Explore the Bible Study: Risen!

9:20 PM


How important is the resurrection of Jesus Christ? A 2017 BBC survey of people living in England revealed that a quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. A more recent survey by Lifeway Research in 2020 reported that two-thirds of American adults (66%) say they believe the biblical accounts of the physical resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. That same research revealed that adults who attend church services at least once or twice a month are more likely to say they believe in the resurrection (89%). The Explore the Bible Study of Matthew 28 reminds us that a belief in the resurrection is vital if one claims to be a follower of Jesus.

The chapters leading up to Matthew 28 provide a bleak picture for Christ and His followers. Jesus is betrayed by Judas even though he had witnessed untold miracles and heard the powerful teachings of Christ. Then Jesus is rejected and condemned. Even his closest disciple, Peter, denies him before a watching crowd. Jesus is mocked by heartless Roman soldiers, paraded through the streets, and then taken to the place called Golgotha where He is crucified like a common thief. Finally, He dies.

Most assumed this great movement led by Jesus died with Him, but it didn’t.

The empty tomb attests to Jesus’ resurrection – Matthew 28:1-4

When Jesus died on Friday, His followers acted quickly to prepare His body for burial. Joseph of Arimathea, who owned the tomb, and Nicodemus had done what they could before the Sabbath (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42). Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had been with them and knew the way back to the tomb (Matthew 27:56,61). 

Early Sunday morning, these women left to complete the burial process. Matthew recorded a violent earthquake on Sunday morning. Earlier in his Gospel, he described a powerful quake associated with Jesus’ death, the tearing of the temple veil, and the resurrection of saints in the area (Matthew 27:50-53). This was a different earthquake, caused by an angel of the Lord. In his Gospel, Mark noted that the women were not sure how they would remove the stone without help (Mark 16:3). The angel’s action made their concerns a moot point; in a sign of triumph, the angel was sitting on the stone he had just moved.

The angel’s action allowed Christ’s followers to enter the tomb and understand that God had raised Him from the dead.

The angel declared Jesus’ resurrection – Matthew 28:5-7

The angel told them to go and tell. "Go" indicates an ongoing action as opposed to a one-time event. He also wanted them to go quickly. Finally, he told them the message they needed to proclaim. In addition to the news of the resurrection, the disciples needed to know that Jesus was going ahead of them to Galilee. During Passover, Jesus had said He would meet them in Galilee (Matthew 26:32). He wanted the women to remind them of this. They would see Jesus there and would receive His marching orders.

What options did the women have when they saw the empty tomb and were given these instructions by the angel? How will their response either confirm or leave doubt regarding Christ’s resurrection? How does this relate to how we respond to telling others about Jesus today?

Eyewitness accounts affirm the resurrection of Jesus – Matthew 28:8-10

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary followed the angel's instructions, and they didn’t just walk, but they ran to tell the others. Yet as they ran, they were experiencing fear and joy. Then Jesus met them! The result was a moment of worship because their faith had become real. Their encounter with the risen Lord changed everything, but it took place AFTER they were already running to tell the others with fear and great joy.

The women’s encounter with the resurrected Christ is not the only eyewitness testimony that was given of His resurrection. Christ appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee, to more than 500 at one time, to James, at a meal before Pentecost and the Ascension. They were varied, physical, undramatic, and unprecedented. These were not collective hallucinations, or mass visions, nor were they ghost appearances. They all encountered the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).

The spread of the gospel demonstrates the truth of the resurrection of Jesus – Matthew 28:16-20

This was only the beginning. Had this only been a brief movement that died when the leader died, then we would not be talking about Jesus’ resurrection today. The gospel message would have never spread beyond the city limits of Jerusalem. Without the resurrection there would be no need to share and show the good news of Jesus.  We are evidence, and the collective history of the church and every believer is evidence that the resurrection is real.

Jesus opened the commission with a promise of His power (v. 18) and concluded it with a promise of His presence. His presence is eternal, taking believers to the end of the age. Christ offered His personal presence while ministering on earth, and He assures His followers that His spiritual presence will remain until He returns to earth. 

Still Have Doubts?

There is one phrase that reminds us that the struggle to believe in His resurrection is not unusual. Matthew 28:17 tells us that some doubted. This Greek word refers to wavering or having a divided mind. The idea is more like hesitation or confusion than skepticism. Some of those present responded more slowly, while others quickly believed.  

If you still struggle with a belief in the resurrection, consider this: Do you believe Jesus died on the cross? Why? 

Some who struggle with believing in the resurrection have sought to even cast doubt on His death! One must understand that, in order to believe in the resurrection, one must believe that Jesus died. His death was confirmed by his enemies and His friends.

  • John 19:32-33 tells us that the Roman soldiers knew that Jesus was dead: “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with him. When they came to Jesus, they did not break his legs since they saw that he was already dead.”
  • Matthew 27:62-64 tells us that the chief priests, Pharisees, and Pilate knew Jesus was dead. Ironically they also knew of the prophecy regarding His resurrection: “the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come, steal him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”
  • A member of the Sanhedrin knew Jesus had died because he took Jesus’ body down from the cross and placed it in the tomb: "There was a good and righteous man named Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, who had not agreed with their plan and action. He was from Arimathea, a Judean town, and was looking forward to the kingdom of God. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Taking it down, he wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever been placed." (Luke 23:50-52)

Everyone knew that Jesus die. So, when the resurrection took place there was no doubt that Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed!

1 Corinthians 15:17-19 emphatically states that, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."

The Lifeway research referenced at the beginning came to this important conclusion that we should all consider as we celebrate Easter today, "If we’re not living as if Jesus is truly Lord, our unbelieving friends won’t have any motivation to wish the resurrection was true—which is often the first step to believe that it is."

You are the most important evidence of the resurrection! Do you really believe in Christ’s resurrection? If you do, then you prove the power and the reality of the resurrection every day by how you share and show the love of Jesus with others!

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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