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. The eternal monument of our faith


Matthew 28:1-8 (ESV) 1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”

Matthew 28:18 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Matthew 28:20 (ESV) 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”



On Friday I made this comment, “it is Friday, but Sunday is coming.” Now being able to look back on history we understand this statement and what makes it so radical. We know that Jesus died, and we know that was raised from the dead. Today is resurrection Sunday and without this day and what it signifies I believe that our lives will have very little meaning. Why do I say that? Well. if this is true, if this is real - that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead according to verse 6, and if all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him according to verse 18, and if it is true that He will be with his disciples to the end of the age according to verse 20 - if this is true, then nothing is more important in our lives, nothing is more crucial or more urgent or more needful than believing it and becoming a follower of Jesus. I know it's a big ‘if’ for some people - but if this is true, if this is real (some may believe it or not) - but if the premise is true, wouldn't you agree with the conclusion? - Nothing is more important for everyone in this room than to believe in Him and be His followers.

I don't know where you are at this morning? You may or may not believe the testimony of Jesus and his disciples. But I hope you see at least that if -if - it is true that Jesus rose from the dead as the Lord of the universe with all authority in heaven and on earth, then believing it and following Jesus as our Lord is the most important, most urgent, most crucial thing in our lives.

Now at the centre of world events from creation to where we are now are the most pivotal events on which the entire universe rests. These events changed history, our calendars are set according to these events and it is the birth, the death and the resurrection of Jesus. His birth has established our dating as before Christ and after Christ, His death and resurrection separated the Old from the New, it separated Law from Grace, it separated rituals from relationship and it separated death from life. No matter how hard I try to think of an alternative, I can't escape the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ as Lord of the universe with all authority in heaven and on earth is the greatest event in the history of the world - except, perhaps, for one other, the one that happened three days earlier, namely, his death.

Matthew does something super in the text here that is not picked up by our English translations. He plays with words, two words that mark the two critical events spanning these three days namely the death and resurrection of Jesus. Now, our English is clear to some extent so we don’t miss the story. Verse 5-7 spells it our clearly: “5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead,…”

There is no doubt in this section that Jesus was crucified, that He died and that He was buried, and there is no doubt from the double barrel statement by Matthew that Jesus is risen. Matthew says He was crucified and then twice he says that Jesus has risen.

But there is something remarkable when you look deeper and look at the Greek words that Matthew chooses in his statements and it is seen in two complete different verses that give us the same message but in a more remarkable way. Look at verse 1. 1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. Now in verse 1 he uses the word 'tomb' and the Greek word for 'tomb' is (taphos) taphos – which means a ‘burial place or tomb or a grave or a sepulchre’, a place where you would expect to find a dead body or bones. Then look at verse 8: 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” Now this is where it becomes interesting. In verse 8 however Matthew does not use the word (taphos), I believe he cleverly chooses another word that says so much more. In verse 8 he uses the word (mnymeion) mnymeion – which when translated to English has a different meaning than simply a grave or tomb. Mnemeion {mnay-mi'-on} means any visible object for preserving or recalling the memory of any person or thing – a memorial, monument, specifically, a sepulchral monument. Such monuments are normally erected for unknown soldiers or soldiers who died in the battle whose bodies were not retrieved.

Now this is remarkable. Yes, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to a tomb, but they left a monument. Mathew wants you to look at the monument and remember. They went to a place where they expected the body of Christ and they left rejoicing because He was not there but He was risen. Church family, it all started on the cross, and therefore the cross is of utmost importance, but I want to tell you that if it were not for the empty tomb we will have a dead religion and worship an idol. Unless Jesus was raised from the dead as you see in 1 Corinthians 15, our faith is in vain, our preaching is in vain, we are misrepresenting God, we are still in our sins, those who die have no hope for hereafter and of all people we are most to be pitied, but praise God for 1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV) 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This is the very reason Christ could say to Martha as we saw on Friday with regards to the crucifixion, now we see it with regards to the resurrection: John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” This morning I want to move you from the cross to the monument. Let’s start at the cross.

Firstly, the cross.

I believe that as Christians we must do away with the crucifixes we wear around our necks and we must replace it with a cross and an open tomb joined in design, because without the eternal monument, Christianity does not exist and our faith is in vain. Many people died on the cross, but only one rose. Hallelujah!! He died for our salvation, Jesus was executed as a criminal on a cross, yet He was guilty of no crime—no wrong, no trespass, no sin. He never had an evil thought or spoke an evil word. His was the most unjust execution ever perpetrated on a human being. He died, but my friend He rose. He rose for our justification, He is not only the author of our faith, but He is also the finisher of our faith. We serve a risen Saviour, and while the cross is the place where He died for our sins, the tomb is what validated His death as the Messiah. Paul writes in Romans 5:8-10 (ESV) 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

A dead Christ will not be able to say, ‘all authority is given unto me’, a dead Christ will not be able to say ‘lo I am with you, even to the end of the age’.

