Posts Tagged ‘the good news’

Matthew 28:11-15

The Religious Leaders Bribe the Guards

Two of the most serious episodes of “Friends”, one of my favorite shows of all time (that is still as popular today as it was when it the first run episodes of the show ended 12 years ago), is “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break” (Season 3, Episode 15) and “The One With Morning After (Season 3, Episode 16) when Ross has one-night stand with “the girl from the copy place” after he and Rachel had this major fight. Rachel told him that “we need to take a break from us”. Ross is angry and hurt and proceeds to go to a bar and ends up taking this girl home for the night. The next morning, Ross checks his answering machine (yes, people still had those in the late 90s – when these two episodes were filmed – before the cell phone explosion). Rachel had left a message saying that the big fight was a mistake and that she did not want to break up and that she wanted them to get back together and work through their problems and that she was going to drop by around 8:30 that morning to see him. He notices that it is like 8:25 am at this point and Rachel would be there any moment and he still has the other girl in the apartment. Rachel appears and the other girl must hide behind the door as Ross and Rachel make up. After that, we see Ross at Chandler and Joey’s apartment asking them to keep quiet about the girl from the copy place. But Joey, the ladies’ man that he is, asks Ross if he remembered “the trail.” Ross doesn’t know what “the trail” is. So, Joey explains that “the trail” is the chain of people that you must consider when you do not want the girl you are in a relationship with to find out about the girl you had a one-night stand with. Chandler chimes in, “you gotta remember ‘the trail’, man!” Then Chandler figures out the chain of people that connects the copy girl to Rachel and he is oh so proud of himself. Then, the horror of the situation settles on the three of them. If Chandler can figure out the trail that easily then it is a high probability that Rachel will find out about the one-night stand. Ross then spends about half of Episode 16 following the trail going from one person in the chain to the next, each of them already having heard the news. Finally, he gets to Gunter, the barista at the coffee house where the friends all hang out and who has a secret crush on Rachel. Ross pleads with him not to say anything to Rachel. Gunter then says, “was I not supposed to?” and then Ross turns around and sees heartbroken Rachel sitting on a couch by the window. The remainder of the episode takes place in Rachel and Monica’s apartment where Ross and Rachel have a fight that changes the course of both their lives for the remainder of the series. It is not until the final episode of the series that Ross and Rachel get back together. One night, one fight, six years are changed. You gotta remember the trail, man!

It is that idea of trying to cover up the truth, like Ross was trying to do in that Friends episode, that came to mind when reading today’s passage. Trying to stop the truth from coming out is like trying to stop a freight train by stepping in front of it. The power of the truth is that it is reality and lies are fabrications that require high maintenance. That fact becomes particular cumbersome when you have to involve many people in a lie. Just like Ross trying to keep a lid on the truth required a lot of work, so, too, was the task of the religious leaders trying to keep the news, the good news, of Jesus Christ’s resurrection a secret. Let’s read today’s passage, Matthew 28:11-15, together:

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The religious leaders wanted to hide the fact that there was no body in the tomb. They wanted to explain away the empty tomb. Admitting to the empty tomb publicly would have meant that they were wrong about Jesus. They knew that not all of the guards would be sleeping. Someone would have been awake during their time at their post. It is just common military practice “to keep watch!” So, even the fabrication they came up with had holes in it from the beginning. They tried to cover up the truth. By their cover-up, they are admitting to an empty tomb. They are at a loss to explain it. They are so wrapped up in trying to cover it up that they fail to see connection between this Jesus fellow and the prophesied Messiah. They are so wrapped up in making sure that they maintain their hold on power that they fail to understand that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah. Their arrogance and greed caused them to lead the people of Israel far from God and Jesus called them on it. That arrogance and greed killed Jesus. That arrogance and creed blinded them to the truth. Just as Ross was training to create this fiction that a life-changing event had not happened just so he could go back to the way things were with Rachel, so too are these religious leaders. A history-altering event had occurred and they just wanted to get things back to the way they were.

