Rev Erlo Stegen
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” Matthew 28:1-7
May the Lord bless the reading of His word. Today is a great day. It is the day of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If Jesus had never risen from the dead, Christianity would be like any other religion, even ancestral worship. Jesus rose from the dead and that is the difference. This gives us hope and brings us joy. This discourages the enemies.
In chapter 27 of Matthew, we find a terrific struggle which started on the Thursday in the garden of Gethsemane. Although Jesus had not died yet, He was going through the pangs of death already when He said that He was sorrowful unto death. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Matt 27:38 When the sun set on Thursday, He was already suffering. Darkness was at work and it was difficult. Through that night He wrestled with Satan. At times it seemed as if Satan was winning and then as if the Lord were winning. At times it seemed as if Jesus were gaining the victory and then things would change. When he was in the garden and his sweat drops became like drops of blood, it appears that He was already dying. He asked his disciples to watch with Him, but they fell asleep. No one stood with Him until an angel from heaven strengthened Him. He wrestled with darkness.
Then He met with the crowd who had come to arrest Him. He said, “Who do you want?” They said, “We want Jesus.” He said, “It is I.” They were slain. They fell over backwards. His enemies were slain and fell over backwards. Jesus conquered His enemies there. But even though Satan fell over, he got up again. Do not think that Satan will not get up again once he has been slain. Satan then came through Judas Iscariot, one of the brethren, who kissed him which is how they knew who He was. Then He was arrested. The disciples realised that they were really arresting Him, so Peter then took out a sword and tried to defend his Lord by slicing off the ear of the servant of the high priest. It suddenly seemed as if there was hope again but the Lord took the ear, healed the servant, and told Peter to return his sword.
They went to Pilate. It was a struggle. It seemed as if darkness was driven to its knees but then Jesus was driven to his knees. When He was taken to Herod it seemed as though there might be a little hope but, in the end, it seemed as if Jesus had failed. This was the greatest war between heaven and hell. Those who looked on might have hoped that the Lord was conquering but then Satan would conquer.
When the Lord suffered, the sun went down. It rose again on the day Jesus was crucified. His enemies mocked Him on the cross and said that if He was the Messiah He should descend from the cross. Some had a hope that He might have the strength to come down. Perhaps some had a faint hope that He would not be conquered by Satan, that He would not allow Himself to be crucified and that something would still happen. But He bowed His head, a soldier pierced a spear into side, and it was evident that He was dead. The earth shook and the rocks split apart when this happened. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, some complained that the people should be quiet, and Jesus said that if they remained quiet even the rocks would shout out. Now, at His death, the rocks shouted out. The earth shook with fear realising that its Lord was entering it. The sun covered itself with darkness like a Zulu widow covers her face when her husband dies. Creation moaned that the Creator had died. The sun veiled itself at 3 in the afternoon and it became dark. On the first day when Jesus suffered, the sun went down, and darkness came. It was a darkness for everyone - the Lord and those who loved him. When He died, it was also dark. The earth shook, graves opened, and people came out of the graves. It was pitch dark. Never has there been such a force of darkness.
Darkness was upon the disciples and Mary and the others. There was no spark of hope. They must have doubted that if God really existed, could something like this happen? If Jesus really were the Messiah, how could such a thing have happened? They lost hope, locked themselves in and wept. Their hope that He might not have died was over. He was dead and in a grave that had been sealed with a stone and a seal. The enemies had conquered and were celebrating. They went to the synagogues and congratulated themselves saying, “Well, it is over. This whole problem is finished.” They praised and thanked God for delivering them from this deceiver who had deceived so many people. They must have celebrated in hell. Satan must have gloated over the fact that they had finally conquered Him. It is over. He has been eradicated.
The nation was split in two. On the one side were those who stood with Jesus and on the other side those who were enemies of Jesus. The blind who had been healed heard that the man who had healed them, was dead. The lepers who had been healed from leprosy, heard that the one who had healed them had been nailed to a cross. The nation who had seen the good that the Lord had done and had hoped in Him, lost courage. It was utter darkness. Can a man who has done so much good be killed like this? Has this gospel been utterly snuffed out? It seemed like utter darkness. Every hope of good was finished. The enemies must have mocked the supporters of Jesus. Perhaps they threatened them and said, “Now that we have killed your leader, watch out, you might be the next one.” Which is why they were behind locked doors. Satan who existed then, exists today and Satan that exists today, existed then. The Bible says, 8Rejoice not over me, O my enemy when I fall, I shall rise… Micah 7:8 Those who fight against Christianity, it might seem as though you are gaining the upper hand, but Jesus is the conqueror, He who was dead has risen. This is not the first time that people resist the gospel. Resistance against the faith has been happening for generations. Brethren do not be depressed or discouraged if it seems that iniquity abounds for God is still on the throne. Jesus has conquered the grave and He has risen. He holds the keys of life and death.
