I love the makeover episodes of The Biggest Loser. When the remaining contestants get a makeover, put on their goal outfits, and revealed to an audience. What I love is the looks on the faces of the audience when the NEW, SLIM contestant walks past the huge poster of the OLD, OVERWEIGHT contestant.
Their jaws drop, their eyes open wide. They almost can’t believe what they’re looking at. They look again to check it’s the same person as the poster. And then, when they it finally sinks in that it’s the same person – at least on the INSIDE- they scream or squeal, or start whistling or cheering wildly.
It’s an incredible news! The best sort of surprise!
I wonder if that’s how the two Marys reacted when they got to the tomb that first Easter Sunday morning. They’d gone at dawn, barely a soul about. It was quiet and calm. No one to disturb their grieving.
But as they approach the tomb, their eyes widen and their jaws drop. Things aren’t the way they remembered them on Friday evening.
Imagine the scene. There’d been another earthquake, and an angel had come and rolled the stone away and was sitting on it. The guards are all lying about comatose, babbling and shivering like idiots.
The women would do a double-take. There’d be stunned silence. And probably FEAR, if the angel’s first words are anything to go by. V5.
“DO NOT BE AFRAID, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
The women had GONE there expecting mourning and solitude, tears and grief. But instead they’re confronted with the unbelievable news that Jesus isn’t THERE anymore. Not only that, but that he isn’t DEAD anymore!
But they’d SEEN it. The one they loved, the one they’d followed and cared for all the way from Galilee – the one they’d witnessed LIFELESS. Broken, bruised and bleeding. Then wrapped up, placed in the cave tomb, and sealed behind a stone door. They’d SEEN IT ALL.
And anyway, dead men don’t RISE. Everyone knew THAT!
I think we sometimes forget that the incredible news of that first Easter was just as mind-blowing for Jesus’ FOLLOWERS as it was for everyone ELSE. THEY weren’t expecting it EITHER.
Although they SHOULD have. Jesus had WARNED them often enough. Which is just what the angel REMINDS them. “He’s RISEN, just as he SAID.”
Even the JEWISH LEADERS had picked up on THAT message. That’s why they’d asked for a guard outside the tomb. Back at the end of Ch 27.
63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive THAT DECEIVER SAID, ‘AFTER THREE DAYS I WILL RISE AGAIN.’
They didn’t BELIEVE it. But they’d HEARD it.
And these WOMEN had heard it too. But rather than just make them take his word for it, the angel says to them, “COME AND SEE for yourself!”
It’s one of the things that separates Christianity from the other world religions. It makes HISTORICAL claims. Claims that, while they can’t be PROVED, can certainly be DISPROVED.
Christianity puts its head on the chopping block in a way no other religion DOES. If Jesus’ body were found, then Christianity would FALL. Paul says in 1 Cor 15, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.”
It all rests on THAT HISTORICAL FACT.
It’s not faith OR reason. That’s what MOST people think. Christian faith is about using REASON to investigate, then asking the question whether it’s CREDIBLE to trust the evidence.
The angel says, “Come and See!”
Christianity says, “Check out the evidence for yourself!”
The claims Christianity makes are no different from ANY historical claims. They ALL require faith. Nothing in history can be PROVED. But in terms of there being intellectually credible evidence for the truth of the historical events around the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. As much as ANY history can be proved, it’s more historically reliable than almost ANYTHING in history.
Come and see, go and tell
“Come and see!” says the angel. But that’s not ALL. They don’t just WITNESS the empty tomb. They’re called to TESTIFY. Come and see. GO AND TELL.
COME AND SEE the place where he lay. 7 Then GO QUICKLY AND TELL his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
That’s the thing about life-altering news. It’s no good just KNOWING it. You’ve got to SHARE it.
It’s the problem police are having at the moment with the bikie gang shootings going on around Sydney. Plenty of people who SEE the action. But no one who wants to SPEAK about it.
Because they’re scared of what might happen if they DO.
And I guess that’s what keeps US silent TOO. Those of us who know the power Jesus has over sin and death and guilt. We’ve COME AND SEEN. We’ve experienced the change it’s made in OUR lives. But the question is whether we GO AND TELL.
We’re scared of upsetting the status quo. Of the awkward conversation. Of people thinking we’re judging them, or better than them.
Or we’re not convinced that people NEED Jesus. They seem happy enough.
Or we’re scared of messing it up.
All sorts of REASONS that are nothing more than EXCUSES.
