The Funeral That Didn't Last

Bible Book: Matthew  28 : 1-10
Subject: Resurrection; Easter

Matthew 27:57–28:10

I want to begin by asking a question. Have you ever attended a wedding where, based on what you knew about those getting married, you thought to yourself, “It will never last”?

Ok. Let me ask another question. Have you ever attended a funeral where, based on what you knew about the one who had died, you thought to yourself, “It will never last”?

Probably not. But I want to speak to you this morning about “The Funeral That Didn’t Last. Now as you can imagine, there are not a lot of illustrations that would help to introduce the concept of a failed funeral. But, believe it or not, I did come across a couple.

Last year, in the June 18, 2007 issue of The Shanghai Daily, there was a story about an 87 year-old man who gave his relatives a shock in Taiwan – when he woke up at his own funeral. Lydia Chen wrote…

AN 87-YEAR-OLD man in Taiwan Province who was thought to be dead awoke while relatives recited Buddhist prayers for hours at his mourning hall. Doctors said the man, who has been bedridden for a long time in Chiayi County, would die quickly if the oxygen hoses keeping him alive were removed, the China News Service cited Taiwan media as saying. The man’s family took him home, hoping he would die in his own house according to local traditions, the report said. Relatives dressed him in burial clothes and placed him in the mourning hall without the oxygen hoses … however, the man awakened and breathed heavily as family members recited sermons. The family was stunned and sent him back to hospital. Funeral parlor employees said it was a miracle, according to the report. The man is now under medical observation and doctors can’t explain what happened.

(From The Shanghai Daily –

I also came across this funny little story this week…

A man was driving along the highway, when he saw the Easter Bunny hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the Bunny, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of his car and was hit. The basket of eggs went flying all over the place along with all of the candy. The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the Bunny carrying the basket. Much to his disappointment, the Bunny was dead. The driver felt guilty and began to cry. A woman driving down the same highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong. “I feel terrible,” he explained, “I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny and killed it. … What should I do? The woman told the man not to worry. She knew exactly what to do.

She went to the trunk of her car, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the … dead Bunny, and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the little furry animal. Miraculously, the Easter Bunny came back to life, jumped up, picked up the spilled eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road. Fifty yards away, the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hopped on down the road another 50 yards where it turned, waved, hopped another 50 yards and waved again!

The man was shocked. He said to the woman, “What in the world was in your spray can?” The woman turned the can around so that he could read the label. It said: “Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair, and adds a permanent wave.”

I heard another story (in fact, I shared it last year) about a man and his wife who was constantly irritated with him; a rather unpleasant woman. The two of them decided that they would take a trip to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. While they were there, the wife suddenly passed away. The undertaker told the husband, “You can have her shipped home for $5,000, or you can bury her here, in the Holy Land, for $150.” The man thought about it and told him he would just have her shipped home. The undertaker asked, “Why would you spend $5,000 to ship your wife home, when it would be wonderful to be buried here and you would spend only $150?” The man replied, “Long ago a man died here, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance.”

In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, John MacArthur said that “Some years ago the Canadian author G. B. Hardy wrote a book about life, philosophy, and destiny (in which) he noted that there are really only two questions to ask with regard to destiny: (1) Has anyone ever defeated death? And (2) If so, did he make a way for us to do it also? Hardy then explains that he found the answer to both questions in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that with that answer he also found salvation and eternal life.”

I’m glad today that the Captain of our salvation conquered death, hell, and the grave! And when He left the tomb on that third and appointed morning, He inspired the question, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) And the funeral didn’t last! This morning, it’s on my heart to highlight some of the things that pertain to this wonderful truth. As we begin in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 27…

I. I Want Us To Notice The Rigor-Mortis Element In This Account

rigor mor·tis (môr“t¹s) n. Muscular stiffening following death. [Latin : rigor, stiffness + mortis, genitive of mors, death.]

(I use this term “rigor-mortis” simply to emphasize that Jesus had actually died.)

(Matthew 27:57-60) When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: {58} He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. {59} And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, {60} And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

A. It Is Evident That Jesus Was Deceased Because There Was A Dead Body

1. Let’s Consider The Instances Of This Word “Body”

(Matthew 27:58-59) He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. {59} And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

As Matthew Henry reminds us, “Pilate would not deliver his body to be buried, till he was well assured that he was really dead.” Listen to Mark’s account…

(Mark 15:43-45) Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. {44} And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. {45} And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

2. Let’s Think About The Indications Of This Word “Body”

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says of the Greek term “soma” or “sooma” (NT:4983) translated as “body,” that “A first meaning is the traditional one of ‘corpse’.”

(From the abridged edition of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)

B. It Is Evident That Jesus Was Deceased Because There Was A Definite Burial

1. The Stone Of The Sepulchre Was Shut With Jesus’ Body Inside

(Matthew 27:59-60) And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, {60} And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia says…

Taking all that are known, and all that are likely to be discovered, there are not probably 500, certainly not 1000, rock cut loculi (stone cavities or compartments used as tombs) in or about Jerusalem; and as that city must in the days of its prosperity have possessed a population of from 30,000 to 40,000 souls, it is evident that the bulk of the people must then, as now, have been content with graves dug in the earth.

These tombs or sepulchers cut into the rock would sometimes have several compartments with various flat resting places cut into the slab of rock, which would accommodate several bodies … most likely, the members of the owner’s family. And with the statistics above in mind, only a very wealthy individual must have been able to afford such a tomb, especially in a desirable location such as the garden where Joseph’s tomb was. Now John 19:42 tells us that they laid Jesus there “because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” It was a matter of convenience, but still, for Joseph of Arimathaea to place Jesus’ body into his new tomb was a very magnanimous gesture on the part of this disciple.

