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Adult Sunday School Lesson Summary for April 21, 2019 (Resurrection Sunday)
Released on Monday, April 15, 2019
“Called to Believe the Resurrection”
Lesson Text: Matthew 28:1-15
Background Scripture: Matthew 28:1-15
Devotional Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-22
Matthew 28:1-15 (KJV)
1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
TODAY’S LESSON AIMS
Learning Fact: To retell Matthew’s record of the discovery of the empty tomb.
Biblical Principle: To compare and contrast the reactions of those who became aware that Jesus’ body was missing.
Daily Application: To prepare a testimony based on the truth of the resurrected Jesus.
HOW TO SAY IT
Gethsemane Geth-sem-uh-nee (G as in get).
The Greatest Discovery
An online search for the 10 most significant discoveries in history reveals many lists. Most include breakthroughs in the field of medicine—development of antibiotics such as penicillin, etc. Eventually, however, death comes to everyone (Hebrews 9:27). That is why the greatest discovery of all time happened on the day we celebrate as Easter Sunday.
The great discovery that was made by those who came to Jesus’ tomb after His crucifixion was the absence of something: Jesus’ body. Never before and not since that morning has the absence of something conveyed such a profound message. Today’s lesson introduces us to that message.
Lesson Context: The Plot to Kill Jesus
The events in last week’s text from Matthew occurred at a point when the Jewish religious leaders were plotting to arrest Jesus. But they did not want to create a public disturbance by doing so (Matthew 26:3–5). To their delight, the leaders found among Jesus’ disciples an ally for the scheme: Judas Iscariot (26:14–16).
After the Passover meal, Jesus led His disciples from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane. That was a place to which He had brought them often. Therefore the location was known to Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus there (Matthew 26:47; John 18:1–3). There followed the series of appearances before the Jewish ruling council (the Sanhedrin; see last week’s Lesson Context) and Pilate that resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion.
Lesson Context: Keeping Jesus’ Body Inside
Of the four Gospel writers, only Matthew records the concern of the chief priests and Pharisees that Jesus’ disciples might attempt to steal His corpse. Their concern was based on being aware of the claim of “that deceiver” that He would rise from the dead. A missing body meant that a resurrection could be claimed. Therefore the chief priests and Pharisees recommended to Pilate that steps be taken to ensure against such a hoax (Matthew 27:62–66). Pilate agreed. The results of that effort are considered in today’s lesson.
All four Gospels record the actions of devoted women who returned to Jesus’ tomb to honor Him after His death. We say “returned” because they had been there when Jesus’ body was interred (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55). Their intent was to finish the hurried job started by two others (John 19:38–42) in anointing His body with various preparations (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55, 56; compare 2 Chronicles 16:14).
Amazing Sight: Matthew 28:1-4
1. What happened that Resurrection morning at the tomb of Jesus? (Matthew 28:1-4)
“The first day of the week.” The Lord's day, or Sunday. Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Mary, the mother of James and Salome (Mark 16:1). Late on Friday evening they had watched the sepulcher (Matthew 27:56). Now, after the Sabbath, they came with spices (Mark 16:1) in the hope that they could anoint the body. These disciples would not break the Sabbath, even to preserve the body of their beloved Lord. They thought He was dead. In fact, they wondered how they would move the huge stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb (Mark 16:3).
Then, behold, there was a great earthquake and the angel of the Lord descended from heaven. The angel who rolled the stone away, did not come to let Jesus out of the tomb, but to reveal that it was empty and that He was gone already!
The angel sat on the stone, and his face shone like lightning and clothing was as white as snow. The keepers (guards) stationed at the tomb experience both the sight of the angel of the Lord and the sudden terror of the earthquake. They shake as much as the earth does! The overall shock of what they witness leaves them paralyzed with fear or unconscious. The phrase they became as dead men does not mean they actually died, because some of them report the stunning series of events to the religious leaders in Jerusalem (Matthew 28:11, below).
