Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses one through twenty of the twenty eighth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture—not only do you find the New Testament gospel of Matthew drawing to a close, but you also find the wonderful and amazing account of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. In order to truly understand and appreciate the magnitude of what is taking place within this chapter it is necessary to turn and direct your attention to the language that is found and contained within the previous chapter. If you turn back to the previous chapter you will find Jesus hanging on the cross, and after letting out a loud cry He yielded up the ghost and died. What we find as a direct result of the death of Jesus was not only His death, but we also find a great earthquake occurring within the land. So great and so severe was the earthquake that the veil in the temple was town in two from top to bottom and the rocks rent. What’s more, is that Matthew records for us a detail that none of the other gospel writers include in their gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The apostle Matthew includes in his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ that as a direct result of the death of Jesus the graves of many righteous were opened. Pause for a moment and consider that reality, for it is one that warrants strong consideration when speaking about the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. I am convinced that the earthquake which took place at the time of Jesus’ death was not only to bring about the rending of the veil in the temple, but also to cause the graves of the righteous to be opened. IN DEATH THERE IS ACCESS! IN DEATH THERE IS OPENING! Oh I absolutely love how the apostle Matthew writes and records the death of Jesus Christ, for not only are we confronted with and by the fact that at the time of Jesus’ death the veil was torn, but we also find the graves of many righteous being opened. How absolutely remarkable and wonderful it is to think about and consider the fact that not only did Jesus’ death grant access into the very glory and presence of the living God, but it also opened up the graves of the righteous in the land.
The more I read about and the more I consider the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the more I come face to face with the incredible reality that not only did His death impact access and entrance into the glory and presence of the living God, but it also caused the graves of the righteous to be opened. I have to admit that I absolutely love reading the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, for when I read about it I see a strong and wonderful connection between His death and the opening of the tombs and graves of the righteous. As I sit here this morning I can’t help be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that it is in the death of Jesus that graves are opened, but it is only in His resurrection that true exodus from the graves occurs. The apostle Matthew did in fact record that when Jesus died the tombs of the righteous were opened, however, Matthew also recorded that it wasn’t until the resurrection of Jesus Christ that the righteous were able to exit the graves. This statement alone points to the awesome and tremendous reality that Jesus who is the Christ is the firstborn among those who themselves would be raised from death to life and would come out of and come forth from their graves. What Matthew writes and what Matthew records in this passage of scripture is truly wonderful and remarkable, for it brings us face to face with the fact that it is through and as a direct result of the death of Jesus that our graves are opened, and it is only through His death that we find the exit to our graves and from death itself. What we must recognize and understand, however, is that while it is through His death our graves and our tombs are opened, it is through and as a result of His resurrection that we are able to rise up from death to life and emerge from the graves. Though through His death the door is opened for our life and for our resurrection, it is only through His resurrection that we ourselves can rise. IN HIS RISING WE RISE! IN HIS RISING WE RISE! I have to admit that I have been absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that it is through His death that our graves can be opened and we have an open invitation to exit our graves, but it is only through His resurrection that we can rise.
