The Gospel: Judgment and Deliverance

Matthew 27:45-56

It was dark for three hours and then the Lamb of God died.

  • It recalled the three days of darkness in Egypt before the first Passover.
  • You remember the 10 plagues God unleashed on Egypt before pharaoh would let Israel go.
    • The ninth and tenth were the worst of all:  total darkness that they could feel.
    • Then whoever didn’t have the blood of the Passover Lamb on their lintels and doorposts would lose their firstborns.
    • Exodus 12:29-30  At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.
  • Finally Pharaoh let Israel go
  • It’s the story of God’s gospel:  judgment and deliverance.
    • Those who oppose and reject God are judged, like Egypt
    • Those to whom God shows his favor are delivered, they are his people, they are Israel

Our passage today is about fulfillment and faith—the seedling faith of Roman guard and the steadfast faith of the women who followed Jesus.  What does it mean to believe?  How do we believe?  How do we increase our faith?

We’re looking at believing the gospel, having faith in Jesus today.  1. Fulfillment; 2. Faith; 3. Foundations.

  1. Fulfilment—pretty much all the out of pocket statements in Matthew 27:45-56 are about fulfillment
    1. We already looked at the darkness in 45, a fulfillment of judgment on those who rejected Jesus just like Pharaoh rejected God’s word through Moses.
    1. There’s also the temple curtain in 51 and the resurrected saints in 52.
    1. The curtain in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
      1. It represented the separation between God and sinners.
      1. When Jesus died, the separation was destroyed, spiritually speaking.
      1. Jesus’ death fixed what sin had broken.  All of Jesus’ life and work were encapsulated by “Immanuel:  God with us” and this was the symbolic capstone.
      1. It goes all the way back to the garden of Eden.  When God made Adam and Eve they had perfect fellowship, but their sin ruined it and they were kicked out of the garden, they evicted from paradise.
      1. In Jesus we have access, entrance, back into God’s presence, entrance to paradise is restored!
    1. And the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:52-53 happened at Jesus’ resurrection, but the earth was split at his death.  In 51b at the same time our Lord died and the curtain was split in two  “the earth shook and the rocks were split”.  Then three days later, when Jesus rose from the dead, these saints came out of their tombs.
      1. When we think about passages like this, we put on our biblical thinking caps.  We consider the big picture to understand this moment in time. 
      1. Death is the result of sin and sin is why our Lord Jesus took on flesh and died.
      1. He felt death’s full sting on the cross, but in the process, Jesus removed the sting of death for his people.  These saints are the first to know his resurrection power!
      1. We see Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones, being lived out here.  “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones.”
      1. Ezekiel is told to prophecy over the dry bones—to pronounce the gospel and they will live.
      1. Ez. 37:4 “Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.”
      1. It’s no coincidence that Jesus is called the Word of God, because he is the message that brings life.  When Jesus rises from the dead those who believed God’s message beforehand and were buried near Jerusalem rose with him as a sign of what would be true for all his believers.
      1. So, now in addition to having free access to God we have the power of the resurrection in us through faith.
  2. Faith—v.54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
    1. Look carefully at what it says:  they acknowledged that what Jesus said about himself was true.  Jesus said he was the son of God and they believe it now.  This is a seed of faith.  We can’t say definitively that the centurion and the others were true believers, we can only say that they believed this essential truth.
      1. Remember, faith doesn’t always equal salvation in the NT. 
      1. There are a variety of different faiths and all of them fall on a continuum.  A spectrum of faith moments of belief to life changing faith.
      1. Simon the magician in Acts 8—he believed, he was even baptized, but ultimately he was lost.  He desired the power of God rather than the forgiveness of God.
      1. They may have only seen the power of God’s judgment without knowing their need for forgiveness.
    1. However, over against this seed of faith we also see the women who were there, “among whom were Mary Magdelene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”
      1. The two Marys will show up again at Jesus’ burial, and then again at his resurrection.
      1. What we see is an essential element of faith—action and devotion.
      1. They didn’t just acknowledge that Jesus was who he said he was, they acted on their faith.
        1. They were present at his crucifixion.
        1. They went to see his burial.
        1. They were the first to arrive at his empty tomb.
      1. The point is that Jesus changed their lives—that’s what faith does.  It grabs hold of Jesus in all that he’s done for you, a sinner, and then Jesus changes your life by the instrument of faith.
    1. The centurion was confronted with the awesomeness of God’s power and believed that Jesus was the son of God, but these women believed Jesus was the Savior of sinners.
      1. It’s the difference between a moment of faith and the faithful journey. 
      1. Matthew’s point seems to be:  the faith of these women is a better faith than this centurion’s.
      1. Why is it better?  It is a faith that sees God’s faithfulness through thick and thin and trusts that God will continue to be faithful.  They were here for the long haul.
