Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Easter Stones

April 24th, 2011 by Vic

April 24, 2011

“Easter Stones in Matthew”

Matthew 26:8; 27:51; 28:2

 

The Bible is not written to satisfy the curiosity of man, but to tell us about God.  The Bible is silent about Jesus experience of death and His early morning resurrection.

 

We do not know what happened in the spiritual world while the Son of God was dead, but we do know He came back to life.  We do not have court documents verifying He arose.  In fact the 2 soldiers at the tomb were bribed to deny the resurrection.  The only evidence we have that Jesus rose from the grave is God’s written word, and God’s living word in our hearts.  We have the written record of several hundred witnesses.  We have a peace in our hearts which confirms the written witness.

 

This morning I want to look at 3 stones mentioned in Matthew as part of the Resurrection story.

 

In Matthew 26:7, probably on Tuesday evening of holy week Matthew mentions an alabaster stone that demonstrates our love of God.

 

In Matthew 27:51, Friday afternoon, we read about the common stones that demonstrate nature’s love of their Creator.

 

In Matthew 28:2, Sunday morning, we will see the grave stone that reveals God’s love for man.

Turn to Matthew 26:7.  John tells us that this woman was Mary.  Lazarus was probably there too.  There are 6 Mary’s in the NT.  This is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha.  She is identified 2 other times in the Gospels.

 

In Luke 10:38-42 Jesus and his disciples came to the home of Mary and Martha.  Martha is being very responsible.  She is preparing the meal.  She had 13 guests to feed.  She represents all those people and groups, who feed the poor, raise funds for development projects, dig wells, build orphanages, send work-witness teams, etc.  Her sister Mary was just sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to His words.

 

Jesus told Martha she was worried about things; just things.  Mary has chosen to worship first.  Seek first the kingdom of God then all these things will fall into place.  To worship is better than serving.  We also need to serve, but service that is not based in worship has little lasting value.  The things Martha was doing were good things, but she was not going to be a pleasant hostess at the dinner table.  Mary was just listening.  She was not debating.  She was not questioning.  She was listening.

 

In John 11:32 we find this Mary again at the feet of Jesus.  Martha came and stood as she talked with Jesus.  Mary came and fell at His feet.  She casts her concerns at the feet of Jesus.  She learned at the feet of Jesus.  She worshiped.  She carried her burdens and placed them at the feet of Jesus.  She lifted her praise from her knees.

 

Turn back to Matthew 26:7.  Jesus is visiting another home in Bethany.  John’s gospel says that Martha was serving dinner.  Mary hears the conversations about all that Jesus had been doing.  Her heart directed her to give up her dowry to anoint Jesus.

 

As Mary reflected on the Love of Jesus, her own heart was overwhelmed with love. The impulse of love is not always reasonable.  She yielded to the uncalculating impulse of her love.  Somehow Mary knew Jesus was going to die.  He did not need anointing after His death, because He was not going to decay.

 

Mary took the most precious thing she had and poured it out on Jesus.  John tells us it was worth a year’s salary.  Love sometimes seems reckless.  Love never asks how little it can give to fulfill the law.  She did not do it to satisfy any requirement or receive any benefit in return.  She did it because of Jesus.  She did it because of love.

 

The value of this perfume was great.  Anointing with oil was part of praise and thanksgiving.

 

The disciples criticized, “To what purpose is this waste?”

 

Critics have not changed much.  The world sees worship as a waste of time.  The world sees giving as a waste of resources.  They judge you by the standards of their own hearts.  They pretend to be more practical and generous than Mary is.  They called her offering a waste.  Jesus called it good.  It is always better to have the approval of Jesus than the critics.

 

It is a Judas mentality.

 

These were her friends who were criticizing her for neglecting the poor and being wasteful.  Kind friends sometimes sound sensible, but love defies reason.  Sometimes our criticism may sound very sensible, but without love we are nothing.

 

Jesus threw a shield of His love around Mary and protected her from her critics.  Then He expanded the meaning of the gift from a costly expression to a preparation for burial.  Jesus does that in our lives.  He puts a new meaning on our gifts of love.  He expands our loaves and increases the benefits of our offerings.  Just a cup of cold water; just a phone call; just a smile can bring praise to God.  Give what you have from a heart of love.  For God loves a cheerful giver.  And He will expand the benefits of your deed of love.  He will describe your deed differently than your friends.  The alabaster stone reminds us that God desires our love more than our money.

 

The next stone is a common stone that split when Jesus died.  Notice nature’s demonstration of love for its Creator.

 

Turn to Matthew 27:39-56

 

There are always mockers of the Truth.  They accused Him of saving others (42).  That is true.  They accused Him of trusting God (43).  That is true.  But they assumed He would save Himself from death if He had the power to do it.  They assumed that God would not let a good man suffer and die.  They assumed God would not let a Son get hurt.  They believed in premature death.  But in God’s plan there is no such thing as a premature death.

 

Some amazing things happened when Jesus died.  Why did they happen?  It was not for Jesus’ benefit, but for us.  What happened in the physical world was an illustration of what was happening in the spiritual world.  According to Matthew, three things happened when Jesus died.  The veil split, the rocks split, graves split, and the soldiers gave terrified praise to God.  Each event revealed God in a new way.  God is completely revealing Himself in Jesus.  From man’s point of view the death of Jesus looked like the end of hope, but God is showing us His love and desire to be known.