Assuring Words: Matthew 28:5-8
2. What did the angel say to the women? Matthew 28:5-8
Mary and Mary Magdalene were without a doubt in shock at what they just experienced.
The angel then spoke reassuringly to the frightened women by affirming awareness of their mission to Jesus, which was crucified and buried. The angel then said, but Jesus was not there; He had risen.
Luke 24:4 records the appearance of “two men … in shining garments,” later described as “angels” (24:23). Matthew chooses to include only the angel who speaks to the women.
The angel invited the women to look into the inner burial chamber and see where His body was lying. Jesus had been raised from the dead, just as He said would happen.
What Do You Think?
How can you better prepare yourself to offer evidence for the fact that Christ rose from the dead? Why is it important to do so?
Watch an online (YouTube 47 minutes) video by J. Warner Wallace to learn how a homicide detective approaches these questions. Compare and contrast your approach with his.
Now (v. 7 of today’s lesson) the women who had come to anoint a dead body were given another task—proclaiming the Resurrection to the frightened disciples. The disciples had deserted Jesus in the hour of trial, but the angel’s words held hope of renewal and forgiveness. The disciples had deserted Jesus, but they were directed to meet Jesus in Galilee. This was exactly what Jesus had told them during the Last Supper (26:32).
There is something to be said about the faithfulness of these woman. These women deserved to be the first witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ: during life they ministered to Him, and in death they were not divided. They attended Him to the Cross, notwithstanding their attachment to Him exposed them to the most imminent danger; and now they come to pay respect at His tomb. Their devotion to Jesus was rewarded.
Now (v. 8 of today’s lesson) the women went from being depressed about Jesus’ death to listening and seeing an angel tell them He was alive. The angel told them to go back and tell His disciples as fast as they could so that they would know to expect Him.
Meeting Jesus: Matthew 28:9, 10
3. What happened to the two women while on their way to tell the other disciples about Jesus? (Matthew 28:9-10a)
It’s likely that women had many emotions running through them at the same time, but they had to act quickly. However, the women’s surprises are not finished. Before they can complete the task of telling Jesus’ disciples, they meet Jesus Himself!
Jesus said, “All hail!” which can be translated, Grace. What a marvelous greeting for the Resurrection Day! The women fell at His feet, took hold of Him, and worshiped Him. We are told nothing about Jesus’ appearance, but we can see that the women recognize Him. There must have been some fear in their hearts, for He immediately assured them by saying, “Be not afraid.”
4. What did Jesus tell the women to do next? Why? (Matthew 28:10b)
The news of His resurrection needed to be spread to His disciples, and with His appearance there would be no doubt, so Jesus told them to go into Galilee where He would meet them together. Not only had the angel commissioned them, but the Lord also commissioned them. The phrase “my brethren” indicates the special closeness that still exists despite their recent desertion (compare Matthew 26:56; John 20:17).
Arranged Cover-up: Matthew 28:11-15
5. What else was going on as the women made their way to Galilee? (Matthew 28:11)
“The watch” (soldiers) who were charged with guarding the tomb to keep the body in it (Matthew 27:66) have failed. Pilate (the governor) had put the soldiers at the disposal of the Jewish Sanhedrin (the chief priests) so they went and reported what happened with Jesus first to them (see v. 14).
6. What was the reaction of the chief priests to Jesus’ resurrection? (Matthew 28:12-14)
There was a meeting of the Jewish ruling council because the successful plot to kill Jesus has not ended their “problem.” Now another problem has developed. The religious leaders’ worst fears had been realized (27:63-64)—Jesus’ body had disappeared from the tomb! Instead of even considering that Jesus’ claims had been true and that he truly was the Messiah risen from the dead, the leaders decided to bribe the soldiers in order to explain that Jesus’ disciples came during the night and stole his body. This may have seemed like a logical explanation, but they didn’t think through the details. Why would Jesus’ disciples, who already had run off on him at his arrest, risk a return at night to a guarded and sealed tomb in an effort to steal a body—an offense that could incur the death penalty? And if they had done so, would they have taken the time to unwrap the body?
