Bible Passage: Matthew 28:1-15
Jesus Resurrection an Objective & Subjective Blessing
Intro: Well morning friends, visitors and those online. My name is Matt Johnson and today Christians around the world celebrate that Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed). And because Christ is risen (he is risen indeed) he is worthy of our WORSHIP – which is what I want to think about today…
PRAYER: Well this Easter – we’ve been focussed on Jesus being the King of Kings. On Good Friday – we saw that Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins – PROVES Jesus is an all loving, all good and all merciful King. Today – Jesus’ resurrection PROVES he is the all powerful King, the King of Kings and God Himself. Now if both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are true – this should change us from being idolaters, into worshipers of Jesus. And that’s what I want to talk about today. Worship!
In Matthew 28:9 – you’ll see the women fall at Jesus’ feet and WORSHIP him. Do you see that in verse 9? Worship of King Jesus is the right response – if Easter is true. IT’S NOT that King Jesus turns you into a worshiper. It’s simply that King Jesus changes your worship.
Right now, everyone in this world (even the most ardent atheists) are worshipers. Everyone worships something. The question is not whether you worship. It’s what do you worship and is that thing worthy of worship. WORSHIP IS SIMPLY the giving of yourself to the thing you believe has the most WORTH. Some people worship the Creator, God.
Some people worship things in creation? When we give ABSOLUTE WORTH (and our lives) to God – its worship. When we give ABSOLUTE WORTH (and our lives) to a thing in creation, its idolatry. So for what are you expending your life? To what thing do you give the most worth.
Perhaps you are not fully conscious of what you’re worshiping? But I assure you that in the absence of worshiping God, you will be worshiping something. IT IS INEVITABLE. God made mankind to worship Him. This means humanity has a posture of worship.
God made us to bend at the waist AND we tend to BOW and SCRAPE and GIVE OURSELVES – to whatever we believe is most worthy and most likely to satisfy us. Many people (even good people) make FAMILY the thing they worship. That is perhaps a better idol than most, but still an idol. The stockbroker who starts work at 4:30am to follow the market in New York and then stays till 10pm to follow the Asian markets (while neglecting everything else) is worshiping. Perhaps money. Perhaps power. But it is worship. The TikTok influencer – who lives their whole life behind a camera (to the detriment of normal relationships) is worshiping. Perhaps image. Perhaps popularity or significance. But at what cost (and does it really satisfy?)
Let me say – that WORSHIP will only ever be as good as the object of worship. So if you give your life in worship of something that is of LITTLE VALUE (like money, or career, or self) of course, your life will feel empty and meaningless and unsatisfactory. Your worship is no good because your object of worship is not really good. But if you give your life in worship of something that has ABSOLUTE WORTH – then your worship becomes meaningful and the return is satisfaction and joy.
So today as we focus on Jesus resurrection I want to think about worship: the object of worship; the heart of worship; and the return on true worship.
Point 1: Jesus Resurrection is the Objective Truth for Worship of Him
Show: Matt.28:1-7 (READ)
Explain: Well the other gospels of Mark, Luke and John suggest that some other women – were probably with Mary Magdalene and Mary. But Mary Magdalene features prominently in all four gospels. But as a witness, to the resurrection she has little credibility. Matthew and Mark tell us that prior to Jesus healing her, Mary Magdalene was possessed by demons. So Mary was afflicted by Satan (the father of lies) and consequently her testimony had little credibility in a Jewish court.
So, if you were making up the story of Jesus’ resurrection (as some sceptics claim) the gospel writers should have chosen better, more credible eyewitnesses. If you had Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea discovering the empty tomb – everyone would have believed their testimony because they were members of the Jewish Sanhedrin. But instead, we get Mary and Mary – had a little lamb.
But seriously, if you look closely at all four gospels – some of the events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection are told in a slightly different order. Some report seeing one angel at the tomb. Others say they saw two. SOME BITS are even hard to reconcile. But in some ways this, actually adds AUTHENTICITY to the story. If the disciples are fabricating Jesus’ resurrection (as some claim) – why didn’t they iron out some of the wrinkles in the story a bit more. INSTEAD, they simply tell the story with demon possessed women, warts and all – AND they leave it to you to draw your own conclusion.
