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Go and Tell
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-20
Track 6 of 12 in the Being with Him means Looking Like Him series
Running time: 21 minutes, 23 seconds.
Easter Sunday

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, April 11, 2004
"Easter Sunday - Go and Tell"
"Being With Him Means Looking Like Him"
(Matthew, 28:1-20 )
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

It's Easter! Everybody knows what to expect on Easter Sunday morning. We've been through Maundy Thursday. Some of you have celebrated the Lords's Supper around tables with friends and family. Others of you came here to the building, maybe went someplace else. You passed through Good Friday. Maybe you saw the cartoon in the newspaper that was raising the question why they would ever call it "Good" Friday. And the punch line, of course, was somebody else died and you didn't have to. Maybe you spent that here listening to the Tale of Two Days and sharing together in the difference between Friday and Sunday. Maybe you went to "The Promised One" across the way, saw the resurrection story told. Maybe you've been to the movie, you've seen "The Passion of the Christ" and been reminded of the enormity of the death of Jesus.

It's Easter Sunday morning and everybody knows what to expect. You know what we're here to do. Maybe we ought to look at a text before we do anything. Let's come over to Matthew 28. The textual story of this event. Matthew 28. We'll start with Verse 1. We'll read down through this chapter together..

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

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. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 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.

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. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Well, it's Easter. Everybody knows what to expect on Easter Sunday morning. The women come out to check out this empty tomb. No, that probably isn't exactly right is it? It does say they went to check out the tomb. It's just that there was no expectation that it would be empty. See, the unfortunate thing is, in this first century story, in Matthew 28, they don't know the end of the tale like we do. We have the benefit of already being on the other side. In fact if you read Mark's Gospel and Luke's Gospel, they took with them spices in order to anoint the body because they didn't expect to find an empty tomb. They came expecting to find a sealed up stone with a question haunting their minds. How are we going to get the stone moved out of the way so that we can get in there and treat the body of Jesus like we would like to treat it? They didn't expect a resurrection at all. In fact, that's been one of the arguments down through the ages as to why we might believe in a resurrection. See, some people would like to convince you that they just wish the resurrection so much, that they preached it as if it happened, when it really didn't. Except that they didn't expect it. They weren't looking for a resurrected Christ. They were looking for a tomb with a rock over it.

Sometimes I wonder when we come to worship, if we come looking for an empty tomb, ready to celebrate a resurrected Christ.

Well, I'm sorry, that got me sidetracked. It's Easter. Everybody knows what you expect on Easter Sunday morning. You come here. Well, wait just a second. Um . . those first spokesmen, we assume to be the apostles, you know, the ones that head back into Jerusalem to the temple area to tell the chief priests to their face. . . .hey guys, you blew it! Sorry! You got the story wrong. Except that's not what happened. See, that's the expectation, but when you come to Verse 11 it's this odd statement that says that we have these women who were supposed. . . . .Verse 5 and Verse 7. . . it's these women who were told to tell the story and they're to tell the disciples to go into Galilee and wait for Jesus, where they will be allowed to see him for the first time post resurrection.

It is this odd story that the least likely people to speak, no offense ladies, but, see, in the first century, the woman's testimony counted for nothing. By both Jewish law and Roman law, a woman was not allowed to testify in court because she couldn't be trusted. Jesus comes to women and says, go tell the disciples to meet me in Galilee, the least likely place that anybody of any significance would ever come. You remember, can anything good come out of Nazareth? Galilee was the place for fisherman. Galilee was the place for the sub-culture. Galilee was the place for the cast outs. And yet, here's the message to the women. Go and tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee. The most unlikely spokesmen.

You know, I have to confess to you that, that was my response to the making of The Passion movie. You know, you'd expect it to be the clergy type, wouldn't ya? I mean, wouldn't you expect it to be some Billy Graham Association that would put together a movie like The Passion? And, who does it turn out to be? The Patriot, Mel Gibson, the most unlikely spokesman.

But isn't that always the case? See, my guess is that some of you are sitting here thinking that you may, in fact, be the most unlikely spokesman possible. You know what you're addicted to and how you struggle day-after-day just to get over the hurdle. Some of you struggle with your marriages. You've been through divorce, you're in the midst of it. You struggle relationally with family issues and you find yourself wondering, could I possibly be a spokesman? And you have to think to yourself . . . . not in these circumstances. . . . . .I would have to be the most unlikely person on the face of the earth that God would ever use to speak for him.

I'm sorry - I'm getting sidetracked again. It's Easter and everybody knows what you come to church for, why you gather for worship on Easter Sunday morning. Everybody knows what to expect at Easter. You know. . . . .the gospel gets out there and they go out there and they preach. The apostles get out there and they say the message. Except, NO, that isn't what happens either. Did you notice verse 11? It's such an odd little turn to the story. The angel says to the women, go tell the story to the disciples and while the women are on their way, before they've had a chance to tell the story, the soldiers go into town and, tell the story.

It turns out that it's the soldiers who are the first ones to report the resurrection of Jesus and they're not trying to tell the story out of good news, they're trying to figure out how to cover their hide cause they understand that they've lost a body. I mean, how do you lose a body? You're a professional soldier and the body's gone. And the only explanation sounds like this, well, we were sitting there on this rock guarding this dead body in this tomb with a seal on it and all of a sudden there was an angel showed up and took. . . . .well, that's gonna convince everybody. So the chief priests pay them off. They must have paid them handsomely because for a Roman soldier to lose a body was a capital offense and they would be killed, so that statement in there about we'll take care of it with the governor, is a pretty important statement cause these Jewish leaders are gonna cover their backsides. Cause if they get caught, they are in a world of hurt.

