Home https://www.lakeave.org Tue, 23 May 2017 17:15:38 -0700 lake en-gb Good News #nofilter https://www.lakeave.org/good-news-nofilter https://www.lakeave.org/good-news-nofilter Good News: #Nofilter

Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20

     This is a big Sunday for our church and every other church in the world.  It’s Easter Sunday.  If the event we celebrate today did not happen, then we would not even have a church on this corner of Lake Avenue and the 210.  So, today, I want to look at what I feel might be the most unfiltered report of what happened that first Easter.  It’s in Matthew 28.  That’s why I’ve subtitled the message, #nofilter, i.e., because on Instagram that refers to pictures in which the photo is in its original state. 

     This account was written by one of Jesus’ closest followers, the Apostle Matthew.  One of the things that is most real-to-life for me is that in v.17 we are told that, when people saw the risen Jesus, some believed and some doubted.  Even with Jesus right in front of them, some believed and some doubted.  The Bible doesn’t hide that fact from us.  That’s the way it was.  That’s the way it’s always been.  I imagine that’s the way it will be today.

     One man who doubted for many years, and even became an outspoken atheist, was Lee Strobel.  His wife Leslie, on the other hand, became a believer. So, as a journalist and the legal editor with the Chicago Tribune, Strobel began to do research into the matter.  A book came out of that research, The Case for Christ, that has been made into a movie that is now in theaters.  I think a part of the trailer for the movie will introduce to you what I want to say to you today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GoRRzsMw9Q

     In that video, you’ve heard the main questions I want you to wrestle with today: 1) Did the resurrection really happen? 2) Can it really change your life forever? 3) Do you really want to know the truth or is your mind already made up?  I hope you give me a hearing today.  In Mt 28, there are several statements that point me to believe that this resurrection really happened. 

  1. The Two Women WitnessesMary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb (28:1).

     If any of you have taken religion classes in your years of education, you surely know that it’s become commonplace to think that these reports in the Bible of Jesus’ resurrection were written many decades after Jesus lived so that later Christians wrote stories about the kind of Jesus they thought he might have been – or hoped he might have been – rather than the Jesus who lived in history.  Most people believe that there was an actual Jesus who lived in history – but some believe that this Jesus who did miracles, claimed to be God and rose from the dead was not the Jesus of history but the “Christ of faith”.  Many have thought that stories like we read in Mt 28 were created to support what they already believed or to try to convince others to believe.

     There is a lot that I would like to say about that.  One is that Mt 28 is written in such a way that the writer surely seems to have believed what he writes actually took place. He’s not writing a piece of fiction but giving a report to us.  Another point is that there is good evidence that these accounts, like Mt 28 and Lk 24, were written much earlier than scholars in the last century thought.  When Matthew wrote, many if not most of the people he speaks of would have still been alive.  They could have confirmed or denied what he wrote.

     But, mostly, if someone were to make up a story to convince people of the truth of their words, they wouldn’t have said that women were the first witnesses.  Why do I say that?  Because, among all the main people groups in the 1st C world, there was little or no respect for the trustworthiness of women as witnesses. For the Jewish people, in the Talmud, we read, “Any evidence a woman gives is not valid to offer….  It is not admissible in deciding the case at hand.”

    In the Greek law of Jesus’ day, women were excluded even from appearing in law courts or participating in public assemblies, much less providing testimony.  Roman law was the same.  Women had no public voice, and no public role in those societies.  And, this did not change until the 6th century AD.

     This resistance to trusting the witness of women was so deep that, when the Apostle Paul wanted to make a more forensic/legal case for the resurrection in 1 Co 15:1-8, he mentioned only the men to whom Jesus appeared.  But, in our unfiltered report in Mt 28, Matthew says that the first witnesses to the empty tomb and the risen Christ were two women.  There can only be one reason for that, i.e., it happened that way.  Of course, you may doubt what the two Marys said.  But, please don’t say people made this story decades later up to convince people that the resurrection happened.  No, you need to ask whether what the women said is to be trusted.  And about that, some doubted and others believed.  Which are you right now?

  1. The Multiple Sightings and Witnesses – They saw him (28:17).

     Jesus was killed and buried in Jerusalem.  That’s where the two Marys met him in 28:9-10.  Jesus told them what he had told other disciples on earlier occasions, i.e., that after his resurrection he would meet them at a mountainside in Galilee (possibly Mt. Tabor), where Jesus had lived most of his life and done most of his ministry.  This map will help you see it:  http://i1.wp.com/marbenbland.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Cana-to-Capernaum.gifJesus is saying, “You’re in Jerusalem now – but I’ll meet other disciples up north in Galilee.”

     Let me set the scene for you.  Several weeks had gone by since the Marys had met Jesus. Jesus had also appeared to others, like the Apostles, to let them know that he was alive.  It seems that the resurrected Jesus would appear and leave, teach and then go.  But, Jesus had called for another meeting, one that would take place at the mountainside in Galilee. I’m guessing the disciples had gotten the word out that Jesus was going to show up there. 

     So, when I read about the meeting in Mt 28:16ff, I envision parents, aunts and uncles, fishing buddies and the like being invited to come see Jesus.  Many scholars are convinced that, when the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 15, spoke of 500 people seeing Jesus at one location, this event in Mt 28:16-20 was that occasion.  I think they’re probably right about that.