Now as Mary and Mary arrive at the tomb (at dawn) on Sunday 16th of Nisan – everyone in Jerusalem is participating in a Jewish festival – called First-fruits. Leviticus 16 says First-fruits must be observed on THE SUNDAY of Passover week, every year. And on this day the FIRST-FRUITS of the spring harvest were offered to God – by every farmer in Israel. This was an important part of Passover Week and Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Now the Jewish Mishnah, written to preserve the Jews ORAL TRADITION – has a section that explains how the Festival of First-fruits was conducted during the days of Jesu. This is what the Jewish Mishnah says (Slide 5).
So as Mary and Mary arrive at the tomb, at dawn on the third day – a shout goes out from God’s temple – Arise! That’s how first-fruits begins at dawn, on the Sunday, in the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The officer of the temple would cry out “ARISE” calling the Jews to 1)wake up; 2) get out of bed and 3) bring the first-fruits of their harvest and dedicate it to God. So as the cry to ARISE goes forth – 1) Jesus wakes from the dead, 2) takes off his bed clothes and 3) comes forth to present the firstfruits (as the Apostle Paul says) of all those who have fallen asleep (1Cor.15:21). Jesus is the firstfruits of resurrection life….
But it gets better because this is what happens next. The Mishnah says; (Slide 6).Psalm 30* So at dawn of Easter Sunday – there is a giant yell to “ARISE”; the Jews then bring their firstfruits to God and the Levitical priests lead the people in singing Psalm 30 – WHICH WAIT FOR IT – is all about RESURRECTION. Let me show you. (Slide 7 – Ps.30:1, 3). Now remember they do this every year. I’m not making this up. Its in the Jewish Mishnah.
Apply: So just as Jesus dies at Jewish Passover – as a kind of Passover Lamb for our sins, so Jesus comes forth from the grave at Firstfruits – as everyone sings about resurrection. But sadly, as everyone is offering firstfruits to God and singing about resurrection – the only people at Jesus tomb to witness THE REALITY – to which first fruits is but the sign – is Mary and Mary. It’s tragic because Jesus told the disciples that HE WOULD RISE ON THE THIRD DAY. This is what Jesus said; (Slide 8 – Matt.17:23). Yet, come the third day and only Mary and Mary are there….
Where is everyone else? I mean Jesus was known as a miracle worker. He opened the eyes of the blind. He raised the dead. And for crying out loud – the disciples witnessed him walking on water and calming a storm. Yet as as they sing Psalm 30 (about resurrection) – no one thinks – “Oh maybe, we should go and see if Jesus actually did it?” I MEAN “Der! If this story is fabricated – the apostles have done a great job at making themselves look like MORONS. That’s not how our humanity usually works when we fabricate stories. This rings true…
Apply: Of course, when Mary and Mary get to the tomb – the angel says “Der, what did you expect” and quotes Jesus. (Slide 9; Matt.28:6). Now shortly after this Jesus appears to Mary and Mary. Then he appears to Peter and John and bit by bit – he appears to all the disciples and lots of people over a period of 40 days. People SAW Jesus, TOUCHED Jesus and even ATE with Jesus. So, many Jews became convinced Jesus was the Messiah and the Christian church was born.
Now I may NOT prove Jesus’ resurrection to you today. But I recommend you do some real thinking. Why is Jesus the greatest man in history? Why did so many Jews convert to Christianity? Did the church start because all the original Christians were idiots? (PERHAPS) But how on earth do so many of Israel‘s festivals perfectly line up with Jesus life. 1) Jesus is baptized at Yom Kippur (Day of Aronement) before going into the dessert as the scapegoat who takes away the sins of the world. He then dies at Passover (as the lambs are slain); he rises at firstfruits to songs of resurrection and at Pentecost He pours out the Holy Spirit – to complete the harvest of those who will also rise from the dead through faith in Jesus. (Now you may not yet be able to see it. If that is the case pray that God opens your eyes). The Bible tells us that Jesus’ resurrection is THE OBJECTIVE PROOF that he really is the Son of God (Rom.1:4). The resurrection tells us – Jesus is not a thing of creation. JESUS IS THE CREATOR (in flesh) and so worshipping him is not idolatry. Worshiping Jesus is a return to true worship.