The more I sit here this morning and the more I consider the reality and concept of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the more I come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that it is in His death that our exit has been secured, yet it is in His resurrection that we are actually able to rise and emerge from death to life. It is through His death that the tombs and graves which have long held us captive and in bondage are opened and our exit positioned before us, yet it is only through, and it is only as a direct result of His resurrection that we ourselves are able to rise. Please don’t miss the incredible significance and importance of this reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the significance of His death, as well as His resurrection. In fact, I would dare say that Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection—though they are intrinsically linked and connected with and to each other—are two separate and distinct events which each have their own implications. This was something the apostle Paul recognized and understood when he wrote much of the New Testament and the various epistles which we have before us in the New Testament. If you ready and study the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul you will find the apostle Paul writing unto the various churches concerning the death of Jesus Christ, as well as of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and how there is significance of both events to and within our Christian lives, our Christian walks and our Christian journey. We must recognize and we must pay close attention to the awesome and wonderful reality that it is in and through the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross that the earth begins to shake violently, the rocks begin to be rent, and the graves in which we have found ourselves buried for years are opened. That which we find in the twenty-seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is truly wonderful and remarkable, for not only are we confronted with Jesus’ death opening up the Holy of Holies and granting access and entrance into that which was previously restricted and prohibited, but so also did Jesus’ death open up the graves of the righteous, thus making the way for them to rise once more. How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to think about and consider the fact that in the death of Jesus Christ is a powerful portent and prophetic declaration that we were meant to rise again. When Jesus yielded up the ghost upon the cross and died, His death opened up the graves of the righteous and caused an exit to be made possible for those righteous who died in Him. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this concept, for if we miss out and lose sight of this, we miss out on that which the Spirit of the sovereign Lord desires to speak to us concerning our own resurrection, and concerning our own emergence and rising from death to life.
If you begin reading with and from the fiftieth verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that when Jesus had cried again with a loud voice, He yielded up the ghost. As soon as Jesus yielded up the ghost the work of salvation and the work of redemption had been complete, for the sacrifice had been made and atonement had been offered up for our sins, as well as the judgment of God which was demanded as a result of our sins. While Jesus’ lifeless body still hung there upon the cross we find that the veil of the temple was rent in two from top to bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. Through the death of Jesus the Christ we are not only confronted with and by the fact that entrance and access was made into the holy of Holies, but we are also directly confronted with the fact that an exit was provided from the tombs and graves in which we were confined and bound. I absolutely love Matthew’s account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—perhaps more than that which was written and provided by Luke, Mark and John—for in and through that which the Matthew writes we find ourselves staring at Jesus’ death through the lens of access to the glory and presence of the living God, as well as exit from the tombs and graves which we found ourselves bound and held captive by. That which the apostle Matthew writes in this passage of Scripture presents us with the tremendous reality that it is in Jesus’ death that the graves were opened, yet despite the fact that many graves were opened, it wasn’t and wouldn’t be until He Himself raised from death to life on the third day that those who were buried and bound within he tombs and graves came forth. Matthew makes absolutely certain to declare that although the graves themselves were opened through His death, the bodies of many of the saints which slept arose, and came out of their graves after His resurrection. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for Scripture paints a clear picture that after Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, He showed Himself very much alive. What’s more, is that in the New Testament book of Acts, the beloved physician Luke writes and records that after Jesus rose from the grave and from death to life, He showed Himself alive and very much resurrected for a period of forty days. Consider if you will that which the beloved physician Luke writes and records in the first chapter of the second treatise which he wrote unto the most excellent Theophilus. Beginning to read with and from the first verse you will find the following words written by this beloved physician:
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by man infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Oliver, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey” (Acts 1:1-12).
Did you catch that? Did you notice what the beloved physician Luke wrote in the opening chapter of this second treatise which he wrote—not concerning the life and ministry of the physical person and body of Jesus Christ, but that which concerned the life and ministry of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ within the earth? Within the first few verses of the first chapter of this particular book we find Luke writing and recording how Jesus showed Himself alive after His passion by man infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. I absolutely love that which the beloved physician Luke writes in this particular passage of Scripture, for he made it very clear that not only did Jesus shew Himself very much alive after He was raised from death to life, but He also showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs for a period of forty days. Pause and consider the fact that for forty days after Jesus was raised from death to life He shewed Himself very much alive through many infallible proofs among His disciples and those who followed Him during the three and a half years He engaged in public ministry among them. What’s more, is that I can’t help but see a strong connection between that which the apostle Matthew wrote in his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and that which the beloved physical Luke wrote in his treatise concerning the life and ministry of the body of Christ, for Luke wrote how Jesus showed Himself alive for a period of forty days after His resurrection, and Matthew records how after Jesus rose from the grave, many of the saints which slept rose from their graves, entered into the city of Jerusalem, and began walking among and speaking to all those who were alive at that time. Consider the fact that for a period of forty days there was essentially a three-fold witness of resurrection that was present within the land. We must remember that in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of John we encounter the account of Lazarus Jesus’ friend, and how he became ill, ultimately died as a result of that illness, but was raised to life again on the fourth day when Jesus came to the site of his tomb. Consider if you will the account of the life, death, and life again of this man named Lazarus whom Jesus loved:
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was wick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that He was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was. Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto Him, master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, He stumbleth not, because he Seth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said the disciples, Lord if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him…”
“Then when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: and many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and called for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him. Now when Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the yes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou nearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:1-44).
