Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. No matter how much addiction you feel, if sin has destroyed your body or sin has destroyed your relationships, it means that if you call on the name of Jesus, he can release a power that can restore what sin has broken. And it means hallelujah, addiction does not have the last word in your life. Hey, thanks for joining us here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. I'm your host, Molly Bittovitch. Guys, we're finally here. We have arrived at the joy of the resurrection in our series titled Instead of Me. If you're like me, this has been a pretty heavy teaching series, but today we find Jesus alive. And he's not just alive, he's alive for a purpose, you and me.
If you've missed any part of this teaching series or if you'd like to share it with others, you'll want to visit us online at jdgreer.com. But for now, let's not waste any time and jump right into God's word. So we come now at the end of this series to the final chapter in Matthew, where Matthew recounts the story of the resurrection.
Matthew 28. After the Sabbath day, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. There was a violent earthquake because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and he was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was as white as snow.
The guards were so shaken by the fear of him that they became like dead men. Then the angel told the women, don't be afraid because I know that you're looking for Jesus who was crucified. But he's not here for he is risen just as he said, come and see the place where he lay. Then the angel said, go quickly and tell his disciples he's risen from the dead. And indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.
Listen, I've told you. So departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy. That is a very key phrase that we're going to come back to in just a minute. With fear and great joy, they ran to tell his disciples the good news of his resurrection. Verse nine. Just then Jesus met David and met them and said, greetings.
In Greek, by the way, it's the word karate, which scholars say is a very common word, almost slang. It would be like us going up to somebody and saying, what's up? The reason I point that out is because people have this false image of the resurrected Jesus is just kind of walking around at this Holy glow and this aura and, you know, kind of everywhere he goes, but that's just not true. Jesus was raised in the same way that he lived. He was a man that you could relate to a man that you could talk to a man that you could trust a man that you could confide in.
He was a friend. So they came up to him and they took hold of his feet and they worshiped him when they recognized him. Then Jesus told them, do not be afraid.
Go and tell my brothers to leave for Galilee because Galilee is the place where I'm going to reveal myself to them. Now, the women that showed up at the tomb that morning were not exactly sure what to expect. We know that they were worried about that really heavy stone that sealed the entrance of the tomb. It kind of functioned like a lock back in those days and they had no idea how they were going to move it. They were probably worried about this cranky Roman guard contingent that was there guarding the tomb because A, the Romans didn't really like the Jews to begin with and B, these guys had literally been on the graveyard shift, which means they were going to be in a pretty foul mood.
And so they were probably worried about them. They weren't sure what to expect, but what is certain is that the women who showed up there that morning were not expecting a resurrection. Do you see in verse one where it said that they came to view the tomb? That would be like us saying we went to go to the graveside and mourn. The Gospel of Mark tells us that they brought perfume to anoint the body. That's like us bringing flowers to put on a grave. They had come to mourn and to show respect for the dead. They weren't sure what to expect, but the one thing they absolutely did not expect was an empty tomb with the stone rolled away and an angel chillaxing on the top as my daughter might say. Now you got to hand it to these ladies. They love Jesus enough that they want to be near him, even in death, even when it's inconvenient and dangerous, but even these women, these faithful women that we've seen be faithful to Jesus week after week, even they did not expect the resurrection.
Nobody expected nobody, but that is exactly what they found. Now archeologists aren't exactly sure where the tomb of Jesus is. They've got it narrowed down, they believe, to one of two possible locations. One is called the traditional site. It's a small enclosure hewn out of rock just outside of the border of what they call the old city. The other is a tad farther away.
It is called the garden tomb, and it looks to me more like what is being described in the Gospels. I have had a chance to go to both. I have stood inside of both of them. They are a little different. The traditional one is narrower.
The garden one is pretty spacious, but what I can tell you that they both absolutely have in common is that there is no body in either one of them. No body was ever found. No body has ever been found, and that is the most significant piece of evidence that Matthew puts forward in Matthew 28. The empty tomb is a significant piece of evidence because producing a body would have been the easiest way to end this movement before it started. That's a way that you'd kill a resurrection story. You just produce the dead body, but despite the fact that it was put inside a tomb everybody knew about, and despite the fact that it was guarded by Roman soldiers, and despite the fact that it was sealed by heavy stone, no body was ever produced.
Why? Well, look at what happened instead. Look at what they said in verse 11. As they were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priest everything that had happened. After the priest had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money and they told them, say this, his disciples came during the night and stole them away while we were sleeping.
If this reaches the governor's ears, then we will deal with him and we'll keep you out of trouble. They took the money and did as they were instructed, and this story has been spread among Jewish people to this day. They lied and they said that the disciples came and stole the body away. Instead of producing a body because they didn't have one, they said, well, just say that the disciples came and stole them.
