A sermon based on Matthew 27:62-66
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Good Friday
Admittedly, he wasn't the best cook. That was obvious now that the contents of the frying pan caught fire. He threw a glass of water on the fire, but since it was a grease fire, that only made the flames spread. That threw him into a panic which caused him to drop the pan. Now the fire spread across the kitchen floor. He thought he could smother the fire, so he grabbed a blanket from the living room and threw it on top. But the blanket apparently wasn't flame retardant, because it soon caught fire in a blaze which started the cupboards on fire. He decided it was time to leave and called 911 on the way out the door. And that's how he lost his house.
How ironic, that what he thought would stop the fire only caused it to spread.
That's how it was with the Pharisees. They sought to stamp out this sect that followed this renegade Rabbi. They masterminded his murderer. Now they would put an end to his legacy and teaching once and for all. But in trying to stamp out Christianity, they inadvertently supported it. And they left us no doubt that what God sought to accomplish on Good Friday is accomplished. Our sins are forgiven.
Our last text for consideration this Good Friday evening is found in Matthew 27:62-66…
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.
The chief priests and Pharisees thought they were almost done with the problem of this pesky Rabbi from Nazareth. They had helped bring about his crucifixion. And it wasn't easy! It took a lot of coordination and a lot of effort. It took a lot of pressure on Pilate and it could have gone wrong at any turn. But Jesus was finally dead. Now, there was just one lose end to tie up.
The Jewish leaders knew that Jesus claimed he would rise from the dead. Christianity would have quickly been extinguished if Jesus' body was still in the tomb because even though an empty tomb does not prove the resurrection, a body in the tomb would immediately disprove it. Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea who was a wealthy and prominent man in the city of Jerusalem. Everyone knew where they could find Joseph. They knew where his tomb was. Anyone could go see it.
So, ironically, the chief priests and Pharisees acted on Jesus' resurrection prediction when his own disciples didn't! And, ironically then, the greatest evidence for the empty tomb is not from the Christians, but from these Jewish leaders. You see, if the tomb was not empty, they would have pointed to the body and settled it. But since the tomb was in fact empty, they could only claim that the disciples must have stolen the body (Matthew 28:13). And that in spite of the fact that they had posted guards
Ironically, by sealing the stone and posting a guard, these leaders did all they could to make themselves look ridiculous on Easter Sunday. The very thing they tried so hard to prevent was the possibility that Jesus' disciples might come and steal his body. So they posted guards to prevent it from happnening. But when it was clear to all that the tomb was empty, what did the chief priests bribe their guards to say? That Jesus' disciples came during the night and stole the body while the guards were sleeping! How could anyone take such nonsense seriously?
How ironic that what they did to try to stop this movement, helped to give it life by making it clear that the resurrection was not fiction, but fact.
How ironic that you and I don't believe Jesus, just like his disciples failed to do. We don't believe that he rose from the dead. We don't believe that he's with us always. At least, we don't act like it. If we remembered that Jesus is alive, that he is omnipresent, that he is with us in the room at any given moment, would we still behave the way we do? Would we talk the way we do to our spouses and our children? Would we find the same joy in the same entertainment? Would we do as the Jewish leaders did and try to do things our own way to protect control of our lives and, ironically, in doing so make matters so much worse in our life than if we'd just done things God's way right away?
Yes, you and I deserve what Jesus got on the cross. We deserve the torture and the pain. We deserve the desertion and the hell. We deserve to cry, "My God, my God, I know why you have forsaken me!" But how ironic, that the very one we've sought to put underfoot, is the very one who not only prayed, "Father, forgive them.." but accomplished that forgiveness by his suffering and death in our place on the cross. How ironic that when we would so often have him be finished pestering us in our lives, that he declared of the payment for our sin and of his plan of salvation, "It is finished!" How ironic that by his death, our death loses its sting, and by his life, we get eternal life as a free gift from God!
How ironic that if the Jewish leaders would have done nothing more that Good Friday, but left Jesus dead body alone, their lie—that Jesus' body had been stolen—would have been so much more plausible. Thank God that their plans ironically backfired and gave us the Easter proof that Good Friday accomplished what God intended it to: payment for your sin, his plan of your salvation, is finished.
Hindsight is 20/20. That's for sure. But had the man only called 911 first instead of trying to put out the fire on his own, he would have only been left with some damage to the kitchen, but the house would have been saved.
Friends, don't try to put out the fire of sin on your own. You'll only spread it and make things worse. Instead call Jesus right away. You may still suffer the consequences of your sin, but your soul will be saved from the fire of hell, thanks to Jesus and his work for us on Good Friday and thanks to the resurrection that proves the crucifixion did what God intended it to. And, ironically enough, we can believe it, in part, thanks to those who sent guards to the tomb that Good Friday.
As we wait for Easter, we put our trust in what we know the rest of the story will be. We trust that it happened just as Jesus said it would: He said, "I will rise again." In his name, dear friends, amen.