As the old saying goes, “The truth don’t need no alibi!” It was too hard to maintain the lie. The women at the tomb rushed to see the disciples. Peter and John rushed to see the empty tomb – and then it was on! Jesus appeared to as many as 5,000 people during the time after his resurrection and before his ascension back into heaven. The truth cannot be held back. The empty tomb is one thing but the Risen Christ is a whole nutha level. The truth rolls on and rushes over lies and crushes them. The truth of the resurrection was worth dying for to His disciples and their disciples. People would not have died throughout the centuries for a lie. The truth of the resurrection is powerful. The truth of the resurrection was maintained because it really happened. The truth of the resurrection did “not need no alibi!” The resurrection survived the centuries between us and those days in the first century because it is the truth.

The physical truth of the resurrection leads us to its spiritual truth. The resurrection was not only a promise made by Jesus and a promise kept but it is also much more. The resurrection proves to us that Jesus is and was God in the flesh, that He and the Father are of one and the same essence. It is also a reminder of the fact that through Jesus we can have victory over sin. Daniel B. Lewis, in his article, “The Resurrection of Christ: The Theological Implications” (see https://bible.org/article/resurrection-christ-theological-implications), says it this way:

Jesus’ cry from the cross is “It is finished.” This the Greek word tetelestai. This word was used in commerce at the time. It was often written across a bill to indicate that the bill was paid in full. The resurrection is the receipt that God gave humanity that Jesus’ death did, indeed, pay the full price of our sins (The world’s sins are not enough to keep Christ in the grave! His resurrection is proof that our sins are forgiven!)

His resurrection gives us physical proof that our sins have been conquered in Jesus. All sins of all time was not enough to keep Jesus in the grave. His resurrection means that we are no longer condemned by our sins. Jesus took them to the grave and his resurrection means they were defeated and died there in that tomb. The resurrection means that we arise anew in Christ. That is amazingly powerful truth. That is the amazing reality of the resurrection.

Because of the power of this truth, Christianity spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire and has survived the centuries since because of its powerful truth. You can’t keep the truth down. It always wins out. The morning after his time in the tomb, the morning of the resurrection changed the world forever. There was no going back to the ways things were after that! The truth of the resurrection was too powerful for the world to ever be the same again. The truth could not be covered up. That morning after the resurrection occurred the world was different and forever changed. That morning Jesus arose from the grave and we are forever changed, never to be the same again. There’s no going back to the way things were because it happened. Jesus arose from the grave. He defeated sin and death and you and I have this wonderful hope and joy in that victory. The morning after the resurrection – world changed forever, no going back, the truth cannot be hidden, Jesus is RISEN!

Amen and Amen.

Luke 24:44-49 — In this next to the last passage of the Book of Luke, Jesus explained the prophecies that He fulfilled, that He was the suffering Messiah predicted in the Old Testament (OT), and that this fact must be preached to the whole world because it is through His sacrifice that all the world may come to salvation and restoration to a right relationship with God. Jesus is the point of it all.

This scene reminds of those post-game shows after a major college football game where the analysts try to tell what the implications are for the winner and the loser of the game. Here, Jesus is telling them what all of the past three years were about and what the implications for the future are.

None of the past three years would have made any sense if Jesus was not the Messiah, the promised Savior. Jesus walked them through the OT. He showed them that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), check. He showed them that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), check. He showed them that the Messiah was to be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15, 19), check. He showed them that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem in a triumphal entry (Zechariah 9:9), check. He demonstrated that the Messiah would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:1,3), check. He even showed them that the Messiah would be betrayed by one of His own followers (Psalm 118:22, 41:9), check. The Messiah was to be tried and condemned (Isaiah 53:8), check. The Messiah was to be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7), confirmed. The Messiah was to be struck and spat upon by His enemies (Isaiah 50:6), yes that happened. The Messiah was to be mocked and insulted (Psalm 22:7-8), yep. The Messiah was to die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:16-17), that’s an affirm. The Messiah was to suffer as and with criminals and yet at the same time pray for his enemies (Isaiah 53:12), this is recorded. The Messiah was to be offered bitter wine as He was dying (Psalm 69:21), got it. The Messiah’s clothing would be subject of gambling bets among His captors (Psalm 22:18), check. The Messiah’s bones were not to be broken (as was often the case in crucifixion to hasten on death) (Exodus 12:46), yes. The Messiah was to die as a sacrifice for our sins (Isaiah 53:5-12), we know this. The Messiah was to be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10), we are reading about it right now.

