Resurrection Appearances

Reading Time: 8 Minutes

We have studied the life of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew for the purpose of learning how to live what Dallas Willard calls a “Jesus-kind-of-life.” A personal relationship with Jesus will transform our lives. As we live with Jesus and follow his directions, we can expect to become courageous, caring, loving and more.

Let’s see how Joseph and two women both named Mary lived out their Jesus-kind-of-life.

Joseph’s Courage

Joseph, who came from a town 20 miles north of Jerusalem (Arimathea), is an example of great courage and care. Jesus’ disciples deserted him for a good reason. The Romans customarily rounded up any followers of a rebel and crucified them, along with their leader.

When Joseph approached Pilate for permission to bury Jesus, he identified himself as one of Jesus’ followers (Matthew 27.57-58). This was a risky thing for Joseph to do, but love and courage motivated his actions all the same.

Joseph had to plan ahead to make the burial of Jesus take place before the beginning of the Sabbath. He had to secure the tomb, gather the proper burial clothes, and make all of this happen in the three hours between Jesus’ death at 3:00 PM and sundown at 6:00. It is possible that Joseph actually had a meeting with Pilate before Jesus’ death at 3:00 PM.

Somewhere in time, Joseph went to Pilate and asked to be able to give Jesus a decent burial, rather than having him thrown into a common grave (Matthew 27.58).

I write my blog articles in the comfortable basement of our house. In over 50 years of ministry, I have had only one serious incident of persecution and that one ended up with the man finding Jesus as his Savior.

However, my experience is not the same for many people today. Outside of the borders of the United States, far more courage is needed than in the safety of my basement. In 2019, 4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons and 2,625 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned. In addition, 1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked.

Around the world, living a Jesus-kind-of-life produces courage to stand for Jesus in the face of potential great loss. Let’s be sure to include these bold followers of Jesus frequently in our prayers.

Joseph had the gruesome job of removing Jesus’ body from the cross. We can be certain that he cleaned it with great care and love, before he wrapped it in a burial cloth. Then, he placed it a tomb that had originally been arranged for his own burial (Matthew 27.49-60). The cost of Joseph’s tomb was equivalent to the gift of the ointment that the woman poured on Jesus’ head at the home of Simon the Leper (see Matthew 26.6-13).

The women who followed Jesus from Galilee and who stood by his side at the cross, also accompanied Joseph to the tomb (Matthew 27.61).

One of these women was Mary Magdalene. It is believed that Mary Magdalene was the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment at a dinner party hosted by a Pharisee (Luke 6.36-50). About this woman Jesus said, “I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” (Luke 7.47).

In the next chapter Mary is identified as “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8.2). Mary is a beautiful picture of what happens when we have a personal encounter with Jesus and live in a daily friendship-relationship with him. Our lives are transformed from broken and oppressed to that of loving, caring, courageous, and devoted. Mary followed Jesus from the day of her deliverance to the cross, and as we will soon see to the resurrection.

There is a sad contrast between Jesus’ enemies and his loving followers (see Matthew 27.62-66). Even in death they plotted against him, while others were devoting their love to him.

Mary and Jesus

As soon as the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to the tomb. They experienced an earthquake that opened the tomb and then encountered an angel.

The angel, a messenger from God, told them, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you” (Matthew 28.5-7).

These two ladies had been following Jesus for a good portion of Jesus’ public ministry. They went to “school” on daily basis and learned from his wisdom. They saw him heal multitudes and deliver many from oppressive spirits. It is an understatement to say that when you follow Jesus you should get ready for an exciting life.

These women had a truly unique experience with Jesus. Yet, as we live a Jesus-kind-of-life we can expect our lives to be full, meaningful and exciting. We often share the stories of our experiences with Jesus at Maywood Baptist Church. I have yet to hear someone say that living with Jesus was boring or uneventful. Usually, what I hear is, “I wish I had started following him sooner.”

The women left the tomb and ran to tell the disciples what had happened, but were interrupted by Jesus who stood before them and said, “Greetings!” (Matthew 28.9). Take a moment and imagine the shock these women must have felt. First, they met an angel and then they were greeted by the resurrected Jesus.

They fell to their faces in worship. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me'” (Matthew 28.10).

Worship is a natural response to being in the presence of Jesus. When we finish the study of Matthew tomorrow, we will begin a new study of how to use the Psalms in our prayer life. For centuries people have used the Psalms as a “tool” to help worship our Lord.

Verses 11-15 reveal the tragic side of the story. Rather than change their minds about Jesus in the face of two earthquakes, an open tomb, a torn curtain in the temple, the presence of angels and resurrected people walking through Jerusalem (see Matthew 27.51-53 and 28.2-3), the religious authorities sought to cover up the whole affair (Matthew 28.11-15).

The contrasts could not be more striking. If we want to look like the corrupt religious leaders and their minions, then follow the way they lived their lives. If we seek own self-will, protect our power at any cost, and step on anyone who gets in the way, we can end up living lives just like theirs.

If we want the joy, courage, love and care of Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, then we should live in a daily relationship with Jesus, learn from his teaching and follow his behavior.

Today’s Prayer

Dear Jesus, we marvel at your grace. We praise you for the cross and the resurrection. Thank you for an opportunity to live in a friendship relationship with you. You are absolutely amazing!

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