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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:The risen Jesus meets the two Marys with good news
Text:Matthew 28:9-10 (View)
Topic:God's Amazing Grace

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 34
Hymn 11:9
Hymn 31B
Hymn 32
Psalm 30:1,2,5

Reading:  Matthew 28:1-15
Text:  Matthew 28:9-10
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

I’m sure you know what it’s like to run into someone in an unexpected way.  You didn’t expect to see them there at that time and place, maybe you never expected ever to see them again.  If it’s a good friend, then the surprise is a pleasant one.  Well, then imagine that unexpected meeting involves Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  A couple of days earlier he was on the cross, suffering and dying.  And now it’s Sunday morning and there he is! 

Our text for this morning begins with a word that’s meant to get your attention:  “Behold!”  Unfortunately, our translation renders it with something more flat:  “Suddenly…”  But in the ESV and other translations you’ll find “Behold!”  Marva Dawn has this little book on biblical words called Talking the Walk.  This is part of what she says about “Behold”:    

I love the word Behold!  It is a “grab you by the shirt collar and shake you up a little” word.  When it appears in the King James Version and other older translations, it renders an exclamatory word from the original Hebrew or Greek that often is followed by the text revealing something astonishing about God. 

That’s exactly what’s happening here in Matthew 28.  Something astonishing.  The one who had been in the grave for three days has risen and he meets two of his followers.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James had come to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, to show their love and commitment for him.  When the two Marys arrive, Jesus is gone.  The angel is there and he tells them what has happened:  “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.”  They rush away from the tomb filled with fear and joy.  And then who meets them but Jesus himself!  He comes to them with glad tidings.    

On this Easter Sunday morning then, I proclaim to you the gospel.  We’ll see how the risen Jesus meets the two Marys with good news.  As he does he:

1.      Confirms his humanity

2.      Receives their worship

3.      Speaks words of grace

Many commentators have noted that there’s a lot of similarity between what the angel says and what Jesus says.  Some then don’t even pay much attention to what Jesus says and does in our text.  This is regrettable.  A careful look reveals that there’s more going on there than first meets the eye and certainly we do learn more about our risen Saviour. 

Our Lord meets the two Marys as they’re heading off to tell the disciples what they’ve heard.  The first word he says to them is, “Greetings!”  This is just the standard greeting of the day.  There’s nothing special or remarkable about this greeting, even though literally it does mean “Rejoice!”  It’s the equivalent of our “Hi!”  It’s simple and earthy.  It reminds us that Jesus is still a human being greeting his followers.  His resurrection has not transformed him into someone pretentious and other-worldly.  He is still Jesus.  That’s reflected in his greeting.

It’s also reflected in the fact that Matthew continues to call him Jesus.  In fact, all the gospel writers in the New Testament do that.  After his resurrection, he is still Jesus of Nazareth.  Still a human being with a human name. 

He also still has a human body.  We see that in our text in the fact that the two Marys fall before him and lovingly embrace his feet.  He still has a body that can be touched and embraced.  His resurrection gave him a glorified body, but it is still a physical human body just like you have.  In our text, he could be touched.  The reality is that he continues to have such a physical body at God’s right hand.  Our Lord Jesus is not a theological concept, though we have theology about him.  Our Lord Jesus is not a disembodied spirit, though we confess that the Spirit proceeds from him.  Our Lord Jesus did not leave his humanity behind when he died or when he rose or when he ascended into heaven.  Since his conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary he has been a man and he will be a man into eternity.

Why is this so important?  What’s at stake here is the fullness of our salvation.  Our Saviour has our human flesh in heaven as a guarantee.  It’s a promise for us who are united to him through faith and his Spirit.  The promise is that someday we will be where he is, just as he is.  We will be in the presence of God with glorified physical human bodies. 

So, brothers and sisters, don’t fall into the trap of looking at physical things as being evil.  Some do that.  They believe that matter and physical things are everything wrong with this world.  Spiritual things are what is really good.  That way of thinking runs into a problem with the true humanity of Jesus Christ.  If you’re going to follow that matter-spirit dualism, then you have to conclude one of two things about Jesus:  either he is not sinless or he does not have a true human nature which includes a body.  But the Bible affirms both and it also affirms that there is nothing inherently sinful about physical things.  After all, at the beginning, God made all that is physical and he made it all good.  And it was Jesus’ good body that could be seen and touched on that first Easter Sunday morning.  That real humanity of Jesus is an essential part of the good news.

