Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Jesus Christ P42 (01-27-21)
As we think about the empty tomb and the events surrounding the resurrection of Christ, take a moment to think about what religion does in the attitudes of men. What was it with the Pharisees that they could not receive the love of God? Why did they perceive Jesus as a threat to them? He healed the blind, made the lame walk again. He spoke truth into the hearts of men and told the woman caught in adultery that her sins are forgiven and to go walk now in new freedom. What mercy, grace and kindness! Who would not want to know Jesus? So what is in the mindset of a Pharisee? What is in the mindset of the religious world today? How is the mindset of religion no different than that of the Pharisees?
Now, let us think about this more personally. What is my mindset like? What is your mindset like? If someone comes along and speaks truth to you, and you, being raised in some religious denomination, what does His words sound like to you? Does it seem like a threat to you? Is it contrary to what you have been taught? You could be believing error, but you not do not know you are? How do you respond to this new information? Are you afraid that what He speaks will cause people to not respect your position of authority, assuming you were a priest or preacher of some kind? Do you fear you would lose your place and your position as a teacher or preacher? Do you refuse him to speak any more and tell him to quit speaking because it sounds like a threat to you?
Or, suppose you regularly go to some religious denomination on the corner somewhere. Do you look down on others, because they after all, do not do as you do? Assuming you were of a certain denomination, do you look down on someone because they do not worship on Saturday. Then a person who has ceased going to these buildings called church, do you look down on them, claiming they are forsaking the assembly of believers since they do not go to church. He must be a sinner, you say. Do you gloat over the fact of your self-righteousness, and exalt yourself over someone who is struggling or trapped in sin, so that you can boast that you are discipling him. In your attitude of heart, that maybe only God sees, are you really loving your brother?
So think about the attitudes of heart that God is really after, if you want to analyze how your walk in the Lord is. If you were being stoned to death, would your attitude be like that of Stephen and of Christ Jesus, who said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Does Christ live in you so that the attitude that is in Christ Jesus is also being shown through you, an attitude of mercy, grace, kindness, and of unconditional love?
65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Here again, they sealed the tomb. The meaning of that, being a Roman seal, is that if anyone tries to remove that seal is going to receive the wrath of Roman law. The stone was used to close the tomb for the protection against both man and beast. That is why a stone was always used, to close up a tomb. It usually required several men to move it. Now, when you see that, if you were to go over to Israel, a stone was on a track. Before it was in front of the opening, it was on a track so it could be easily rolled, and when it rolled, it rolled into a gully that was the same as the roundness of the stone itself. But that huge stone rolled in a track, then dropped into this area below. When it dropped, of course, it would take several men to ever get it out of that gully.
It was not hard for the person to roll the stone into that little gully but almost impossible for any one man to get it out of the gully. It is like a car. If you push a car into a ditch, but once it is in the ditch, try to pull it out of there. That is the situation with this stone.
Since the stone rolled into the entrance of Jesus tomb, it was intended to prevent an unexpected theft, and it was probably larger than what would normally be used in that type of deal. But that is speculation. But the method of sealing the stone in Jesus tomb was probably by a rod stretched across the stone and sealed at each end of the stone. That type of sealing was done in the presence of Roman guards who were then left in charge to protect this stamp of Roman authority and power. Anyone trying to remove the stone from that tomb’s entrance would have broken the seal and in so doing incurred the wrath of Roman law which would be death. So anyone trying to break the seal would end up in that tomb or one like it.
The Roman guard assigned to guard the tomb was a rank of four or more soldiers who were highly trained and disciplined in their service. They were well armed and under strict orders to maintain constant surveillance of the tomb. Any failure in their assignment, such as falling asleep or leaving their post would have resulted in the death penalty. So we do not have to worry about diligence of the duties that were assigned to guard those things.
So in light of the enormous stone covering at the entrance, the official Roman seal over the stone and the quality and caliber of the guards watching the seal and the stone, it is absolutely unfeasible that anyone could have tampered with that tomb or the body of Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, in Luke 24:10, the tomb was empty. Recall, it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the others with them who told the apostles that the tomb was empty. Now, again, when Simon Peter arrived with John at the tomb there, what did they see? They saw strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head, and the cloth was folded up by itself separate from the linen. What were the results of that? When the other disciple had reached the tomb, went inside, he also saw and believed. They did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead even though Jesus had told them “I am going to rise from the dead”.
