In Jesus’ Words: “Good Morning!” (Matthew 28:1-10)

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his robe was as white as snow. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel told Mary, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said.”

Just then Jesus met the women and said, “Good morning! Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me there.”

Good Morning! Do not be afraid.

These are two of the best phrases we can remember from Jesus.  He will joyfully greet us in the morning at the beginning of our day, and He starts by telling us “Do not be afraid.”  Even the angel of the Lord began his greeting in the same way, from the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the announcement of His resurrection, “Don’t be afraid!”  This phrase is mentioned 365 times throughout the Bible, once for each day of the year.  It goes well with Jesus’ greeting of Good Morning!  Jesus knows our fears, He knows what we face in this world, and He knows what is to come.  So if we are to believe what Jesus says, then these are greetings we should really take to heart every day.  Jesus’ words of comfort are not just some empty, nice-sounding cliché telling us to “try harder” or “be more positive”.  No, Jesus simply greets us with what we need to hear most in this world, “Do not be afraid.”

When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life, He promises to be with us from morning till night, in the dark and light, the good and the bad, fighting our spiritual battles for us, and we are mercifully forgiven. What else do have we to fear?

So remember this every morning, and wake up with these two phrases in mind.  They are the first words Jesus spoke after His resurrection and victory over death.

“Good Morning!  Do not be afraid.” – Jesus

In Jesus’ Words: Forsaken and the Gift (Matthew 27:45-51)

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.  About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice. Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?  My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.
Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split.
~ from Matthew 27:45-51

Forsaken.  At this moment, Jesus was abandoned by God. Jesus had been with God from the very beginning, and now he was alone, abandoned, and in despair. Jesus became the sin-bearer for us, carrying all of our sins and those of the entire world, while God poured out his wrath and punishment on sin.  It was far worse than any physical pain and torture he had received – it was the moment Jesus feared the most.  God could not look at his son.  He was forsaken, shamed, and separated from God.  It was the ultimate sacrifice, and for no other reason than the love for his creation.

There is so much to think about from this event and Jesus’ final words before his death:

Jesus has already paid the price for our sins (past, past and future). For those who accept this sacrificial gift, we will not be punished again for any of our sins.  God does not punish twice for the same crime.  Here, Jesus represents the loving, compassionate, and merciful side of God.

But God also hates sin.  It goes against His holy nature.  For those who do not accept Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s wrath will still be on their sins.  People often have difficulty imagining God sending people to hell, especially with the images of devils and fire and torture.  But the reality is, hell is a place where there is complete abandonment of God.  A place where you can no longer call out to God and have any hope of Him responding. It is a place where there are no good characteristics of God available anywhere – of love, compassion, mercy, sacrifice.  Hell is permanent abandonment and separation from God. People sometimes doubt there is any evidence that God is even in our world today, but imagine if you took out all references to God and love and good in our world, what would be the effects then?  Complete lawlessness and chaos and evil without any hope of goodness or love.  And definitely no self-sacrifice.

But why is Jesus the only way?  I would rather ask the question like this… Why would God promise a Savior and then punish and sacrifice his son so much, only to turn around and say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter, there are many ways.”  No other way or religion offers a sacrifice for you.  But just like when someone gives you a gift, you have to accept that gift.  It cannot be forced on you or it is no longer a gift.

Finally, I always get asked this question… What about those before Jesus, or those who have not heard, or places where their culture prevents it?  Jesus came for past, present and future.  He is not time-bound.  Let Jesus deal with those things.  He is the gate-keeper, and His gift is for everyone and He gives everyone a chance to accept.  We should be more concerned about those of us who know better, who have knowledge, and yet have openly rejected his gift.  Once you have been offered a gift and refuse, you may not have another chance to accept.  Others may not have been offered yet.  We are to accept Jesus’ gift of eternal life and fellowship with God, and pass the good news on to others.  This is what Jesus died for, so that we may never have to experience separation from God.

