Monday Apr 29, 2019
At The Tomb
Monday Apr 29, 2019
Monday Apr 29, 2019
At The Tomb
Matthew 27: 57 – 66
A man was driving along the highway when saw the Easter rabbit hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the rabbit but unfortunately the bunny jumped in front of the car and was struck by his car. The driver, being a sensitive man, as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to check out the situation. Much to his dismay, the colourful rabbit was dead. The driver felt so awful, he began to cry.
A woman driving down the highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong. 'I feel terrible', he explained, 'I accidentally hit the Easter rabbit and killed it. Children will be so disappointed. What should I do?'
The woman told the man not to worry. She knew what to do. She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the dead, limp rabbit, and sprayed the contents of the can onto the furry animal. Miraculously the rabbit came to life, jumped up, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped down the road. 50 metres away the rabbit stopped turned around, waved and hopped down the road. 50 metres further on, he turned again, waved and hopped another 50 metres, again he waved.
The man was astonished. He couldn't figure out what substance could be in the woman's spray can. He ran over to the woman and asked, 'What is in your spray can?
The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said: 'Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave.'
This morning I would like to look at the 27th chapter of Matthew and a few lessons we can learn from the tomb of Jesus.
The disciples must have been devastated. They had been inspired by Jesus’ teachings. And they had decided to follow Him. It had not been an easy road, but they had willingly left families, homes, & jobs to follow Jesus.
As they walked with Him they had seen amazing things. They had seen Him multiply a few loaves & fishes & feed the multitudes. They saw Him walk on water, & calm an angry storm.
They saw Him straighten crooked limbs & give sight to the blind. He even raised the dead back to life again. Truly, He was the Messiah that God had promised would come!
And a week prior, when He entered Jerusalem, seemed to be a perfect climax to it all. To be in that crowded parade; to listen to their jubilant “Hosannas” & watch as they waved palm branches & threw flowers before Him. Everything confirmed that THEY had followed the RIGHT man.
B. But now He is dead. How could they have been SO WRONG? What would they do now?
What do you do when your heart is filled with despair?
What do you do when your world falls apart?
PROP. Well, what did happen? And what lessons can we apply to our lives today? Our scripture text this morning is Matthew 27:57-66.
I. THE SCENE AT THE TOMB
A. To begin with, the Bible tells us that Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus.
Listen to vs’s 57-58. “As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
“Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.”
What do we know about this man named Joseph? We don’t know much, but we do know some things about him.
1. First of all, he was from Arimathea, a small town about 20 miles from Jerusalem. As towns go, Arimathea wasn’t very important, but Joseph himself evidently was.
In fact, Mark 15:43 tells us he was “...a prominent member of the Council...” (That’s the Sanhedrin, the supreme judicial authority of Israel who had illegally condemned Jesus to death).
But Luke 23:51 says that he was “...a good & upright man, who had not consented to their decision & action.”
2. Secondly, Matthew tells us that he was rich. I don’t know about you, but sometimes we act as if we think that Jesus came to minister only to those who are poor & down & out.
But Jesus Himself said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me.” (John 12:32) He came to minister not just to the poor but to the rich, also.
3. Thirdly, Joseph had an acquaintance named Nicodemus who helped him bury Jesus. Listen to John 19:39, “He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh & aloes, about 75 pounds.”
Matthew 27:59-60 goes on to say, “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, & placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb & went away.”
So Joseph & Nicodemus together buried Jesus. They shared the cost. Joseph paid for the tomb, & Nicodemus paid for the burial spices. Why did they do this?
4. The apostle John gives a reason when he writes in John 19:38,
“Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.”
ILL. That reminds me of the little boy who had adopted a stray dog. Someone asked, “What kind of dog is that?” He answered, “He’s a police dog.” The man said, “He doesn’t look like a police dog.” The boy answered, “That’s because he’s in the secret service.”
There are some Christians who seem to be in the secret service, following Jesus at a distance. They want to be His disciples, but like Joseph of Arimathea, they’re not sure they want everyone else to know. So they keep their faith secret.
Maybe now, when it was too late, Joseph & Nicodemus were trying to make amends, by doing the only thing left to do - bury the body of Jesus.
B. But Joseph & Nicodemus weren’t the only ones at the tomb. Vs. 61 says, “Mary Magdalene & the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”
Do you realize that Jesus acted differently toward women than the average Jewish man? He treated women with respect. He acknowledged the presence of women. He spoke to them in public. No rabbi or Pharisee would have done that!
So, two women were there. They had been with others at the cross, weeping as He died. And now they were there as He was being buried.
C. Enemies of Jesus came to the tomb also.
Vs’s 62-63 say, “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests & the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After 3 days I will rise again.’’
Now think about that. The enemies of Jesus remembered that He had predicted His resurrection. And because His enemies remembered, they said to Pilate in vs’s 64-66,
“So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come & steal the body & tell the people that He has been raised from the dead. The last deception will be worse than the first.”
“‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So, they went & made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone & posting the guard.’”
ILL. James Stuart, the writer, says that the most pathetic sentence in human literature is that of Pilate to the priests, “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”
Stuart asks, “What would you say to a man who stands in the gray of dawn & says to the rising sun, ‘Stop! You cannot soar into the heavens today’?
“Or what would you say to a man who stands on the beach & draws a line in the sand & says to the tide, ‘Halt! You cannot cross this line’?