     I imagine that many of the people would have arrived cynical; others would have been nervous or filled with anticipation. Again, remember v.17: some who were there worshiped but some doubted.  We often think that ancient people were gullible and believed anything anyone told them.  But, think again.  They knew as well as we do that dead people stay dead.

     The resurrection was as inconceivable for the people gathered that day on the mountain as it is for people today. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection. For them, there was no resurrection of the body. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. None of the people of Jesus’ day were predisposed to believe in resurrection from the dead -- no more than we are in our day.

     But then, Jesus “came to them and spoke.”  That’s what Matthew reports – and he would have been there. So, note this again: In the days after Jesus’ resurrection, the 11 disciples and the two Marys were not the only ones who saw Jesus. Paul makes a longer list of people who claimed to have seen the risen Christ personally, and notes that “most of them are still living” (1 Cor 15:6). 

     In addition, Paul said in Acts 13:31, “Jesus appeared to many people over many days (13:31).”  The once-crucified, now-risen Jesus was meeting people in Jerusalem so often that, when Paul was taken to court before Governor Festus, Paul simply told him in Acts 26, “Governor Festus, ask King Agrippa.  He knows Jerusalem.  The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.”

     In other words, this claim that a man who was truly dead has risen from the dead was witnessed all over the country. “We know Jesus died – really died.  But, he has risen.”  Remember this: All this had happened just about 15 years before these events were recorded in Acts and 25 years before Matthew wrote.  The witnesses were still alive when the books were written.  So, Paul said in court, “The king knows this is true.  The evidence is indisputable.”  Many believed – but the governor and king doubted.  Which are you today?

  1. The Ongoing Changed Lives -- Go and make disciples of all nations… (28:19).

     In case you don’t know, let me tell you some things about these first followers of Jesus.  These were people who, after seeing Jesus do miracle after miracle early in his ministry, still had no idea who Jesus was in Mark 9.  “Do you still not understand?” Jesus asked.  And they didn’t.

     These were the people who, immediately after hearing Jesus say for the third time, “I have come to die and will do so in Jerusalem” – still said as their first request, “When you get to Jerusalem and are in your glory, let us sit at your right and your left.”  These were the people who denied him and abandoned him in his most difficult hour.  These were the people who gave up on him and were found cowering in a secluded room hoping the authorities would not seize them too.

     These are the very same people whom Jesus in Mt 28:19 commanded, “Go into the world and make disciples of all nations!”  And, they do it!  We have to ask -- What happened?  What changed them?

     I’ve seen it often enough to think that I know what happened.  In Mt 28, the disciples saw Jesus for the first time -- as he really is.  It’s like scales dropped off their eyes.  They saw for the first time that he was indeed Jesus the Savior – the resurrected Messiah – the Son of God – the defeater of death.

     Perhaps without even knowing that they had crossed into a new way of thinking about the world -- a world in which hope is in constant danger, and problems seem insurmountable, and peace has little chance, and people all eventually suffer under some Pontius Pilate or another, and people’s lives are filled with broken relationships that reconciliation seems impossible… and dead people stay dead.  They entered the startling and breathtaking world of resurrection and life.  Jesus died and now lives. If that is true, then everything changes.

     In Mt 28:16-20, we see the beginnings of how the resurrected Jesus changed the lives of those first believers.  Jesus stepped out and said, “Now that you know who I am, you go and make disciples of all nations.”  To be a disciple of someone means that you listen and learn from that person in such a way that it changes your life to become like his.  Lo and behold – these believers begin to be more like Jesus.  You can read about it in the Book of Acts.  These once-cowardly disciples now know that there is the power to actually make things different.

     One of the biggest changes is that they went to all peoples and offered hope and a place of belonging to people they once would never have associated with.  Jesus welcomed and blessed lepers and synagogue leaders, prostitutes and Roman Centurions, Samaritans – Jews and Gentiles.  Then, the disciples went out into the world and, like Jesus, did the same.  They offered the opportunity to be in the family – the “unexpected family – of God.  No one excluded.  Through faith in Jesus, a different kind of community came into being.

     There has to be some explanation for how the cowardly group of disciples was transformed into a group of world changers. The changed lives of people who follow Jesus was, still is and will always be the most effective witness to the truth that Jesus is risen.

     Is it still happening?  Are lives still being changed?  May I show you the story of one man who is a part of Lake Avenue Church and whose life is being transformed by the power of the resurrected Jesus?  You will not see his face clearly because we need to protect his privacy.  Many Muslims, even here in the States, face potential retribution - maybe social stigma, economic persecution or physical intimidation -- when they come to faith in Jesus.  With that in mind, experience now Michael’s testimony:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/5qk8keqxhhrzxjb/LakeAve_MichaelTestimony_FINAL_041217.mp4?dl=0

    

     So, today, God has summoned you not to the mountainside but to this church.  Today, you have heard about the resurrected Jesus.  Perhaps, in a new way – or even for the first time – you see who he is.  Will you believe?  Or, will you doubt?

     It will be no surprise to you that I believe.  I am a follower of Jesus.  I join my voice with the millions who have gone before me to say to you, “It’s true.  Jesus loves you and died on the cross for your sins.  Jesus offers your forgiveness from you past and a new future.  This same Jesus who has changed so many lives, can and will change yours too – if you believe.

     I declare it to you because… He is risen.  He is risen!  Jesus is risen!!

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