The Case of the Dead Messiah

Easter is the greatest event on the Christian calendar, for it celebrates the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! He walked out the victor as He conquered death, hell, and the grave. I am glad Jesus was born. I praise God for the life He lived. I feed on the truths He taught. I am beyond grateful that He died for us on the cross, but I rejoice that He rose again from the dead. Had He had not come out of that grave, we would still be lost and in our sins. We would still be as Paul described us in Ephesians 2.

And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Eph. 2:1-3)

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. (Eph. 2:12)

Had Christ not risen from the dead we would be “of all men most miserable,” (1 Cor. 15:19). I would imagine that the hours after the death of Jesus were a hopeless time for His disciples and for the others who followed Him.

They expected great things from Jesus.
They had placed all their faith, and their hopes in Him.
They believed that He was the long-awaited Messiah, Who would deliver them from their Roman oppressors, and rule the kingdoms of the world.
Where did they get ideas like that? From Jesus Himself, of course!
He told them that He was the Son of God.
He told them that He was the Messiah.
He told them that He would bring salvation to the world.
He told them that He would rule over and eternal kingdom.

Yet, just a few days ago, many of His followers watched Him die a horrible death on a Roman cross. Others had observed His body anointed with spices, wrapped in linen, and sealed in a tomb. It was over. He was dead. He was gone. All their hopes had been buried with Him. It was a time of hopelessness, of shattered dreams, of broken hearts, of people filled with the dull ache of loss, and utter sadness.

For a moment, journey with me to Jerusalem and let’s notice some facts in this case, as we examine The Case Of The Dead Messiah.

Matthew 28:1-10 is our setting for this examination of facts.

First, we must notice there were harsh realities, as verse one reveals.

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

This passage opens with a group of brokenhearted women moving through the stillness of an early Jerusalem morning. They are on their way to visit the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. But, Joseph isn’t in his tomb, Jesus is. He is why they have come, and that is why they are sad. Let’s join this small group of sad women as they make their way to the place where Jesus is buried.

We are only told here that the women have come to “see the sepulcher.” Mark’s Gospel gives us a little more insight into their mission that morning. He says, they had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him (Mark 16:1). When Jesus died on the cross, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea hastily anointed the body with spices and ointments, and wrapped it in linen cloths before placing it in Joseph’s tomb. These woman have come so that they might finish the burial process and see to it that the body was properly taken caste of, because we all know men can’t be trusted to do things like that. Right ladies?

Their mission is a sad one, because they genuinely loved the man in the tomb. He had blessed their lives. He had taught them truth, He had been their friend. He had showed them the way to God. Their lives were vastly better off because they had spent time with Jesus. In the case of Mary Magdalene, the man in the tomb had radically changed her life. He had delivered her from bondage to seven devils, (Mark 16:1).

These women believed that Jesus was the Messiah, They believed He would establish an eternal kingdom. They believed that He would deliver them from the Romans. They believed that He would bring salvation to the world. Even though He told them on more than one occasion that He was going to die on the cross, they were still shocked when it happened.

The fact that these women have gone to see a “sepulcher” tells us what we need to know. The man inside is dead. The details of His death were clearly written down by four faithful reporters. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all faithfully recorded the details of His death. Jesus suffered a horrible death.

He was beaten with fists, Luke 22:63-64; John 19:1

He was whipped with a scourge, John 19:1.

He was spit upon, Matt. 26:67; 27:30

He was stripped naked, Matt. 27:35
He was nailed to the cross, Matt. 27:35
He was mocked, Matt. 27:26-32; 39-44
He died a horrible death. We talked about crucifixion in our last message, but what we said there bears repeating. It was the most terrible punishment ever devised by men.

The prophet Isaiah said:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

Isa. 53:4–7.

C. Truman Davis, MD describes the horrific scene of a crucifixion:

The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms to tightly, but to allow some flexibility and movement. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus (declaring the offense of the criminal) is nailed in place. The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain — the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.
As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places his full weight on the nail through his feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. (The victim) fights to raise himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.

The woman have no hope as they make their way to the tomb. Jesus is dead, and as far as they are concerned, nothing will ever change that. These woman simply want to do what they can for the Lord. They wanted to make sure that He has a proper burial. So, they go to carry out their hopeless task, worried about who will roll the stone away from the tomb, and also worried about the Roman soldiers who guard the tomb.

Verses 2-6 reveal there were some heavenly revelations to this small band of women. When this little group of sad woman arrived at the tomb, nothing was as they expected it to be. They expected to find a tranquil cemetery. Instead, they found and angel, experienced and earthquake, and saw a group of Roman soldiers lying around the tomb, passed out on the ground. God has sent them a messenger with news from a far country. God sent them and angel with news from Heaven about the tomb and the man Who had been buried there. This angelic messenger took care of two major problems for these ladies. He removed the two greatest physical fears they had as they made their way to the tomb.

