One Comment to “Guarding Against Deception”

  1. Don McMahon
    April 22, 2019

    “Guarding Against Deception” (Matthew 27:57–28:15)(4.21.19) Easter
    Matthew 27:57–28:15 (NIV84)
    57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
    62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
    65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
    28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
    2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
    5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
    8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
    11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Last Sunday afternoon, Carol and I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar at Absegami High School. We have seen many of their productions over the years, but this show was just awesome. Kudos to all those involved.
    Jesus Christ Superstar ends with Jesus dying on the cross. As we exited the building, I had an impulse to jump up on the bench outside the entrance and preach “That isn’t the end of the story.” I can give many excuses about why I didn’t; but, I have felt convicted all week.
    No, Good Friday is not the end of the story. The death of Jesus is not the end of the story. Jesus Christ Superstar was created as a Rock Opera Album in the late 60’s by Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and produced in 1970. This was a tumultuous decade. In 1966, Time Magazine featured the iconic cover that asked, “Is God Dead?”
    Certainly, there are theological issues with this show. It is loosely based on the Biblical account. Two different songs contain the lyrics, “He’s just a man.” By ending the story with Jesus dying on the cross, I wonder if the Pharisees, the chief priests and the elders, co-wrote this account with Webber and Rice.
    How ironic that the religious leaders called Jesus a deceiver. Because in John 8:43–47 (NIV84), Jesus says to them:
    43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
    They prove Jesus true when we read in today’s scripture that they conspired with the guards to deceive Pilate, to deceive the local population, and they hoped to deceive all of humanity. Like Judas taking the 30 pieces of silver, the soldiers succumbed to the allure of money and self-interest.
    The chief priests and Pharisees had petitioned Pilate to guard against a deception they said. What did they mean about this possible deception being greater than Jesus’ first deception? Maybe it was that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Maybe it was the Jesus was the Christ. Maybe it was the Jesus was the Son of God. Maybe they meant all of that and more, the sum total of Jesus’ life.
    You see, as long as Jesus remained in the tomb, it is much easier to believe he is just a man. Then those miracles may have been a mirage. Healing the sick and lame was a ruse. Feeding the five thousand was slieght of hand. Raising Lazarus from the dead was a magic trick.
    On the other hand, if Jesus was resurrected, then it was all real, it was the truth. Human history had changed direction. Jesus was the king of kings, the Son of God, and the Messiah. They would have been guilty of collusion in the killing of the Christ. They had posted a Roman Guard to prevent the Truth from getting out.
    Before Dr. Jeff Siegel left last week, he gave me a DVD titled, “Who Really Killed Jesus?” It is a debate between Rabbi Schmuley Boteach and Dr. Michael Brown. Dr. Brown is a Messianic Jew and is connected with Chosen People Ministries like Jeff Siegel. In other words, though Jewish, they believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I watched this debate as objectively as I could.
    After hearing the Rabbi Boteach’s opening remarks, Dr. Brown asks, “Do you know how a magician is able to trick you? They deceive you by distracting your attention. In this case, through emotional appeal; misquoting scripture; taking things out of context; and, by partial truths.” I warn you, “Guard againt these tactics.”
    Years ago, I heard a famous pastor preach twice. It was at the chapel of Drew Theological School. If you paid attention, you could tell that he was manipulating the audience, the congregation. He knew the standard buttons to push to get the standard responses. He played on prejudices and emotion. Rhetoric and debating techniques may be effective, but if they are necessary then suspect deception.
    Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:4–5 (NIV84)
    4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
    Last month, “a poll conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation suggests that a majority of those who consider themselves Christians in the United Kingdom are not convinced Jesus physically died and rose from the dead. Only 46 percent of those professed Christians believe a “key tenent of the Christian faith,” which is that Jesus physically died and physically rose again as the Bible describes it.”
    And yet, they consider themselves Christians. I tell you that they are decieved. We read in Romans 4:25 (NIV84) He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. In other words, without the resurrection, there is no access to heaven, to God’s kingdom.
    Paul tells us the gospel message succinctly. 1 Corinthians 15:3–6 (NIV84)
    3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (that is 512 witnesses)
    There are some here that are skeptical about the reliability of the scriptures.
    As I entered Absegami High School last Sunday, I noticed Sarah Mostofa, she’s quite tall. I texted her and told her that I had an encouraging story about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes because she is their area representative in Atlantic and Cape May Counties. At intermission, I shared Dr. Jeff Siegel’s testimony with her.
    Here is the reader’s digest version. Jeff was a college baseball player. Some of the other players were involved with the FCA. They shared the good news of Jesus with him; but having been raised in a Jewish family he was hesitant. He had never read the New Testament and because he did not want to be decieved, he prayed a special prayer. “Lord, show me in the Hebrew scriptures if Jesus is the Messiah.” The Lord answered his prayer.
    Though it caused severe family conflict he became a follower of Jesus. He started a worldwide sports ministry and became involved with Chosen People ministries. If you saw his presentation last week, you know that he has a firm grasp of the truth of the New Testament Jesus.