        1. It’s what Matthew is pointing out by bringing up the fulfillment in Jesus’ death—
        1. The Passover is fulfilled, the lamb died for your sins.
        1. Access to God is restored, believers “have obtained access by faith into the grace of God” we can call on him like Jesus did, “our Father who is in heaven.”
        1. The dead are brought to life, the curse of sin is removed, and the power of Jesus’ resurrection makes us new. 
        1. God has proven he will do what he says and there’s no reason to think that he’ll stop now.  It’s the story of the OT as they waited for the Messiah.  God is always faithful, trust in him.
    1. Is your faith founded on God’s faithfulness?  Is your faith looking forward to what God will do next, even if what he’s doing in the present isn’t what you wanted?  To do those things we need a foundation.
  3. Foundation—the Bible is full of fulfilment and repetition with sinners sinning and God redeeming and repetition; oh, wait I already said that.  Well, it bore repeating, in case you forgot it.
    1. Why so much repetition?  Why doesn’t God just say it once? 
      1. To make us pay attention to the important stuff. And because we forget so quickly what God has already done.
      1. He also does it to show us that he is faithful to fulfill his promises, even if it isn’t the way we expected—no one expected the Messiah to die.  But no one expected there to be a bunch of dead saints to be raised to life either. 
      1. Over and over again, in the Bible we see God doing bigger and better things for his people than they expected!  Even though they didn’t expect much God poured out in abundance.
      1. God repeats himself so often because we forget him so often.
    1. If faith is the foundation for faith, we need to figure out how we can help faith grow in us.
      1. There are two aspects to faith:  intellectual and spiritual.
      1. Intellectually you must know what the truth claim of Jesus is to believe in it.
        1. This comes through knowing your Bible, by reading it, by hearing it preached or taught.
      1. Spiritually, this is where the rubber meets the road.  A true saving faith goes beyond just knowing something is true and gets to the point of trusting that truth with your life.
        1. The difficulty:  you have two natures.  One is the new nature—the regeneration of the Holy Spirit gave you a new nature that desires Christ.  The old nature is the sinful nature in you that resists Christ and seeks evil.
        1. Faith is a gift and a struggle.  We wrestle against spiritual forces not just in the world, but in our hearts. 
    1. How do we feed our faith? Or better yet, how do we feed the new nature and starve the old, sinful nature? Three points:  practice it; examine it; improve on it
      1. Practice your faith
        1. Diligently use the means of grace.  Bible, prayer, sacraments.
          1. Daily, personal use—build your relationship by familiarity.
          1. Corporate worship—God ordained the preached word as the primary means of grace.  Jesus is the gospel and the gospel’s grace is founded on this ministry, “And Jesus said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
        1. Obedience—are you obeying God?
          1. The ten commandments
          1. Do you seek to keep God’s commands, even when it’s not convenient.  Even in the smallest ways—Jesus told us our righteousness needs to surpass the Pharisees and scribes.  We’re called to obey, just like Jesus obeyed by going to the cross because the Father required it.
      1. Examine your faith—2 cor. 13:5  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
        1. Take a deep look inside your heart—do you really believe Jesus died for your sins?  Do you believe that you are responsible for the death of the only sinless human ever?  Do you believe that you deserve eternal punishment in hell apart from the work of Christ?
        1. Examine your obedience.  Those women who followed Christ demonstrated their faith by being there with him, by showing up at his burial, by coming to his grave.  They followed their savior.  They didn’t expect him to rise from the dead, but they followed him.  Are you following him?  Are you following him even though you don’t know what to expect from him?
        1. Examine your progress.  Are you putting sin to death? 
      1. Improve your faith.
        1. Improve your faith by returning to Christ.  No matter how hard it might be.
          1. John 21 is the perfect example.  Jesus is resurrected and making a fish breakfast for his disciples—Peter jumps off the boat and swims to shore. 
          1. He’s so excited to see Jesus!  But then the return gets difficult.
          1. Remember Peter denied Jesus three times—Jesus asks Peter three times “do you love me”.  John 21:17 says “Peter was grieved because Jesus asked him a third time”.
          1. The point—returning can be hard.  Peter was grieved, but he stayed.  He knew there was nothing else for him but Christ alone.
        1. Improve your faith by taking your eyes off yourself, remember what God has done, and see what God is doing now for you.
          1. I saved this for the end on purpose.  When God’s son died for sins he didn’t commit and he cried out “why have you forsaken me” God spoke through his actions. 
          1. He brought a darkness over the land for three hours, he shook the ground, and split rocks and the curtain in the temple.  He didn’t say it with words, but he said it nonetheless, “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”
          1. God shows up, God strengthens us and equips our faith.
        1. Jesus is the Son of God, the source of salvation,   He is the fountain of grace that feeds your faith—drink of him deeply, drink of him often.  Amen.

Apostles

693 Blessed Assurance

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.