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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Three Commands from the Risen Jesus
Text:Matthew 28:9-10 (View)
Occasion:Easter
Topic:Death Defeated
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-04-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 16:4,5                                                                                           

Ps 40:5,7

Reading – Matthew 27:57 - 28:20

Ps 86:1,2,3

Sermon – Matthew 28:9-10

Hy 31:1,2

Hy 84:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, there’s not always a lot of thought behind our greetings. Meeting someone on the sidewalk for our evening stroll, we might say “How are you doing?” And then we’d be surprised to hear all sorts of details about said person’s life: their emotional state, some ongoing family issue, and a medical condition. When we say, “How are you doing?” to each other, we don’t really want to know. Like many of our greetings, there’s not much thought behind it.

Yet things are different for our Lord, for He never speaks a careless or thoughtless word. When we listen to the four gospels, Christ’s speaking always has meaning. His words are sincere. His words are personal and direct. Christ’s words get right to the heart of the matter, and they transform his listeners.

Today we listen to the first words that were spoken by our Lord on that Sunday when He arose from the grave. For three days now, Jesus has been silent—in the stillness of the grave. For three years before this, He’d filled the air with his wisdom, speaking many words of instruction, warning, and encouragement. But then Christ’s mouth was closed. He uttered his final words on the cross, and then He breathed his last.

Now it’s Sunday, though, Easter morning. Christ has risen from the dead, and He’s about to meet two of his beloved followers. Seeing them, He’ll open his mouth and greet them. And what will He say? Nothing trivial, nothing clichéd, but things of deep meaning, words for the ages—and words for today. I preach God’s Word to you from Matthew 28:9-10,

The risen Saviour speaks on Easter Sunday:

  1. Rejoice!
  2. Don’t be afraid!
  3. Go and tell!

           

1) The risen Saviour speaks: “Rejoice!” – When you go to a cemetery, you expect peace and quiet. That’s surely what these women expected, too. The Sabbath was over, now it’s Easter Sunday, and at an early hour they’re heading for tomb of Christ.

It’s fitting that they’re here. For these two, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (28:1),  had remained with their Master to the bitter end. We read in Matthew 27:55 that they were among the crowd of women on Golgotha, who were “looking on from afar.” But that wasn’t the end of their watchfulness. In 27:61 we read that they were also present when the body of Jesus was placed in the grave and the heavy stone was rolled in front. These two women had witnessed what seemed to be the very last chapter in Christ’s short life.

Now for the closing word (one might think), the epilogue. They’ve come to Jesus’ tomb with a heavy load of spices. And they’ve also carried a heavy load of grief. Their Lord is dead! The one they had known and loved is no more. So what would come of their hopes? If the long-awaited Messiah was dead, what promise was there left to cling to?

It’s two women, lost in sorrow, who arrive at the tomb that morning. Yet suddenly their sadness is pushed right to the back of their minds. For there’s an earthquake. There’s an angel descending. There are Roman guards, falling on the ground like they’re dead. There’s the stone, rolled away by the heavenly figure.

The angel speaks into the silence of the morning and he shares the marvelous news that Christ is risen from the dead (28:6). But the words hardly register with the women. You’ve probably had that in a moment of great excitement—you can hardly hear or comprehend what’s being said. There’s information overload, just too much to take in, and you have to slow it down.

So to confirm what’s just happened, the angel tells the women to look inside the now-open tomb: “Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (28:6). And the tomb is empty. As they look in, the women probably see the same thing that Peter and John saw just a short time later, when they came running to the tomb; they saw “the strips of linen lying there, and the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head” (John 20:7).

And even with the massive stone rolled away, and a radiant angel sitting there on the rock, and comatose Roman soldiers scattered about—even with all that going on, the most spectacular thing on Easter Sunday is not what the women saw. The most amazing thing is what they didn’t see—they didn’t see Jesus, their Lord, lying in his grave!