But we also find his divinity in our text.  Not only do the two Marys embrace his physical human body, they also worship him.  This wording is only used in the Bible for the worship of God. 

During his three years of preaching and teaching, his disciples witnessed him do and say some astonishing things that only God could do.  For instance, he forgave sins.  “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” some asked.  They were on the right track.  Jesus calmed the wind and the waves, doing stuff that the Old Testament spoke of as being God’s work.  Then there was the time that Peter, James, and John were on the mountain with Jesus and they saw his glory.  They heard God say that Jesus was his Son.  Certainly it wouldn’t have taken a theologian to conclude that in the person of Jesus they were in the presence of God himself. 

Yet the full comprehension of his divinity doesn’t really come out until after his resurrection.  There’s the well-known passage in John 20 where Jesus appears to Thomas.  It’s interesting:  Jesus first says “Touch me, put your finger in the holes in my hands.  See and touch the wound on my side.  See that I’m not a ghost.  I’m real.”  He’s really Jesus, the man who had been living with them for the last three years.  Then how does Thomas react?  “My Lord and my God!”  He reacts with an exclamation of Christ’s divinity.  With worship for Jesus as true God.

That’s what’s happening here in our text in Matthew too.  They grasp his humanity and worship his divinity.  Their eyes are fully opened and they see that God is with them.  He is Immanuel.  They react in the right way by worshipping him. 

What did that worship involve?  Matthew doesn’t fill us in with the details and it’s difficult to judge from the word used here.  We can say that it involved a spirit of adoration.  How that adoration expressed itself is the variable.  Words likely were involved, maybe a song, maybe a psalm.  We’re speculating here.  The point is that Jesus is God and he receives all the worship and adoration that people owe to God. 

Which of course means that today we continue to worship Jesus.  The Saviour that the two Marys worshipped is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He received their worship on that first Easter morning and he will continue to receive our worship today and every day.  He deserves our worship and he wants our worship.  The church has always recognized this.  It’s in the Nicene Creed.  There we confess that we worship the Trinity.  We worship and glorify the Father.  We worship and glorify the Spirit.  And we worship and glorify the Son.  Like the Father and the Spirit, the Son too is worthy of our prayers and praises.  We give him that worship in public as we gather as believers.  We do it in our families with our family worship or family devotions.  Then we also do it as individuals in our private devotions.  Our risen Saviour is true God and we worship him as such.

In our text, Jesus received that worship.  He didn’t step back aghast at what they were doing.  He didn’t tell them to stop.  He’s not like that angel in Revelation 19.  John fell at his feet to worship him.  The exact same expression is used as in our text.  Do you remember what the angel said?  “Do not do it!  I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God!”  That’s not what we hear Jesus saying in our text.  He receives the worship because he is God.  What the women do is good and proper. 

As an aside here, this is another good place illustrating the way that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have perverted the Scriptures.  In our text, they say (in the New World Translation) that the two Marys “did obeisance to Jesus.”  It’s a possible translation, but it’s the weakest possible.  Obeisance is an act of respect that you can show to a human being.  But when they translate the exact same phrase in Revelation 19 then they translate it as “worship,” the worship offered to divinity.  This is Scripture twisting.  Even though the expression always means worship offered to God, in Matthew 28 they translate it as weakly as possible to support their heresy that Jesus is merely human.  This is not just a mistake, this is a wicked heresy and I urge you not to fall for it.

Back to our text.  In verse 10, we hear Jesus speaking words of grace to the two Marys.  He says, “Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  These words are rich.  Let’s unpack them. 

First, we find the most frequent command in the Bible.  “Do not be afraid.”  Did you know that this is the most frequent command in the Bible?  We find these words or words similar to them throughout the Scriptures.  They’re everywhere and they show us that God is alert to our fears.  He knows that fear is a big part of who we are after the fall into sin and he’s sensitive to that.  As God, our Saviour reflects that here in his words to the two Marys. 