I get this suspicion that those aren't the only people in the world who have tried to falsify the record of resurrection. We live in a world where the story of the resurrected Christ is one of those stories that everybody would like to shove in a corner and say ah. . . .let's concentrate on Easter bunnies, shall we? Let's see if we can turn it into a commercial season.

I know that you believe that Jesus came back from the dead, but there's got to be a better explanation than that. I mean, no rational person would really believe that somebody came back from the dead. Right?

I'm fascinated by the early church historian, Tertullian, who somewhere around 200 A.D. says, "That it's right to believe in the resurrection purely for the absurdity of the whole thing." They understood back then that believing in a resurrection was absurd. It was an act of faith. You could never convince people of resurrection. It's not something you can scientifically prove by reproducing it over and over again. You just have to accept by faith this tomb was empty.

I think sometimes people come to church wanting to believe in a resurrection, just not sure they can. I think that was the story of Charles Templeton when Lee Stroebel went to visit him here a few years ago, to talk to him about having gone from one of America's leading evangelists to one of America's leading agnostics. And, in the course of conversation, tears began to stream down Templeton's face and he says, "I want so desperately to believe, but I can't."

I'm sidetracked again. I'm sorry! It's Easter. Everybody knows what to expect on Easter Sunday morning. We come here because we want to celebrate something. It's Easter and the message that we see again, again, and again in this text is that the disciples come with such focus and direction. They show up at the mountain and what they're ready to do is to worship. Except, that some (in the text it says) doubted. In fact that is such a troublesome statement that the commentators don't know what to do with it. They look at this text and they say, "Well, we recognize that in verse 16, the eleven disciples went to Galilee but, some of them doubted. We can't have a disciple who doubts." So there must have been some other people there. Maybe this is the time when they had the 500 and he appeared to 500 at once and out of the 500 some of them doubted. Because we just can't handle the fact that a real disciple would doubt. Could we? I mean, no real believer in Jesus would ever doubt, would they?

Well, if they wouldn't, then I don't qualify as a real believer. Because there have been those moments in my life – 1985 and 1986 for example. My mother died. Eleven days later my father died. Three weeks later my father-in-law went in the hospital and he died less than a year later. Two weeks later my house burned. Six months later it flooded. And, I confess to you, standing there wondering, is there any reality here? Is there any truths to this thing? We doubt sometimes don't we? When life gets hard and things get rough. Things don't turn out the way we think they're supposed to. There are those moments in our life where we would say, "I'm a real believer. I am! I am a disciple of Jesus, but I have to confess to you – sometimes – sometimes I wonder!

Yet again, I'm sidetracked. I'm sorry! It's Easter and everybody knows what we're supposed to do this morning. We're supposed to come here and understand that the message of Jesus, about resurrection, is for his faithful followers. The women are supposed to tell the disciples so that they can celebrate together the story again. Except when you read Matthew 28, you get to the end of the story, it's not for the faithful disciples. Did you notice verses 18, 19, 20? Go into all the world. In fact, four places in that text, he uses the word all. I am with you all the time. Go to all the nations. There is something about this message that is not supposed to be contained inside the believing community. This message wasn't just for the disciples to solve some kind of personal issue that they may have had with Jesus having been crucified. This was about the world, about the nations. . . . . . . . . . END OF TAPE SIDE ONE

It's Easter and everybody knows what's supposed to happen on Sunday morning. The women come to the tomb and he's not there. The most brilliant ten seconds in cinema history are the last ten seconds of The Passion movie. When all of a sudden you recognize this tomb is empty. He isn't there. You heard the voice of the angel. He's been crucified. You're right about that. He did die. There is no question, but he's not here. He is risen! Not, he was, he is risen!

My friends in eastern Europe this morning have already done this. My friend Adam in Holstein, Poland, my friend Eve Genny and Sophia, my friend Andrea in Uzbekistan have stood in front of their churches and they have made this comment to their community. He is Risen! And their communities are conditioned with a certain response. He is Risen, in deed!

I think it would be kind of nice if we would join those eastern Europeans this morning. Can you help me? I'll say it. You repeat. "He is Risen!" He is Risen! Let's try it one more time. I'll say he is risen, you'll say, he is risen indeed. "He is Risen!" He is Risen indeed! That's what Easter is about. That's why we're here. Because we celebrate a resurrected Christ. That tomb could not hold him! It never can! And, it can never contain the message of resurrection.

There are two commands in this text. Come and see. Go and tell. You're invited to come and see. The tomb is empty. Take a look. Wander around. Let yourself in. Look under the covers. He's not there! You will look in vain. Come and see.

Oh, I've walked in places where there are bodies. Last summer I went to West Minster Abbey. You're walking on bodies everywhere you look. Their names are on the floor. That's where they bury all the important people in England. You won't find a tomb there with the name Jesus on it. Cause he's risen. Come and see. Go and tell.

Three times in this text – twice to the ladies, once to the disciples, go and tell.

It's Easter and everybody knows what to expect, except, my friends, I'm not convinced they do. Unless those who do, go and tell. And, that's what we're inviting you to do. Come and see. Go and tell.

If you've never seen him. If you don't know him, we're inviting you to come and see. If you know him, as unlikely a candidate as you might be, go and tell.

Let's stand.