Now, that's a very unlikely story because how does this group of fishermen overcome an entire Roman contingent of guards? But even more significantly, you need to ask yourself, does the disciples' behavior from this point forward, is it consistent with what you would expect from them had they been lying? You see, the Christian movement spread through the world faster than anybody would have ever expected by a group of people, blue collar people with no resources, no real education, and no public stature compelled forward by their claim and only by their claim that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. And by the way, when they say that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, they weren't talking about it in some spiritualized metaphorical sense like, you know, grandma's still with us, like she's watching down from heaven or he's still living through his teachings like Gandhi. They met an actual body that went into an actual tomb that was guarded by actual Roman soldiers, a body that was there on Saturday night guarded by Roman soldiers when they all went to bed and a body that was gone on Sunday morning when they all got up. They're talking about an actual resurrected body and this caused them, verse eight, to go out with fear and great joy. You're going to see from this point forward with these apostles and these earliest Christians that these two emotions is what characterizes them. It's what fills the writings of the New Testament and is what shows us, I will tell you, why these stories can't be either a lie or a legend that grew up over time. Those are the two most common objections to the resurrection claim. One is that the disciples were lying. Two is that they never actually believed this, but as the story got repeated in later generations through oral tradition, the supernatural elements just got mixed in it until the fish stories kind of grew until Jesus was the son of God who raised from the dead. But these two emotions I would show you are not consistent with either of those stories.
Fear, let me explain the emotions. Fear didn't mean like you were afraid because grandma was mad at you, but fear meant a sense of awe because Jesus was more than just a religious leader who helped people find peace and fulfillment. Jesus was God who had come to earth just like he claimed. He was the son of God with control over the weather and over demons and disease and death. Joy, joy because if the resurrection was true, it meant that God was not against them, God was for them. That God had not come as a foe to condemn. He had come as a friend to save and everything that they were afraid of, Jesus had overcome on their behalf. These emotions, which again, characterize the testimony and the writings of the early church are only going to make sense if they actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Fear and great joy are not consistent with either a legend or a lie.
For example, let me give you one kind of case study here real quick. 1 Corinthians 15, which is, scholars say, probably the earliest document in our New Testament, earliest written. 1 Corinthians 15, here's what Paul says, for what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance.
First importance means this is the core of everything. The central Christian teaching is not be nice to your neighbor and love your neighbor and do another as you would have them do it to you. Those are important things, but the core Christian claim is that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised in the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, which is another name for the apostle Peter, and then to the 12, after that he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time, plus there was another 1,000 that joined them by video at the North Jerusalem Extension Campus, but this is just the 500 of the broadcast campus, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep, then he appeared to James, then to all the other apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also. Now the book of 1 Corinthians is one of the four letters of Paul called the impregnable quartet, if you're a nerd and you're wanting to take notes on stuff like this, impregnable quartet, which no scholar, conservative or liberal, denies was written actually by the apostle Paul and around 50 to 55 AD, which means that less than two decades after Jesus died, belief in the resurrection was common among Christians and considered to be the core Christian claim. When Paul wrote this, verse six, he points out that most of the 500 people who had seen Jesus after he resurrected were still alive, and you could check with them if you had questions about it.
What is more, Paul says that this belief is something that he received, which means he didn't come up with it, it was taught to him by Jesus and the apostles who believed it before he did. In addition to that, scholars say that the rhythmic way that Paul goes to that little thing, Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and was buried and rose again on the third day according to the scriptures, the rhythmic way he says that indicates that he is reciting a creed or a poem, think a song that was used in the worship of the early church. This is a song they probably sung, Christ died for our sins and was buried in a tomb. He rose from the dead and was seen by 500.
It probably rhymes a lot better in Greek, but you get the idea. He's quoting a song like I quote songs to you that you know. He's quoting a song because this is what everybody sang in church. The point is the resurrection was something believed by followers of Jesus from the very beginning. It wasn't something that got added in later as one of the competing stories about what actually happened to Jesus through slight changes in the oral tradition. So you can't just write this off as a legend.
It was believed by the earliest Christians from the earliest days. You're listening to a message titled, Alive for Me on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. We'll rejoin this teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to tell you about a daily devotional from Pastor J.D. that's delivered straight to your inbox. Need morning encouragement? How about reminders that God is enough? This email is meant to focus your eyes on Jesus in the midst of your busy day. And bonus, the devotionals even follow along with our teaching here on the program. You can sign up for this free resource right now at jdgreer.com slash resources.
That's J-D-G-R-E-E-A-R.com slash resources. Now let's return to today's message. Here's Pastor J.D. So you have to ask the second question. Were the chief priests right that the apostles were lying? They'd stolen the body and just made this up and they knew that they were lying? Well, and no scholar disputes this either.
