Relevant Verses: Matt. 28:1-10; 1 Cor. 15; Rev. 21:4
Leading Question: The Title, “Christ’s Victory over Death” suggests that through his death, Christ vanquished death forever. If that is a biblical statement, does that make it true for all time?
Comment: Revelation 21:4 offers believers a definite promise: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more.” If that is a statement in Scripture, shouldn’t that be something we can trust?
This week’s lessons addresses all the efforts that the forces of evil employed to keep Jesus locked in the tomb.
Question: Did the efforts that the Jewish leaders put forth to keep Jesus locked in the tomb, strengthen or weaken the arguments in favor of the resurrection? Note Matthew’s description of how secure the Jewish leaders tried to make the tomb:
Matthew 27:62-66: 62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Question: Is there any clue as to whether Pilate thought they could keep Jesus in the tomb? Is there perhaps a hidden sneer in Pilate’s remarks? This quote from the official study guide is suggestive:
“If nothing else, their actions revealed just how afraid the chief priests were of Jesus, even after He died. Perhaps, deep down, did they fear that He just might be resurrected, after all.”
Comment: The exploding tomb. The first ten verses of Matthew 28 show just how explosive the resurrection actually was:
Matt. 28:1-10: (NIV): After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Comment: The official study guide contains an insightful comment about the first people to see the risen Lord:
“Some scoff at the idea that the first people to see Christ resurrected were Romans. Why? In what ways is this truth symbolic of what was to come: the gospel going to the Gentiles, as well?
Comment: Many witnesses: A mighty earthquake marked the crucifixion and the resurrection. And in this resurrection a number of the saints were raised, as witnesses (Matt. 27:51-53). But that wasn’t all. We can make a list of all the witnesses:
Roman soldiers (Matt. 28:4, 11)
The women (Matt. 28:1, 5-7; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 23:55; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:11-29)
Those raised with Jesus (Matt. 27:51-53)
Cephas (Peter) 1 Cor. 15:5)
The Twelve (1 Cor.15:5)
More than 500 (1 Cor.15:6)
James (1 Cor. 15:7)
All the apostles (1 Cor. 15:7)
Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-35)
Disciples on the sea of Galilee for breakfast (John 21:1-23)
Thomas with the other disciples (John 20:26-29)
Jesus commendation for those who believe without seeing: Some worry that if they have doubts they cannot be saved. But Jesus’ words to Thomas should be both a great encouragement, as well as a mild rebuke:
John 20:26-29 (NIV): 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
In short: There is room in God’s kingdom for those who find that belief is difficult.