Point 2: Jesus Resurrection brings a Subjective Spirit to Worship Him
Show: Matt.28:8-10 (READ)
Explain: Now there are a few things in this passage that I really want to focus upon because Jesus’ resurrection is not just the OBJECTIVE TRUTH that supports worshiping Jesus. THE RESURRECTION also restores the proper SUBJECTIVE SPIRIT of worship. You may recall Jesus told the Samaritan woman (at the well) – true worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. So lets just unpack this for a moment.
The resurrection is AN OBJECTIVE TRUTH that supports worshiping Jesus and the resurrection contains a SUBJECTIVE TRUTH. that makes us want to worship Jesus. You see normally worshiping a man – would be idolatry. Humans are things of creation. So worshiping a man would be idolatry. Except the resurrection proves Jesus is actually God. Only God has power over life and death. So Jesus must be God (or at least God’s Son) in order to rise from the dead. So worshiping Jesus is not idolatry. It is true worship because Jesus is God.
But this objective truth of the resurrection that supports worshiping Jesus also bring about a subjective heart change that makes us want to worship Jesus. I want to focus on a few words in Matt.28:8-10 (READ). First, I want to focus on Jesus words; (ENTER) “DO NOT BE AFRAID,” because the resurrection begins to take away fear. Second, I want to focus on the words (ENTER) JOY AND GREETINGS. They are actually the same word and joy is the right response to the resurrection. And finally, (ENTER) I want us to think about how this then shapes TRUE WORSHIP.
The words; “DO NOT BE AFRAID” or “FEAR NOT” are perhaps the most common command in the entire Bible. More than 100x God tells His people “Do not be afraid” – which kind of suggests human beings have a problem with fear. But post Jesus’ resurrection – both the angel AND Jesus tell the Mary’s “Do not be afraid.” So how big a problem is fear and is Jesus’ resurrection really the answer?
Well let’s all lie back and do a little bit of PSYCHOANALYSIS. Despite Freuds best efforts to make all our fears about SEX – there is actually an even more base desire and that is to avoid death. Death is our nemesis. The book of Ecclesiastes explains that because of death – life has become MEANINGLESS. We are like a vapour or steam that is here one minute and gone the next. Death robs life of meaning and brings a certain FUTILITY (because no matter what we do) it still ends in death. So we then become desperate to find love or fame or happiness before we die. SOMETHING, ANYTHING that gives some meaning to our short days here under the sun. But to a certain extent its ALWAYS DESPERATE because we don’t know when we are going to die and in the end we still die. So (it feels like) death has the last laugh – and it leaves the word “LOSER” engraved on your headstone. So people either give themselves to endless striving (and worshiping idols) or they give in to despair, depression and apathy.
What’s more, the Bible also says that Satan manipulates the world through our fear of death. Hebrews 2 says; (Heb.2:14-15; Slide 11). We all know evolutionary theory is “survival of the fittest”. So satan then whispers to us “are you fit enough,” and we panic. He whispers “you’re not going to survive” and we run for the hills – even if there is no real threat. Death seems like THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH and it shapes MOST PEOPLES lives. But death is also A SUBJECTIVE TRUTH that tends to shape our hearts in a negative and downward way.
Now having identified the problem is death – you may sit back on the Freudian couch (and say that does it) I’m not going to be afraid of death anymore. I REFUSE. But death still stands there looking like the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. Of course, its not really. Its another lie of Satan. Jesus’ resurrection declares – that life beyond the grave is the ABSOLUTE TRUTH and FINAL WORD. Jesus’ resurrection declares that at the end of your life – you do not die and stay dead. You die and then rise again. And that suddenly changes all the questions about the meaning of life and the purpose of life?
