Dr. John Piper
Desiring God
"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him"
John Piper
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April 3, 1983
Easter Sunday Morning
Bethlehem Baptist Church
John Piper, Pastor

(Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20)

        Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary
Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great
earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back
the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as
snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel
said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go
quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going
before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you." So they departed
quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell the disciples. And behold,
Jesus met them and said, "Hail!" And they came up and took hold of his 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 the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had
directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And
Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to
me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

    Why are millions of mood posters with magnificent landscapes and little philosophic
sayings sold each year in America? Why did I feel happy when I looked at purple
snapdragons and distant mountains on an Easter card this week? Why did Ayn Rand,
who died last year apparently as a convinced atheist, say that admiration is one of the
greatest and rarest pleasures? And she meant the pleasure of admiring greatness, not
being admired. Why is there such a thing as stardom in the world of popular music and
theater and sports? Why are scenic cruises and scenic tours and $45 coffee-table
scenic books a multi-million dollar business? I believe the answer is that the essence of
humanness is the appetite for great beauty. Or, to put it in a more God-centered way,
God has made us with a hunger to worship him.

    The great tragedy of the human race is that we were made to find infinite joy by
admiring God, but have become so blind and so foolish that we spend energy and time
and money seeking out things in the world to satisfy our insatiable craving to admire
greatness and beauty. The irony of our human condition (and nobody here is an
exception) is that God put us within sight of the Himalayas and we have chosen to pull
down the blinds of our chalet and show slides of Buck Hill. But every single person here
knows that it hasn't worked. Our posters and post cards and rock stars and scenic tours
and glossy books have never satisfied the deepest longings of our heart. They give some
pleasure, and make the drudgery of life a little more livable. But they can never compare
to the times when you walk to the window, raise the blinds, throw open the shutters and
see the Himalayan glory of the risen Christ.

    If your life is flat, empty, without exhilaration, without significance, without a single
and fulfilling orientation, it is because you do not see the risen Christ, for who he really
is. Some of you see him scarcely at all, perhaps. Others have such a pitifully small and
sentimental picture of him on the wall of your mind that you are starving for the real
thing. So what I want to do today is take you to the window of God's word and point to
Christ. For if we could keep in view the risen Christ as he really is, our bottomless
appetite for beauty and greatness and wonder would find satisfaction, and our lives
would be unending worship and joyful obedience.

    The last chapter of Matthew is a window that opens onto the sunrise glory of the risen
Christ. Through it you can see at least three massive peaks in the mountain range of
Christ's character: the peak of his power; the peak of his kindness; and the peak of his
purposefulness. And we all know in our hearts that if the risen Christ is going to satisfy
our desire to admire greatness that is the way he has to be. People who are too weak to
accomplish their purposes can't satisfy our desire to admire greatness. We admire
people even less who have no purpose in life. And still less those whose purposes are
merely selfish and unkind. What we long to see and know is a Person whose power is
unlimited, whose kindness is tender, and whose purpose is single and unflinching.
Novelists and poets and movie-makers and TV writers now and then create a shadow of
this Person. But they can no more fill our longing to worship than this month's National
Geographic can satisfy my longing for the Chattooga River. We must have the real thing.
We must see the Original of all power and kindness and purposefulness. We must see
and worship the risen Christ.

    Let me show you why I think Matthew 28 aims to help us do this. In Matthew Jesus
makes two appearances after his resurrection. First, to the women in verse 9, "And
behold, Jesus met them and said, 'Hail!' And they came up and took hold of his feet and
worshiped him." The second appearance was to the eleven disciples in Galilee. Verse
17: "And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted." It seems clear
that what Matthew wants to say is that the proper response to the risen Christ is
worship. Matthew has opened a window onto the glory of the risen Christ and he means
for it to be a window of worship.

    Don't miss how astonishing this is! Recall how Satan tempted Jesus in the
wilderness three years earlier. In Matthew 4:9 he said, "'All [the kingdoms of the world] I
will give you if you will fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Begone,
Satan! for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you
serve."' Do you see what it implies that Jesus receives the worship of his people in
Matthew 28? The resurrection of Christ should certify once for all that Jesus is the Son
of God, not in the sense that Israel was the son of God or in the sense that you and I
are children of God, but in the sense that he himself is God. Jesus said, "You shall
worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve." And when he rises from the
dead men and women bow at his feet and worship him and he receives it without rebuke.
Easter is a great day for reaffirming our conviction that Jesus Christ is no mere man, no
mere angel, no mere creature but from everlasting to everlasting he is God through
whom and for whom all things exist.