Within this particular passage we find and read the account of Lazarus—one whom Jesus loved—falling sick, and eventually and ultimately dying as a direct result of that sickness. Contained and found within this passage, however, is a wonderful and powerful witness of the resurrection power of Jesus the Christ, for although Lazarus had died, and although Lazarus was buried in the tomb for four days, Jesus commanded the stone be rolled away. Immediately after the stone was rolled away—immediately after an exit had been made for Lazarus to emerge from his tomb and his grave—Jesus called with a loud voice, saying, Lazarus, come forth. As a direct result of Jesus’ presence and voice at the tomb, Lazarus emerged from the tomb bound hand and foot with grave clothes. It’s worth noting that even though Lazarus had come forth from the grave, he himself was still bound with grave clothes and needed those around him on that day to remove the grave clothes which had previously bound him. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Lazarus to have the final piece of grave clothes be removed from his physical body, and began walking once more among the living. What was it like for Lazarus to have died, to have been buried in the tomb for four days, and to have been raised from death to life on the fourth day by Jesus the Christ? When you begin reading with and from the first verse of the twelfth chapter of this same New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle John, you will find that six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany “where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead” (John 12:1). Please mark those words and mark them well, for they bring us face to face with one of the witnesses of resurrection which were present within and upon the earth after Jesus Himself had risen from death to life. Scripture isn’t clear when Lazarus was raised from death to life, but we can be absolutely sure and absolutely certain that when Jesus rose from the grave Himself, Lazarus whom He had raised from death to life was also walking the earth. During those forty days Jesus showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs, there was a second witness of resurrection which was present upon the earth—namely, that of Lazarus whom He had raised from death to life on the fourth day. It was Lazarus who would be raised from death to life on the fourth day, and it was Jesus Himself who was raised from death to life on the third day. What’s more, is that there was indeed, and there was in fact a third witness of resurrection during those forty days, for Matthew writes how the after Jesus Himself was raised from death to life and came out of the grave, the bodies of many saints who slept arose and went into the city walking and talking among those which were present on that day. Think about the fact that for a period of forty days there was a three-fold witness of resurrection, for not only was Jesus the Christ the ultimate example of resurrection, but we also read how Lazarus had been raised from death to life, and how the bodies of many saints which slept arose and entered into the city after Jesus’ resurrection.
