My wife and I love watching detective shows. Whether it’s Monk, The Closer, or Sherlock, we enjoy watching the mystery unfold before our eyes and the way the characters come to understand the “how” and “why” behind each case. There’s always the moment the detective confronts a suspect. The exchanges vary from show to show but the detective often looks for a suspect’s reaction when given information: when told about a death, do they respond with surprise, sadness, or does it not seem to bother them? The suspect’s response could be an indicator of truth, and could mean life or death for this person. Likewise, only a few weeks ago we celebrated Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Most people know the facts of the event, so the big question is “How do they respond?”
You see, even at the very moment of the resurrection of Jesus, people had various responses to what happened. As we take a look at 3 primary responses we see in Matthew’s account of these events, we also see these are the 3 primary responses people have in our own modern time. Whatever you response may be, I leave you with one important caution; think this through. If Jesus really did rise again from the grave, then how you respond has eternal consequences.
Response #1: Excuse
When the guards watching over the tomb of Jesus came to after passing out because of an angelic encounter, they were told to lie about what happened to Jesus’ body. “Tell people, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” (Matthew 28:13) Why? At least two reasons: 1) This was going to make the religious leaders look bad. And 2) Because we know that dead men do NOT come back to life. Right? So there must be another explanation. This seems to be a popular position nowadays. Some think, “supernatural things are impossible, therefore Jesus could not have truly come back to life.” It doesn’t matter that He proved it by meeting with His disciples (John 20:19), eating with them (John 21:12), having them physically touch Him (John 20:27). It doesn’t matter that Jesus appeared to a group of over 500 people after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6), dead men do not come back to life. But what if they can? What if that presupposition is lacking in the face of the proof that is standing right in front of you. There Jesus stands, speaking with His followers. (Matthew 28:18)
Response #2: Doubt
A passage in the Bible that has always baffled me is Matthew 28:17, “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” Some did what?! They knew Jesus died, they knew they put Him in a tomb. Now Jesus is standing right in front of them and some of them are doubting? Yep, that’s how are sinful nature works, I guess. I think this is a major response people have when it comes to the resurrection of Christ, that of doubt.
Most people have heard the story of Jesus, perhaps even used to attend some sort of a church. They wouldn’t say they don’t believe in God or even deny that Jesus rose from the grave. However, the reality is that these people simply doubt that Jesus has any significance in their life. “Yeah, sure, Jesus is why we celebrate Easter. I just can’t be bothered with all that ‘religious stuff.’” What these people fail to recognize is that Jesus rising from the dead is a game changer! Life and the way we see the world has to be drastically altered when we come to understand the resurrection. This means that everything Jesus taught is true. This means His sacrifice for the sins of His people was sufficient and final. Finally, it means that if you ignore the claims of Christ, you will be held accountable.
Response #3: Worship
“When they saw [the risen Jesus] they worshiped Him.” (Matthew 28:17) The ultimate response (and Biblically correct response) is not to simply believe the facts about the resurrection of Jesus, but to worship the Jesus who was resurrected. Falling down at the feet of Jesus in worship means believing who He is and what He came to earth to do, listening and doing what He says, and centering your whole life around Him. Easter Sunday is not just an excuse to wear a fancy pastel outfit and strut into church; it is celebrating and worshiping King Jesus who died for our sins and rose again from the grave. This changes things.
I’ll be the first to admit that if the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then am wasting my whole life. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection is false that I and all who follow Christ should be pitied. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 19) However, if Christ has been raised from the dead, then your response is infinitely important. You will either bow your knee in worship to Jesus now, or you will do it with fear and trembling at His judgment seat. (Romans 14:10, Philippians 2:10) This is not a scare tactic, this is a loving warning and reminder that our responses have consequences. So the question remains, “How will you respond?”
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