Today from Chuck Swindoll. When you lose a very precious loved one and you feel hopeless and unable to go on, remember that when a person of God dies, nothing of God dies. The God who was powerful during the life of your loved one is still the powerful God of your life.
He's still there for you to count on and rely on. If you have your Bible nearby, we encourage you to find your way to Matthew chapter 27. What was the meaning of these stunning moments in history? Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll concludes a three-day message that will answer these questions and more. He titled his presentation, And Then What Happened.
Let the veil be torn, saying, From this moment on, you have access to me, no longer needing to go through the priest, the high priest. Now look further. Furthermore, there was an earthquake. The earth shook, so much so that rocks split apart. Will you remember also that at noon the same day there was a darkness that shrouded the earth? Not an eclipse. We're never told that the sun was an eclipse. No, it wasn't an eclipse. It was a supernatural phenomenon. The atmospheric condition of earth was changed by the one who created atmospheres.
And look at the third. The tombs were opened and the bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus' resurrection, went into the city of Jerusalem and appeared to many people. The first one to be resurrected was Jesus. There were others who were resuscitated. They came back from beyond in the same body, but they were not raised in a glorified body until Jesus' resurrection.
His was the first and they followed. The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake. You see, they aren't yawning. They're not having to imagine it.
They're going through it. And it is truly a terrifying experience. And notice his response. He and those around him say almost in unison, this man truly was the son of God. Those are the words of a hardened veteran who doesn't base anything on emotions, whose life has been marked by combat, killing all around him, maybe done some of it himself, and he is so moved I believe it's a moment of conversion. This is a man Gentile to the core, has had no schooling, no religious training.
All of his training in anything related to God would be regarding the mythical gods of Rome. And suddenly he's saying that one hanging on that cross is the son of God. The scene changes rather quickly in Matthew's Gospel as we get to verse 57, and Joseph appears before Pilate since Pilate is the governor, the Roman in charge of the capital punishment, and he asked permission for him to take the body from the cross. Let me pause and mention something that becomes very important.
Remember what you learned last time? Bodies were usually left on a cross to disintegrate. They were not considered worthy of a burial, but not in this case. Joseph and other Gospel writers tell us a Pharisee who has been converted named Nicodemus.
Remember that name? Who came to Jesus by night according to John 3 and heard the Gospel of being born again. So these two men, though Matthew only mentions Joseph here, they went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body.
Pilate issues an order and allows them to release him, so watch closely. They go to the cross. They take the body down from the cross. They carry the body in its limp and lifeless state to a private place where they will prepare it with dignity and honor for the burial. In those days, bodies were not prepared as they are today, as we do with embalming. In those days, they were wrapped like what we would call mummies, strips of cloth, often linen, and there would be spices, mostly of gummy consistency, sticky we would say, and the strips would be wrapped and the spices would be added to hold the wrappings in place. So that once dried, this is important to remember when we get to the resurrection, the body is encased in the linen wrappings, so that it is much like being in a cocoon of linen.
The head was wrapped in a napkin, they called it, and the jaw was tied so it would gape open, tied under the chin in a separate little ball unto itself. All of this was done as they prepared the body for the grave. It's interesting that Joseph had his own new tomb.
Again, a word is important to explain. Tombs were not then as they are today. Today, we go to a grave site and the body is usually encased in a casket, and then the casket is ultimately lowered into the earth and the dirt covers it and grass grows over it. In those days, bodies were buried in hillsides where there were natural caves, or when necessary, the soft limestone would be carved by gravediggers, and they would carve out a cavity large enough to hold the body which would be laid on a slab. This is a new tomb, so apparently it was one that has just been carved as an opening, and he has a stone ready for it. A stone was rolled across the tomb and the stone would often weigh a ton or more, and it was heavy on purpose to guard anyone from going into the area of the deceased because often valuable things were buried with the body.
