most profound gift humanity has ever been given.
The End and the Beginning of the Matter
The resurrection is the central event in Christianity. The sinless suffering of the cross was redeemed when Jesus emerged from the tomb alive. Because the resurrection is true, anyone who believes in Christ can be saved from sin, Satan, and death. We now have a king who is alive and ruling on the throne. He has all authority and He will return in a glorious display of His power to judge the living and the dead. In the meantime, we who have believed, take on the privilege and responsibility of telling people of every nation about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Happy Resurrection Day.
Discussion Question: What other observations would you add from Matthew 28 or any other resurrection account?