EVEN PEOPLE WHO DON'T CONSIDER themselves particularly religious will often attend church services at Christmas and Easter. As a result, just about everyone knows at least two stories about Jesus, his birth, and his resurrection.
What we'll do in our next five readings is cover all the major passages in the Bible about the latter story, the resurrection. First, we'll look at the four Gospel accounts; you'll find it fascinating to go through them back to back. By doing so, you'll see the similarities in each account. But each Gospel writer captured different details and nuances of what happened. Matthew told his story by intertwining the experiences of four people. Mark emphasizes the power that was unleashed by the resurrection. Luke adds an extended account of two disciples' encounter with the resurrected Jesus. And John highlights the restoration of the relationship between Peter and Jesus. It's sort of like having four reporters covering the same event. When we put all the accounts together, we get a more complete picture of what happened.
In our fifth reading, we'll look at what the apostle Paul taught about the resurrection many years after it happened. By then, the first-century Christians were beginning to doubt whether the resurrection of Jesus happened or was really that important after all. So Paul wrote to reassure the doubters and to firmly reestablish the importance of the resurrection.
As you go through this section, see if you can form your own case for the resurrection from the information in the five readings. What parts of the account stand out to you? Which facts seem most convincing to you? And how could you explain your view of the resurrection to someone who wasn't sure about it?
PRAY: Jesus, I want to come and see for myself what happened in that tomb. Please give me new insights into the truth about your resurrection.
READ: Matthew 28:1-20
REFLECT: I love good spy novels and thrillers; I read them in bed at night or when I'm peddling on the exercise bike at the YMCA. One of the things that appeals to me about these books is that in short chapters, they often intertwine several plot lines that all come together in the end. That's exactly how Matthew constructed his account of the resurrection of Jesus.
Plot 1. The basic story (vv. 1-7). Matthew begins with a summary of the facts, told with meticulous detail. Note that the earthquake was violent (v. 2); no wonder the guards were scared stiff (v. 4). The angel had a dazzling appearance (v. 3) but assumed a casual position, sitting on the stone (v. 2). It's as if he was saying, "What's the big deal; Jesus told you this would happen, right?"
Plot 2. The two Marys (vv. 1, 5-10). The two Marys are overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, fear and joy (v. 8). Even so, the angel gives them a threefold command- don't be afraid (v. 5), come and see (v. 6), go and tell (v. 7) good marching orders for any follower of Jesus. For the two Marys, it led to a life-changing encounter with Christ (v.9).
Plot 3. The "bad guys" (vv. 11-15). The religious leaders, aware of the disastrous public relations implications if word gets out that Jesus actually did rise from the dead, pay the guards to spread misinformation about what happened (v. 13). Sadly, there are still people today who reject Jesus because they haven't heard the truth about him.
Plot 4. The motivational conclusion (vv. 16-20). Matthew 28:18-20 is often called the Great Commission because, in these verses, Jesus empowered his followers to share the good news of the gospel with the whole world. But the most inspirational aspect of the Great Commission is not a vision of worldwide evangelism. Rather, it's the reality that Jesus will be with his followers forever (v. 20).
APPLY: Do you ever feel that Jesus is with you? When?
PRAY: Heavenly Father, I'm so thankful for the empty tomb. Help me to overcome my fears so I can go and tell others about your Son, Jesus.