When the reality is when we’ve got good news to share about SOMETHING ELSE, we can’t WAIT to share it.
Some of you know Lachlan and I have bought a new camera we’re having fun with. And Mike Turner, who’s a keen photographer was telling me about a fantastic specialised lens he bought. It’s cheap, it’s easy to use, and it takes fantastic portraits and low-light photos.
So I bought one with some birthday money!
When Mike was thinking about telling me, he COULD have felt nervous. Uncertain about whether to offer his opinion. Perhaps I wouldn’t agree. Or perhaps I’d reject him. OR make fun of him. Or argue with him.
But he didn’t. He couldn’t WAIT to tell me.
Or I could have got defensive. And proud. Stuck to my guns that I knew best. But I couldn’t WAIT to find out some news that would improve my photography experience.
And that’s the way we should think about sharing what we know about Jesus. D.T Niles famously wrote that evangelism is simply “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” That simple!
And the WOMEN do JUST THAT. V8.
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, AFRAID YET FILLED WITH JOY, and ran to tell his disciples.
It’s a funny combination, don’t you think? “Afraid yet filled with joy?”
What would they be AFRAID of? Not THE GUARDS – they’re comatose on the ground. Or they’ve run off back to Jerusalem to report to the chief priests.
Not THE ANGEL – he’s COMFORTED them, they’ve checked out the tomb, and now they’re on their way.
Perhaps they’re afraid of the reaction of the DISCIPLES. That they won’t be believed.
I wonder if it’s simply THE FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN. Their world is a very different place from the one they went to sleep in the night before. Eternity has broken into the present. The kingdom of God has shattered the complacency and blindness of the world.
EVERYTHING’S changed. But they’re not really sure HOW yet. And they’re not sure what that means for them EITHER. Fear and joy.
It’s like you’ve landed in a foreign city. Perhaps your first time overseas. You don’t know what to expect. You step out of the airport doors, and you’re assaulted by a whole new set of experiences and sensations. New smells and sounds and sights. New languages and ways of doing things. There’s EXCITEMENT, but there’s also FEAR. Because you’re not sure about how you’re going to fit into this new world.
Whatever the REASON the women were scared, Jesus KNOWS about it. Because he suddenly appears to COMFORT them. V9. They fall at his feet and WORSHIP him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
He’s with them PHYSICALLY. At least FOR A MOMENT. Comforting and strengthening them for the task. But he’s going to do ever BETTER than that. He promises that the rest of the disciples will see him in Galilee. When he meets them there he promises to be with THEM, TOO. And to be with them ALWAYS, in the person of his Spirit, TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE. Forever, wherever they’ve spread.
That’s a promise not just to THE WOMEN, or to the disciples. It’s a promise to US, TOO. When OUR excitement at what Jesus has done is mixed with FEAR. Fear of the unknown. Or of rejection. Or ridicule.
So take that as COMFORT AND STRENGTHENING. “Don’t be afraid,” says Jesus. “And go and tell about what you’ve come and seen.”
Re-writing history (11-15)
And while Luke and John’s gospels focus on Jesus’ appearances to the disciples in Jerusalem, Matthew skips over those. And, instead, looks at a DIFFERENT meeting in Jerusalem. While the women hurry off to find the disciples. Matthew’s interest is in the soldiers, who hurry off to find the chief priests.
And he tells the story of their efforts at RE-WRITING HISTORY.
Matthew’s responding to the excuse non-Christians of his day made rather than deal with the resurrection. People still bring it up TODAY. “Yeah, but the disciples just STOLE the body! That’s the obvious explanation!”
So Matthew carefully records what ACTUALLY went on.
Even though the chief priests heard from soldiers what had ACTUALLY happened. (They knew the TRUTH). But they STILL didn’t believe.
And they bribe the soldiers to take the fall. To admit falling asleep. And that the disciples had just come and rolled the stone away, and stolen the body, without waking them up.
And if anyone tries to bring the soldiers to TASK over their dereliction of duty, then the chief priests will stick up for them. And presumably grease a few more palms along the way.
And Matthew finishes, “The false story’s still being circulated to this day” as he writes it all down. Perhaps 40 years later.
Back to Galilee, then out to the world (16-20)
And, for SOME reason, Matthew jumps over the women actually passing on the message to the disciples. And he jumps over all the Jerusalem appearances of Jesus. And he fast forwards to the Galilee meeting.
Perhaps it’s because of WHERE THE MEETING IS. V16. Only Matthew mentions this – we’re told the disciples went to Galilee, TO THE MOUNTAIN where Jesus had told them to go.