 

The veil of the Temple was ripped from top to bottom.  It had to be an act of God.  This was the heavy curtain that shielded the presence of God from the rest of the world.  This veil was a curtain woven with 72 ropes, (24 threads for each rope) 10 inches thick, 60 feet long, and 30 feet wide.  Josephus said it took 300 priests to lift it and put it in place.  It was a symbol of separation.  It was meant to conceal.  The holy of holies was the most concealed place in Israel.  God’s presence descended on the mercy seat.

 

One day a year the High Priest could enter through this curtain and offer atonement for the children of God.  He had to have a rope on his ankle in case he or his offering was not acceptable to God.  Clean hands and a pure heart were required to come into God’s presence.  No man would have touched the curtain let alone think about looking behind it.  But when Jesus became our sacrifice, the Lamb of God, He satisfied the curse of sin for all time.  God tore the veil between Himself and man.  It is no longer through a priest or through a sacrifice or through a curtain, but through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection that we have access to God.

 

Up to this point in history, God had allowed Himself to be hidden and remote from man.  No one knew what God was really like.  But the life and death of Jesus has now let the light shine on the face of God.  Jesus has now revealed God.  This is a major event in history.  The veil has been ripped.

 

When Jesus died there was also a severe earthquake and an aftershock when the grave stone rolled away.  When He died the stones were split.  I have always been fascinated with the contrast between the obedience of nature and the obedience of man.  When God speaks to nature, they always obey.  Now when Jesus died, the earth opened up with eagerness to receive Him.  He came to His own and they did not receive Him.  But when man crucified their creator, the earth responded to receive Him.  The stones split and revealed God’s power over creation.

 

Another thing that happened when Jesus died was the tombs broke open (53).  If you read it closely it could be that the bodies lay around a couple days and holy people were resurrected when Jesus was resurrected.  Many dead were brought to life and appeared to many in Jerusalem.  Jesus was defeating death.  In rising again He revealed His power over death.  Death has no power over the Creator.  Because resurrection is possible, we believe in the resurrection of our bodies.  When we die we are present with the Lord.  When we die there is no more time.  Are we all resurrected at the same time?

 

It is interesting that many people saw and heard what had happened.  The events surrounding the cross moved the soldiers to see the majesty of Jesus and declare Him to be the Son of God.

 

We have looked at the alabaster stone that demonstrated Mary’s love.  We have seen the common stones that demonstrated nature’s love.  Now turn to 28:2 and see God’s love for you.

 

It was interesting to me that we see the women staying around the cross until Jesus was laid in the tomb.  The men had scattered.  Perfect love had cast out fear for the women, but the men must have been afraid.  Now when we come to the rolled stone, we see that love brought these women in a place where they could see Jesus face to face.  The alabaster stone, the common stone, and now the grave stone remind us of God’s love expressed in the life of Jesus.  Mary of Bethany did not go to the grave to anoint the body of Jesus.

 

Read the Scriptures closely.  The Resurrection did not occur after the stone was rolled away, but before.  Jesus was not trapped in the tomb.  When you read Mark’s account of the tomb, we see that Jesus’ resurrected body allowed the grave clothes to drop through Him, but He took time to fold the linen napkin that was on His head.  The folded napkin may have meant that Jesus was coming back to fellowship with the disciples.  Jesus had risen before the angel came.  So why did the angel come?  Why was the stone rolled away for the women?  Why was there an earthquake?  Why did the soldiers pass out with fear?  Why did Jesus take the time to appear to the women first?

 

One reason for all that happened at the resurrection is that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  The stone was not rolled away so Jesus could get out, but for us to go in and believe.  The rocks were not split so Jesus could be buried, but for us to realize that nature recognized their Creator.  The alabaster perfume was not given so Jesus could smell good, but so we could know the joy of worshiping at Jesus’ feet.

 

The women were expecting to see a stone.  They were expecting to see soldiers on guard.  They were expecting everything to be in its proper place.  Their expectations got scrambled.

 

The resurrection is unbelievable.  It is too good to be true.  But the angel reminds us of the promise of Jesus and points us to the empty tomb.  Are you seeking Jesus?  Are you seeking truth?  God’s word to you is, “Fear not.  He is not here.  He is risen as He said… Come see… Go tell…”  God loves you.

 

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  The tomb stone reminds us of God’s love.

 

Glance through chapter 28 with me a moment.  Notice some of the reactions to the resurrection and see if you can identify with the feelings of some of these people.

 

vs. 2 – Nature trembles at God’s command.  Grandpa Schoenborn wrote on his picture frames, “The Lord God made these rocks.”

vs. 4 – Soldiers pass out in fear of the unknown.

vs. 6-8 Women obey the angels with mixed emotions.

vs. 11 – The priests still try to hide the truth.

vs. 17 – The disciples doubted, but worship God.

vs. 20 – Jesus leaves us with a promise.

 

With your head you can read the story of the Resurrection every year and your life style may never be affected.  You can study and compare the differences of the 4 writers and guess why the reports are remembered differently.

 

But I believe that if you are honestly seeking to know God better, you will soon find your heart face to face with Jesus.  You will be confronted with the conviction that the Bible is true.  And you must decide if you will worship or if you will criticize those who do.  You must decide if you will honor Him as naturally as nature or ignore Him.  Does the tombstone remind you of God’s love or sin’s curse?  When you look in the empty tomb, does your heart rejoice or do you see your future in the grave?

 

What will you do with Jesus?  What is your reaction to the resurrection?  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

 

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