Jesus showed them that He was the fulfillment of all OT scripture. He was the Messiah. He was all the things that God promised. That’s the point. Anything else, his 3 year mission was too short, his death was meaningless, and his resurrection from the dead unneeded. He is not just another prophet. He is the Messiah who came to earth for the express purpose of fulfilling prophecy which includes Him being the sacrifice once and for all time for our sins. When we believe in the Messiah, we are restored to a right relationship with God. That’s the message. That’s the good news!

What’s the point of all of it? What are the implications for the future? Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus fulfilled all of the above OT prophecies and others that are not named above. He is the real deal. He is the Son of God. He was the culmination of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. He is the point of it all. Jesus came to be the agent by which we can be restored to a right relationship with God. This is what the OT predicted. God has been working His plan through the ages and Jesus was the culmination of His Promise and His Plan. God never does random. There is purpose. Jesus is the way in which all things are culminated and He is the way in which we are made right with God.

What are the implications for the future? Jesus tells us right here that we must go forth and share the story of redemption through Himself. Without the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus, there is no hope for our eternity. With and through Jesus, we have hope. We are made right with God through Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the Messiah. God keeps His Word. This is the message we must share with the whole world.

Unless it is about leading people to see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise as the Messiah, the Savior, the Anointed One, there is no point. We can touch the world around us with nice acts of charity and do big free events to get people in our doors, but if the end game is not about showing them the Messiah, showing them the Jesus who died for their sins to make them right with God, then, there is no point. Close the doors. Send everyone to charitable agencies and to the kindness of the good people out there. The point of Jesus’ church as Jesus Himself says in Luke 24:47 is that “it was also written that this message be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem.” We have our charge from our boss, and that’s the point.

Luke 2:8-20 — This is it! We are here. The passage about the birth that changed history. What are the things that God speaks to us in that passage? I think that there are several things that we should explore over the next few days.

The first thing that you see is the mother of all birth announcements is not made to kings and queens. It is made to shepherds. Those who did shepherding for hire were not considered trustworthy by the mainstream culture at the time. They lived nomadic lives not connected to the mainstream life of Israel. They were necessary but shunned. Their testimony was not even considered reliable at trials. This is who the announcement was made to. In our cute little nativity scenes of today, the shepherds are considered almost noble. Usually clean cut young men play these parts. In reality, they were scruffy men who lived on the land. They lived most of the year outside, away from the townspeople. Many of them probably wished that they could be like mainstream folk. I bet that many of them felt locked into their lifestyle from which they could not escape.

So there, these lonely outcasts of society are the ones who receive the greatest news EVER. The Messiah is born. This is who the radiance of the Lord was revealed to. The radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded the angels. The brightest light of radiance imaginable is God’s glory. His presence breaks through the black night sky. All of this is revealed to lowly shepherds. The angels were joined by the vast host of the armies of heaven praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven!” This amazing scene is not above a palace or a temple. It is shown to unsavory shepherds in an open field. The Good News revealed to the lowest of the low. This is the message of the Christmas Story that really needs to be shouted. The Good News came to us all no matter who we are or what our social status is.

Do you think that you are too far gone to be reached by Jesus Christ. The Jesus I know is not the Savior of the rich only. He is not the Savior of those who have stayed out of trouble in life only. He is not the Savior of those who keep up good appearances only. He is the Savior of the prostitute too. He is the Savior of the drug addict too. He is the Savior of the thief. He is the Savior of poor too. He is the Savior of the outcast too. He is the Savior of all no matter who you. No matter what you’ve done. He comes to anyone with a heart humble enough to accept Him. Whoever you are, whatever you have done in your past, Jesus came for you. You are never so far gone that grace cannot reach you. Never think that you have to have extraordinary qualifications to receive Jesus in your life. He accepts you the way you are, where you are, who you are right now.

This is the message of this scene. The glory of God is revealed to the common man, to the outcast. The lowly are exalted to be in the presence of the Lord. The Good News is for all. Jesus came for all. He died for all. This is the Good News. It is yours. It is mine. We are never too far away from grace! Amen and Amen.

Romans 10:5-21 — “But how can they call on Him unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?” (vv. 14-15). Wow, Paul tells us the way it is. He tells that we have a responsibility to share the gospel. We are to tell!