They were in complete darkness at that time. They did not have the knowledge that He arose as we have today although Jesus had constantly told them that He would rise on the third day. (Luke and John give a broader account of the resurrection. Matthew gives a summarised account of the resurrection.)
The first day of the week, the Sunday morning, was known as the day of the Lord in the New Testament. The Sabbath, which was the Saturday, was no longer of significance to the Christians because the Sunday when He rose became their Lord’s day, the day on which they remembered Him especially. On that Sunday morning early, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb. They were there when Jesus had been put into the grave after which it was sealed. Now when they arrived on this early morning there was a terrific earthquake. At the death of Jesus there was an earthquake and now when He rose there was another earthquake. When he died the earth was astounded by the happenings but when Jesus arose, the earth rejoiced, creation rejoiced. It was something glorious when their Creator arose.
An angel came down like lightning from heaven. His appearance was like lightning. He rolled the stone away and sat upon it. He did not roll the stone away so that Jesus could get out. The stone did not hinder Jesus from going out because later when the disciples were in a locked room, Jesus entered. The stone was rolled away for our sakes to show us that Jesus did not escape jail like a prisoner, but God said, “I will not allow my Son to be held by the grave.” God did it openly before heaven and earth. He wanted everyone to see that the Lamb had conquered. This was a decision of the court of justice that this man was righteous, and He had conquered. Jesus rose out of the righteousness of God. (This is not like some courts of law today when a guilty person escapes punishment through a clever advocate. Some murderers sit for 6 months or a year which is why people have courage to kill nowadays.) The angel said, “The One that is in jail, is innocent, He is guiltless. He is not allowed to be kept there.” Even though Satan had His heel on His neck, Jesus threw him off and arose. The guards trembled and fell like dead men. In the Greek it uses the same word for earthquake and the trembling of these men. If you resist God and are stiff-necked, you will experience an earthquake one day no matter what race you are, you will shake like the earth during an earthquake. You can shake your fist at God but stop doing that otherwise you will meet with God’s fist one day.
The soldiers fell like dead. The tables turned. Those who were sorrowful and hopeless received hope and strength. Those who initially rejoiced, lost their strength. The angel’s face was like lightning. His clothing shone white with glory. Whiteness represents purity just like a bride who wears white and a veil because she is a virgin, and she is pure. This is what it really means, but nowadays anyone wears white although the true veil has been rent asunder long ago. How heart breaking when an immoral, lose and defiled person wears a white dress. These are blatant lies. If you are such a woman, stop completely and repent today so that one day when you stand before the altar, that you will not be guilty and unrepentant. Young man, you should also be pure and clean. You must marry in purity.
The angel dressed in white depicted his purity. Whiteness also symbolises joy and happiness. He exclaimed the victory of Jesus and that He had conquered. The glory of the angel showed forth the conquering power of the Lamb. His enemies were disappointed, and they lost strength. The victory of Jesus is great! If the angel was like lightning, what was Jesus Himself like then? On the Mount of Transfiguration, the face and raiment of Jesus changed to snow white light showing His glory.
The angel told the women to tell Peter and the disciples to go to Galilee where Jesus would meet them. It was early in the morning. It was only the third day. Jesus did not wait. As the sun arose, He arose. When His passion started the sun went dark. In the tomb it was dark. When He arose, it was light, the sun came up. Some of the holy ones who had died, also rose, and appeared to people in the city. This is inexpressible.
