Three Views of the Resurrection

Matthew 28:1-15

1. Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came 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 from the door, and sat on it.

3. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

4. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

5. But the angel answered and 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 is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7. "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.''

8. So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

9. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!'' And they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.

10. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.''

11. Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.

12. When they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,

13. saying, "Tell them, `His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.'

14. "And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure.''

15. So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

This message was preached March 31, 2002 at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at  

This message is not about three groups who had differing views of the fact concerning the resurrection. Everyone in our account today understood that Jesus had been raised from the dead just as He said that he would.

The difference is that each group takes a different perspective

  1. The story
    1. Jesus was placed in the tomb about 6:00 on the day He was crucified.
    2. Some initial steps for His burial had been taken.
    3. But because they were approaching a high and holy Sabbath they could do no more until it was over.
    4. Early on the first day of the week the women came to the tomb.
    5. Before they arrived an earthquake rolled the tomb from the door and an angel came and sat on the stone.
    6. The soldiers became like dead men for fear.
    7. The angel announces the resurrection of Jesus and tells the women to go and tell the disciples.
    8. After the women leave the soldiers go into the city to tell the Jewish leaders what has happened.
    9. The leaders meet hastily and agree to bribe the guards to say that the disciple had come and stole the body.
    10. The Peter and John come running to the tomb to see for themselves.
    11. Mary stays behind and is the first to see the resurrected Christ.
    12. Two left Jerusalem to go to Emmaus about 7 miles away, and on the way they are joined by who they think is a stranger.
    13. Jesus reveals himself to them as He breaks bread, and they hastily return to Jerusalem to tell the eleven.
    14. No sooner do they arrive and they find out that Jesus has also appeared to Peter.
    15. Jesus then appears to them all except for Thomas.
  2. The Three Groups
    1. The Disciples
      1. This group was at the first the most doubtful of the resurrection.
      2. Each one would not believe until they had personally seen the Lord.
      3. But they would eventually be persecuted and many would even die for the story of the resurrection.
    2. The Jewish Leaders
      1. It is never considered that the soldiers are mistaken or untruthful.
      2. Their cause is to quell this report.
      3. No matter that Jesus is no longer in the tomb.
      4. No matter that He is just who He said He was.
      5. No matter that they now must eat their own words.
        1. Matt 27: 41. And the chief priests and Jewish leaders also mocked him. ``He saved others,'' they scoffed, ``but he can't save himself! So you are the King of Israel, are you? Come down from the cross and we'll believe you!
      6. They will continue to subvert the disciples and spread what they know is a lie.
        1. Do you have trouble with those who oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ.
        2. Do you think that if you could only prove it to them they would believe.
        3. Some are so set against the truth that not even one rising from the dead will change their mind.
        4. The news brought shock. The news brought fear. But it did not bring repentance and it did not bring faith
    3. The Soldiers
      1. These are the most perplexing to me of all.
      2. They had perfect knowledge of what had taken place.
      3. But it never changed their lives.
      4. I think that they are like those church people who know that it is all true but it has never touched them personally.
      5. Either way to them it does not make a difference.
      6. They could tell a different story for a little money.
      7. They are the two seeds in the parable of the sower.
        1. That fell among thorns
        2. That fell on rocky ground.

Now we might assume that the leaders would say, "It is a resurrection." I mean, they didn't say to them, "The disciples came and stole the body." They knew better than that. What happened was an earthquake, an angel descending who rolls the stone away, sits on the stone and the tomb is empty. The disciples didn't come and steal the body, they knew that. They knew it was a supernatural event. And it may have been that factually and historically they understood that Jesus rose from the dead. They certainly knew He was dead. And so, they told that to the Jewish leaders. I believe that the Jewish leaders then were the first to hear about the resurrection in the sense that even before the disciples heard, they heard. But they didn't believe. They had said back in chapter 27 verse 42, "Let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him." They said we'll believe if He comes down from the cross. And here is something even greater, He came out of the grave but they didn't believe, they didn't even investigate. They didn't even go to find out. They didn't say, "Well, maybe it's true. Maybe He is the Messiah. Maybe He is alive. Maybe we ought to check it out." Not at all. They were so resistant and so blind and so sinful and so self-willed and so locked in to their own religious belief that they would not even investigate the truth that was reported to them by the soldiers. They refused to believe. The God of this world has blinded their minds, 2 Corinthians 4:4 says.

The news brought shock. The news brought fear. But it did not bring repentance and it did not bring faith. They were without excuse. They were informed about the resurrection. They didn't question it. They didn't question those soldiers' validity. They didn't even investigate it. All they did instantaneously was say, "We can't let this get out. We've got to stop it. Whether it's a real one or not, we have to stop it. We're not interested in it. We're only interested in preventing people from hearing about it."

The soldiers knew the truth. The Jewish leaders had every reason to know the truth. The soldiers had been there. They'd experienced the phenomena to some degree yet they were not believers. Quite the contrary. They become preachers of the anti-gospel. And maybe God had a purpose for that. One writer has said, "Not on historical faith but only on the faith of the heart rests the salvation of the world." In other words, God is not going to send out messengers to preach the resurrection who don't believe in the Christ of the resurrection. It's almost as if He sets these soldiers aside and makes them preachers of an anti-gospel lest they become preachers of a true resurrection who don't even believe in it. God in His eternal wisdom permitted that those guardians of the grave who might have been able to spread the historical faith in the world allowed themselves to become victimized by this monstrous lie and the resurrection of the Son of God would only be preached and attested to by those whose hearts were committed to the risen Christ.

Now if we looked at His friends, for example, we'd see a lot of evidence. We read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and they tell us about the physical resurrection, they tell us about the stone being moved. They tell us about the grave clothes lying in perfect order.

They tell us about the earthquake. They tell us about the testimony of holy angels. They tell us about ten separate appearances of Jesus after His resurrection.

How can they be cowards one moment and bold confrontive preachers the next? By what power were they transformed? It wasn't the power of their speech. They were not eloquent, educated, brilliant, strong orators, masters of eloquence and logic, they were not charmers, they were not persuasive, they were poor simple illiterate some of them, what made a difference? The reality of the resurrection did. They believed it. And they had access to the evidence to prove it. They had a compelling faith...apowerful faith that caused them to die for the resurrection truth.

John MacArthur