So the ‘taphon’ was a clear reference to the crucifixion of Jesus, it is a clear reminder that Jesus died for our sins, it is that very cross of which it’s message is foolishness to this world, but for us who believe it is the power of God. Never underestimate the significance and the centrality of the cross in world history. To know Christ crucified is to know Him as the author and finisher of your faith—the truest picture of His Person and work. Christ’s suffering on the cross is the focal point of the Christian faith. That’s where His deity, humanity, work, and suffering are most clearly seen. There would have been no need for the resurrection if Jesus had not died; and there would be no saving significance to his death if he did not rise. Both are utterly crucial. So let’s move from the cross as we get secondly to the monument.

2. The monument.

A monument is a type of structure either explicitly created to commemorate a person or important event or which has become important to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, or simply as an example of historic architecture. The word comes from the Latin "monere," which means 'to remind' or 'to warn. So in our context, what is the monumental message of the monument to us?

Simply this. Christ cannot be precious to you if He is dead. If He is dead there will be no reason to remember His cross and there will be no reason to remember His grave. The resurrection of Jesus is just as crucial as his crucifixion. So take the final moments of this message and ponder with me the significance of His resurrection.

What can we say about the resurrection of Jesus that makes the tomb an eternal monument for us? We could talk about for hours from all directions, but I want to focus shortly on two aspects thereof as it applies to us.

2.1 The resurrection of Jesus was powerful.

This is what Jesus said in verse 18b: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." This is what it means in the New Testament when Peter says, "[He has] been exalted to the right hand of God" (Acts 2:33); and Stephen says, as he is being stoned to death for his faith, "I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56); and Paul says, "Christ is seated at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1); and Hebrews says, "[Christ] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (12:2). The right hand of God is the place of ultimate authority along with God the Father. Paul says He is there "Because He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25). The resurrection of Jesus restored Jesus to a place of triumphant all-authority over all things. And from there he works out his saving purposes in the world -with authority over all things. His cause cannot fail. If you have all power and all authority and cannot die, your cause cannot fail.

If that means He has authority over all things, then we must believe that He has authority over politics and government; he has authority over all armies and military might; He has authority over all industry and business, and all the stock exchanges put together, He has authority over science and education - all research and discovery and universities and colleges; He has authority over all entertainment and media - radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, Internet, theatre, art; He has authority over all sports and leisure - over the Blue Bulls and over the Crusader, He has authority over all natural phenomena - all weather and floods and volcanoes and earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and global warming and ozone layers; he has authority over all planets and moons and stars and light and energy and motion and time; and therefore he has authority over our lives - health and disease and success and failure and life and death. Sadly man, does not recognise His authority over all things.

This is a great reason for following Jesus. You are on the right side. He cannot fail. The reason we can conquer sin and death and hell and evil and Satan is because they cannot defeat his purposes. He will win. That is a good reason to trust him and follow him. It is suicide to oppose Him or ignore Him. So the resurrection of Jesus was powerful, but there is more and we close with this.

2.2 The resurrection of Jesus was personal.

Matthew 28:20b, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." This is not a promise only to the eleven apostles, because the promise is "to the end of the age" - this present age of the world in which we live. While there are followers of Jesus in this age (in this world) the promise holds true for all of us - "I am with you always."

Here's the practical value of this promise. You might take the truth of Christ's authority over all things and just turn it into a theological problem. Well, if he has authority over the world, why is it in such a mess? Or, if he has authority over life and death, why did my child or wife or mother or brother or sister die? But there is another way to respond to the power and authority of Jesus. If you will - and Jesus calls you to this - you can see it as the power and authority to free you from sin and to trust his promise to be with you, even in the midst of the trials in this world.   If he is with you to the end, and if he has all authority in the universe, then you can love and serve Him and sacrifice for Him, and never lose. This is the practical effect of the resurrection of Jesus when you experience it as powerful and personal. Christian, it is Christ in you the hope of Glory. This is what makes Christianity a relationship and not a religion. He is not an idol but a personal presence that is with you by His Spirit, fellowshipping with you, teaching you, comforting you, leading you and guiding you. And all of this is because He is alive and has conquered death.

In conclusion.

If Jesus is not all-powerful and not personally with us to the end, and if we don't trust him to be that for us, we will simply ignore the monument of the empty tomb and we will live a life of mediocrity. But if we believe that Jesus is alive and that we have a monument to prove it, and if we believe that He is all powerful and that He is present with us, and that He walks amongst His churches, it has to affect our commitment.

This is why Jesus came. This is why he was crucified. This is why he rose from the dead with all authority and promised to be with us to the end of the age - to create a people whose sins are forgiven, and whose hearts are full of the love of God, and who are so inspired by the triumphant Christ, that they spend their lives with risk and sacrifice and love to help serve Christ, and to help others know and enjoy the greatness of Christ forever and ever.

Is this not what you were made for? Is there not something in your own soul that witnesses to you that this is true and worthy of full acceptance? Christ is risen! If you are not a Christian, I invite you to embrace the all-powerful and personal Christ. If you are a Christian I invite you to recommit your life and to serve Him more wholeheartedly. Are you happy with your life? On a scale of 1-10 where do you stand spiritually with 10 being the best? I believe your commitment is directly linked to your understanding of His power and presence. May God give you the grace to embrace both those concepts fully?


Soli Deo Gloria

27 March 2016

A song I grew up with is such a blessing on this day. Allow me to share it with you.