HE RISES SO WE CAN RISE! HE ROSE SO WE WOULD RISE! The apostle Matthew writes that the key to unlocking the graves which bound the saints which slept was the death of Jesus the Christ. With that being said, however—while Jesus’ death on the cross was the key to unlocking and opening the graves which bound many righteous, it would be His resurrection that resurrection could actually occur and take place. It is true that through Jesus’ death we were able and we are able to rise from death to life, but it is only through his resurrection we are actually able to rise from death to life. Matthew writes and records that when Jesus yielded up the ghost and died, the earth shook, the rocks rent, the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the graves of many were opened. What Matthew also writes and records was that even though the graves themselves were opened, the bodies of those who slept would and could not rise and emerge from those graves until Jesus Himself rose from death to life on the third day. We need to encounter the fact that Jesus died to make atonement for our sins, to satisfy the wrath and judgment of the living God upon sin, and to bring about salvation, but also through the death of Jesus we find graves being opened. It would be the death of Jesus that would unlock and open graves which were at one point sealed, yet it would be His resurrection that those who were bound within those graves could actually come forth from the midst of them. I am completely and absolutely convinced that what we find and what we read in this particular passage within the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a wonderful and powerful picture of the tremendous reality that it’s through Jesus’ death that the way out of our graves has actually been made, yet it is only through and as a result of His own resurrection that we are able to rise. It is death that unlocks the grave, but it is resurrection that actually causes and brings about the resurrection of the saints. It’s interesting to note that for three days Jesus’ lifeless body lie bound and buried within a borrowed tomb sealed with a stone which had been rolled over the entrance, and yet during that time the graves of countless men and women were opened. While Jesus’ tomb and grave was sealed and a stone lie before the entrance of the tomb, the graves of countless others were opened, and would remain open until His own resurrection. It would be through and as a result of His resurrection that the bodies of those saints whose graves had been opened would be able to emerge and come forth to experience life once more afresh and anew. What a truly wonderful and remarkable picture and thought it is to think that for a period of forty days there was within and upon the earth a three-fold witness of resurrection, for not only was there the witness of Lazarus, not only was there the witness of the saints which previously slept, but there was also the witness of Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus Christ Himself was the ultimate and supreme witness of resurrection, and it would be His resurrection that would be the first of many resurrections—not only those resurrections which occurred during those days, but the countless resurrections which will occur in the last day.
THE TWO-FOLD WORK OF RESURRECTION! While we find in Scripture the three-fold witness of resurrection as being evidenced by those who were raised from death to life, there is also a two-fold work of resurrection. If you study Scripture you will find that there is the first work of resurrection, which is the resurrection which we experience in the here and now—a spiritual resurrection which occurs when we have been crucified with Christ, and have also been raised from death to life. There is a second resurrection which occurs when our physical and natural bodies rise from death to life at the last day when the trumpet shall sound and Jesus descends with a shout. The apostle Paul writes about both of these resurrections in the epistles which we find in the New Testament, for the apostle Paul recognized that Jesus rose in order that we could rise, but also that Jesus rose on the third day so we could experience a two-fold work of resurrection within our lives. Jesus was raised from death to life on the third day in order that we could experience a spiritual resurrection, and later experience a physical resurrection. I wrote concerning Jesus Christ how He rose so we could rise, but I am also convinced that we rise while we wait to rise, and we are resurrected while we wait to be resurrected. What we find in the twenty-eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew is the first of four accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ—a resurrection which would make possible our own resurrection. In fact, if you journey to the fifteenth chapter of the first New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, you will find a lengthy declaration concerning Jesus’ resurrection, and how His resurrection opens the door and makes possible our own resurrection from death to life. It is in the fifteenth chapter of the first New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth that we not only find another account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the powerful witness and testimony of Jesus’ resurrection during that period of forty days, but we also find that Jesus’ resurrection is the door that unlocks our own resurrection from death to life. It is only because Jesus Himself rose from death to life on the third day that we are able to rise from death to life—not only in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual sense. It is only because Jesus Himself rose from death to life on the third day that we are able to to rise from death to life, and are able to walk in resurrection life. Oh, there is a resurrection life which we are able to experience in the here and now, but there is a secondary resurrection life which will be experienced in the last day when that which is corruptible puts on that which is incorruptible, and that which is perishable puts on that which is imperishable. What we find and what we read in the twenty-eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is the first of many resurrections which can and will occur in the lives of countless saints who trust and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who walk according to the Spirit. In fact, the key to understanding our own resurrection is not only found in the fifteenth chapter of the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthians, but also in the sixth and eighth chapters of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome. Oh that we would come face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality that we are able to rise because Jesus Himself rose from death to life. We rise right now while waiting to rise, and we experience resurrection life in the here and now while we wait to experience a final and ultimate resurrection life in the last day when the trumpet shall sound, and when the dead in Christ will rise first, and then we which are alive and remain will ourselves rise and meet them in the air.