We’ve come to a place in our series of messages on Matthew, “The Best Life Ever Lived,” where we have to take a detour! We jump ahead in our study to Matthew 27 and 28 and discover that the best life ever lived had two great substitutions in these last earthly chapters. One substitution was awesome but the other was not. Everyone on earth has embraced one of these two and you can know which one you’ve taken to heart!
“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”
Is “Substitution” a good thing or not?
My youngest son is a teacher and some years ago now he substitute taught here at Brockport Central one sunny afternoon when no one wanted to be in class. Tim got the materials that the regular teacher needed him to teach in his place that day. It was a high school class and the subject was not his favorite and apparently not the kids favorite either. He valiantly taught the class, and if you know the system Brockport uses, or used to use, it was an 80 minute class. Ho boy. After dealing with texting, chatting, and goofiness for almost the whole time he thought he had done what he needed to do. So he let the class use the remaining time to work on the homework assignment or other stuff. That might be viewed by some as a mistake. While he was trying to help a student up front, two boys were talking with each other unnoticed. They were discussing whether or not the “sleeper hold” was a real thing. (That’s where somebody wraps his arm around the bad guy in such a way that makes the bad guy pass out.) So they thought they would try it. Sure enough, it’s a real thing. The boy who passed out hit his head on the hard floor, the other guy was panicking, and the bell rang for the end of class and everyone started piling out of the room. Tim was there so long, filling out incident reports, getting the one boy to the nurse’s office, finding witnesses.
The kids in Tim’s classroom that embraced the substitution actually learned something that day and were changed. The kids that didn’t embrace the substitution fell into other things. Like passing out.
Substitutions, that’s what chapter 28 of Matthew is all about. There are two parallel substitutions or switches, here.
Jesus was dead. He was crucified, dead and buried in a Middle Eastern style rock hewn tomb. That was a fact. But what happened next is the best substitution ever. The dead Savior was replaced by a living Redeemer. He rose from the dead! By so doing, He lives forever as the then and now Savior of mankind. Does Mankind need saving? Oh yeah. The attacks in Brussels are just the most recent reminder that we are a broken, fallen race. But thankfully there was a great substitution made in Jerusalem that day and we can actually have hope.
There was another substitution made that day that we read about in Matthew 28. Imagine the scene. The guards that very seriously and intently guarded the tomb so His body wouldn’t be taken are now on the ground on their backs. An angel sat on the stone that once sealed the tomb and was pretty impressive, frighteningly so. They saw this at least in part. Someone told the women who had come to see the tomb, that’s for sure. Once the soldiers came to, a few of them went and told the chief priests what had happened. And as we read, they were paid off to substitute a phony story of the disciples stealing the body while they slept. And they lived out the lie.
The first was a good substitution. The second was a poor one.
All of humanity embraces one or the other of those substitutions. Even among the disciples, there was even a struggle when they saw Him in Galilee, so there’s a built in struggle until you do embrace one or the other, that’s for sure. But if you’ve embraced one of these substitutions, you will see the effects of that decision in your life.
How can you see which one you’ve embraced?
If you embrace the first substitution, the exchange of the dead Savior for the Living Redeemer, it looks something like this:
If you embrace the second substitution, the exchange of the truth for a story and excuse, it looks like this:
Some substitutions are great. Others are not. Of these two, which one have you embraced?