The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in the history of the world—except, perhaps, for one other event, the one that happened three days earlier—namely, his death.
This is what I conclude as I ponder the two claims of Matthewm, chapter 28: (1) that Jesus was crucified; and (2) that Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive and will be with us to the end. There would have been no need for the resurrection if Jesus had not died; and there would be no saving significance to His death if He did not rise. Both are utterly crucial.
I. Jesus Has Been Crucified – The time is early Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene and the other women have come to the tomb of Jesus. They see an angel whose appearance is like lightning (Matthew 28:3). Then, according to Matthew 28:5-6, “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.’” This is the first important fact in this text: “Jesus has been crucified.”
Jesus said to His disciples several times that this was His destiny. For instance, in Matthew 17:22-23: “Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.’” In Acts 4:27-28, the disciples prayed these words to God: “Truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan predestined to take place.” The death of Jesus was not an accident or merely the result of a great injustice. It was the plan of God.
This is the teaching that runs throughout the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . .” (John 3:16). “[God did] not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). Jesus was crucified by design, not by accident.
II. He Is Risen – But the Cross of Christ can’t be precious to us if Jesus is still dead. So the resurrection of Jesus is just as crucial as his crucifixion. And so we see the second important claim of this Gospel passage: “The angel said to Mary and the others, ‘He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come; see the place where He was lying.’”
The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates His triumph over death and His authority over all things. From there He works out His saving purposes in the world—with authority over all nations and industry and business and science and education and entertainment and weather and stars and light and energy and life and death. He is Lord over all; and His purposes and His promises cannot fail. And, as we are in Him and living for Him, He is with us—in all His majesty and power and authority—to the end of the age.