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Pastor John Montgomery's Weekly Sermons:
April 3, 2022
“Easter at the Tomb”
Series, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ”
The disciples must have been devastated. They had been inspired by His teachings. And they had decided to follow Him. It had not been an easy road, but they had willingly left families, homes, and jobs to follow Jesus.
As they walked with Him they had seen amazing things. They had seen Him multiply a few loaves and fishes and feed the multitudes. They saw Him walk on water and calm an angry storm.
They saw Him straighten crooked limbs and give sight to the blind. He even raised the dead back to life again. Truly, He was the Messiah that God had promised would come!
But now He is dead. How could they have been so wrong? What would they do now? What do you do when your heart is filled with despair? What do you do when your world falls apart?
What did happen? What lessons can we apply to our lives today? Our scripture text this morning is Matthew 27:57-66 - “As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” 65“ Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Matthew 27:57-66
THE SCENE AT THE TOMB,
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.
The Bible tells us that Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, came to bury Jesus. What do we know about this man? We don’t know much, but we do know some things about him.
First, he was from Arimathea, a small town about 20 miles from Jerusalem. As towns go, Arimathea wasn’t very important, but Joseph himself was. In fact, Mark 15:43 tells us he was “…a prominent member of the Council…” (That’s the Sanhedrin, the supreme judicial authority of Israel who had illegally condemned Jesus to death).
But Luke 23:51 says that he was “…a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action.”
Second, Matthew tells us that he was rich. I don’t know about you, but sometimes we act as if we think that Jesus came to minister only to those who are poor and down and out.
But Jesus Himself said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me.” (John 12:32) He came to minister not just to the poor but to the rich, also.
Third, Joseph had an acquaintance named Nicodemus who helped him bury Jesus. John 19:39 says, “He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds.”
Matthew 27:59-60 says - “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.”
Joseph and Nicodemus together buried Jesus. They shared the cost. Joseph paid for the tomb, and Nicodemus paid for the burial spices. Why did they do this? The apostle John gives a reason when he writes in John 19:38 - “Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.”
There are some Christians who are in the secret service, following Jesus at a distance. They want to be His disciples, but like Joseph of Arimathea, they’re not sure they want everyone else to know. So, they keep their faith secret.
Now, when it was too late, Joseph and Nicodemus were trying to make amends, by doing the only thing left to do - bury the body of Jesus.
But Joseph and Nicodemus weren’t the only ones at the tomb. Vs. 61 says, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”
Do you realize that Jesus acted differently toward women than the average Jewish man? He treated women with respect. He acknowledged the presence of women. He spoke to them in public. No rabbi or Pharisee would have done that!
The two women were there. They had been with others at the cross, weeping as He died. And now they were there as He was being buried.
Enemies of Jesus came to the tomb also. Vs’s 62-63 say, “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After 3 days I will rise again.’’
Now think about that. The enemies of Jesus remembered that He had predicted His resurrection. And because His enemies remembered, they said to Pilate in vs’s 64-66 - “So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that He has been raised from the dead. The last deception will be worse than the first.”
“‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So, they went & made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone & posting the guard.’”
James Stuart, the writer, says that the most pathetic sentence in human literature is that of Pilate to the priests, “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”
Stuart asks, “What would you say to a man who stands in the gray of dawn and says to the rising sun, ‘Stop! You cannot soar into the heavens today’? Or what would you say to a man who stands on the beach, draws a line in the sand, and says to the tide, ‘Halt! You cannot cross this line’? You would say to each of them, ‘You are mad!’
What do you say to Roman soldiers who stand with spears in hand, guarding the tomb which holds the Lord of Life, trying to keep Him from rising from the dead? “
2. FOUR LESSONS FROM THE TOMB
There 4 lessons we should learn.
First, Be realistic. The Christian life can be an emotional roller coaster. For the disciples it was exactly that. For them, Palm Sunday was a mountain-top experience. Then came Friday and the cross. And then Sunday and the resurrection. Up and down, up and down, up again.
There are some who believe that once we become a Christian our troubles will be over, and everything will be wonderful from then on. But as we mature in the faith, as we learn to be realistic about our lives, we can say with the apostle Paul, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:12-13
Second lesson, Be patient. Desperate circumstances sometimes can be quickly reversed. For the disciples it took only 3 days. On Friday they are in deep despair, but by Sunday night they’re on top of the mountain because of the resurrection. So sometimes things can be quickly reversed.