 

In Jesus’ Words: “You have said it.” (Matthew 26-27)

A common discrepancy I hear a lot is that Jesus never said he was the Son of God, the Messiah, and that this claim only came from what others said about him.  Yet, when looking through Jesus’ words in the New Testament, he did in fact make this claim several times.  Why else would they be trying to kill him?

~ Jesus faces the Sanhedrin and Governor ~
Matthew 26:62-65, 27:11

The high priest then stood up and said to Jesus, “Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place you under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!”

“You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Look, now you’ve heard the blasphemy!

Now Jesus stood before the governor. “Are You the King of the Jews?” the governor asked Him.

Jesus answered, “You have said it.”

The phrase “You have said it.” is an affirmation of oath, meaning “That is true.”

I have heard two testimonies this week from ordinary people – one local and one from the other side of the world. Both witnessed seeing Jesus in a dream or vision confirming to them that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. “You have said it,” they said.

In Jesus’ Words: The Judas Kiss and Jesus’ Reaction (Matthew 26:50-56)

“Friend,” Jesus asked Judas, “why have you come?”

The Greek word used here for friend means “comrade” – a person who shares your activities, occupation or political group, such as a work associate.  Jesus did not call Judas a close friend.

Jesus always addresses our heart:  Why have you come?

“The chief priests and elders arrested Jesus, and then one of those with Jesus drew his sword and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his ear.”

The writings of John identify this person as Peter and the slave as Malchus.  The writings of Luke also mention that Jesus heals the slaves ear.  These were specific, eye-witness accounts.

Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than 12 legions of angels? How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”

Jesus shows he was still in control of the situation.  He did not panic.  A false preacher would have lacked control.

One legion is 6,000 soldiers, and 12 legions would be 72,000 angels.  2 Kings 19:35 tells of a single angel who killed more than 185,000 men in one night.  Can you imagine the impact 72,000 angels would have?

At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as if I were a criminal, to capture Me? Every day I used to sit, teaching in the temple complex, and you didn’t arrest Me. But all this has happened so that the prophetic Scriptures would be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted Him and ran away.


One of the best defenses for Christ is that none of the disciples or writers of the gospels painted a rosy picture of themselves.  Instead, they told that they were cowards and ran away.  Yet, after Jesus’ resurrection, these same young men became the most brave of men to tell the truth, even to the point of their own tortured deaths. Our own actions as human beings can be very telling.  A fake or lying person would not admit in writing that they had run away from the one they were claiming to be Messiah.  No, only one telling the truth would admit to that.

In Jesus’ Words: A place called Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46)

Have you ever had your life change in an instant?  One minute you’re having a nice dinner, making plans and talking about the future, and the next.. it all changes, and quickly.  It’s that moment of epiphany when we suddenly realize we’re not in control of everything after all.  Sometimes it leads to confusion, and you’re tired, and you just can’t believe what is happening, but it is.  There is an event recorded in all four gospels that is like this.

Gethsemane was a garden in the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem.  It was known for its olive trees and there are still many olive trees there today.  It is also where Jesus often went to pray, but on this one particular night Jesus was visibly upset.  His disciples didn’t know what to think when they saw him overcome with grief and emotion.  Usually Jesus is comforting them, and now Jesus is asking them to pray.  Did they know this would be the last night they would spend with Jesus before he was crucified?  They had just finished a nice meal in the Upper Room.

Jesus’ extreme emotion in the Garden was not one of weakness, but of humanity and humility.  The result of his coming into this world thirty-three years earlier has now culminated.  He would be leaving his disciples alone, knowing what they would face in the coming days and years.  Jesus knew what he was about to face as well.  It was not just a physical pain and death, but the weight of the world’s sin bearing down on Him.

Yet, after a time of intense prayer and agony in the Garden, Jesus seems to emerge even stronger and in a take-charge way.  He tells his disciples, “Are you still sleeping?  Get up, let’s go!”

Even in our deepest agonizing times, Jesus tells us the same.  He went through it, and He is also saying to us, “Get up, let’s go!”

~ Prayer in the Garden  Matthew 26:36-46 ~

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open.

After leaving them, He went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 

Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the time is near. The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let’s go! See, My betrayer is near.”