This is more than enough for the women. It’s time to go and share this explosive news! “They went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word” (28:8). And then who should meet them on the way, but the risen Christ himself?

Notice how Matthew says it: “Behold, Jesus met them” (v 9). In the Bible, this word always announces something surprising. It has the sense of: “Look! Check it out!” Jesus wasn’t there before, but now He is. It’s as if He appears out of thin air. For at once, Jesus appears and greets the women. He intercepts them on their way, because He’s got something to tell them.

And what is Jesus’ first word as the Resurrected One? “Rejoice!” (v 9). What a thing to say! That’s a profound word to take on his lips, after three days of silence in the tomb. First words are important, aren’t they?

Think of how parents will sometimes record the first words that their children speak. They’ll write it down, or even try to capture it on video. It’s an exciting thing, and it can also be very revealing, what a little child speaks before anything else. Maybe she says “Mom,” or “Dad,” or more likely, “No!”

Jesus, just risen from the grave, fresh from his saving work on the cross, standing as the first born from among the dead, says this as his first resurrection word: “Rejoice!” To be sure, at one level this is a very simple word. In fact, it was a customary greeting of that time. In the original Greek, it was a word of friendly acknowledgment: “Rejoice!” It’s what you said to your neighbour when you crossed paths with him at the market: “Rejoice!” That’s why this word is translated in many English Bibles as simply “Greetings,” or even “Good morning!”

So are we allowed to make this into a point for preaching? Is Jesus simply being polite to these women, following social convention, saying something that anyone would say on a new morning in Palestine? I don’t think so.

In the mouth of Jesus on Easter Sunday, this is a most powerful word. It is far more profound that what we say to each other on the phone or on the parking lot outside. For as the first thing He says in his resurrection body, Jesus extends a joyous greeting to two of his devoted followers: “Rejoice! Be of good cheer. Take heart.”

Think of how it’s such a fitting word for Easter morning. For three days these poor women have been grieving, pouring out their tears for their Master, who had been crucified, was now dead, and now three days buried. They’ve just received shocking news about his resurrection, and they’re moved with great joy but also filled with fear (v 8). What were they supposed to think about all this?

But Jesus breaks into their confusion. He intervenes with an earth-shaking word so that they do not doubt the message they’ve just received. Jesus exhorts them: “Rejoice, my sisters! Be glad! Shout for joy, and give thanks! For I was dead, but now I’m alive. I was gone, but now I’ve returned in victory.”

What a difference a few days makes! On Good Friday, they’d been at the cross, we said. They’d been enveloped in the darkness, they’d seen Jesus struggling and wept at his final cry. The women all knew that their Master was dead. But now they hear and see that their Master is alive—standing before them in the flesh. And before they can respond in any other way, Jesus tells them exactly what they need to do: “Rejoice!”

Today that word re-echoes: “Rejoice!” It’s the gospel message of Easter. The risen Christ says to us, “I’m alive, so don’t be disheartened. Your Saviour is alive, so don’t be discouraged. But rejoice!” And notice how it’s framed as a command. It’s like how we sometimes say that to each other in our greetings, “Have a good day!” Or, “Take it easy!” Those are commands which we don’t really mean, but what about this? Jesus says, “Rejoice!” That’s a real command—it’s a gracious directive, and it has a solid reason.

Rejoice, because Christ lives! This command resounds among God’s people. For God’s children can be sad and downhearted about many things. We grieve our failures and sins, those wicked things we’ve done in the past. We mourn the disappointments we’ve had, the lost opportunities, the missing pieces. We look at our life, and we find a lot to be frustrated and pessimistic about. Or we regret life’s brokenness, the hurts and pains that exist in the church, and in our families and relationships.

But this is a word that resounds wherever there’s discouragement. The risen Jesus speaks to us in every circumstance, and He says, “Rejoice!” But what does that mean? Is He simply saying, “Turn that frown upside down. Don’t worry, be happy”? His words are far more meaningful than any trite words we might speak.