Paul, along with all the other apostles and these women, are going to go out testifying with fear and great joy, giving away their wealth and their lives freely, claiming that they'd seen Jesus risen from the dead. Like I pointed out, you see this in their earliest writings and their testimonies before they're martyred. Here's the thing, when you lie about something and you know that you're lying, you do it in order to gain something, right? You want to gain wealth or power or honor. Yet their testimonies led them to the opposite place. It led them not to wealth but to poverty, not to honor but to shame, not to protection and security but to persecution and death. Yet still they go joyfully to these things with great joy. And I would say that only makes sense if they actually believed that he had risen.
If they knew that they were lying, they wouldn't go to those things and deprive themselves of wealth when they knew they were lying about the thing that they were supposed to obtain. The late Dr. Thomas Arnold, who is professor of modern history at Oxford University, he was the author of a widely acclaimed three-volume history of Rome that is still considered a classic today. He said this, and I quote, the evidence for Jesus's life, death, and resurrection has been shown to be satisfactory according to the standards of any objective historian. It holds up according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece as carefully as any judge reviewing the most important case.
I have myself done this many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. Throughout my life, I've made a career of studying the histories of times and events, examining and weighing the evidence for what was written about each of these events. And I know, he says, of no other one fact in the history of man which is proved by better and fuller evidence than this one. Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead.
Honestly, I don't know how you kid with an objective view come to any other conclusion. The question that Matthew and the other gospel writers pose to us is, what are you going to do with this evidence? What are you going to do with this compelling and solid evidence that Jesus actually did raise from the dead, or at least the apostles believe that he did? You know, every week in this series, I've shown you how the apostle Matthew is going to place in these stories, he's going to place characters that represent potential ways that we could respond to this. Now, these were actual people that he's talking about, but he puts them in the story the way that he does because he wants to give us pictures of potential ways that you and I can respond. We're supposed to see ourselves in these characters, and we're supposed to ask, which of these potential responses which best describe me?
So let me show you a handful of characters we see in this story. First of all, let's start with the women who respond, as I noted, with fear and great joy. Again, that is fear because it's a sense of awe recognizing that this was God himself who stepped foot on earth. Joy because God had come to earth not to condemn them, but to rescue them.
Not as a foe to condemn, but a friend to save. Not to bring judgment for our sin, but to bear judgment for our sin and to deliver us from everything that was overwhelming us and scaring us. If Jesus actually rose from the dead, the reason they had joy is it meant that guilt in their lives did not have the last word. Yes, they had done things that made them worthy to be condemned as each of us had, but Jesus had come to bear their condemnation in their place so that there's no more condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, and that meant that guilt didn't have the final word in their lives. It meant that injustice did not have the final word in their lives. Yes, we live in a world where unfair things happen, and sometimes bad things happen to good people, but if Jesus rose from the dead, it meant that he was going to right every wrong, and he was going to take us into a world where we would live eternally with him and peace and joy and where we would be repaid times a million for everything that we've suffered on earth. So if Jesus rose from the dead, it means that injustice in our lives does not have the last word. If Jesus rose from the dead, it means that addiction does not have the last word because when Jesus rose from the dead, he released a power that could overcome the grave itself, and that means that no matter how bad that sin has wrecked your life, no matter how much addiction you feel, if sin has destroyed your body or sin has destroyed your relationships, it means that if you call on the name of Jesus, if you call on the name of Jesus, he can release a power that can restore what sin has broken, and it means hallelujah, addiction does not have the last word in your life.
If Jesus really raised from the dead, it means that pain doesn't have the last word in your life. Yes, we live in a veil of tears where I've heard it said that everything that we love, everything we love, we watch eventually fall apart in our lives. Maybe it's your family. Maybe you've seen your family fall apart through broken relationships, or maybe it's just because people die, and you thought this thing that was so meaningful to me, it's just not what I could depend on, and you've watched it unravel. Maybe this year you've watched somebody that you love struggle through the last months of Alzheimer's disease, and you've seen that last bitter struggle is somebody that you love so dearly is no longer really even with you, at least the way that they were. Maybe a loved one has died this year.
Maybe it was a child, and you were approaching this moment thinking pain, it feels like pain has the last word. If the resurrection is true, it means that Jesus will take us to a place where we will be resurrected in bodies reunited with loved ones, and he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and he will take away every pain, and he will heal us eternally. If the resurrection is true, it means that pain does not have the last word.
Two more. It means that that's true. It means despair does not have the last word, because see, as long as Jesus is alive, there's hope for you. It means that when you feel like you're in the darkest of nights, and when you feel like the outlook is the bleakest, it means that Jesus, in the power of resurrection, can bring the dawn of new life into that dark grave that you feel like you are in. I love the imagery of Jesus being resurrected at dawn. I mean, he could have been raised any time of the day he wanted to, right?
