March 27, 2016
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Matthew 27:62-28:4
PORTRAITS OF OUR SAVIOR FROM MATTHEW
“A MSSING PERSON”
1. Missing because He won the victory.
2. Missing to proclaim the victory.
Matthew 27:62-28:4 (NIV 1984) “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.’ 64So 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.” 66So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. 1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2There 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. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”
You see their faces in many different places. On a milk carton. At a bus stop. On a billboard. In grocery stores and post offices. Missing persons. When a loved one goes missing the hearts of all are filled with fear, worry, not knowing. Today we have things like Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts to get the entire community on the watch for a missing person. I wonder if the two Marys at first wanted to send out an alert for Jesus. Because when they got to the tomb on Easter Morning Jesus was missing! That’s our Easter Sunrise picture of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel. He is a Missing Person.
Now when someone goes missing, not knowing why is one of the great heartaches. Thanks to the Holy Spirit we don’t have to go through that heartache. He’s told us why Jesus was missing. One reason was because He had won the victory. First we should understand how impossible it was for Jesus to be missing from the tomb. “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.’ 64So 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.” 66So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” The next day, the Sabbath day, the Pharisees who several times accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, are busy with their work. We can’t cut them any breaks. It seems they understood Jesus better than his disciples. Jesus had claimed he would rise in three days. Security measures were put in place. A seal was put in place to guard against any tampering. Roman guards were set to watch. The foolish Pharisees didn’t realize their misguided efforts were going to highlight the Easter miracle and provide some eyewitnesses who weren’t the disciples.
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2There 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. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” Someone knew how to keep the Sabbath but it wasn’t the Pharisees. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary waited until the Sabbath was over and went expecting to find Jesus’ dead body so they could properly prepare it for burial. But when they got there Jesus was missing. An angel sat on the stone that had covered the tomb. The guards fainted in fear. Jesus was missing.
Now let’s talk about why. He was missing because He won the victory. Think back to our reading from the great Resurrection chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15. There the Apostle Paul very logically pointed out that if Jesus had not risen from the dead the message about Him and faith in Him are useless. And that’s true. If Jesus had stayed dead it would mean the wages of sin had not been paid for. It would mean the sentence of eternal death for all was still in place. It would mean that our enemy, the Devil, the great Accuser could still finger point and say, “Fair and just God, these too must go to Hell.” “If,” Paul wrote. If Christ has not been raised. But He has. He won the victory. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is God’s sign to all that sin has been paid for in full. That physical death is not the gateway to Hell for those who are in Christ but is the entry point for real life in heaven. His resurrection is proof that He is God’s Son and the Devil can no longer successfully accuse us. God has justified us in Christ, declared us innocent. Jesus was missing from the tomb because He won the victory.
But He wasn’t missing in action. We don’t know exactly when this happened but the Bible does tell us what Jesus did. We confess it in the Apostles’ Creed as “He descended into Hell.” The Bible puts it this way in 1 Peter 3. “He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison.” Perhaps a better translation of that would be “through whom also he went and proclaimed to the spirits in Hell.” After Jesus was made alive He descended to Hell. Why? Not to pay for sin. That was already done. Not to give the souls of those who have condemned themselves to Hell through unbelief another chance. God makes it very clear that it is given a man once to die and then you face judgment. So why did Jesus descend to Hell?
I know this is maybe an unpleasant exercise but have you ever tried to view the Jesus’ death from the viewpoint of the devil and demons? Think about it. When the devil led the angel rebellion against God they were cast out of God’s presence nevermore to enjoy His goodness. Hell was created as their prison. Since that time the devil and demons are all evil all the time. They tempt the crown of God’s creation, Adam and Eve, to join them in rebelling against God perhaps thinking to hurt God by getting them to sin. Adam and Eve fall. They disobey. But instead of casting them immediately to Hell God promises a Savior, the seed of the woman who would undo the Devil’s damage and crush him. You can imagine that from that point on the Devil and the demons were on high alert, waiting, watching for that seed of Eve to appear, looking to destroy him. Now you know the Devil is not God’s evil equal. He is not all powerful or all knowing. He is limited. So when Jesus is born he tries to have him killed by Herod. Doesn’t work. I’m sure there were more attempts the Bible doesn’t tell us about. None of them worked. He tries temptation and there were many more than the three recorded in Scripture. Jesus holds firm. He resists and perfectly obeys His Father.
Suddenly things seem to fall into place. The chief priests and Pharisees are at their wits end. No more hanging in the shadows. They want Jesus dead now. Judas’ greed so carefully cultivated lures him into betrayal. Spineless Pilate gives in to pressure and condemns a man he knows is innocent to death. Is it possible? Could this really work? Foolish God had let His Son become man and that meant He could be killed. They watched. They waited. Jesus died. Now what do you think was going on in Hell? I’m sure it can’t be possible but party time!? The Savior is dead.
But not for long. This was God’s plan all along. Jesus the substitute for all. His perfect obedience in place of man’s sin. His death to pay for sin so that sinners were freed from their just desserts. Now what do you think went through the devil’s mind when Jesus appeared alive, in Hell? And what do you think Jesus proclaimed? Victory! That’s why He was missing from the tomb. He was alive. He won and because He won we do too.
This missing person was not missing at all. Are you missing some persons today? Missing loved ones who have died in the Lord, who have left this life? While we miss them, they aren’t missing any more than Jesus was. His victory is theirs. As He lives so do they and so will we. Easter comfort. Easter joy! Amen.