Matthew Challenge Day 28
For the 28 days of February, a bunch of us are reading through the 28 chapters of Matthew (1 chapter a day). The purpose is to learn more about the life & teachings of Jesus ... and how those should be impacting our lives. We are going to post a short devotional guide each day on this spot so you can get a little help thinking through each chapter. Our final day starts below.
Matthew 28 An “Ending” and a “Beginning”
We stopped before the end of chapter 27 yesterday, with Jesus dying on the cross. Jesus spoke seven times from the cross; Matthew records only one (27:45). [FYI: It was his raw expression of emotion for what was happening as he became sin for us … so that we would have the ability to attain righteousness.]
Two things happened when he died. v51 “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The curtain separated “the holy place” in the temple (where the priests would minister) from “the holiest place” (or Holy of Holies) where the visible presence (Shekinah glory) of God was over the Ark of the Covenant. The reason it was torn? Jesus opened up the entrance into the presence of God by his sacrificial & substitutionary death. The second thing, only Matthew notes— tombs of certain holy people were opened and the dead were raised to life (v52). There is more I don’t know about this than I know, but one explanation is that the graves were opened at his death but the raisings did not happen until Jesus’ resurrection; he was the first. What happened after they entered Jerusalem and “appeared to many people” is unknown.
27:55-61 let us know that there were eyewitnesses both to his death and his burial (women & men). The tomb was closed as day was ending; the Sabbath was about to begin. It would be a day when people ceased from their ordinary work, but also a day of sorrow for those who had followed Jesus. They either did not remember or did not believe what Jesus had said repeatedly—on the third day he would rise again. 27:62-66 remind us that the authorities remembered what Jesus had said. To keep Jesus’ disciples from trying to pull a fast one by removing Jesus' body from the grave and telling people he had been raised, they got permission to place a guard at the tomb to secure it. [They were trying to guard people from breaking in; they did not know that Jesus would be breaking out!]
After the Sabbath ended, some of Jesus’ female followers purchased supplies to go and more properly embalm the body of Jesus. Accounts of what happened that Sunday morning vary in detail and chronology with each gospel. In fact, there is only one common denominator—they all record that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb when the mourners arrived; the tomb was open and empty.
Matthew tells us (v2) that “a violent earthquake” occurred and “an angel of the Lord came down from heaven … rolled back the stone and sat on it.” It has been said, correctly, that he didn’t roll back the stone to let Jesus out but to let witnesses in. The angel said, in essence, “Why are you here; why would you be looking for a living Lord in a graveyard?” After the typical angel greeting (“Fear not!”), he said— “He is not here; he has risen just as he said.” Jesus had given his word … and he has never once lied. Don’t miss the last part of v6 — “Come and see the place where he lay.” They needed to know for sure that the tomb was empty, but they also needed something else. As they were leaving, v9 says, “Suddenly Jesus met them.” Without a risen Lord, the empty tomb was not enough to certify his resurrection. [Which is why the authorities tried to offer an alternative explanation (28:11-15).] Without the certainty of his resurrection, Paul says we have nothing to preach, an empty faith, are still in our sins, and are to be pitied above all people (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). [By the way, just a quick comment on v17b “but some doubted”; there are different ideas of who the “some” refers to. The disciples had doubted until they saw Jesus personally; other followers may have been still on the path to belief. More would see him in the next 40 days.]
Matthew 28:18-20 is what we refer to as “The Great Commission.” We read about an earlier commission / mission Jesus had given his disciples in Matthew 10 where he told them to go only to Israel. Now, the time had come to go to the whole world. He promised that they would not go alone; he would be with them—and us—all the way until the end of time. This is the end of Matthew’s gospel … but not the end of our journey, I hope. May our 28 days of learning about Jesus make us better disciples … and better disciple-makers.
Thanks for reading along!