But he did it at dawn because of the picture. When they went to sleep the night before, they did so in despair, tossing and turning and consumed by worry in their beds. But when that first light of the new day came up, Jesus is resurrected, showing that into whatever chapter of whatever darkness you feel like you're in, Jesus can bring the light and the hope of new life, which means no matter how bad you think your life is and how broken and how fallen apart, despair does not have the last word. And maybe the core of all of them is that this does not have the last word. Death does not have the last word, because one day he is going to bring our bodies out of the grave just like his, and we will be reunited with him for eternity.
And our real lives, our true lives, the life we were created for will begin. I love this statement about Billy Graham. It says, one day, one day you'll hear that Billy Graham is dead. We've heard that, haven't we? Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe it, he said a decade ago? I'll be more alive than ever.
I will just have changed addresses. See, if Jesus rose from the dead, it means that death does not have the last word, because the empty tomb of Jesus has the last word on all of those things, not guilt, not pain, not despair, not addiction, not brokenness, not any of those things, not death itself has the last word. The resurrection of Jesus is God's final word in your life. And when you believe that, you will go out with fear and great joy, with fear and great joy.
Number two, here's your second option. You could be like the chief priest who closed their eyes to the evidence. Rather than seeking out the truth, these chief priests pray the guard to lie because they don't, listen to this, they don't want the resurrection to be true. You see, I think the chief priests represent those people who secretly know, or at least have a strong suspicion that Jesus probably is who he say that he is, but they don't want to press into the evidence and actually figure it out. So instead they come up with reasons not to believe because they don't like the implications that would be true if he actually did raise from the dead.
Here's what I mean by that. If Jesus actually raised from the dead, you know what it means? It means that he is Lord. And it means that there is not one square inch of your life over which he does not lay claim. It means that you cannot pursue your own agenda. You cannot entertain your own pet sins. You can't even do with your money what you want to do or your career. It all belongs to him.
Every breath you take, every second you live belongs to him. And a lot of people don't want that. So they just prefer to turn their back on the evidence so they can retain Lordship over their lives. That's what the chief priests were doing.
So they don't want it to be true or here's something else that will be true. If Jesus really raised from the dead, it means that any reason that you've come up with for boasting and thinking that you're set apart from others, it means that that is absolutely not true. You were so bad that Jesus had to die to save you just like everybody else. And you know why that's hard for some people to believe? Because you and I have spent our entire lives trying to push ourselves up from the pack to try to show that we were better and that we're worthy and that we've got some kind of internal worth and other people should love us and God should love us.
That's what the chief priests have spent their lives doing. But if Jesus rose from the dead, it means that we had to be saved like everybody else. You were so bad Jesus had to die for you and a lot of people don't want to admit that because it takes an extraordinary amount of humility. In order for you to really believe in Jesus, you have to express the humility that says, I was so bad that he had to die to save me and I'm in the same condemned position as everybody else and I'm not any better than anybody else.
I got to be saved like the worst criminal on the planet. Here's the other thing that's true if Jesus rose from the dead. It means that ultimately what he's doing in the world right now is good and you can trust him in it. A lot of people have a hard time with this one because they've got something they're angry with God about. You've got something that God didn't do and you're angry with him and you're kind of nursing that anger. But for you to confess that Jesus rose from the dead, what that means is actually he's in control of history and that ultimately his purpose for this, even though I didn't like it, was a good one. A lot of people can't bring themselves to embrace that and so what they do is they choose to not consider the evidence for Jesus because they don't want to admit that God may have had a plan in the midst of their pain that they just didn't quite comprehend.
And so despite the fact that the evidence looks pretty overwhelming, they come up with reasons not to believe. You're listening to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D. Greer. This month we have a book of 10 devotionals that we'd love to send your way. The Discipline of Daily Devotions is the perfect entry place to become a better student of the Bible and dig deeper into scripture.
It helps you get in the habit of daily Bible reading and this particular study guide presents five of Jesus's parables. We'd love to hear from you and get you this 10-day devotional book and we'll send you a copy today as our way of saying thanks for your financial gift of $35 or more to support this ministry. Join our mission today when you give by calling 866-335-5220 or go online to give and request your copy at jdgreer.com. While you're on the website, don't forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter, get ministry updates, information about new resources, and Pastor JD's latest blog post delivered straight to your inbox. It's a great way to stay connected with Summit Life and it's completely free to subscribe.
Sign up when you go to jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Bedovitch. We'll see you again tomorrow, Good Friday, as we celebrate the victory of Jesus accomplished through the cross and resurrection.
A somber day, yes, but a celebration is coming. See you Friday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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