You would say to each of them, ‘You are mad!’
So what do you say to Roman soldiers who stand with spears in hand, guarding the tomb which holds the Lord of Life, trying to keep Him from rising from the dead?“
ILL. A hymn writer wrote:
See the tomb where death had laid Him, Empty now, its mouth declares; “Death & I could not contain Him, For the Throne of Life He shares.”
Come & worship, come & worship, Worship Christ, the Risen King!
II. FOUR LESSONS FROM THE TOMB
A. And as we worship, there are 4 lessons we should learn. The first one is: “Be realistic. The Christian life can be an emotional roller coaster.”
For the disciples it was exactly that. For them, Palm Sunday was a mountain-top experience. Then came Friday & the cross. And then Sunday & the resurrection. Up & down, up & down, & up again.
There are some who believe that once we become a Christian our troubles will be over, & everything will be wonderful from then on. But as we mature in the faith, as we learn to be realistic about our lives, we can say with the apostle Paul,
“I have learned the secret of being content in any & every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” [Philippians 4:12-13].
B. Here’s a second lesson: “Be patient. Desperate circumstances sometimes can be quickly reversed.”
For the disciples it took only 3 days. On Friday they are in deep despair, but by Sunday night they’re on top of the mountain because of the resurrection. So sometimes things can be quickly reversed.
Sometimes we wonder: “Why does God allow us to find ourselves in desperate circumstances?” The answer ought to be clear: God allows us to experience desperate things in life so that we’ll turn to Him.
Oftentimes it is only when we’re desperate or in despair, that we really recognize our need of God.
ILL. Why did God allow Moses to reach the shore of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit? So that the people would turn to God for help. Then God parted the waters of the Red Sea & the children of Israel walked across on dry ground.
Why did God permit Joseph to spend 2 years in an Egyptian prison? So that he would depend completely on God. Then God gave him the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams & soon he is the Prime Minister of Egypt.
Why did God allow Jonah to be thrown overboard into a stormy sea? So that He could send His special fish to rescue him & vomit him up on the shore nearest Nineveh. Then he could preach the message of God to the people of Nineveh.
C. Here is the third lesson: “Be faithful, even when God doesn’t change your circumstances.”
I think the ultimate test of faith is not “What do we do when the problems are taken away?” The ultimate test of faith in our lives is “What do we do if the problems are not taken away?”
ILL. Maybe you’re dealing with cancer, & there’s no cure. And every day you experience the pain & face the uncertainty of the future.
Maybe you have a spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s. You’ve been dealing with that now for months & it just goes on & on.
Maybe you have a home situation filled with stress & tension, & there seems to be no solution to it.
The Living Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here. These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong & pure.”
D. And the fourth lesson is: “God’s plan may be better than all of our plans.”
ILL. Becky Pepper tells the familiar children’s story: “Once Upon A Mountaintop.” It’s about 3 little trees growing on the top of a mountain.
These trees were talking together one day. (Remember that In children’s stories trees can talk with one another.) One tree said to the others, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
One answered, “Well, when I look up at the heavens & see the stars sparkling in the sky, I think to myself, ‘I’d like to be a treasure chest that holds diamonds & precious stones.’”
The other one said, “Well, when I grow up, I want to be part of a giant ship that sails across the sea carrying kings & queens to important destinations.”
Then the one who asked the question in the first place said, “When I grow up I just want to stay right here. I want to grow tall & straight, pointing to the heavens so that everyone who comes up on the mountain will look at me & think of God.”
Over the years the trees grew & grew. Finally, men came & cut the trees & took them down from the mountain.
The first one was delighted to find that he was being taken to a carpenter’s shop. But he was devastated when he discovered that he was not going to be made into a treasure chest, but rather, into a feeding trough.
And instead of holding precious stones, he would hold hay & feed for animals. And animals would come & slobber over him.
The second one was delighted to find that he was being taken to the seaside. But then he was devastated to discover that he was not going to be part of a giant ship, but just a tiny fishing boat. And his cargo would not be kings & queens taken to important places, but dead, smelly fish.
The third tree was disappointed that he was cut down. He had just wanted to stay on top of the mountain. He was even more disappointed when he was cut into beams that were placed in a stack of lumber & forgotten.
Years passed, & one day 2 people came into the stable where the young feeding trough had now grown old & worn through years of use.
The old feeding trough watched as the woman gave birth to a baby, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, & then laid him in the feeding trough. And he thought to himself, “I am a treasure chest, because now I hold the most precious thing that has ever come into this world.”
More years passed, & one day the second tree was sailing across the Sea of Galilee. On board were strangers, mostly fishermen.
Suddenly the winds came up & blew fiercely, & the waves began to beat against the little ship. Then one of the men stood up & said, “Peace, be still.” And the little ship suddenly realized that his task was not to carry kings, but the King of Kings & Lord of Lords.
A couple more years passed & one day the third tree was yanked from the lumber pile, & placed on the shoulders of a man who had to carry it through jeering crowds toward a hill called Calvary.
When they got there the beam was tossed to the ground, & the man was placed upon it. Then it felt the penetration of the nails driven through the man’s hands, & into its wood.
And as the people gathered around cursing & mocking the man, the poor tree felt ugly & hated, too.
But then the man was taken down & buried in a tomb, & on the third day raised from the dead. And the tree said, “Now I know that every time men look at ME they’ll think of God.”
Based on a sermon given
by Melvin Newland