Troubled are those who only have political motives when Jesus has arisen. You are wasting your time. We had a Swiss politician who preached here. But the pitiful thing is that preachers of the gospel are preaching politics. What would you say if the disciples who saw Jesus die and rise again, preached politics? You would say, ‘Great is their fall!’ What side are you on? You might not be troubled by politics but by adultery or booze and such things. A preacher came to KwaSizabantu and said that they had had a ‘wine revival’. In his country they founded a new church where they had a prayer meeting. They read about the ‘agape food’ (the food of love) and then they had a love feast where everyone was told to bring his own bottle of wine. All manner and sorts of wine arrived. They would pray, sing, and then share their wines like a boy and girl who share together and feel God is close when they are together. Some Christians hold hands, sing, and pray and then they feel the presence of God very close by. Another young man said that when he put his head on his girlfriend’s lap he felt as if heaven was close by. Like a bull led around by a small ring in its nose are such young men who are led around by ridiculous things like this - thinking that it is the presence of God when he is with his girlfriend. In this ‘wine revival’ they started with 10 people. The following week there were 20 people, the following week, 40. In a short time, there were 100, 150 people. News went around that God had started a revival. The leader then questioned whether it was a revival of God or of wine so he suggested that they should stop the wine for a while. The following service 50 people arrived and then 20 and the ‘revival’ ended. Do we still need wine or dancing to bring people together? Is it not sufficient that Jesus has risen?
Mary and the others were told to go quickly. Imagine how they must have run! It seemed like a dream. Their night was over, their tears were over, their depression, He had arisen. Has Jesus risen or is He dead? The disciples hurried to that mountain in Galilee where Jesus met them. They fell and worshipped him. Some doubted. Are there some here who doubt. Is it so? Jesus said that I have been all power in heaven and on earth. Some Christians pray but they doubt the power of Jesus. They did bow but some doubted. He saw their doubt and then said, “All power in heaven and on earth is mine. Because of this go and teach them all that I have taught you.” White person, do you believe that Jesus has all authority? Go then and tell them all that Jesus has taught you and teach them to keep it. Black person, go to the all the nations, go to the Afrikaners and teach them to keep all I have taught you. How many Afrikaners have you taught? How many have repented through you? You say that they are too hard. Do you doubt the power of Jesus? How many Indians have got converted through you, Black man? How many Coloureds have been converted through you, Indians? Jesus has risen and He said, “Go therefore into all the world and make disciples.” Allow me to ask you a personal question, man and woman, are you busy with the work Jesus has commissioned you with? Are you making disciples, spreading His gospel abroad or are you spreading a gospel of hatred, grudges, and stubbornness? We are blessed in Southern Africa because we do not need to go to India to preach to Indians. I can preach to Coloureds in our country. If I want to preach to Whites, I can preach to them here. Are we busy with the commission of Jesus who rose from the dead? Are we going to all the nations, making disciples, and teaching them what He has taught us? If you are a scholar, how many other children have you won to the Lord? Maybe not even one but you influence others to be worse devils than you are. This is a time to cry to God for mercy. We worship the one who died, went into the grave and arose. Do White people see that Jesus has risen in you? You say that you are being oppressed and you will pay revenge but is that the gospel of Jesus? Christians, we need to ask ourselves the question, what commission are we busy with? What are you busy with at home, at work, in the bus? Are you busy with the one who died and rose again? This person will return one day, and He will call you to account. If you have an employee and you direct the person to do certain jobs but, on your return, none of the jobs have been done, what will you say? Will you not be upset? If you return the following day and things have still not been done, that person will be fired. He is useless. Be careful! The Lord has commanded you to do something, but you have not done it. Be careful, lest He chases you away. If you can rebuke someone who works for you, Jesus will rebuke you in the same way. He has commissioned you to go and teach and make disciples and teach people all that He has commanded you.
Today we trumpet out the news that Jesus has risen, and Satan has been conquered. Even though Satan fell like dead, he got up quickly. The soldiers ran to the priests where they were bribed to spread the lie that He had not risen but His body had been stolen by His disciples. If you fight against Satan, he will not remain down. He will rise again. Satan is not like a man. If he is hit on the head, he will rise again like a cat. Satan will be against you until your day of death. But Jesus is the one who conquered and rose, and He is with you. If you are downhearted because your children do not serve the Lord and you have no hope, Jesus has risen (even though there was a dark period) He conquered. Whatever circumstance you might be going through, Jesus has conquered. If we have Jesus, we cannot fail. We will be more than conquerors. Jesus said that He had been given all authority and He would be with you until the end. Therefore, go into all the world and preach the gospel. Make disciples and teach them to do all that I have told you.
Blessed is he who has ears to hear. The objects on your head are not meant to be ornaments., they are meant to make you hear what Jesus says so that what He says will do something in you. Blessed is the one who hears and then does - He builds his house on a rock. The one who hears and then does not do, builds his house on the sand. He will go down with the floods and be eaten by the sharks in the sea. Hell will be yours for all eternity.