Jesus says, “Rejoice, because I’ve paid the full price for every last one of your sins. Rejoice, because I’ve denied Satan’s claim on your soul. Rejoice, for I’ve given you a reason to live and I’ve secured for you a hope that’ll never fade. Rejoice, for death itself is swallowed up in my victory!”

These words of Jesus meet us where we are. Whatever is troubling us, burdening us, whatever is causing sorrow—these things aren’t going to go away anytime soon. There will be sorrow. This broken world is rightly called “vale of tears.” But Christ’s word changes everything. For Christ’s resurrection means we’ve been made right with God. It means his awesome power can transform us. Now we know that nothing can separate us from his love, not even death itself.

No wonder our Saviour calls us to be glad. Just as Paul invites us—commands us: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). He was facing death, yet Paul rejoices. He rejoices, and he calls others to rejoice, because Christ has given what nobody can steal away. By his death and resurrection, Jesus brought about eternal redemption from sin. So those who know him—those united to Christ by faith—will have real gladness of heart. Rejoice in the cross. Rejoice in the empty tomb! Rejoice that King Jesus sits enthroned in heaven above!

 

2) The risen Saviour speaks: “Don’t be afraid!” – What do you do when you’re in the presence of someone great? When you meet the Queen, you’re supposed to bow or curtsy. When you meet your favourite cricket/hockey/football player, you ask to take a selfie with him. Meeting Jesus, these women respond rightly: “They came and held him by the feet and worshiped him” (v 9). They recognize Christ’s divine power. It had been turned low in his suffering, now it burned brighter than the morning sun.

But though He’s told them to rejoice, their hearts are troubled still. They were already fearful after seeing the empty tomb—now it’s even worse. Who wouldn’t be afraid at such a moment? For they’re kneeling in front of the Lord himself! This is someone with power over the grave, one to lay down his life and take it up again. That’s an incredible glory!

The women always knew that Jesus was someone special. They were sure He was the promised Messiah. But did they grasp his glory as the Son of God? Did they know just how great their Master was? Only now they’re starting to understand, so now their fear is growing.

So Jesus speaks another word to these women. Again, it’s a word of heavenly power. And again, it’s a word of amazing grace. Listen to it: “Do not be afraid” (v 10). Just as the angel told them a moment ago, so Jesus commands these women not to fear. They might be in the presence of greatness, but they won’t be thrown out. They might be in the presence of the holy God, but they won’t be destroyed. Even as they lay there, holding onto his feet with trembling hands, He calms their fears: “Don’t be afraid.”

It’s the same thing Jesus said to the disciples in the storm when their boat was about to sink, “Don’t be afraid.” It’s the same thing Jesus had said about facing persecution, “Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.” And it’s what Jesus had said to the synagogue ruler whose daughter had just died: “Do not be afraid; only believe.” Again and again—and so you learn what a common condition is fear. In our hearts, fear takes the form of a simmering anxiety, a paralyzing insecurity, an apprehension that borders on panic.

But do not fear! Christ tells us there’s no need for it. Why? Because your Saviour’s alive, and He’s on your side, and He’s on his throne! Don’t fear: God won’t crush you for your sins. Don’t fear: God won’t take back the things He has promised. Don’t fear: God will be with his church today and tomorrow and forever, “even to the end of the age.” From the beginning to the end of life, we have a sure refuge in Christ.

Also when a Christian’s journey is almost done, there can be fear. I have spoken to believers who were facing death, and they had big apprehensions. They knew God’s promises, yet there was a dread about what was going to happen. There’s something fearful about stepping through that last doorway. People fear what comes after you close your eyes for the last time.

But we cling to the truth of Easter Sunday: Death, this last enemy, is soundly beaten! When our body is placed in the grave, that’s not the end. It might be there for three days, or three years, or three centuries—but we’ll rise again in glory.