He Removed The Stone - Mark 16:3 says, And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

They knew that Nicodemus and Joseph had sealed the mouth of the tomb with a giant round stone the day they had buried Jesus. To sell a tomb like this, a very large, heavy round stone rested on a track in front if the tomb. The track was slightly inclined and the stone was at the top of the incline. When it was time to seal the tomb, the stone was allowed to roll down the track and seat itself in a notch at the bottom of the track. It would then take considerable effort for anyone to move the stone to reach the body within the tomb. The women were worried about how they might remove the stone to reach the body, but when they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone already rolled away. Our text tells us that the angel caused a great earthquake, and the stone was rolled away. Problem solved.

He Removed The Soldiers - Another problem they faced was a company of Roman soldiers Pilate had sent to guard the tomb. Apparently, the Jewish religious leaders and been listening to what Jesus had preached. He said that He would be crucified, and be buried, and that He would rise from the dead three days later. So, the Jews went to Pilate and asked him to secure the tomb. They didn’t believe that Jesus would rise from the dead, but hey did believe that His disciples would steal the body and tell everyone that He had come back from the dead. All of this is detailed in Matt. 27:62-66.

No doubt the woman knew that the soldiers were there, and that they would be a hindrance to them reaching the body of Jesus in the tomb. But, when the angel showed up, this hardened Roman troops fainted and fell to the ground as if they were dead man. Another obstacle removed!

The angel did more than just take care of some physical obstacles. He also shared some much needed spiritual truth. The angel acknowledges the sad truth that the death of Jesus on the cross was not just a terrible dream. He lets us know really did die on the cross. His death was real. The body in the tomb was real. This was not a dream, this was reality.

Immediately after the resurrection, Satan began to regroup from a powerful defeat and instigated rumors and conspiracy theories. Among the rumors was one that said that Jesus hadn’t really died when He was the cross, but that He had merely “swooned.” He fainted dead away, so that everyone there though He was actually dead. Of course, this theory doesn’t hold water because it claims that Jesus wasn't dead, He just fainted on the cross and everyone thought He was dead. However, if Jesus really didn't die, consider the absurdity that this claim implies:

He was nailed through the hands and feet to the cross, and He survived that.
Before the cross, He had been beaten with a cat o’ nine tails and He survived that.
He was stabbed in the heart with a spear, and He survived that.
Then He was taken off the cross and embalmed, and He survived that.
Then He spent three days and nights in a cold tomb, without medical treatment, and survived that.
Then, in His weakened state, He managed to roll away the heavy stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb.
Then He was able to convince His mother, His disciples, and all the other people that followed Him that He had a glorified body, and forty days later, He went away to die in solitude.

Do you realize how much faith it takes to believe something like that? Yet, to avoid having to deal with Christ and bow to Him as Lord, they will believe the impossible lie, while denying the simple truth.

My friend, Jesus died on the cross! I rejoice in that truth! Jesus was a sinless man. He was a good man, Who did many great things during His life. He was a great teacher, Who taught the truth about God and salvation. His was a life well lived! But, His life alone didn’t have the power to save anyone. He death, specifically His death in the cross, which was the ultimate sacrifice for sin, did and does have the power to save. His death on the cross satisfied all the holy demands of God and His death on the cross fulfilled the requirements of God’s Law. On the cross, Jesus took our sins upon Himself, 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24.

He became the “propitiation” for our sins. He became the satisfaction of God's judgment for us.

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God, (Rom. 3:25).

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world, (1 John 2:2).

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, (1 John 4:10).

In one instant on the cross, Jesus accomplished what thousands of years of animal sacrifice had never, and could never accomplish. When He cried “It is finished” and bowed His head in death, He paid for sin forever.

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb. 9:12–14).

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation, (Heb. 9:24–28).

And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified, (Heb. 10:11–14).

Yes, the death of Jesus on the cross was a great tragedy, a horrific event! It was horrible. It was grotesque. It was the absolute proof that man is a desperate, degenerate, depraved sinner. Yet, hallelujah! The death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary opened the door of salvation for all who will come to Him. In that one powerful, eternity changing moment, Jesus forever saved His people from their sins, (Matt. 1:21).

If you are looking for a reason to rejoice, then rejoice in the fact that God loved you so much that He gave up His only begotten Son to be your Savior on the cross. I say, Hallelujah!

The next words from the mouth of the angel must have struck the hearts of those shocked women like a bolt of lightening. He says, “Yes, Jesus died on the cross three days ago, but “He is not here: for He is risen, as He said.” That single announcement: “He is not here for He is risen," changed everything forever. His death on the cross paid the price for sin, but His resurrection from the dead provided eternal life for all those saved by His death. When He died on the cross, He saved us. When He rose from the dead, He secured everlasting life for us!