Matthew’s got a thing about MOUNTAINS. Perhaps it’s his JEWISH background. Comparing Jesus to MOSES, who received God’s law, and saw God up on a MOUNTAIN.
But it’s only Matthew who points out that it was on a MOUNTAIN that Satan tempts Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world in Ch 4.
In Ch 5, it’s on A MOUNTAIN that Jesus delivers the Sermon on the Mount, Perhaps the same one he’s now meeting the disciples on.
It may ALSO be the same mountain Jesus goes up onto by himself to pray after he’s fed the 5000. He comes DOWN the mountain and walks on the water.
Peter, James and John see Jesus TRANSFIGURED up on a mountain. When he met with Elijah and Moses. Both prophets – experts at meeting with God on a mountain.
And now, it’s Jesus inviting his disciples to meet with HIM on a mountain. Just like the women had been invited by the angel, “Come and see.” So Jesus invites THE DISCIPLES, “Come and see!”
And v17. They COME, and they SEE Jesus. And then they WORSHIP him. Just like the women had.
But that’s not all. The angel had told the women to go and tell. (“Come and see, GO AND TELL”). And that’s exactly what Jesus commands his disciples too. V18.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and TEACHING them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Familiar words. But let’s break them down a bit.
First up, the CONTEXT for the going and telling. All authority in heaven and on earth has been GIVEN to Jesus.
It’s BECAUSE Jesus endured the cross, because he bore God’s wrath, and won redemption for the world, that God VINDICATED him by raising him. By CROWNING him, seating him at his right hand.
It’s the victory scene from Daniel 7. It’s what Jesus was looking forward to. Remember as he was accused before the Sanhedrin? He said (26:64),
“But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE MIGHTY ONE and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
And now God’s DONE it.
And a few short weeks later, Peter stood before the crowds in Jerusalem at Pentecost. And DECLARES that FACT. Acts 2:32
32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 EXALTED TO THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. … ‘ 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: GOD HAS MADE THIS JESUS, WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED, BOTH LORD AND CHRIST.”
That’s the crucial bit of information that sets the context for everything else. It’s BECAUSE Jesus is king that he commands the disciples to GO. See the logic there at the start of v19? (All authority has been given to me) THEREFORE go and make disciples.
But some might object. “It doesn’t LOOK like Jesus has been given all authority. If he really HAS. If the resurrection really DOES make that much of a difference. Then why is the world still so stuffed up? Things don’t LOOK that much different than BEFORE.
But God’s kingdom is a different SORT of kingdom. Jesus’ rule has BEGUN. And it’s GROWING. And SOME people recognise it at the moment. But it won’t be complete until Jesus returns. Jesus HAS won the victory over sin and death. But that VICTORY ANNOUNCEMENT IS STILL GETTING OUT.
And here’s a shock. It’s in the “going and telling” of his followers that Jesus grows his kingdom. That it becomes more real and powerful in the world.
It’s BECAUSE Jesus has been given all authority that we go and tell that news. And it’s AS we go and tell, and as people RESPOND to that news, that the AUTHORITY Jesus HAS becomes more real and experienced and observed. As more people choose to LIVE with Jesus as their king. As the Kingdom of God grows.
Jesus is at work, through his Spirit AND THROUGH HIS CHURCH, to take his world from where it was – under the rule not only of death, but of corruption, greed and every type of wickedness – and TO BRING IT ALL UNDER HIS RULE.
Tom Wright says, “Those who believe in Jesus, who are witnesses to his resurrection, are given the responsibility to go and MAKE REAL IN THE WORLD THE AUTHORITY WHICH HE ALREADY HAS.”
Is that what YOU’RE doing? Have you COME and SEEN? That’s the FIRST step. If not, I’d LOVE to help you do that. To investigate the claims and life of Jesus in more detail.
But most of us have already DONE that. So the next question is, Are you GOING AND TELLING?
Are you making disciples? Are you baptising and teaching?
And if like the women, you’re afraid, take to heart and dwell on Jesus’ FINAL promise. A wonderful way to finish the book.
“SURELY I am WITH you. ALWAYS. To the very END of the age.”
Matthew BEGAN his gospel with Jesus’ birth. A birth that fulfilled the words of Isaiah, “The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means GOD WITH US.”
And now he closes with a promise for ALL Jesus’ disciples to the end of the age. That the risen, powerful conquering King JESUS will be with us. ALWAYS.