The Resurrection of Christ
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. 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. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not he afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not he afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me." (28:1-10)
Like every piece of good literature, Matthew's gospel is not a random collection of facts or ideas or stories but has a specific plan and purpose. Chapter 28 is not simply a closing group of anecdotes about the life of Christ but is the powerful climax of everything else he has written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The central event of that climax, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is also the central event of God's redemptive history. The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, and everything that we are and have and hope to be is predicated on its reality. There would be no Christianity if there were no resurrection.
The message of Scripture has always been a message of resurrection hope, a message that death is not the end for those who belong to God. For the believer, death has never been an end but rather a doorway that leads to eternity with God. Abraham willingly obeyed God's command to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, because, in faith, "he considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead" (Heb. 11:19). The psalmists declared, "God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; for He will receive me" (Ps. 49:15) and that "with Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, and afterward receive me to glory" (Ps. 73:24). Isaiah proclaimed, "Your dead will live; their corpses will rise" (Isa. 26:19). Through Daniel the Lord assures His people that, although they die, one day they "will awake… to everlasting life" (Dan. 12:2). Hosea assures believers that the Lord will raise up all believers to live before Him (Hos. 6:2). Job asked rhetorically "If a man dies, will he live again?" and then declared, "All the days of my struggle I will wait, until my change comes" (Job 14:14). That ancient man of God even foresaw the reality of resurrection, proclaiming to his three friends, Bildad in particular: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God" (Job 19:25-26).
Such has been the promised hope of God's people throughout history a hope predicated on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is His resurrection that guarantees ours. "Now Christ has been raised from the dead," Paul declares, "the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:20-22).
It is also tragically true, however, that throughout history many have denied, despised, and mocked the truth of resurrection, especially Christ's. But only a fool tries to explain away resurrection, because the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are mars only hope of salvation and eternal life.
An early Protestant missionary to the Ryukyu Islands in the western Pacific discovered a strange mass grave. The grave marker revealed that more than 11,000 heads taken from bodies of Christians were buried there. On further investigation he learned that in 1637 the Japanese government, which then controlled the Ryukyus, ordered all Christians in the empire exterminated. Because they knew Christians believed in the resurrection, the heads of martyred believers were buried a great distance from the bodies, in the belief that their resurrection would thereby be prevented.