But in that moment faith in Jesus’ resurrection also begins to swallow up THE SORROW that generally accompanies death. Death brings sadness because it breaks relationships. But death also brings a certain sadness to most people’s lives (because they tend to focus) on what they failed to have, failed to achieve and failed to experience prior to death. So the objective reality of death, brings the subjective state of sadness. But as the objective truth of Jesus resurrection swallows up the fear of death, Mary and Mary discover they are standing at the tomb – not filled with sorrow, but with joy…
Look again at verse 8 (READ) They are filled with joy. They are STILL in a graveyard AND three days prior Jesus was still crucified. BUT here is now a part of them that wants to sing and jump and laugh. They have a new subjective truth – that is not sorrow, but joy. And as they run from the graveyard – they literally run into Jesus. And barely able to contain the joy that is bubbling up inside them – Jesus says “Let it out.” The word GREETINGS is literally “Rejoice.” So they rejoice and they express their joy – in worshiping Jesus.
Joy is like happiness. BUT HAPPINESS IS TO JOY, WHAT IDOLATRY IS TO WORSHIP. Happiness and idolatry find their centre in the things of creation. We idolise (and give our life in worship) to the things that we believe will make us happy. But idols can’t produce lasting happiness – because nothing is infinitely good, but God. So they do not satisfy – and you are driven to more striving or more sorrow. But joy and true worship find it’s locus in the Creator, rather than the creation. So the resurrection of Jesus brings us back to God and what is eternally good. And because God is always good (and infinitely good) – JOY FINDS ITS SATISFACTION IN GOD and can express itself in worship – in all circumstances. Paul writes in Philippians rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again – REJOICE. Then, the very next words – Do not be afraid about anything.
As Christians our fear is completely swallowed up in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Death has lost its sting. Good Friday tells us Jesus loves us more than own mothers. And Resurrection Sunday tells us Jesus is God and He is more powerful than anything we face in this world. So if JESUS loves us enough to die for us and JESUS is powerful enough to defeat death – what have we got to fear. Even if we do die – Jesus has promised to bring back to life – those who believe in Him. AND WITH THIS OBJECTIVE TRUTH (based on the historicity of Jesus) comes an unassailable subjective truth – that I am LOVED, I am SECURE, I have finally found something – ETERNALLY GOOD in Jesus – and that produces joy.
Apply: Jesus is the best thing we have in this world. So instead of A) giving yourself in worship to the things of this world that don’t satisfy, B) I encourage you to give yourself in worship to Jesus because it does satisfy. As Christians we don’t just have OBJECTIVE TRUTHS at Easter to desperately hang on to until Jesus returns. No! As Christians we have SUBJECTIVE TRUTHS that are our joy and delight to express in worship. Christ is Risen. He is risen Indeed.
But are we truly worshiping, even today? While Jesus was in Jerusalem he said these words; (Slide 12 – Matt.15:8-9). So is your heart really in the worship you are bringing today? Or are you just going through the motions? I suspect that Jesus could stand in many churches (even at Easter) and say “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain….”
When we worship the things of this world instead of the Creator, it is vanity of vanities – and it never satisfies. That is Ecclesiastes. But even worshiping Jesus for his death and resurrection – can still vanity of vanities – if it is not coming from your heart. If Jesus’ death and resurrection is just head knowledge that fails to touch your heart, fill you with joy and cause you to drop to your knees in sincere worship – I am concerned you have not understood it correctly.
So this Easter, I don’t want to ask whether you believe Jesus rose from the dead. But do you love Jesus for dying and rising again? Is Jesus the greatest thing of worth in your life – that forsaking all else in this world – you would readily cling to him because he gives you inexpressible joy. And if the answer to these questions is yes – have you yet told Jesus you love him today in this service? Not just with your lips going through the motions. But sincerely with all your heart filled with joy and in genuine worship? Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.