    Therefore, when Matthew calls us to worship the risen Christ, do not shrink back.
saying, "God only should be worshipped." For Christ is God, one in essence with the
Father and the Spirit. That's why Matthew brings his book to a close in verse 19 by
saying that disciples should be baptized "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit." These three persons are one God and when we worship the one we worship
them all.

    So Matthew means for chapter 28 to be a window onto the glory of the risen Christ;
and he aims for it to be a window of worship. Now what do we see in the mountain range
of Christ's character that should fill us with admiration and worship?

    The first thing we see is the peak of power. Notice verse 18. Jesus says, "All
authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." I wish that there was a way with
words to make you feel that the risen Christ has more authority than President Reagan,
more authority than all the powers of Moscow and Peking, that if you gathered all the
authority of all the governments and armies of the world and put them in the scales with
the authority of the risen Christ they would go up in the balance like air. All authority on
earth has been given to the risen Christ. All of it! The risen Christ has the right to tell
every man, woman and child on this planet today what they should do and think and
feel. He has absolute and total authority over your life and over cities and states and
nations. The risen Christ is great -- greater than you have ever imagined.

    Here is our Easter witness to the world: The risen Christ is your King and has
absolute, unlimited authority over your life. If you do not bow and worship him and trust
him and obey him you commit high treason against Christ the King, who is God over all.
Easter is God's open declaration that he lays claim on every person and tribe and
tongue and nation. Easter has to do with power and authority. Easter is the claim of the
risen Christ on every life that breathes. "All authority on earth is mine." Your sex life is
his to rule; your business is his to rule; your career is his to rule; your home is his; your
children are his; your vacation is his; your body is his; He is God! So if you resist his
claim, feel no admiration for his infinite power and authority, and turn finally to seek
satisfaction from thrills that allow you to be your own master, then you will be executed
for treason in the last day. And it will appear so reasonable and so right that you should
be executed for your disloyalty to your Maker and Redeemer that there will be no
appeals and no objections. Your life of indifference to the risen Christ and of half-hearted
attention now and then (perhaps on Easter) to a few of his commandments will appear
on that day as supremely blameworthy and infinitely foolish, and you will remember this
sermon and weep that you did not change.

    The risen Christ has all authority not only on earth but also in heaven. "All authority in
heaven and on earth has been given to me." I think Matthew wants us to see a glimpse
of this in verses 2-4. "And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord
descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His
appearance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the
guards trembled and became like dead men." What is the meaning of this? It means at
least that angels stand in the service of the risen Christ. I don't know what you see when
you picture angels in your mind. Perhaps flying creatures with long, golden hair and
delicate feathery wings, or tiny cherubim-like little fat babies. If so, it isn't going to
impress you that the risen Christ has all authority in heaven so that all the angels offer
him unquestioned obedience. But, if you could imagine how powerful an angel is, and
how many angels there are and what it is going to be like when the Son of Man rides his
great white stallion at the head of countless armies of heaven against the mutiny of this
world, then you would be impressed. O, how we need to pray for the gift of imagination,
so that we could feel what it means that the risen Christ is the Commander-in-Chief of
countless angels who are mightier than men and indestructible because of their
immortality. When they gather for salvation and destruction no laser beams and no
space age nuclear technology will have any effect on them at all.

    Consider some Biblical images of the risen Christ and his angels and let them shape
your mental pictures. "Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then
all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the
clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud
trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to
the other" (Matt. 24:30,31). "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the
angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all
the nations" (Mt. 25:31). "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword
will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at
once send me more than 12 legions of angels?" (Mt. 26:52-53). "The Lord Jesus [will be]
revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon
those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord
Jesus (2 Thess. 1:7,8). "Jesus Christ has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of
God, with angels, authorities and powers subject to him" (1 Peter 3:22).

    When the angel in Matthew 28 descends with the power of an earthquake and the
appearance of lightning to announce the resurrection of the Son of God, the meaning is
this: all authority in heaven has been given to the risen Christ and thousands upon
thousands upon thousands of indestructible angels obey his every word. O, that Ayn
Rand would have opened her eyes to see the risen Christ! Then the great pleasure of
admiration would not have been so rare. And the great John Galt would look like Tweetie
Bird in comparison to Jesus.