If this had occurred while the guards were sleeping, how could the guards possibly have known what had occurred? If this truly happened, why didn’t the religious leaders arrest the disciples in order to prosecute them? The story was full of holes and the guards would have to admit to negligence on their part, so getting them to spread this rumor required a bribe. The religious leaders assure the soldiers no negative consequences will befall them. Should Pilate hear of what has occurred, the leaders promise that they can and will protect the soldiers from suffering consequences (28:14).
7. What is meant by “this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:15)?
Matthew’s Gospel is generally considered to be the earliest of the four Gospels. Scholars date its writing to about A.D. 50 (or perhaps even earlier). Thus the phrase until this day indicates that the lie has been circulating for some 20 years as Matthew writes.
This lie, this saying, falls apart immediately when we consider the eventual martyrdoms of the apostles (particularly after they spent time with Jesus after His resurrection, as well as being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit themselves, see 28:16-20; Acts 1:6-8, next week’s lesson). People are known to be willing to die the deaths of martyrs for two things: (1) for truth and (2) for a lie believed to be true. But people are not willing to die for a lie that they know is a lie. But that doesn’t stop twenty-first century skeptics from creating other theories to explain away the account of Jesus’ resurrection.
What Do You Think?
How should responses to common misunderstandings of the gospel message differ from responses to biased misrepresentations?
Distinguish between situations that call for no response (example: Mark 14:60, 61a) vs. an explanatory response (example: John 4:19–26) vs. a pushback response (example: Mark 12:18–27).
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Nothing or no one can stop the power and plan of God! (Matthew 28:1-4)
2. We are called as disciples of Jesus to tell others about His love, grace, and forgiveness! (vs. 5-8; 18-20)
3. When Jesus call us to do something or go somewhere for Him, He promised to always be with us! (vs. 9, 10, 20)
4. It’s worth repeating… Nothing or no one can stop the power and plan of God! (vs. 11-15)
No “Fake News”
The phrase “fake news” became a part of the vocabulary during the 2016 American presidential campaign. Certain news outlets were accused of creating stories that had no basis in fact in order to further an agenda. Christians may similarly be accused of propagating “fake news” regarding the resurrection of Jesus. The idea is that Christians accept on faith something that cannot be proven to be an actual event of history.
But the resurrection can be proven true, as this lesson has demonstrated. Yet getting people to see the truth can be a slow process. This calls for prayer and patience. Even Jesus’ own disciples were not convinced at first. When the women reported to the disciples what they had found and not found at Jesus’ tomb, “Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not” (Luke 24:11). The apostle Thomas (in)famously declared, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Why would men who were slow to believe news of a resurrection end up trying to make it appear as though one had happened if it had not? No one, neither the women nor the disciples, was anticipating that Jesus would arise. They were not spending the days following His death planning how they could perpetrate a hoax on the public.
Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 15:20 is the one that followers of Jesus gladly embrace and proclaim: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Fake news—no; actual news—absolutely!
Heavenly Father, how thankful we are that on this Easter Sunday and every day we can celebrate the triumph of Jesus over death. Use us to tell others this good news of our Risen Savior. We pray this in His name, Jesus. Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
We serve a Risen Savior!
ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON
Next week’s lesson is “Called to Make Disciples” where students will learn the importance of making disciples for Jesus. Study Matthew 28:16–20; Acts 1:6–8.
LESSON SUMMARIZED BY
Senior Editor Gabrielle Ferrell
Jesus Is All Ministries
Adam Clarke's Commentary.
Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary.
Scofield, C.I., ed. The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright 2019 by permission of Standard Publishing.
The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.
The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook
Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright
by permission of Standard Publishing.
The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc. The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books
Adult Sunday School Lessons