Boldly Devoted Matthew 27:57-28:15

Matthew 27:57-28:15

Intro:  Sometimes when we’re watching a movie, the director tells his story by focusing on two different groups of people in two different scenes. 

  • He’ll focus on this group in one scene and then the other in the next to give a fuller understanding of the one story.
  • Like in the movie The Two Towers—King Theoden and the Rohirrim are holed up in Helm’s Deep awaiting Saruman’s evil army of Uruk-hai to attack with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli.  Then in another scene we see Gandalf riding out to gather reinforcements. 
  • Once the battle is joined the evil Uruk-hai begin their attack.  Legolas and Gimli compete to see who can kill the most enemies.  The army of Theoden fight all night to defend what they believed was an impenetrable fortress, until a weakness was found.
  • The Uruk-hai were man-made orcs, and their numbers were as great as the sand that covers the desert.  So, as everyone feared, the forces of Helm’s Deep were too outnumbered and it was only a matter of hours until they would be overwhelmed.
  • But, Peter Jackson focused back on the other scene—Gandalf appears on the ridge with reinforcements behind him.  Helms Deep would be defended at last!

Matthew does something similar here.  He uses two separate groups to tell the same story:

  • The same story—this is the gospel of Jesus Christ who came to save his people from their sins
    • Matthew 1:23—Gabriel to Joseph
    • Matthew hasn’t lost sight of this throughout the gospel, this is the one story he’s been telling—the Holy Spirit hasn’t lost sight
  • The two groups:  the faithful and the faithless
  • The faithful are anchored with the two Marys we read about last week and now Joseph of Arimathea is added to the mix too
  • The faithless are mostly the usual suspects:  the chief priests and the Pharisees. 
  • Matthew gives each group gets two vignettes, four total, to essentially ask this question: will you believe or won’t you?   Within the passage, he also gives basic instructions for either path.
    • For the unbeliever, Matthew is saying that you have to willfully suppress what is painfully obvious:  Jesus is raised from the dead proving that he is the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, that everything he said is true.
    • For the believer the instructions are these:  be devoted to your savior, and be bold in making that devotion public

