Glorifying God in the Church by Making Disciples of our Resurrected Lord
Glorifying God by Making Disciples of the Resurrected Lord - Matthew 28
Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on March 23, 2008
When the Protestant Reformation swept across Catholic Europe nearly 500 years ago, there were five distinct truths in particular that summarized their movement back to God’s Word:
- sola scriptura (Scripture alone is our sole authority)
- sola gratia (grace alone from God, only way of salvation)
- sola fide (faith alone receives this grace, not human works)
- solo Christo (Christ alone and His righteousness saves)
- soli deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory)
The Scriptures say that God’s glory shines most brightly in the face of Jesus Christ. John 1 says when God’s Son became flesh and dwelt among us we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten Son, full of grace and truth. When Christ was born, the angels proclaimed to shepherds “Glory to God in the highest.” In John 17:4 Jesus summed up the work the Father gave Him to do as “glorifying God on the earth.” And Phil. 2 says that the resurrection of Christ ultimately was for and about God’s glory. After He was obedient to death on a cross:
9 … God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Every knee must bow to Jesus as Lord for the ultimate purpose of glorifying God the Father. The glory or honor of God is the crucial issue – any of you in this room who haven’t turned from your sin and bowed to Christ’s Lordship are dishonoring God, and not only will you live an empty and unfulfilled life here on earth by missing the purpose for your existence (to glorify God) but far worse, for all eternity you will be separated from this glorious and infinitely satisfying and joyful presence of God in heaven. Those who do not honor or glorify God are the ones who will receive the wrath of God according to Romans 1:21 and following. Romans 3:23 (which was read earlier) says our fundamental problem is we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. God’s glory is the central issue. Whether you believe in it or not, hell is a place of continual conscious punishment and pain for all who will not glorify God by surrendering their life in faith to Jesus, who described Himself as the way, the truth, and the life, and He said no one gets to God the Father except through Christ. Whether you agree or not, that’s what God says in His Word.
Romans 6:4 says this about the resurrection: “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father” – the resurrection is all about the glory of God, that’s what Easter Sunday is all about. The resurrection of Christ the Lord was not only the most glorious event in history, but as we’ll see in Matt. 28, for those who have responded rightly in faith to Christ’s resurrection there is a glorious future as well as a glorious present calling His true disciples have.
Matthew 28:1-4 (NASB95)
1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.
4 RESPONSES TO THE RESURRECTION
- Deathly Afraid, v. 2-4
Seeing a dead man come from the tomb like Lazarus was a fearful enough sight by itself. But in verse 2 of this chapter an angel comes to show there is no dead person in this tomb! He’s gone! Sometime earlier, Jesus rose from the grave in victory and exited the tomb that could not hold him, probably by going right through its walls. The gospels indicate His glorified resurrected body was able to pass through walls like He did in appearing later to the disciples in a closed room. This angel does not roll away the stone to let Jesus out, it’s to show that Jesus is not there! Read verse 6.
Roman soldiers were accustomed to seeing many things, but nothing like this had ever even been heard of. Along with it, verse 2 says there was a tremendous earthquake that the English translations describe as “great” (NKJV), “severe” (NAS, NET), “strong” (CEV), “powerful” (ISV), “violent” (NIV, HCSB).
The Greek words “mega” and “seismos” are even recognizable in English, this was a mega seismic activity as v. 2 says. This angel breaks the seal and rolls the stone away and takes a seat on it.
Vs. 3 says the angel’s clothes were white as snow, his appearance was like lightning – this is a blinding brilliant white light, similar to the glory of Christ that the disciples saw in his Transfiguration.
Verse 4 says “the guards shook for fear” and it’s the same root word as the seismic shaking in verse 2. There is a great fear at this scene, in fact if you’d been there it would have been hard to tell who was shaking more, the soldiers or the earth!
The end of the verse says they became as dead men, which for the moment they probably were sure they were. Being deathly afraid in light of visible glory and the mighty power of the Lord is a normal human reaction, but it is not enough by itself. Even to tremble before God does not necessarily save us. Judas trembled in light of what he had done in betraying Jesus, but his actions in committing suicide showed he had never been a true disciple with true faith.
The Bible says if you believe in God, “you do well. The demons also believe and tremble. But are you willing to recognize you foolish fellow that faith without works is useless?” (Jas 2:19-20)
James argues that no matter what you say about your faith, if there’s no works or fruit or evidence now of someone who loves the Lord and follows him, that so-called “faith” you have may be dead, useless, it won’t save you. We are saved by faith alone, yes, but not by a professed faith that is alone; no fruit of the spirit, no walking in God’s ways, no heart for God’s things, no following of Christ. A mere said faith is a dead faith, just believing facts is what demons do, not disciples. James says even demons do better than you, at least what they believe about God affects them, makes them tremble. If you don’t even fear God, then you of all people should be afraid, be very afraid until you have made peace with Christ.