Not in Jesus' case, but often that would be true. And the stone was there to keep everyone out, including animals from going in or any other kind of predator. So all of this was to seal the opening of the tomb, and that's exactly what we have. In the normal manner, I go over this because skeptics have written about the resurrection and they've denied this and denied that. I just want you to know, truly dead, truly wrapped as they would wrap a dead body, placed in an actual tomb, the stone rolled across the mouth of the tomb, and they left it as such. As they brought the stone across the entrance, they left and it was witnessed by the women Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there watching it all. Now I believe, and I've never heard anyone say this, I believe that the priests and the Pharisees who came, verse 62 and verse 63, to meet with Pilate came surprised. They had anticipated that body remaining on the cross because the last thing they wanted was that there be anything near a resurrection like Jesus had predicted. But to their surprise, the body had been allowed to be taken down. Notice when Joseph and Nicodemus came for approval, the other authorities were not there because it wasn't a Jewish decision, it was a Roman decision. That's why Pilate was the one who was the acting official. So they found out about it sometime through the night and they realized, of all things, he's now in a tomb. That's the last place they wanted that cadaver. And knowing that he's now in the tomb, their concern is how do we make sure no one comes and takes the body and then claims a resurrection because, of course, they never believed he could be miraculously raised, but they didn't want a hoax to be presented as a real fact.
So now we're ready. The leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. Remember Pilate, the governor? Remember what Pilate had been told by his wife?
You recall? His wife had said to him in a note, have nothing to do with this innocent man. I've had this dream, don't even think about being a part of condemning him. He's an innocent man. And what does Pilate do? In a weak moment, he washes his hands of the whole responsibility, remember?
And he says to the crowd, he's yours. And he condemns him to crucifixion. What you don't read is Pilate going home to face his wife. Now you got it. Now you're a little giggle there.
Now you're into it. Pilate has been living with a woman who didn't get her way. I don't mean that the wrong way, but mom ain't happy and nobody happy. And in this case, Pilate's sleeping on a patio and eating cold cuts and he's paying a price because she said to him, you did what? And so he is up to here with Jesus.
Forgive, there's a few little Swindoll prayer phrases that I've worked into the last part of Matthew 27, but what else? He's a real guy, she's a real wife, and it's a real note, and it's a real act of disobedience. And the guy goes home and he's got to tell his wife and he said to sit through, not that you sit through a lecture or anything, but he said to sit through a lecture and have all of this go on. So, now that you know all of that, look at Pilate's response and you'll appreciate it. They say to him, we want you to send guards and we want you to seal the tomb so that no one can come and take the body.
Look at 60, 65. Pilate replied, you take care of the guard yourself, you secure it as best you can. He is up to here with the whole mess. He didn't want to mess with it back when he washed his hands, and here he is having to deal with it again. So Pilate says, it's your mess, it isn't mine.
I did my part, now you've got to do yours. So what do they do? Well, they seal the tomb and they posted guards to protect it. Are you kidding?
We're talking about a God who sends darkness and earthquake and opening tombs, a God who can create something out of nothing, and the Lord God who is able to do the impossible. And they put a few puny Jewish guards out there to guard that tomb, and they double seal it with a little extra wax to go around the stone. And they think that's going to keep him in? You want to know the whole truth?
And I'm going to give you a little hint regarding next week. That stone didn't have to be removed for Jesus to come out. In fact, he came out before the stone was rolled away. The stone is rolled away so we can go in and see that the tomb is empty.
That is a very important insight. Jesus in his glorified state is able to move through any solid mass, because the whole molecular structure of a glorified body is different. It can move through a space of massive distance in a split second.
It can move through any kind of dense material with no friction or hesitation or resistance. But they think what we really need is more guards and a better seal tomb. We'll leave it at that. You patiently sat through it. I draw three lessons from all of this and I'm through. Number one, when you come to the dead end of all hope, remember what happened right after Jesus died. When you come to the dead end of all your hope, remember what happened after Jesus died. The reason I say it like that is most people who walked away from the body hanging on the cross walked away without hope. I don't read of anyone leaving the scene of death going, he'll be raised, it's only a matter of time, he's coming back. No, no.
The disciples are hiding in fear. The others are walking away clapping their hands saying, it's finally all over. We got it done. We put Jesus where he belongs. No hope of resurrection.
And in your life, no hope to go anywhere. When you look at what God did immediately after the death, even before there was a resurrection, it's as if he's saying, when someone who represents me dies, nothing of God dies. When you lose a very precious loved one and you feel hopeless and unable to go on, remember that when a person of God dies, nothing of God dies. The God who was powerful during the life of your loved one is still the powerful God of your life. He's still there for you to count on and rely on and trust in.