Sometimes we wonder: “Why does God allow us to find ourselves in desperate circumstances?” The answer ought to be clear: God allows us to experience desperate things in life so that we’ll turn to Him. Oftentimes it is only when we’re desperate or in despair, that we really recognize our need of God.
Why did God allow Moses to reach the shore of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit? So that the people would turn to God for help. Then God parted the waters of the Red Sea and the children of Israel walked across on dry ground.
Why did God permit Joseph to spend 2 years in an Egyptian prison? So that he would depend completely on God. Then God gave him the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams & soon he is the Prime Minister of Egypt.
Why did God allow Jonah to be thrown overboard into a stormy sea? So that He could send His special fish to rescue him and vomit him up on the shore nearest Nineveh. Then he could preach the message of God to the people of Nineveh.
Third lesson: Be faithful, even when God doesn’t change your circumstances. The ultimate test of faith is not “What do we do when the problems are taken away?” The ultimate test of faith in our lives is “What do we do if the problems are not taken away?”
You’re dealing with cancer, and there’s no cure. And every day you experience the pain and face the uncertainty of the future. You have a spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s. You’ve been dealing with that now for months and it just goes on and on.
You have a home situation filled with stress and tension, and there seems to be no solution to it.
The Living Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “So be truly
glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while
down here. These trials are only to test your faith to see whether or not it is
strong & pure.”
Fourth lesson is: God’s Plan is always the Best
Becky Pepper tells the familiar children’s story: “Once Upon A Mountaintop.” It’s about Three little trees were growing on the top of a mountain. These trees were talking together one day. One tree said to the others, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
One answered, “Well, when I look up at the heavens and see the stars sparkling in the sky, I think to myself, ‘I’d like to be a treasure chest that holds diamonds and precious stones.’”
The other one said, “Well, when I grow up, I want to be part of a giant ship that sails across the sea carrying kings and queens to important destinations.”
Then the one who asked the question in the first place said, “When I grow up I just want to stay right here. I want to grow tall and straight, pointing to the heavens so that everyone who comes up on the mountain will look at me and think of God.”
Over the years the trees grew and grew. Finally, men came and cut the trees and took them down from the mountain.
The first one was delighted to find that he was being taken to a carpenter’s shop. But he was devastated when he discovered that he was not going to be made into a treasure chest, but rather, into a feeding trough. Instead of holding precious stones, he would hold hay and feed for animals. And animals would come and slobber over him.
The second one was delighted to find that he was being taken to the seaside. But then he was devastated to discover that he was not going to be part of a giant ship, but just a tiny fishing boat. And his cargo would not be kings and queens taken to important places, but dead, smelly fish.
The third tree was disappointed that he was cut down at all. He had just wanted to stay on top of the mountain. He was even more disappointed when he was cut into beams that were placed in a stack of lumber and forgotten.
Years passed, and one day two people came into the stable where the young feeding trough had now grown old and worn through years of use.
The old feeding trough watched as the woman gave birth to a baby, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and then laid him in the feeding trough. And he thought to himself, “I am a treasure chest, because now I hold the most precious thing that has ever come into this world.”
More years passed, and one day the second tree was sailing across the Sea of Galilee. On board were strangers, mostly fishermen. Suddenly the winds came up and blew fiercely, and the waves began to beat against the little ship. Then one of the men stood up and said, “Peace, be still.” And the little ship suddenly realized that his task was not to carry kings, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Two more years passed and one day the third tree was yanked from the lumber pile and placed on the shoulders of a man who had to carry it through jeering crowds toward a hill called Calvary. When they got there the beam was tossed to the ground, and the man was placed upon it. Then it felt the penetration of the nails driven through the man’s hands, and into its wood.
And as the people gathered around cursing and mocking the man, the poor tree felt ugly and hated, too. But then the man was taken down buried in a tomb, and on the third day raised from the dead. And the tree said, “Now I know that every time men look at me they will think of God.”
Learn the lessons from the tomb.
Message Preached at
Cedar Creek Baptist Church
Jacksonville, Florida 32205
April 3, 2022
Sermon Notes is a Ministry of the Cedar Creek Baptist Church,
1372 Lane Avenue South, Jacksonville, Florida 32205, 904-781-9151 Johnmontgomery@ccbaptist.org