If Jesus did not rise again from the dead, we are in trouble. In 1 Cor 15:12-20, Paul tells us the consequences of having a dead Messiah. If Jesus is dead, then we have no hope. If Jesus is dead, we are wasting our time here today. If Jesus is dead, I am a fool for having a website such as this and proclaiming He lives, after such a horrendous death. If Jesus is dead there is no heaven, thee is no salvation, there is no forgiveness, there is no hope, there is no future, there is no reason to live. If Jesus is dead, then we are all headed to Hell. If Jesus is dead, God help us, for we will face His awful wrath in Hell for ever!

But, thank God, He lives! The message of the angel still reverberates down the corridors of time. It tells us this resurrection day morning that “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said.” Because He lives, there is hope. There salvation. There is a Friend that “sticketh closer than a brother.” There is forgiveness of sin. There is grace to live for God, to be saved, to face whatever comes our way, and to die. Because He lives life for the believer is not in vain, but it will end in glory in His exalted presence. Because He lives, there is hope for the lost sinner; he can run to Jesus and find a willing Savior.

If you are looking for a reason to rejoice, then rejoice in the fact that Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb. I say, Hallelujah!

The angel invites the women to “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” They are invited to walk into the tomb and see for themselves that Jesus is gone. John tells us in His Gospel that the tomb is a scene of perfect order. The linen cloths that wrapped His body are still lying where He left them when He passed through them. The cloth that covered His face is lying nearby, neatly folded. Grave robbers would not have gone to all that trouble. But, for the Lord, it was no trouble, He merely stood up and folded the napkin and walked out of the tomb. I contest that Jesus did not have to walk out the door of the tomb, He could have simply disappeared or walked through the walls----after all, He is God! Yet, the stone wasn't rolled away for Him to walk out, but for us to be able to walk inside and know that our Savior lives! The tomb is empty. We are invited in to see for ourselves.

As I have mentioned in the past, the bodies of all the founders of all the major religions if the world can be located. Their followers go to their graves to worship and grieve. However, in a small garden, just outside Jerusalem, on a busy modern street, is a tomb carved into a mountain side. In that tomb, there are niches for two bodies. The one on the left has been used. It has been carved out to accommodate the body of a man. The niche on the left has not been used. I have been in that tomb, and it is empty! I didn’t see a skeleton, nor did I see the dust of decomposition. I didn’t see a shred of evidence that would suggest that any one’s body had been there for any significant length of time. That tomb was used, but only for three days, because the man Who was buried there got up and walked out!

If you are looking for a reason to rejoice, then rejoice in the fact that the tomb is empty! Again, I say, Hallelujah!

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead brought them joy and peace that eluded them after He died. In 1 Cor. 15:19, the Bible says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” What that means is this: A dead Savior can save no one. When Jesus died on the cross, His death forever satisfied the demands of God concerning sin. When Jesus died, He cried, “It is finished!” He meant that God had been satisfied and that sin had been paid for forever. Anyone who trusted Jesus and what He did on the cross would have their sins forgiven. However, a dead Savior cannot give eternal life. Thus, one might be forgiven, but still be subject to the power of sin and death. When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death, and He give those who receive Him the promise of a new, different, more abundant life. Because He lives, everything changes. Because He lives, not only can our sins be paid for, but we can now be “justified.” That is, we can be brought into a right standing with God. Romans 4:25 proclaims, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

When they saw Him, they were overcome with joy. They fell at His feet and “worshipped” Him. The word “worship” speaks of “a dog licking his master’s hand.” In a context such as this, it refers to “bowing before another in reverence and humility.” So, they knelt before the Lord and that exalted His name.

My friend, we have every reason in the world to worship Him today. He came into this world as a baby. God was made flesh and lived among us.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth, (John 1:14).

  • He added humanity to His deity that He might live in this world and die for us on the cross, Phil. 2:5-8.

  • He laid aside heavenly glory and riches to live in poverty, so that we, through Him, might be rich, 2 Cor. 8:9.

  • He went to the cross of Calvary and power our sins in His Own body so that we might be saved from our sins, 1 Pet. 2:24.

  • He suffered a horrible death so that our sins could be forgiven and so we could be saved, Isa. 53:4-6; Rom. 10:9; 13.

  • He rose from the dead to give us eternal life, 1 Cor. 15:20-23.

  • He ascended back to Heaven to prepare a place for us, Acts 1:9-10; John 14:1-3.

  • One day He is coming to get us to take us home, 1 Thes. 4:16-18.

  • In Heaven, we will blend our voices with the multitudes there and we will worship Him in new bodies, and pure hearts and minds, Rev. 4-5.

What began as a morning of sadness and sorrow was transformed into a morning of joy, praise, peace, and salvation. The women who went to that tomb so defeated and broken, left excited and filled with the joy of the Lord, that’s the power of His resurrection! When it becomes real in your heart that Jesus alive, and when His resurrection power becomes real in your heart, your life will changed, and you will also be filled with His worship and praises.

Today would be a good day for the saints of God to humble themselves at the feet of Jesus like those women did so long ago. It would be a good day to love Him, thank Him, praise Him, and exalt Him. He is worthy and we need to be in the business of bringing glory to His name.