Matthew 28:11 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.
After Jesus was buried, the religious leaders went to Pilate, and requested a guard for the tomb. They knew that Jesus predicted his resurrection (Matthew 27:64), and wanted to avoid any possible claim made by his disciples. Pilate wanted the ordeal to be over, so he said, Take a guard . . . Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how (Matthew 27:65).
We don’t know how many guards were at the tomb, but it was probably more than a few. Jesus had many disciples in town, and it would have been foolish for the guards to be outnumbered. We should think of at least dozens of guards standing outside the tomb of Jesus Christ. But when the angels appeared, The guards were so afraid . . . they shook and became like dead men (Matthew 28:4). When their strength returned, they went and told the religious leaders everything that happened.
At this point we might expect the guards and the religious leaders to become Christians. [They] killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead (Acts 3:15). This was a perfect time to repent and believe. Nevertheless, they chose to engage in a coverup. The religious leaders gave the soldiers a bribe, along with a story. You are to say, His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep (Matthew 28:13).
But were they all asleep? And if they were all asleep, how did they know what happened to the body? And if they were not all asleep, why didn’t those who were awake, wake up the others? This is just another example of people refusing to believe in Jesus Christ regardless of the evidence.
But this is precisely what Jesus predicted. [T]hey will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31), he said. And since many people still refuse to believe, various theories have been set forth to account for Jesus’ missing body, as well as his appearances.
The swoon theory argues that Jesus did not really die on the cross, but only fainted. He recovered in the tomb, and the disciples mistook it for a resurrection.
The hallucination theory argues that the disciples only hallucinated Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
The identical twin theory argues that Jesus had an identical twin who convinced the disciples that he was Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.
The unknown tomb theory argues that the disciples mistook an empty tomb for the one Jesus was buried in, and jumped to the wrong conclusion.
A final theory argues that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead, but that it does not prove that he is the Messiah.
Regardless, the disciples preached the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ throughout the Roman empire, and many believed. This created a great commotion, and disturbing a grave was later made a capital offense. This is documented on a slab of marble called the Nazareth Inscription which is housed in the Louvre Museum. Whether the decree was a response to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or merely a coincidence, is ours to decide.
Matthew 28:16-17 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Even after Jesus rose from the dead, and appeared to his disciples, some struggled with doubt. The evidence was clear, but that did not mean it was easy to believe. Who could believe that God became a man, and lived among us? Who could believe that he died on a cross for our sins? Who could believe that he rose from the dead, to give eternal life to all who receive him? (John 1:12). These are all true, of course, but that does not make them easy to believe.
We can also be slow to believe because we do not want to be disappointed. If someone tells me that I’ve won a million dollars, I will believe it when the money is in my bank account. So when Jesus appeared another time, they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement (Luke 24:41), wrote Luke. If Jesus rose from the dead, then all our sins are forgiven, and we will spend eternity with him in the best of all possible worlds. This is the best news there could ever be, and it just happens to be true.
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Jesus wanted his disciples to know that he was in truly charge. He did not say, Some authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me; or Most authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me; but All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. That’s a lot of authority.
Jesus has authority over the universe, and every square inch of planet earth. He has authority over economies, governments and militaries. He has authority over our lives, the lives of our children, and even our grandchildren. Jesus Christ is truly Lord of all.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
The apostles began the task of making disciples by going out and starting churches. Those who believed were baptized, and given further instruction on what to believe, and how to live. This is the mission of the church, and is often called the Great Commission.
If you want a mission for your life, this is a good place to start. I have personalized the Great Commission this way: My mission is to make more and better disciples of Jesus Christ, beginning with myself, my family, and others as God enables me.
I begin with myself because I cannot lead others where I will not go. I proceed to my family because they are nearest and dearest to me. Then I proceed to others because God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), wrote Paul. Imagine what would happen if all God’s people embraced the Great Commission!
Matthew 28:20b And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
As the disciples went out to preach the gospel, they could be sure that Christ was with them. Many others have found that Christ is with them whenever they share his message.
A friend of mine was having lunch with a coworker, at Chinese restaurant, and used the opportunity to explain the way of salvation. For thirty minutes he explained how sin separates us from God, how Christ paid for our sins on the cross, and how we need to believe in Christ to be saved. Just before they left, his coworker opened a fortune cookie that said, Advice just received should be followed.
Reflection and Review
What are some alternative theories to the resurrection of Christ?
Why was it hard for Jesus’ disciples to believe that he rose from the dead?
Why is sharing the gospel easier if we know that Christ is with us?