So the first response to the Resurrection events was the soldiers being deathly afraid. We’ll come back to the women at the tomb, but let’s follow the soldiers to see a 2nd response by unbelievers:
- Denying the Truth, v. 11-15
11 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
The Jewish leaders were also fearful but in another way. In chapter 27, the chief Priests and Pharisees asked Pontius Pilate to seal and guard the tomb because they remembered that Jesus said he would rise again on the third day. They asked for soldiers saying that Christ’s disciples might come and steal the body away. But I think James Boice is right when he says what they really feared most of all was that Jesus would in fact rise from the dead. They could have had the soldiers arrest the disciples, and certainly guarding the tomb would have been enough, but they also had it sealed probably to make sure that Jesus couldn’t get out from the inside.
They had seen His miracles. None of them could deny them. In fact, the Jews had seen Jesus raise a man who had been in the tomb for four days, and if you would think anything would cause these leaders to believe Jesus was their Messiah, it would be that miracle! But John 11 records that these same leaders when they heard it, they immediately formed a council in light of Christ raising Lazarus and they planned together to murder Jesus (v. 53).
And this is amazing, in our passage here, when the soldiers report what happened, you might think surely Christ’s resurrection itself would prove to them that Jesus was the Son of God. Surely now they will fall on their faces and say “we were wrong, we see the truth, Jesus must be the Son of God” (that’s what even one Roman soldier said watching Jesus die in Matthew 27).
But what does verse 12 say they did? They meet again and all agree to deny what has happened and to give what had to be a massive sum of money to buy off the soldiers to not tell the truth!
These Pharisees loved their money. The gospels say they wouldn’t support their own parents, they would extort money from widows and the poor all in the name of God. But they were willing to give from this precious money (which should have been the Lord’s) to pay Judas the betrayer of our Lord. Here they give a far larger sum of money to these soldiers to make sure they suppress the truth. They didn’t disbelieve the soldiers’ story, they bribe them to deny it and they went to desperate measures because their greatest fears were realized. Nothing was more fearful than that this Jesus who had often unraveled and uncovered their false religion and exposed them for the hypocrites and phonies they were, nothing was more frightening than Christ exposing their sin and pride and the fact that He was alive!
I pray that this morning the Lord is unraveling and uncovering any false beliefs you have and exposing any hypocrisy and sin in your heart, and I pray with sincere compassion that you will not respond like these Pharisees but that you recognize Jesus is your Lord and only hope. He can forgive any sin, He will shower His grace and mercy on any sinner if you come humbly admitting your sin and trusting in Christ alone, in His death and resurrection on your behalf.
Romans 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
This is good news. The bad news is if you do not respond, if you see the truth so clearly and do not bow your life before the Lordship of Christ, you may become as hardened as these sinful Pharisees. Mark it down: People do not disbelieve the gospel because it is intellectually unbelievable, but because they’re morally unwilling. It’s not a mental barrier, it’s a moral barrier. It’s a sin problem, called depravity.
This is the deceitfulness and desperate nature of man’s sin. In verse 13, they have the soliders say “we were asleep when the disciples came and stole him.” Any rational man would say to that, “wait a minute, you mean all 12 or so of you highly trained soldiers who know that sleeping on the job or failing can mean death or serious consequences, all of you were asleep while the disciples had to break the seal of concrete and roll away a massive stone and none of you heard a thing?” The even more obvious question is “how do you know what happened if you were asleep?!”
These religious people tried to deny the truth, but they couldn’t. You cannot deny the truth, dear friend here this morning. You cannot run or hide from the all-knowing and all-seeing God. You might be able to fool some of us here at church by acting like a Christian outwardly when you’re not one inwardly, but God sees right through that. And His gentle grace and compassion are extended to you this morning to come to Him on His terms, not with your accomplishments but only with what Christ has accomplished. You are hearing the truth, you know the truth, don’t harden your heart. Romans 1 says that all men know certain truths about God deep down inside, but that instead of glorifying God, men suppress the truth in sin or unrighteousness, and what Israel’s leadership does here is representative of what all us sinners do.
This brings to mind the statement of our Lord when he talked about the rich man in hell asking if he can please come back and tell his brothers about Christ, the answer is “if they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets [the biblical revelation they already have] they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16)
- Doubting the Lord, v. 16-17
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
I’m not going to spend as much time on this point, because the passage doesn’t. But it does mention in passing this third response: some doubted the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15 mentions that on one occasion after the resurrection Jesus appeared to about 500 people and it could very well have been this occasion. This text only mentions the eleven disciples but we know they were not the only ones who saw Him there in Galilee because in verse 7 the women were told that they would also see Jesus there as well.