    My personal testimony includes having read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He is an atheist turned Christian. Lee Strobel was the award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune and is the bestselling author of over two dozen books. With a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale, he led a team that won United Press International’s top award for investigative reporting. Lee has won four Gold Medallions for publishing excellence and coauthored the Christian Book of the Year. He serves as professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University. You may have seen Lee on a variety of TV shows or in the movie “God’s Not Dead 2.” He is also on staff at the Woodlands Church outside of Houston where my oldest son is a member.
    As the Case for Christ chronicles, Lee became seriously concerned when his wife Leslie fell for the fairy tale of Christianity. He set out to use all of his professional training to refute her belief in Jesus. Instead, he became a devout follower.
    One of his more recent books is The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural. In preparation for today’s message, I reviewed my autographed copy. Chapter 11 covers the Miracle of the Resurrection: An Interview with Detective J. Warner Wallace. Here is a brief excerpt from that chapter:
    “Even for a decorated cold-case homicide investigator, this was a formidable challenge. J. Warner Wallace had used his considerable detective skills to solve murders that were decades old, but he had never tackled a case that stretched back for two millennia.
    What’s more, this time he wasn’t merely attempting to identify the perpetrator of a long-ago crime; instead, he was trying to determine whether the victim was truly deceased – and whether he defied all naturalistic explanations by rising from the dead three days later.
    Quite an assignment for someone who was at the time a hyper-skeptical atheist.
    It wasn’t until Wallace was thirty-five that he subjected the gospels to months of painstaking analysis through various investigative techniques, including what detectives call “forensic statement analysis.” This skill involves critically analyzing a person’s account of events – including word choice and structure – to determine whether he is being truthful or deceptive. Eventually, Wallace became convinced that Christianity is true beyond a reasonable doubt.
    The answers ended up convincing him that Jesus, in time and space, actually did conquer his tomb and thereby provide convincing evidence of his divinity. It was that meticulous investigation of the miraculous resurrection that prompted me [Lee Strobel] to jump on a plane to fly to Southern California, where I met with Wallace at his ranch-style house in Orange County.”
    “I’m an ‘all in’ kind of guy,” Wallace said to me. “C. S. Lewis said if Christianity isn’t true, it’s of no importance, but if it is true, nothing is more important – and I agree. That’s why I’ve jumped in with both feet.”
    ”After becoming a Christian in 1996, Wallace earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Golden Baptist Theological Seminary, served as a youth pastor, and planted a church. Currently, he is an adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, is a senior fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and teaches at Summit Ministries in Colorado.”
    “Wallace has written several books, like Cold-Case Christianity, in which he offers ten principles from his detective work that can be used to examine the reliability of the gospels. Today, this once-doubting atheist travels around the country to speak on becoming a “Christian case maker,” or someone who can effectively articulate the evidence that backs up the essential claims of faith.”
    In addition to the gospel accounts, our personal experiences of transformation confirm the power of the Resurrection. Aptly named author R. L. Wise says, “We do not define the resurrection as much as it defines us. And as it does, our lives are transformed. We experience the results of the resurrection.”
    Rosalind Picard is an MIT Professor who says, “I used to think religious people were ignoramuses. Then I got smart and took a chance on God.” In her testimony shared last month in Christianity Today, she shared her journey into faith. She grew up excelling in the sciences and being trained in the scientific approach.
    After praying, “Jesus Christ, I ask you to be Lord of my life,” my world changed dramatically, as if a flat, black-and-white existence suddenly turned full-color and three-dimensional. But I lost nothing of my urge to seek new knowledge. In fact, I felt emboldened to ask even tougher questions about how the world works. I felt joy and freedom—but also a heightened sense of responsibility and challenge.
    So, I know the days of the week are backwards in this story, but here is what I experienced. You already know that Carol and I witnessed the death of Jesus on the cross last Sunday afternoon during Jesus Christ Superstar. This past Friday, after our Good Friday Service here at Emmaus, I met Carol at Lindy Hops with all the grandchildren and their friends to get ice cream.
    As we waited for the children to order, I noticed a young man coming up the sidewalk. He seemed vaguely familiar; and then it clicked. He was the actor who played Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. I asked Carol, “Hey, isn’t that Jesus? She turns and sees him opening the door and replies, “Yes, it is Jesus.”
    My friends, Jesus is alive. The Bible tells us so. There were hundreds of witnesses. The early church flourished during persecution because of their belief that Jesus was resurrected. Many of us have experienced the resurrection in the deepest recesses of our souls.
    Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17 (NIV84)
    14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
    Brothers and sisters, guard against deception. If anyone denies the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, they belong to their father the devil. Paul warns Timothy, (2 Timothy 3:13-14) But evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse as they deceive others and are themselves deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and found to be true, because you know from whom you learned it.
    Early on that first Easter morning:
    5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
    Now, I have told YOU. Go quickly and tell, “Jesus is alive.”
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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