We don’t have to live in insecurity. And we don’t have to die in anxiety. For we have a rich assurance before God’s face, now and always. In the risen Christ, our inheritance is secure. In the risen Christ, the firstborn from the dead, we have God’s pledge that we’ll live with him forever. That gives us a great purpose: to live for the risen Christ! That’s our calling when fear is banished and sin is forgiven, to dedicate all things to his glory as the ascended King, to live for the One who lives!

 

3) The risen Saviour speaks: “Go and tell!” – After the two women meet the risen Christ, they’ve got work to do. They must immediately put their knowledge and confidence into action. And their first duty is to go and proclaim this Easter message. Jesus says: “Go and tell my brethren to go Galilee, and there they will see me” (v 10).

Jesus wanted his disciples to know that He was alive. Many times he told them that this would happen, but they didn’t take him seriously. Even when the women tell them, his disciples were slow to believe. But He wants the message to be brought all the same: “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Do you wonder why Jesus would do it this way? He could’ve met the disciples quite easily himself, simply appearing in their midst like He’d do later. He could’ve found them and announced the good news. But for now, He wanted them to be told. He wanted these women to bring the message that they’d just received.

And as with every word Christ says this Easter morning, there’s something very intentional here, something deliberate. Jesus is teaching his followers something about the nature of the gospel, the good news of redemption. Those who know it aren’t allowed to keep it to themselves. Those who hear have to share! That’s what the angel had said when he commanded these women: “Go quickly and tell his disciples” (v 7). The women have to do it in haste, before the message grows cold. Go and tell!

The women must tell the disciples about Christ, so that they, in turn, can tell the whole world. This is what Jesus will command them on the mountain in Galilee some days later, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (28:19).

And this is the news they brought to the world. Rejoice, Christ is risen! Do not fear, the Saviour is alive! Here’s a gospel to be shared with all, regardless of colour or race, regardless of background or personality, regardless of who told them to be quiet. Christ has overcome Sin. He’s vanquished Satan. He’s conquered Death. Go and tell!

Beloved, does this same message motivate us? Are we moved to talk about this to our co-workers and classmates? Do we long to tell them that Christ is risen, that there’s no need for fear? Do we hope to see many people learn more about this truth, not only in our own city but in other lands?

Since the first Easter Sunday, that glorious message has been broadcast countless times. And we’ve heard it countless times. So maybe it doesn’t have the same urgency as it did that first day, or in those first years of the church. Perhaps our zeal to share the gospel is quick to fade, and is easily forgotten.

Yet this Easter Sunday command still resounds, for the truth and wonder and beauty of the empty tomb haven’t changed! “Go and tell,” says Christ. “Go tell your neighbors. Go tell the nations.” For a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket.

First, share it with those who are nearest. Talk about it with your fellow believers, your brothers and sisters. Encourage one another with these words. If you have children, tell it to them. Explain it to them, and impress it on their hearts. And then let’s also share it with others, with our neighbors, the individuals whom God places in our life, and with the people all across the world. They need to hear that there’s no reason to fear—not if they know the Christ.

See those women. They went at once to tell the disciples. For that’s what faith is like:  faith moves us to action. Faith moves us, so that the gospel of the risen Christ goes out. Hurry, go and tell! Let’s pray that we would be joyful and eager to share the gospel that we know.

For in this way, the risen Christ still isn’t silent. Though He’s long since left the earth for his heavenly throne, Christ is still speaking, still preaching, still blessing. For when we speak of his gospel, Christ himself speaks through us. He speaks through us, with the words and the strength that He provides!

This was the life-changing greeting, spoken by our Lord on the first Easter Sunday. These words still resonate. They calm us still. They comfort us still. They challenge us still. These words still call us to listen, and to take them to heart. Beloved, Jesus your Saviour is alive, so:

Rejoice!

Don’t be afraid!

And go and tell others!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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