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
In John 20, what is the significance of the grave clothes lying in their undisturbed condition? The linen body clothes were lying where the body had been, collapsed from the weight of the spices, but undisturbed. And the head napkin was lying apart from the body clothes, still curled in a concave shape but there was no head inside of it. The condition of those grave clothes appears to have had a remarkable effect on John and Peter as they viewed them.
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
John outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He looked at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. But Simon Peter then arrived and entered the tomb, and saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth around Jesus’ head, the cloth folded by itself separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple who reached the tomb first also went inside and he too saw and believed.
Let us look at the implications of this empty tomb in Matthew 28:11-15.
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.
This is what normally happens when someone devises a plan such as this to crucify somebody unmercifully, to develop a plan of destruction for another human being. That is exactly and precisely what the Pharisees did. If people are involved in that type of thing, and look at themselves and ask, “Am I functioning as a Pharisee or functioning as Jesus?”
This is what the religious leaders did. All of them were motivated by Satan himself, as was Judas, who was a reporter of all this type of thing, the one who turned in Jesus. And all of the chief priests, Pharisees and the leaders and teachers of the law, who all met with this plan to get him crucified to begin with. Then God started making something out of this deal. They keep trying to destroy him and the message. The legalists today are still trying to do the same thing with anyone who tries to proclaim the grace of God. There are people out there trying to destroy you and the message. That is what they are trying to destroy, the message of the grace of God.
Why are you trying to destroy it? Because you do not understand it. If you ever understood it, you would never try to destroy it because it is the greatest news on the face of the earth. But because you do not understand it, you want to destroy it because it does not tie in with what you believe. What keeps a person, those elders and the religious leaders, from understanding the grace of God? Pride. Pride will never receive grace. Pride wants to earn God’s acceptance through what you are doing. Pride is a giver in order to receive. Grace in you just understand there is no way and there is none righteous. How can anyone, except someone thinking they are righteous, want to destroy or criticize somebody. It has to be somebody who thinks they are rites built upon their own righteousness in order to destroy and tear down someone who they think is not as righteous as they are . What else is it?
Here are the elders. This is what religion always does to this very day, through the chief priests and leaders, and teachers of the law. They keep trying to destroy and it is not working. And instead of thinking, maybe God does not want this plan to work. So they say, “Let us devise another plan, in order to save our skin.” That is what people are involved in, saving their skin, saving face. So they gave the soldiers large sums of money.
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.’
In the first place, if they were asleep, how would they know the disciples came and stole the body away? So that would be a little difficult for someone to figure out?
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.
So they probably had a governor bought off too or the governor was so dumb to figure out you cannot know who stole the body away if they were asleep. How could a disciple come while you were asleep, to roll this huge stone away, break a seal, with you being sacked out some place? Also, again, I could say I was asleep, why would you say that when the penalty for being asleep was the death penalty. But in any case, they had to get something out.
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.
So when devising a plan to destroy somebody and Jesus is in the life of the person you are trying to destroy, you will find your plan failing and failing. Satan thought he destroyed the message when he crucified Jesus. But they never destroyed the message. They spread the message. It cost Jesus his life but it enabled us to have life. So that plan, instead of working, it did not work. It went the very opposite.
Today, you can literally look back and say, “Thank you Pharisees, elders and teachers of the law for your vileness and viciousness and evilness. You enabled me today to be the recipient of the gospel because of your own stupid, selfish and viscious decision that you made 2000 years ago.” Truly God still works all things together for good to those who love the Lord and to those who are called according to His purpose.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Now, what did the guard report about this empty tomb?
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.
Again, what was the conclusion about the occupancy of the tomb? Was there any doubt that the tomb was empty? I do not think so. If the guards were asleep, how in the world would they know the disciples stole the body? Were the Jewish leaders fully aware the tomb was empty? Yes. There is no question at all whether the tomb was empty or not. Even today, no one questions the empty tomb. Just, how did it get that way? What was the fear of the religious leaders in that day?
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
What is the motive of that? In John 11:47-48, we will read why they were that way?
47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
These were people that hated each other. You talk about politics making strange bedfellows. So does religion. When you get ready to crucify somebody, you get strange bedfellows out there, people that otherwise would not like each other at all. They join forces together for a crucifixion act.
47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
What killed Jesus? Job security. Pride and job security. They called all the religious people together and they said, “What are we accomplishing here? If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him.” It is up to us whether this guy should continue or not. It is not that God sent him. It is not that God gave him a ministry. It is our job if someone should go on or not. This is playing God. People today say that he should not go on. That is not my job to determine that. There are people who have gone through all sorts of trials and tribulations who are in ministries today. I do not particularly agree with their message or their theology, but who am I to determine whether they ought to go on or not. That to me is God’s business. As a matter of fact, recall when the disciples brought that up to Jesus.