The  vignettes

  • Jesus’ burial
    • Joseph of Arimathea comes out of nowhere and asks for Jesus’ body
      • A secret disciple, John 19:38  “Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews”
      • And an influential disciple:  Luke 23:50 “a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision”
        • Council=Sanhedrin
          • Pharisee, scribe, priest of some type?
        • John 19 tells us that He and Nicodemus came for Jesus’ body with 75 pounds of burial spices
      • There are moments in every disciple’s life that require him or her to be open—or more open about their Savior
        • Joseph had kept his faith secret for some time
        • Now that Jesus’ body needs a resting place we finally hear about him
        • Not only that, Nicodemus is with him.  He was the Pharisee who came to Jesus by the dark of night in John 3 asking about what it meant to be born again. 
        • These two men’s faith show us that the truth of Jesus can shine into the darkest of places
          • The council==the Sanhedrin were the people most responsible for Jesus’ persecution and death, yet these two believed!
        • And when the time came, they stepped up and were bold with their faith.  They devoted themselves to loving Jesus in the best way they could.
      • But there are also some disciples who don’t have to “step up” because they were already there:  the two Marys are a picture of unwavering devotion throughout these final two chapters.
        • They remind me of Dr. Medeiros—the paper guy, evangelism class
        • We can also see them in the people who grow up in believing households and become believers themselves.
        • “Never knew a day apart from the love of Jesus.”
  • The Pharisees’ Preparation
    • The day of preparation was the time the Jews used to prepare themselves, to prepare their households and in the case of the major feasts, to prepare the city of Jerusalem, for the Sabbath
      • In our story that was yesterday
    • It was after the day of preparation that the Pharisees and chief priests go to Pilate
      • If you’re following along, it was the Sabbath and now here are some Pharisees at Pilate’s door
        • Wm. Hendriksen, “It seems that the Pharisees, who were always insisting on strict sabbath observance, had found an excuse for what they were doing this Saturday morning.”[1]
        • Conniving instead of church-going.  War-mongering instead of worshipping.  Not to mention they went into HIS place, Pilate’s praetorium—where the gentile dog lived.
        • Hate is a great motivator.
      • They says “Put up a guard so no one will steal Jesus’ body
        • It would make the last deception worst than the first
        • They are calling Jesus, truth itself, a deceiver!
  • Let’s skip the resurrection for a second and go to the final vignette: the Pharisees bribe the guard
    • Here’s something really fascinating, how they react to the report that Jesus is raised from the dead.
      • Vv.11-13  “some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’”
      • The report in v. 11 was the resurrection of verses 1-10.
      • To really hammer this home.  What I’m saying is that the chief priests heard first hand reports of Jesus’ resurrection and they weren’t transformed by it.  They suppressed the truth—not that they didn’t believe his body wasn’t in the tomb, they did because they paid the guards to lie about it, they didn’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the Savior.
      • Paul describes the blindness of sin that keeps people from believing in Romans 1:18-20  “men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
      • Plain and simple, the chief priests heard the truth, they saw the truth, and they willfully chose to suppress it.  They lived out John 3:19 “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
    • What do we do with the unbelief of the chief priests?: 
      • Because of their sinful natures, unbelievers actively suppress the truth of Jesus.  There’s no way to reason someone into faith, but that doesn’t mean faith isn’t reasonable.  Romans 1, and the entire Bible, is saying the exact opposite, in fact.
        • Faith in Jesus as your savior is reasonable.  You could even say it’s the most reasonable thing you’ve ever heard, because it’s come straight from God the perfectly logical ruler of all things.
        • It’s the sinful mind, the darkened heart, and the fallen will that is unreasonable.  The unregenerate person rejects the truth, he will suppress it, until the day when the Holy Spirit breaks through his impenetrable heart with irresistible grace and makes him hear it for the first time. 
        • But he has to hear it.  You can’t reason them into heaven, but by God’s grace you and your message can be part of their story as to how they got to heaven.
          • Preach the gospel—share it with people!
          • Don’t water it down with words that you think are more reasonable to the hearer.  Remember what the Greek speaking Jews said to the disciples in John 12, “we wish to see Jesus”;  when you share the gospel let them see Jesus.
      • And part of the content of your gospel is the resurrection of Jesus
        • It is demonstrably provable that Jesus rose from the dead
        • No one with any historical integrity denies that Jesus lived
        • And the largest religious movement in history is founded on him
        • So, The resurrection is proven by:
          • Christianity is founded on the truth of the resurrection
            • If it wasn’t true, Christianity would have “fizzled” by the second century. 
            • The body wasn’t there, if the 11 had stolen it would they have died for a hoax?  All but one apostle were killed for their faith.
          • It would have been too easy to disprove Jesus’ resurrection in the first generation.
            • Jesus appeared to the two Marys, then the twelve, and in 1 Cor. 15 Paul tells us about another appearance with 500 followers, and he was on the earth for 40 days before he ascended. 
            • The point is this, if Jesus hadn’t been resurrected and there were all these written reports circulating claiming he was, someone somewhere would have refuted them before the end of the first century.
          • But what we see is that instead of Christianity fizzling out, or the resurrection being refuted, Christianity flourished and spread all the way to modern day England within 100 years. 
          • That is not just fodder for preaching to the unbeliever, its also a great foundation for our faith.  To remind us all that all of the gospel, all of the Bible, is absolutely true, to remind us that we really do have a Savior in heaven, we really do have our God in our hearts, and we really do have a Father who watches over us.
    • The Resurrection—verses 1-10  Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
      • Notice that our faith, like the Marys’ faiths, are always in response to something God does first.  Grace takes initiative.  God takes initiative.
        • In this case it’s what Jesus did first—he died purposefully, willfully choosing to die for the sins of his people, and is raised by the Holy Spirit.
        • The Marys see the empty tomb, the angel tells them what happened, then Jesus himself appears to them, and they believe!
          • God did the work of granting faith based on the work God did supplying the foundation of your faith.
          • Your faith isn’t in your ability to believe, your faith is in God’s ability to save.
        • Don’t think that what God started he won’t finish in you—“it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”…”he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.
          • Sometimes it feels like our growth is all about our effort, but the Bible says it’s God’s work in us. 
          • Like an unbeliever, we can suppress this truth and begin to think our growth is up to us.
          • On the other hand, we can act like unbelievers by not taking any responsibility for our holiness.  It does require effort to put sin to death and to seek the Holy Spirit’s work in bearing fruit but be assured that God won’t leave you as an orphan.
          • The answer for growth: the Holy Spirit will change you—seek him, seek his influence on your life through Gods word, by devoting your heart to worship.
      • God used women first—if there’s one thing in the Bible besides the gospel you should hear for this day and age is this:  God loves women.  The Bible teaches true equality—whether its between the sexes or the color of your skin, we are all image bearers and equal.
        • The Marys are the first witnesses that Jesus is alive, even though he was crucified! 
        • Being first is great, isn’t it?  In this case, it’s absolutely astounding.
      • They were bold in sharing the news.  Joseph of Arimathea found the courage to go to Pilate.
        • Don’t be shy in telling anyone about our Savior!
        • It’s the truth that converts people—not our well-reasoned arguments.  Of course, if we’re sharing the truth of the gospel it has to be reasonable, because it’s God’s truth!
        • Romans 10:13-17  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
        • Take heart in your ability and your message, the Holy Spirit attends to making the word effectual for exactly what God has planned for it!  You might not be the final link in the chain, but every link is important!

Boldly apply yourself to following Jesus, boldly share your savior with the world around you, and encourage yourself and others with the truth of the risen Christ! 

164 O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.


[1] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 981.