In telling others about Jesus Christ, an effective witness must include more than being a good example. Eventually, we must explain the “what” and the “how” of the gospel. Sure, living a Christian lifestyle in front of our unsaved friends, neighbors, co-workers, and complete strangers is important. Our actions should match our words, certainly. At some point, though, we have to feed the bulldog, pay the fiddler, put our money where our mouth (and those are about as many cliches as I can through in there!) We will need to connect the mind of the unbeliever with the message of the gospel. We often hear people say that they prefer lifestyle evangelism (living by example) rather than encounter evangelism (directly sharing the message of the gospel). Both should be used not one or the other.

We must take God’s great message of salvation to others so that they can respond to the Good News. How else will they hear it? It’s like the old Publisher’s Clearinghouse motto, “you can’t win if you don’t enter.” How will non-believers hear the message of that Jesus Christ died for their sins to make them right with God unless we do actually share the message with them. They can’t be saved if they don’t know. One of my professors at the North Greenville University Master of Christian Ministry program told us that research has shown that, on average, it takes at least 8 direct evangelism encounters before a person typically respond positively to the gospel message. If we don’t share the gospel, how will they know? How long will it take for them to come to Christ if we overlook our divine appointments?

We should not make assumptions about who has heard the gospel and responded to it either! Some people who have been in church all their lives are not saved. They think they are because they go to church, even read the Bible, and do all the right things. As we have noted here in the last few days, doing all the right things does not save you. It comes down to belief, real belief in your heart that Jesus is Lord, that He died for my sins, and that He rose from the dead! At the same time, those whom we see as unsavory in society are sometimes the most responsive to the gospel message. As well, sometimes those who are most antagonistic to the Bible such as someone who proclaims to be an atheist is simply a severely hurt person who simply needs a reason to believe. We cannot pre-judge with whom we share the gospel. It is not our job to determine who will have the best chance of responding positively beforehand. We have never saved anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. We are only participants in the process and it is through believers that God has designed the sharing of the gospel. As we have noted, it often takes at least 8 direct envangelism encounters for a person to respond positively to the gospel. So, there is a great likelihood (probably almost an 88% chance) that your sharing of the gospel will be rejected. But to be there when it does happen is oh so sweet. To watch the Holy Spirit have victory in a lost soul is amazing to watch. Transformed lives after that moment of salvation is just so amazing to watch, so beautiful. What if no one shared the gospel with them?

Clemson and Carolina don’t when their conference championships in football every year but they still field their teams every year in the hopes of winning the championship. And we they do win their conference, it is oh so sweet for the team and for their fans. The point is for these two teams is that you can win the championship if you don’t field the team and put out the effort. Evangelism is our job not just our pastor’s job. We are not called to evangelism meaning only a select few are to do it. We are commanded to do it. We are to just do it! It is not an option. Sure, God grants some the gift of being an evangelist, but Jesus commanded us to go. He commanded us to make disciples. In order to make disciples, the message must be shared. He did not say those of who are gifted in evangelism must go. He said YOU. That’s us! He said to make disciples of all nations. That means everybody. We cannot pre-select who we are to share the message with. We are not to share with only those people that seem the easiest to share it with. We are to make disciples of all. It’s your job. It’s my job. It’s every believer’s job.

The Bible tells us our destiny is the fiery lake of hell if we do not come to saving knowledge of Christ. That’s a pretty important detail that we gloss over in today’s world. Hell is real. Hell is eternal suffering. Hell is being permanently separated from God. Do you really want your worst enemy to suffer this fate? It is eternal. No take-backs. No exchanges. It’s permanent. How can we NOT share the gospel? Wouldn’t pull a person out of a car that is headed for cliff that doesn’t realize that they are headed for a cliff? Sure, it can be uncomfortable. Satan wants you so uncomfortable that you don’t share. But, I do know a guy by the name of Jesus Christ that got a little uncomfortable for our sake. He died and excruciatingly painful death for us. We should share the gospel even if it makes us a little uncomfortable. Just share YOUR story of how God changed your life. Pray that you and I will not shy away from our divine appointments to share life change with others.

We should live ready to tell. How will they know if we don’t tell them! How will they hear if we do not share?