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
No, if you take matters into your own hands, and you try to pull up the tares, you will pull up the wheat at the same time. The pulling up of the tares and the separation between the wheat and tares is something that has to be done by Jesus at judgment time. You, man, need to get out of that. Meanwhile, while tearing up those you do not agree with, you will destroy those that you do have.
That is going on in the Christian world, folks. We are out trying to destroy people and all we are doing is weakening our own body. The world is continually looking in, seeing the Christian world bombarding each other, and criticizing each other, and shooting the wounded. Brother, if that is what being a Christian is all about, who needs that? I can get that out in the world. At least out here, although I maybe getting it, at least I am having fun sometimes.
We have to understand that it is not our job to be fruit inspectors, to determine whether somebody ought to be in a ministry or not. It is not my job to determine the guilt of a Jimmy Swaggart or a Baker, or whoever the person might be. The media takes care of those things. It is not my job to determine those things. It is our job to continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, as we go through life, minding our own business, as the bible says. Quit trying to be critics and end up loving each other. There is no way to do them both. Otherwise, you are setting yourselves up as a Pharisee, as a chief priest, as a Sanhedron. And you ask yourself, “What are you accomplishing, trying to stop somebody from going on?” How come? Because everybody follows him. If they follow him, they will not follow me. What is that? Pride. It is job security. Before long, people are going to take away our place, our nation, my popularity, if people follow him.
That is what the mindset of the Pharisees was, the evil of the Sanhedron was. That same evil is in the world today.
Let us look at some of the reasons for the empty tomb. We will analyze some of the things critics will come up with in regard to the fact that the tomb was empty. First of all, we talk about the fact the apostles stole the body. Let us look at the testimony of the resurrection was according to the following passages.
2 Corinthians 11:23-27
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
Well, what is the result of a person proclaiming the resurrection of Christ? We can get down and say, “Oh, you are going to have a good life.” Well, yes. That is true, if a good life is defined by the ability to continue to proclaim the truth of the grace of God. If that is what a good life is, then you will have a good life because nothing will keep you from the love of God.
As Paul said, you can destroy my body but you will never destroy my spirit. So we have to understand, my friends, that even though, very sincerely, that you may go into the world proclaiming the resurrection and the truth of Jesus Christ, that your plight in life may not be without problems. Paul, when you take a look at what took place with him, imprisoned, flogged, worked to death, exposed to death, beaten, forty lashes by the Jews. That is his own people, his own Pharisees, people whom Paul said he would give up his salvation in Israel that they would come to know Christ Jesus. He was beaten with rods, stoned, left for dead, shipwrecked, night and day in the open sea, constantly on the move, no home, no place to lay his head, being in danger from robbers and bandits, from his own countrymen, Gentiles and Jews, and in danger in the city and out in the country and from false brothers. Every one of those things we today are capable of going through, the same type of thing. You can labor and you can go without sleep. You can be hungry and thirsty and go without food and be cold and naked. But what did Paul say with all of those things? Nothing can separate me from the love of God.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In other words, he was not trying to make up adjectives. He had been through every one of those things, and he found out something. When you go through the trials and tribulations of life, if you are in Christ, you are going to realize something, that in the midst of whatever you are going through, nothing will separate you from the love of God. It does not take much to separate you from the phony love of people and of false brothers, as he talked about, or people who are pretending to be brothers but are not. It does not take much to turn them off of you. But nothing can separate you from the love of God.
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
So the apostles were flogged.
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him [Paul]. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Here was a man who understood his God, and in the midst of people stoning him and killing him, he was saying, “Lord, forgive them. Do not hold it against him.” That is a mindset that has been changed by the mercy of God. It is the mindset of mercy, forgiveness, love and kindness. You say to yourself, “Where is that?” If you are wanting to analyze how you are progressing in your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not in what I am not doing any more, but it is how I am doing in this mindset of mercy, kindness and forgiveness. If you are going to be indwelt by Jesus, you are going to be indwelt by the one who hung on a cross, half beaten, saying ”Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing.” Being indwelt by Jesus is not sitting around camping around what you are doing with a mindset saying, “Lord, I am glad I am not a sinner like that person.” But a mindset of realizing we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. What is your mindset, conditional love to your brother or unconditional love?