    The second peak in the mountain range of Christ's glory that we see through the
window of Matthew 28 is the peak of his kindness. I see it first in verses 5-10. The angel
first tells the women not to fear(v. 5) and then in verse 7 commands them to go and tell
the disciples that he is risen and will meet them in Galilee. Verse 8 says they ran to do
just that "with fear and great joy." And then the wonderful thing happens: Jesus
intercepts them. Why? They were on their way to obey the angel's word. And Jesus
seems to just repeat the angel's command in verse 10: "Do not be afraid; go and tell my
brethren to go to Galilee and there they will see me." Why did he stop them? I think the
answer is kindness -- pure pressed-down, shaken-together, overflowing kindness. An
unnecessary bonus from the big heart of the risen Christ. Those kinds of things happen
when you follow the Word of God. Some of you may have asked, "Where is the
kindness of the risen Christ?" I think Mary Magdalene would answer: "He will meet you
seven steps down the road of obedience."

    But the kindness of Christ is also for his other disciples. The angel had said in verse
5: "Don't be afraid." But verse 8 says, "They departed quickly from the tomb with fear."
When Jesus meets them he says, "Hail!" which literally means, "Rejoice!" And he
repeats the angel's command: "Do not be afraid." You know what I think the women
were apprehensive about? If Jesus is really risen with all authority on earth and is ready
now (as they probably thought) to establish the world-wide reign of the Messiah, what
might he do to those turncoat disciples who denied and deserted him in his hour of
greatest trial? Might there not be judgment in Galilee?

    But the risen Christ is not only powerful, he is kind beyond human measure. With one
word he stilled their fears. The angel had said in verse 7, "Go tell his disciples." But
Jesus said in verse 10, "Go tell my brothers." Has anybody today ever deserted the
Savior in an hour of testing? Do not despair. If you will meet him in Galilee, he will call
you a brother or a sister. If you will go in your heart to the place of repentance, he will
meet you with the words, "Rejoice! Do not be afraid!" And, as if that were not evidence
enough of his kindness, Matthew leaves it ringing in our ears by closing his gospel with
these words, "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

    The risen Christ is infinitely powerful and the risen Christ is immeasurably kind. And
now finally we see through the window of Matthew 28 the peak of his purposefulness. In
order to admire and worship the risen Christ we have to see that his power and kindness
have purpose and goal. You can't admire someone who doesn't know where he is going.
One of the reasons there are so few admirable people in the world today is that so few
people stick to anything for very long. How many people can you point to and say,
"There is a life that is unwaveringly devoted to one great goal!"?

    Verse 19 shows that the risen Christ has a purpose. He knows why he reigns. "All
authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples
of all nations." The purpose of the risen Christ is to empower his church to make his
authority known in every culture on earth. He wouldn't have said, "Lo, I am with you
always," unless our mission were his business. Wherever people bow the knee to Christ
through our witness it is because he is with us. He aims to fill his kingdom with
worshipers from Argentina and Liberia and Uganda and Ecuador and Cameroon and
Mexico and the Philippines and Japan and Egypt and Brazil and the Coffman Union. The
risen Christ is not going in circles, he is not fumbling through the manual of operation.
He wrote the book. And he is unswerving in his great purpose.

    Do you not hunger to admire such a Person? Infinite power! Immeasurable kindness!
Unswerving purpose! Perhaps your appetite for his beauty is just beginning. If so,
confess the blindness and dullness of your former days. Set yourself on the road of faith
and obedience and expect him to meet you on the way. Perhaps before this hymn is
over you will have seen and worshiped the risen Christ.

        Crown him with many crowns,
            The Lamb upon his throne;
        Hark, how the heavenly anthem drowns
            All music but its own!
        Awake, my soul, and sing
            Of him who died for thee,
        And hail him as thy matchless King
            Through all eternity.
        Crown him the Son of God,
            Before the worlds began,
        And ye who tread where he hath trod,
            Crown him the Son of man;
        Who ev'ry grief hath known
            That wrings the human breast,
        And takes and bears them for his own,
            That all in him may rest.
        Crown him the Lord of life,
            Who triumphed o'er the grave
        And rose victorious in the strife
            For those he came to save;
        His glories now we sing,
            Who died and rose on high,
        Who died eternal life to bring,
            And lives that death may die.
        Crown him the Lord of Heav'n
            Enthroned in worlds above,
        Crown him the King to whom is giv'n
            The wondrous name of love.
        Crown him with many crowns,
            As thrones before him fall;
        Crown him, ye kings, with many crowns,
            For he is King of all.