But here what do they have to be afraid of?  Well, look back at verse 8.  We find there too that hearing the news of the resurrection fills these two women with mixed emotions.  There’s joy – it’s great joy and it’s the dominant emotion.  But there’s also fear.  Why?  What it means here is something like our expression “freaked out.”  They were freaked out.  They were shaken, taken by surprise, blown away, confused, excited, all of that.  When Jesus says, “Do not be afraid,” he’s really saying “Don’t freak out.”  They need to hear that all the more because they clearly have the understanding that the risen Jesus is God.  “Do not be afraid” is often heard when people in the Bible have an encounter with God.   When you understand the holiness of God and how dangerous that is, then it makes perfect sense to be afraid when he is before you.  So Jesus is also reassuring the two Marys that he will not harm them, that they have no reason to fear his presence.  He is only there to bless them and encourage them. 

That encouragement comes as he continues.  He says, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee…”  These are remarkable words.  Jesus calls his disciples, “my brothers.”  He doesn’t call them what they were.  He doesn’t call them his fair-weather friends.  He doesn’t call them his deniers or frenemies or whatever else.  But “brothers.”  Members of his family.  This is pure grace because a couple of days earlier they sure weren’t acting like his family. 

And look at these words in the light of what Jesus said in Matthew 12.  At the end of that chapter, Jesus’ biological family came looking for him.  They were going to take care of him.  He was obviously crazy and he needed an intervention.  They didn’t believe in him and they weren’t going to follow him.  They were going to take him away, do the ancient equivalent of having him committed to an institution.  Someone came and told him that his mother and brothers were outside waiting for him.  He responded, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”  He pointed to his disciples and then said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  Whoever does the will of the Father is Jesus’ brother.  Now look at our text in that light.  Jesus calls the disciples his brothers, despite their betrayal and abandonment of him.  They don’t deserve to be called his brothers.  They’ve failed.  He gives them the opposite of what they deserve.  Through the two Marys he extends to them the hand of fellowship and family.  “My brothers!”  He can do that because even though they have not done the will of the Father, Jesus has.  He’s done it for them.  He’s paid for their failures too. 

And that’s where there’s good news for you too.  Jesus says to you, “You’re my brother or sister if you believe in me, regardless of your past, present, or future failures.  Trusting in what I’ve done for you, you’re part of my family, no matter what you’ve done.  You’re my brother, my sister, together children of our heavenly Father.”  Loved ones, our risen Saviour has a word of grace for you too!  There was forgiveness and reconciliation for the disciples back then, and it’s always there for you too.  You can have peace in our risen Jesus. 

Last of all, he tells the Marys to pass on the message to the disciples that they’re to meet him in Galilee.  He’s told them this before.  We saw it in Mark 14 after the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus said, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”  But in the commotion after his resurrection, it’s possible that they might forget.  So Jesus uses the women to remind them of where their reunion is to take place.  He assures them that there will be a reunion.  In his grace, he has not abandoned them.  He doesn’t rise from the dead and go off to find new disciples who will be better disciple material.  Instead, he gives them the confidence that they are still his sheep and he is still their Shepherd.  He is still their Rabbi and master, and they are still his students.  He won’t forsake them, ever.  And that can be our confidence too, brothers and sisters.  Jesus doesn’t let go of you.  You might falter.  Your love for him will wax and wane, up and down it goes.  But with him, it’s steady all the way.  Isn’t it great to belong to such a Saviour in life and in death? 

Mary and Mary must have been blown away to meet Jesus that Sunday morning.  It was unexpected.  And his words of grace must have been surprising too.  Some day we will have our first face-to-face meeting with Jesus too.  It may come at a surprising moment.  You don’t when you’ll be called to meet him or when he’ll come with the clouds of heaven.  But there’s something that need not surprise you when you meet him.  You’ve heard his word now and you know that he is full of grace.  As you’re trusting in everything he’s done for you, you can be absolutely confident that his first words to you will be full of grace as well.  AMEN. 


Heavenly Father,

This morning we rejoice at the good news of our risen Saviour.  We thank you that his victory over sin and death brings us joy and confidence.  We’re glad that he is true man and true God to this very day.  Lord Jesus, your humanity gives us assurance that we shall someday be where you are and as you are.  Your divinity draws us to worship and adore you.  You are the Lamb who is worthy of all our praise.  O God, we thank you for the grace and mercy that we could hear about in your Word again this morning.  We’re undeserving to be part of your family, but yet here we are.  It’s awesome to us.  Please continue to impress upon us the wonder of grace.  Drive the goodness of the gospel deeper into our being so that we’re overwhelmed with gratitude, so that we want to love you and serve you each day of our lives.  So that we want to exalt you in everything we do and with everything in our being.  Help us with your Spirit so that we make much of you, that we decrease and you increase. 

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

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