We do know that at least one of the eleven disciples, Thomas, doubted the resurrection at first. He’s nicknamed “Doubting Thomas” because he said “unless I can see and touch the nail prints and hole in His side, I will not believe.” A true believer can have moments of doubt, but they will still come back to the Lord as Thomas did in the presence of Christ when he says to Jesus “My Lord and my God.” And Jesus says that those are more blessed who believe and do not see. John’s gospel culminates on this note, saying this book is written so all might believe in the Son of God.
We read in the book of Acts that in the days following there were about 120 faithful disciples of Jesus awaiting the promised Holy Spirit. So if this was the occasion where Jesus appeared to 500 people, that would make sense with verse 17 that says “some doubted.” The sense could be that they hesitated, they believed in Jesus but just weren’t sure from a distance if this was Him, or when v. 17 says some worshipped, some were doubtful as to whether they should really worship Him. Even His true disciples often displayed little faith. The doubt may have been temporary until Jesus came and spoke to them the words of verses 18-20.
Whatever the case, each of these 3 responses do not glorify God:
- doubting the Lord
- denying the truth
- even being deathly afraid if not accompanied by true faith
There’s a fourth and final response to the resurrection events in this chapter, and it’s the only one that glorifies and honors God:
- Disciples who Worship and Tell Others, v. 17 & 5-10
Verse 17 says His disciples worshipped. This is important because as we’ve been learning here on Sunday mornings, everything we do as a church to glorify God must flow out of a heart that first genuinely worships Jesus in spirit and in truth. Our evangelism and making disciples and teaching as Jesus goes on to talk about can only be done in a way that pleases Jesus if we are first worshippers of Him. We can be very busy in religious things, but if we are not true worshippers of Christ in our hearts, we are in danger of the Pharisee error which Jesus described as people honoring God with their lips while their heart is far from Him, external religiosity only
God is honored and glorified by the only right response to the Resurrected Lord: #4 – Disciples who Worship and Tell Others
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” 8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
These believers feared as well, but the difference is that through Christ our fears are calmed, as you see in verse 9 Jesus does.
Unbelievers should be afraid – it is believers that are told “Do not be afraid” in v. 5 and v. 10. The fear of a believer does not paralyze us so that we do nothing like the soldiers, and it doesn’t cause a believer to deny the truth or cover up like the Jewish leaders did, but a healthy fear of the Lord motivates us to honor Him and tell others. Look at verse 8 where it’s combined with action and even “great joy” along with fear. The Greek word is “mega” again – the unbelievers experienced mega shaking in their fear, the fear of these women was accompanied with mega joy. Psalm 2 which spoke prophetically of this event tells us to “rejoice with trembling.” We fear the Lord, and we also have a fullness of joy at the same time because of our awe-inspiring God of majestic glory. And these women’s fear and joy caused them to fall at His feet in reverence and to worship Him in their great rejoicing.
God is glorified by disciples who worship and tell others:
7 “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead …
8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
Jesus in His grace now calls His disciples “My brethren.” He had earlier called them slaves, and then had called them friends, but this is the most amazing “My brothers” – indicating deepest closeness, the same family, joint heirs together, unbreakable love. Even though in their weakness they had deserted and in Peter’s case denied Jesus, He in His amazing grace calls us brothers.
17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Unlike the Pharisees who didn’t want to tell anyone what really happened, the disciples were to tell everyone what happened. They weren’t to cover it up like a bushel over a lamp, but as Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Our witness in our lives and in what we say is ultimately aimed to glorify our Father in heaven.
The main verb in the Great Commission is “make disciples.” We don’t make disciples of us, we make disciples / followers of Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus is the One who makes us do anything. As Jesus said in Mark 1:17 “Follow Me [that’s discipleship] and I will make you fishers of men”
Disciple – means a follower of someone and his teaching, not merely a learner, but someone attached to a teacher and following that teacher’s life and doctrine
How did Jesus define who was His disciple and who was not his disciple?
John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 15:8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
This same passage speaks of even forsaking family to follow Christ (v. 26) and giving up everything to follow Jesus or we cannot be His disciple (v. 33)
You could be baptized multiple times, confirmed, catechized, or have all the AWANA or SS stickers in your books, whatever – if there is merely intellectual assent or professed faith without:
- forsaking all else
- willingness to lay everything down in exchange for Christ and strive to put King Jesus far ahead of family and possessions
- supposed faith that doesn’t require and produce some change of life and fruit and biblical agape love for each other
- if someone has not died to self and taken up his cross
- if someone is not striving to follow Christ
- if someone does not continue in God’s Word
According to Jesus, you cannot be His disciple. It’s NOT that you have to do a bunch of things and then you’re saved, it’s that if you are saved you are willing to do all Christ calls you to because you now love Him because He first loved you, by His grace you have begun to be His disciple, continually learning. Jesus has transformed your desires so now you want to pursue what He calls you to, you are now a follower of Him, not perfectly, but there is a change of life and direction and desires.
If that has not already happened in your life, what better way to celebrate Christ’s resurrection today then to experience spiritual resurrection today by trusting Christ’s finished work on the cross.