Here's the second lesson I said it earlier and I'll repeat it here. When you think you know someone who is too far gone ever to believe in Christ, remember the centurion. If the Lord is able to save the life of a hardened, battle-strong and tough-minded Pharisee, how easily he can reach your loved one and mine. I want you for the next moment to think about that person that you have been tempted to put on your forever lost list.
Think about it. Maybe a roommate from college, maybe one of your sons or daughters wayward that walked away from all of it, maybe a partner in business that you were once close to, maybe a former partner in life that you were once married to, someone that you can name and think of right now would be a great time for you to remember that person before the Lord. And call to mind that king of Babylon who became an animal in the field because he had with such arrogance taken the credit for the prosperity of his surroundings, Nebuchadnezzar by name. And he lived like an animal in the field for years until the Lord reached him. And do you know he has added to the words of scripture? You read it in Daniel 4.35. It isn't signed Nebuchadnezzar, but you read Nebuchadnezzar said.
Listen to what he said. All the inhabitants of the earth are his nothing. And he does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.
And no one can stop his hand or say to him, what are you doing? That's the man who was once in the field as an animal whom the Lord gloriously transformed. Think of Paul the Apostle, the terrorist who prayed on Christian communities, made life miserable for those who loved Christ until he was himself transformed beginning on the road to Damascus. If the Lord is able to do this with Nebuchadnezzar and with Saul of Tarsus, he is able to save your loved one, your friend, your relative, even a centurion.
Here's the third lesson. When you put together a plan that tries to hinder the plan of God, remember the resurrection. You could, as a cynic and as one who works against the things of God, you can stack everything up against the work of God, but there's no way you can outperform or resist the hand of God. When he is ready and he makes his move, it trumps all other actions.
It overcomes all other barriers. And he who can split a veil in two from top to bottom, he who can bring an earthquake or darkness over the earth, can bring Jesus from the grave, is able to work even in your life when you think all is futile and there is no hope beyond this moment. I'd like us together to bow our heads just for a few moments, just where you're sitting right there. You may know the Lord, but you may know someone who doesn't. I sure hope you do. I want you to claim that person right now in prayer for the Lord God to get a hold of in whatever means he chooses, however severe he may prefer, to break that person's will and to break through that person's barriers.
Frankly, you may be the one I'm talking about. There may never have been a time in your life when you submitted your life to Christ. Well, here you are today and the moment is right. Trust in Jesus Christ and you will know a peace you've never known before and a purpose that will replace all the futility and emptiness you've been living with. Trust him now.
Let us know you've trusted him. We want to help you get underway in a life that is so marvelous you can't even imagine what you've been missing. But it all begins with the cross, where you first trust in Jesus. Father, thank you in advance for doing the work and the life of those that we so easily write off. Thank you for being able to still break through tough wills and get the attention of those who seem to be lost forever, who give no evidence of any sense of interest. We pray that you will go to work on those individuals and bring about the events that are necessary, just as you did with this centurion, and awaken that person to what's missing and bring them in submission to Christ. And for those at this very place, right now in this time, who've never come to Christ, pray that you will lead them before the day is done, giving themselves to the Lord Jesus, trusting him and him alone for eternal life. This we pray in the name of the Savior, who died and rose again, even Christ, and all God's people sin. Amen.
Amen. This is Insight for Living, and to learn more about this ministry, please visit us online at insightworld.org. With Chuck Swindoll's closing prayer, we wrap up an emotion-filled week of Bible study. He's teaching from Matthew 27 and helping us relive the dramatic moments surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. In light of this compelling subject, I'll draw your attention to a sermon Chuck presented that parallels the one you heard today.
It's an audio CD called Delivered Up to Be Crucified, and you can order a copy by going to insight.org slash offer. This daily Bible teaching program and all of the companion resources are prepared just for you, and we love getting your emails, letters, and phone calls. For instance, I was moved by these comments from a listener in Georgia who explained how she'd been the victim of betrayal in her marriage.
She said, Chuck, many years ago, when I was going through one of the most frightful times in my life, alone in a foreign country with a two-year-old and a second child on the way, you spoke life into my desperate situation every day. And then she added, I am thankful that God used you to speak calm to my despair and to reassure that He is always with me in the midst of a storm. Thank you for teaching me all those many years ago how to trust and depend on God. Well, just one more confirmation that God's Spirit is still changing lives. And as we enter the holidays and approach the end of the year, we're calling on every listener to do their part in making this Bible teaching available.
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