To be sure
To be sure, the chief priest and the elders of the church went to Pilate. They wanted to be sure that Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t steal the body.
They went to him with this reasoning,
As Matthew records: “63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver (Speaking about Jesus) 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.”
They called Jesus a deceiver. They thought he had deceived people into believing that he was the Son of God. They must have thought that some of the miracles that he had done were just deceptions. Even thought their theories like it is the power of the devil, were clearly wrong. Why would the devil drive out his own demons. They must have thought that even Pilate was deceived by him to some extent, letting that sign hang above him on the cross that Said Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews, not this man claimed to be king of the Jews as they wanted it to say. They thought if the disciples pulled off this great deception, everyone would believe what Jesus was preaching.
So they wanted to be sure. They were sure that he was dead. But they wanted to be sure that the body of Jesus of Nazareth would stay in the ground, and his promise to rise again wouldn’t come true.
So Pilate agreed. He sent out a group of guards. He allowed the people that wanted to be sure to oversee the process and they put a seal on the tomb so that the stone couldn’t be rolled away, the body be taken out and then rolled right back. They were sure that this would be the end of Jesus.
The women going out to the tomb were sure that Jesus was dead. The other accounts from Mark and Luke let us know that they weren’t just going out to the tomb to look at it, but that they were brining out spices and ointments to prepare the body for death. They weren’t sure how they were going to be able to roll away that big stone that was in front of the tomb, but they were sure going to try to pay their last respects and honor the great man that they knew Jesus to be.
I’m not sure in the women felt the earthquake as they were walking out to the tomb. But it happened. The earth trembled as the Angel of the Lord came down from heaven and he rolled away the stone from the tomb. His clothes like lightning bright and brilliant breaking through the early morning dim light. And when those guards saw that angel they were so afraid they became like dead men. They fainted, still with fear.
The women made their way to the tomb. And that stone that they weren’t sure how they were going to move they saw rolled away and sitting on it was that same Angel of the Lord, and he made sure to say what Angels always have to say to people, “Don’t be afraid.” And then that angel got to be the first one to announce some of the greatest news that has ever been announced to this world
“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.”
They were looking for Jesus. They were sure that he had been crucified. They were sure that he died on the cross. They were sure that this is where his body was laid. That’s all true. But the messenger sent from God was there to tell them message that was sure to change their eternity. He has risen. He is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia! But you don’t have to take the angels word for it. You don’t have to look at those soldiers who might have been still there on the ground fainted. The angel wanted them to come in and see where his body was laid so that they were sure that Jesus had risen from the dead just as he said he was going to do.
Even the chief priests and the elders were sure that Jesus had made this prediction. That is why the soldiers were there in the first place. The women must have know too that Jesus had claimed that he was going to rise from the dead on the third day, but they weren’t sure of it, otherwise they wouldn’t have brought out the spices to anoint his body! They would have been carrying some water and more palm branches to welcome their king back from the dead. So angel told them to go see for sure Jesus was not there.
This message wasn’t just for them. They were supposed to go tell those disciples. The ones who were afraid, probably sure that the chief priests and the elders were going to be coming after them next. They were sure that they had let down their friend. The last time they had seen him they were running away for their lives in the darkness of the garden. The last time Peter had seen Jesus, he was looking at him as the rooster crowed and Peter remembered that he claimed he didn’t even know Jesus. Those disciples who were in fear and mourning the loss of their savior and friend, God wanted to send them first hand witnesses of the fact that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. And that Jesus was going to meet them in Galilee And there they were going to see him. So that they could be sure that the body was not missing. Jesus was alive. They were going to be sure of that.
What a change of events from mourning to joy. From fear of seeing the angel to excitement of getting to tell the good news. And they hurried to be able to tell it with all of those emotions all mixed up together. And then suddenly, so they would really be sure, Jesus himself appears to them alive. And he spoke, just your formal greeting, “Greetings”. Good day. They wanted to be sure this was not just their imagination and they fell at his feet and grabbed them. This wasn’t any ghost this was really Jesus who was dead yesterday and today is Alive. They were sure of that now. There couldn’t be a doubt in their mind now. This really was his body that wasn’t in the tomb. This wasn’t some ghost or vision or hallucination. This was Jesus the Christ the Son of God who has risen from the dead, and they got to be the first ones to worship their risen Lord! Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Now Go. Go and tell the disciples what you now know for sure. That Jesus is Alive. He has risen just as he said.
And they did. And those disciples became sure of it too as Jesus appeared to them multiple times in multiple places to make them sure that he really had risen. And some of those disciples wrote down what they had seen with their own eyes, and what they had touched with their own hands so that you and I would be sure that Jesus really did rise from the dead just as he said. Of that you can be 100% certain.
God wants you to be certain of this. God wants you to be certain not just that this happened. You look at this account and over and over again he made sure that people knew that he rose from the dead. Even the plans to stop people from believing in Jesus gave us more proof so that you and I can be sure that this really happened. But more than Jesus knowing what happened, we need to be sure that we know what this means for you today. We need to be sure to know that Jesus rising from the dead means that you and I and will rise from the dead. We need to be as sure as Job who spoke to his friends, said
I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
We need to be encouraged by the words of the the Holy spirit spoken through Paul that let you and I know that You have been raised with Christ! And even though we may experience the sting of death When Christ who is your life appears then you will also appear with him in Glory!
You and I are sinners. You and I are people that have doubted the love of God. We have disobeyed his commands. We have been afraid when he tells us to be strong. We have been rebellious when he tells us to listen. We have been weak when people around us need to be strong. We are sinners who deserve from our God punishment and death. We don’t deserve his love. We don’t deserve his mercy. We don’t deserve peace. WE don’t deserve a single blessing that God showers upon the earth. We deserve nothing from him.
But great is the love that God has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God. In his great love for us he lived the life that you and I couldn’t live. A perfect life. He suffered the punishment that you and I deserve the wrath of God and the pains of hell. And he came out of that victorious. He rose from the dead conquering sin, death and the power of the Devil. He rose from the dead and appeared to a great cloud of witnesses so that you and could be sure that our redeemer lives and because he lives we too shall live forever. Not because we love him, but because he loved us. You will rise again, just as surely as he rose again. You will live forever just as surely as he lives forever. You will be in heaven just as surely and the God of heaven lives and rules and reigns eternally. There is nothing that we can be more sure of. Because our Salvation comes from the Lord. Don’t be afraid. Be sure of your life in Christ that will last forever. Because he is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen