Speaker: Tim Bollinger
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-20

From the series Holy Week & Easter 2024

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Happy Easter. It’s so good to have you here at Shepherd’s Gate this morning. Whether you’re joining us in person or you’re tuning in online. Welcome to Shepherd’s Gate. My name is Tim. I get the privilege of being the lead pastor here. And we know there’s a lot of places that you could be this morning. And we’re so glad to have you here because we believe this. Listen to this. That no one is here on accident, that whatever the circumstances are that brought you here today or whatever the reason is that you’re tuning in online, that God knew that you would be here in this moment. And we believe that God has something unique for each and every man, woman and child in this room, a man. In fact, we know there’s some kids with us this morning. Kids, can you go ahead and wave at me? All right, parents, just so you know, if you’re not from Shepherd’s Gate, we are very family friendly church. And so if they get squirrely, it does not bother us. And it certainly doesn’t bother me because I’m a father. I have kids and I totally get it. We’re just glad that they’re here. 

In fact, for our special services on Christmas and Easter kids, you know, there’s always a part where I’m going to need your help. Okay, kids. So we know you got some activity books, but there’s a point where I’m going to need you to help me out. Is that okay, kids? They’re so entrenched in their activity. Their activity is so good. We’ll get to them in a minute. But. But let’s think about that for a moment. Why are you here? Ever wonder that you’re like, Yeah, why am I here? What’s going on? It’s really early in the morning. Is it because this is your home church? And where else would you be on Easter? I mean, it wasn’t even a question in your mind that you would be joining us for one of our Easter services or maybe your year? Because you do you pick Shepherd’s game because that’s usually where you go for the holidays and specifically Christmas and Easter. And so wouldn’t you know, it’s only been three months since Christmas and so we maybe haven’t seen you for a few months or maybe you’re here because you used to come to Shepherd’s Gate, but kind of life really kind of turned you upside down and maybe it was adding another kid to your family or dealing with a relative that unfortunately was sick or for whatever life circumstances through it, you kind of disrupted your rhythm. Or maybe you’re here today because someone invited you. 

If someone loves you and they trust us that we are going to present God’s Word to you and they’re praying for you and they want you to know who Jesus really is, just kind of the question that all of us have to ask on a weekend like this. No one’s surprised that that you’re here and that it’s Easter weekend, right? No one was surprised that you’re coming to an Easter service. Nobody in your family said, hey, come to church. And oh, by the way, 5 seconds ago, they just told you it was Easter. Right? Notice that. So what do you really believe about Easter, then? If you’re not surprised on why you’re here while you’re tuning in, what do you actually really believe about Easter? Do you know the scriptures? Do you have some type of belief system? What faith do you subscribe to? That’s kind of what our theme is going to be for this year and what our theme is throughout all of our service today. I’ll tell you this, I as I look in the world that we find ourselves in and and it’s kind of interesting in just the last several years how things have kind of progressed. I just believe that we live in a world where most people lack faith and trust in pretty much everything. How many of you would agree with that statement? I mean, no matter who it is or what circumstance you’re in, the first reaction is always to question it, isn’t it? You go to the doctor, what’s the first thing you do when they leave the room? You question whether or not they’re telling. Like, is that really, truly what’s taking place here? 

You go and get your car fixed.What’s the first thing you do? You question whether that’s really the problem with your car. Even in the school system. Now we question these things or that things. And of course the easy ones, the political landscape and all that’s going on, even in our country. And how big of a year this is for all of that? Let’s see. It’s no different when it comes to the church, is it? It’s no different when it comes to faith or our belief system. And even some of you were like me, and I don’t know if I trust you. I don’t know if you’re going to tell me the truth. And here’s what we’re going to do today is we’re going to open God’s word. We’re going to look at Scripture and we’re going to ask God to lead in, to guide us, and to reveal himself to us and to guide us into truth. Because Jesus was the one that said he is the way, the truth in the life. But before we get into our text this morning, does anyone know what this is? It’s a car, kids. You see, I knew they would come back for me. And kids, Do you notice anything different about this car? A dodge. 

Does anybody know what  this is? It’s. Oh, wow. You guys are. You guys are way more in tune than the two services yesterday. This is a self-driving vehicle. Google made this. And since Google made it, of course, we can trust Google. Correct. And they just started releasing these cars in California and in Arizona and in Texas. And they’re obviously making plans to release it in other parts of the country. And what’s so interesting is that years ago there was these companies  that sprouted up called Uber and Lyft. You remember Uber and Lyft. And when they first came out people said we would never, ever get in the back seat of a car of someone we don’t know. And we don’t that we don’t know their driving record. Why would anyone be that crazy? Why would anyone ever do that? I remember seeing that. And how many of us have been in the backseat of an Uber or Lyft? Go ahead, raise your hand. Hi and proud. How many of you now thinking of the technology that’s available if you were in one of these three states, you would get into the backseat of a car that does not have a driver. 

No way. Well, a couple of months ago I happened to be at conference in Arizona, and a couple of these pulled up to the front door of the hotel and it was a pastor’s conference. And I’m standing next to another pastor. And I had that same point. I said, Who in the world would get into one of these vehicles? And he looked at me because he’s from Phenix, and he said, I use them all the time. And then I thought to myself, challenge accepted. He said, Card, for more information, we’ll do all the driving, so please don’t touch the steering wheel or pedals during your ride. We may use interior cameras to check on riders, improve our products and mark what our microphones are. This is crazy. Not effective. So sing your heart out. We can’t hear you. You can also use our passenger screen to speak. Now, I can tell you this. The first time I was in the back seat of the vehicle as it was going down the road and I saw all of these vehicles on the road. This is what I noticed, is that everybody else that was in one of these vehicles was actually not sitting in the back seat like I was. 

They were sitting in the driver’s seat, which is why if you listen to the instructions, they said don’t touch the steering wheels or the pedal. And then I started wondering maybe I should be in the front seat of this driverless vehicle. Here’s the reality. All my kids thought it was incredible because the second time I use it, I actually face time them live. Why? I was in the vehicle. I posted this on my social media and there are some people that reached out that loving care about me. And they said, Tim, did you forget that you’re married? Like, did you forget that you have children? Why would you put yourself in that kind of danger? And I guess I didn’t think about it. I just had faith that this vehicle that they had, the technology that’s been vetted by our government and it’s been, you know, gone through the wringer in the process to do whatever it’s supposed to do. And, you know, every time I use it, it got me exactly where I needed to be. But again, I don’t think it’s any different than when it comes to our faith. In fact, those that were part of the early church, when we say early church, you mean the people that were part of pioneering, spreading the message of Jesus after he rose from the dead? 

These are some of the words they said. If they said this, if Christ had not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is useless and so is our faith. You see, for the believer, those who have their faith and trust in Jesus. If you do not believe that Jesus has risen from the dead, then all the rest of it doesn’t matter. Everything hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it says it right here. And it’s still true to this day. If we don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then we’re just spending useless time in here this morning. Then there’s completely point list to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior. So again, as we look at the text today, in this year, we’re going to be going to Matthew’s account and we’re going to look at it through the eyes of Matthew, who was an eyewitness of Jesus. He spent three years with Jesus. He did ministry. We use He heard the teachings of Jesus. He saw the miracles of Jesus. And this is what he captured for us. This is what he wants us to know. He says this The next day, the chief priest in the Pharisees went to pilot. This is after Jesus was crucified. 

He said, Sir, we remember that while the imposture, which I love, the fact they won’t even call him Jesus, the imposter was still alive. He said, After three days, I’ll rise again. So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise his disciples are going to come and steal his body and tell people that he has been raised from the dead pilot. Not being a believer in Jesus or a religious person. He says to them, Hey, you have a guard of soldiers. Go make it as secure as you can if that’s what you’re worried about. And so that’s exactly what they did. They set a stone in place and they made sure that there were guards placed outside of that tomb. Then Matthew turns our attention toward the next day, and he says, After the Sabbath, at the dawn of the first day of the week, which for them is Sunday, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to go see the tomb. They went to mourn. They went to pray. They were still in disbelief that they saw who they believe was the son of God hanging from a cross. They saw his body taken off the cross. 

They saw his body placed in a tomb. And so here the women are gathered and all of a sudden there’s a violent earthquake and an angel. The Lord comes down from heaven and going to the tumultuous it rolls back the tomb and he sits on it. He shows just how powerful God is. His appearance is like lightning. His clothes were white as snow. And look at the guards are so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. So as the angel said to the women, Do not be afraid for I know that you’re looking for Jesus who was crucified so beautiful listeners. He is not here. He has risen, just as he said over and over again in the Gospels. He told his followers, I I’m going to go away for a while, but I’m going to come back. I’m going to go away for a while. I’m going to come back. I’m going to go away for a while. And to come back I will rise from the dead. Now come and see the place where he lay. And the ladies got to peek into the empty tomb. They got to be the first eyewitnesses and see the kind of the account of what was taking place. 

Those who had faith in Jesus. And they’re given instructions. They say, Now go back and tell his disciples, hurry and go and tell them the good news that Jesus kept his word, that Jews are the fact risen from the dead. And so off the women go to tell the disciples. And when they get to this group of men, what did the group of men do? They didn’t believe the women. They didn’t believe that he had actually risen from the dead. Fact he was going to take them time and there’s going to be other things that needed to come along for for God to work that into their lives and for them to truly grasp the significance of this day, in this moment in time. But see, that’s not all that’s not all that was going on in Jerusalem at this time. If you read Matthew’s count in particular, gives the details of everything else that’s going around the city. And he tells us this, that some of the guards went into the city and they told the chief priest, these are the religious leaders, all that had taken place. And when he assembled them together, they gave us a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and they said, tell the people, his disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep. 

And if this comes to the governors ears, pilots ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble. I want you to think about that for a moment. They saw an angel. They saw a miracle. They saw something that people don’t get to see Most people do not get to see an angel in their lifetime on earth. And here they’re offered this bribe. Think of the religious leaders. Think of the fact that they knew that Jesus said this and they made all these preparations to make sure that that this couldn’t actually take place. And even hearing the testimonies of the soldiers wasn’t enough to make them believe that Jesus was actually the son of God. How much doubt do you have to have? Why is it so difficult for people to believe that maybe, just maybe, Jesus is telling the truth? See, they had an option here. And what the soldiers ended up doing is they took the money as they were directed. And wouldn’t you know the story has been spread among the Jews to this day. We live in a time when people have different faiths and different beliefs. Not everybody believes that Jesus is the son of God. Not everybody believes that Jesus rose from the dead. And as you look at just these few passages from Matthew, I believe what the question becomes this is who’s telling the truth? 

Are Mary and the women telling the truth? Are the soldiers telling the truth? Are the religious leaders the chief priests, are they the ones telling the truth? Matthew, do we believe what it is that you’ve written this account, that you say you’re an eyewitness and you’re giving this play by play of what? Of what happened on this first Easter? Do we actually believe what you have written, what we’re reading here nearly 2000 years later? Is it actually true? What do we actually believe? See, for us here at Shepherds Gate, we have something that we will repeat. Often it’s a statement of our faith and we call it the Apostles Creed, because it contains the teachings of the very first apostles, the disciples, the people who were eyewitnesses, the people who saw Jesus, who heard Jesus, who who believed and gave their lives for the resurrection. And so, as you heard at the beginning of our service, we heard those words again. And I want you to see what these things are, what these statements of faith are. 

 And these really are the most fundamental faith of the Christian faith, the most the most fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith. It says this, that we believe in Jesus Christ, His only son, God’s son, who’s also our Lord. And this is what we talked about last Sunday on Palm Sunday, that we believe he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that he was born of the Virgin Mary. What we talk about at Christmas that he suffered under Pontius Pilot, crucified, died, that he died and that he was buried. And what’s so interesting about the third part of this is most people, even if they’re not Christians or they follow other religions, believe that Jesus actually existed. They believe that Jesus was a real person and that he was a teacher and that he had influence and he had a following. And yes, he actually was crucified on a cross and the Romans put him to death. That’s one of those indisputable things. The disputable part comes in to the next part of the Apostles Creed, where we declare this to be true. What we believe is that on the third day he rose again from the dead, that he ascended into heaven after revealing himself to it, to his disciples, and many others, and that now he sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, that Jesus is alive. And right now, even in this moment, He’s sitting at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, and he’s waiting. 

 He’s waiting to come. The judge, the living and the dead put opinion that because we’re going to come back to that in a moment. Where are you at today with that? Do you believe this to be true about Jesus and not just parts of it, but all of it? Because I can tell you this, what you believe determines how you live your life on this earth. I’ll say it again What you believe determines how you live your life on this earth. And so it begs th question, what are you living for? What are you living for? How are you spending your time? Do you know who God is? Do you know what he’s done for you? Do you know the incredible grace and mercy that he offers you? Do you know that he wants to be part of every detail of your life? That you are more loved than you could ever realize? But yet we live in a culture. We live in a time that just keeps us busy, that keeps us focused on so many other things that we think are more important. And so what happens is we neglect our spiritual lives. We neglect the fact that we are people that have souls and that our souls need ministering. 

 To think of it this way, how many of you know people that they hate Mondays? Anybody have anybody? How many of you just met? You hate Mondays, but you love the weekends. Anybody loved the weekend? Do you know why that is? Because someone has conditioned you to hate the work week and to live your life for the weekends. Oh, Mondays are terrible. It’s the worst day of the week. Let’s just get through it. Can’t wait till Friday. Because if we get to Friday, then we have the weekend and Friday. Saturday, Sunday are the best days of the week and you rob yourself of the other five days or the other four days of the week. What about this people that live for their vacations? Will anyone admit that some of you your tan this morning because you just got back from spring break? Some of our friends are on their way back even today from spring break. And that’s what it becomes. This this pattern of work hard, work hard and save and save and save and just wait till we get to the next vacation and the next vacation or the next vacation. 

And so often people that are in that cycle, what ends up happening is they go on vacation, you come back and you say, how was your vacation? What did they say? Oh, it was terrible. You’re not going to believe what happened. And this, this and this and all. It’s like never perfect. It’s never this picture perfect Facebook thing that we created to be. How about this? Those of us that have kids? Well, we admit this. Raising kids is hard. I think you young families. And usually the pattern we get in is we want to be in the next stage. I mean, if I can just get my kids out of the diaper phase once, I don’t have to change a diaper anymore, my life will drastically change. Or once I get them into school part time, if I can just get a little margin to myself on, I’ll wait until I get them in school full time and wait until I can get them actually making decisions on their own and transitioning them into being adults. Oh man, I can’t wait to get these teenagers out of my house. I can’t wait to I don’t have to be an idiot and a moron anymore. And we sent them off to college and then they come back and they find love, and then we pester them to have grandkids. Like we’re never like we’re just taught to never be satisfied. 

And, you know, the things that we move into then is this one and this one’s real. It’s retirement. Yeah. I can’t wait until I retire. I’m going to save up all my pennies. I’m going do everything I can once I retire. My life’s going to be incredible. Once I retire, the whole world’s going to open up. Once I retire, I’m going to live like a celebrity. I just can’t wait until I retire. Can I tell you as a pastor, how many times I’ve been with people that are nine months or six months or three months, some three weeks, some even three days away from being retired and they die and their family members say, man, all they wanted to do was retire. All they wanted to do is enjoy the second half of their life. And I just believe that God has more for you. I just believe that God has the answer for you each and every day of living in the moment and the days that he’s given for you on this earth like this isn’t any different than what people have struggled with all throughout time, figuring out that thin veil that exists between life and death. How much time do we really have, and when is God going to call us home? 

What is it that we’re really doing with our time here on this earth and got? Are we maximizing it for your glory? And Your Honor, we all live in that tension. In fact, there was a early church that struggled with this so much that they asked one of the apostles, Hey, what happens when you die? Like what? Really, truly, when you close your eyes in this life, what really happens to people? And this is how he responded. He said it this way, brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind who has no hope. So it’s not that people that believe in Jesus don’t grieve, so that people that believe in Jesus don’t suffer the pain and the hardship of when a loved one leaves this earth. He goes on to this. Look at what he look at what he attaches to this. He says, First, since we believe that Jesus died and he rose again, you got both in there. Even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord He’s preaching. 

He’s saying, Here’s the words of comfort for you. We tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming the Lord will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. Think of this. We just talked about this in the Apostles Creed that the Lord himself is going to come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet call of God. This is why Jesus is waiting. He is waiting for the nod from God, the Father. And when God looks to Jesus and said, Now is the appointed time for you to come back to this earth once and for all, he will come back and it’s going to be a party. I mean, he’s going to make a lot of noise. Nobody is going to miss what is taking place on that day. And he gives us these details, which is so incredible. He says the dad in Christ will rise first. Now, I want you to think about this. I want you to think about all of you, because I guarantee you every single person in here has lost a loved one.

Everyone has had to go to a cemetery. And usually when you get to this point in the service and in the day, it usually is kind of reduced down to just the immediate family or those closest with the person that’s passed away. I want you to think about how many cemeteries you drive by every single day and you look at all of these plots and you ask yourself, what are they doing there? So often in our minds, what we do when we see cemeteries is we think they’re permanent places. And every time that I go to a cemetery, every time I am with a family, I know my number one job is to help them to not see this as a permanent resting place, that when they put their loved ones in the ground, no matter how much dirt you shovel on top or how much dirt you put in that place, that is only a temporary place that when Jesus comes back, those who believe in Jesus, he’s going to burst forth all of these places. Dirt is going to be flying in every direction and God is going to raise those who have put their faith and trust in him. First. They get to go first. Did you notice that some of you I know, I know this affects you. I know this. This is heavy because you’ve had to put away, you’ve had to put into the ground your loved ones, whether it be your spouse or a parent or. 

Yes, even some of you in this room, you’ve had to lay your kid into the ground and you haven’t gotten over it. And guess what? You’re never going to get over it because you’re not supposed to lose children. And it’s heavy and it’s hard. And sometimes it’s hard to hold on to that faith and belief that one day you will see your loved one again. But can I tell you this, this Easter, this is what’s so beautiful about the Easter story. Not only do we get to celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead, we get to be reminded that God is going to raise our loved ones from the dead as well. The resurrection includes Jesus. That includes those who have gone before, and it also includes us. Now, yesterday, some of our people that were here asked me. They said, you know, you reminded me because my loved one had passed away and I have them on the mantle of my house. And I said to them, I said, you’ve just given your loved one a head start. I said, So every time you look at that, that’s what brings you comfort. Remember that Jesus has defeated death for himself and for us. Now it goes on to say what happens to those of us that are still alive? And I don’t know where you’re at this morning, but I really hope that Jesus comes back before we die. Would anyone like to not die today? 

In fact, if he comes back on Easter 2024, I think I would be fine with that. Are you okay with that? Are you okay not knowing who wins the Final four tournament this year? Right. Are you okay Knowing if maybe you know the Tigers are two and oh, if they don’t win the championship? This year, right. Nobody cares about that. Jesus, come back. We would love for you to come back. In fact, those who were alive were left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, will be reunited with our loved ones in that instant moment. And so shall we ever be with the Lord. That’s why we say I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. It’s not just Jesus body. It’s our loved ones bodies, and it’s our bodies as well. And we can make that bold declaration because that’s what Scripture teaches us and that’s what God tells us. This is going to happen, man. This is why when Jesus was on this earth, he was able to go to funerals and he was able to look people in the eyes who were grieving the loss of their loved ones. 

One funeral in particular, he was having an interaction with the woman named Martha. And Martha was angry. I mean, she was livid with Jesus because Jesus wasn’t there to heal her brother. And so she’s giving it to him. She’s saying, why didn’t you come when I called you in? Why weren’t you here? And why did you let my loved one die? This is how Jesus responds to her. So, Martha, I’m the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall. Why do you see that veil? How Jesus just destroys it? Because he’s the one that can go in and out of life and death. He doesn’t look at things from an earthly perspective like we do. He looks at things from an eternal perspective, and this is what he knows. He sees you, he knows your thoughts, He knows the heaviness of your heart. He knows the burdens that you carry. He knows how life is on this earth. And I can promise you this. He has never, ever, ever, ever stopped loving you. He has never stopped caring about you. He was never stopped trying to get you back to himself and to wrap his loving arms around you and to take the sins that you’ve gotten yourself involved in from you and take those and instead give you peace, give you his love and give you hope of the resurrection of all flesh.

So the question for us this morning, the same question that he asked Martha, do you believe this? Do you believe Jesus? And again, that’s why our theme this year is I believe because our heart’s desire, whether you’re here in this room or you’re tuning in, is that every single person within the sound of my voice would not leave this Easter service saying, I might not understand it all. I don’t even know if I believe everything you just said, but something deep down within me is stirring me. And God give me the ability, give me the strength that no matter what I’ve been through, that God, at the end of the day, I can still say I believe you. That’s our prayer for every single one of you today. Amen. You by your heads and close your eyes with me this morning. Heavenly Father, once again, we do not believe that anybody is here on accident. You knew who you would bring to this church today. And it’s through your word that you speak to us. So thank you, God, for the power that comes through the preaching of your word. And with our heads bowed in, our eyes closed. 

If there is anyone in here this morning, maybe you’re running from God, maybe you turned your back on God. Maybe you’re angry with God the way Martha was angry with Jesus. Listen to me this morning. He sees you, He knows you. He loves you. And in this moment, he’s drawing you close to his side. And he’s saying, Give me that anger, Give me that bitterness. Give me that doubt. Watch what it is that I can do in your life. Watch it. How it is that I can rearrange your days in your time. I sent my son Jesus. Yes. To be born of a virgin. Yes. To live a sinless life. Yes. To go on a cross and to take your sins upon him. And he did it all out of love so that three days later he would become bursting forth out of that tomb so that you and I could experience life and life to the full God. We thank you for what it is that you have done for us. We thank you for what you continue to do for us. And we look forward to that day. When you come back and you take us as your own. We love you. We thank you. We pray all these things in your most precious name. Amen.