Matthew Henry said…

A great stone was rolled to the door of his sepulcher … signifying that those who are dead, are separated and cut off from all the living; if the grave were his prison, now was the prison-door locked and bolted. The rolling of the stone to the grave’s mouth, was with them as filling up the grave is with us, it completed the funeral.

2. The Stone Of The Sepulchre Was Sealed With Jesus’ Body Inside (Matthew 27:62-66)

(Matthew 27:66) So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

Matthew Henry said, “Methinks that word, Make it as sure as you can, looks like a banter … ‘Be sure to set a strong guard upon the dead man’.”

The Barnes’ Notes Commentary said…

The sepulchre was made sure by affixing the large stone to the entrance in such a way that it could not be removed without detection. It was sealed. In what way this was done cannot now be certainly told … perhaps by fastening the stone in its place with cords, and bringing them together and uniting them with wax, and impressing on that the seal of the king. … Possibly on the sepulchre of Jesus was impressed in this manner the seal of Pilate – the seal of office – making it doubly sure; or it may be that the stone was fitted into the tomb with clay or cement, and on that was impressed the seal of Pilate.

Had Jesus’ own disciples sealed the sepulchre, His enemies could have called the resurrection a fraud. But His enemies’ sealed it, thus certifying that He was dead and buried. But as the old Presbyterian preacher T. Dewitt Talmadge said…

I am impressed with the fact that you cannot keep the dead down. The seal of the Sanhedrin soldiers, cannot keep Christ in the crypt. (From The Biblical Illustrator)

And this brings us to the next point:

II. I Want Us To Notice The Resurrection Element In This Account

In Philippians 3:10, Paul said that he wanted to know Christ “and the power of His resurrection.” When we think about Christ’s resurrection, we realize that…

A. There Is Something Powerful In The Actual Details Of Christ’s Resurrection

1. Let’s Think About The Suggestiveness Of The Chronological Explanation

Matthew’s gospel says…

(Matthew 28:1) 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.

dawn – Greek 2020. epiphosko, ep-ee-foce'-ko; a form of G2017; to begin to grow light:--begin to dawn, X draw on.

But listen to how it is stated in Mark’s gospel…

(Mark 16:1-2) And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. {2} And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

As one songwriter put it, “At sunrise, the Son rose!”

2. Let’s Think About The Strength Of The Cataclysmic Event

(Matthew 28:2) 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.

great – Greek 3173. megas; means big. The word is also translated in other place in the NT as “ large, loud, mighty, strong” among others.

earthquake – Greek 4578. seismos (sounds like our word seismic); a commotion, i.e. (of the air) a gale, (of the ground) an earthquake: --earthquake, tempest.

When the Lord died, the Bible says…

(Matthew 27:51-52) And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; {52} And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

So apparently, when graves are opened in a supernatural way, the earth quakes.

B. There Is Something Powerful In The Angel’s Declaration Of Christ’s Resurrection

(Matthew 28:5-6) 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.

1. The Angel Reminds Us How The Distressed Are Comforted Through His Resurrection

(Matthew 28:5) And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

fear – Greek 5399. phobeo, fob-eh'-o; from G5401; to frighten, i.e. (pass.) to be alarmed; by anal. to be in awe of, i.e. revere:--be (+ sore) afraid, fear (exceedingly), reverence.

not – Greek NT:3361 ‎mh/ ‎me (may); a primary particle of qualified negation (whereas NT:3756 expresses an absolute denial); (adverbially) not, (conjunctionally) lest; also (as an interrogative implying a negative answer.

2. The Angel Reminds Us How Death Is Conquered Through His Resurrection

(Matthew 28:6) He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

here – Greek 5602. hode; means in this same spot, i.e. here or hither:--here, hither, (in) this place, there.

risen – Greek 1453. egeiro; probably akin to the base of G58 (through the idea of collecting one’s faculties); to waken, rouse (lit. from sleep, from sitting or lying, from disease, from death; or fig. from obscurity, inactivity, ruins, nonexistence):--awake, lift (up), raise (again, up), rear up, (a-) rise (again, up), stand, take up.

Listen to this statement from The Pulpit Commentary…

On this simple, but pregnant sentence, “He is risen,” depends the phenomenon of Christianity, in its origin, existence, continuance, extension, and moral power. “Death began with woman; and to women the first announcement is made of resurrection.”

Concerning this statement, “He is risen,” W. M. Taylor said…

Let us consider its relation to the Saviour’s former utterances, “He is risen, as He said” (John 2:18-21; Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22). Christ perilled His whole Deity and Messiahship on His resurrection.

(From The Biblical Illustrator)

And His resurrection assures us of our resurrection. Jesus said in John 14:19, “because I live, ye shall live also.”

To receive word about Jesus’ resurrection from an angel must have been glorious; but imagine the One that had risen from the dead coming to you Himself!

III. I Want Us To Notice The Revelation Element In This Account

(Acts 1:1-3) The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, {2} Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: {3} To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

The Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts says…

Central to Christian faith is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. By recording the resurrection appearances, the New Testament leaves no doubt about this event.

On the day He arose, there were five “post-resurrection” appearances of the Lord that are mentioned in the scriptures. It is somewhat difficult to keep up with the actual sequence of events of Jesus’ resurrection day. However, in the book, “The Fourfold Gospel,” J. W. McGarvey and Philip Pendleton do an excellent job of merging the various scriptures pertaining to the time after Jesus’ resurrection into a more understandable timeline.

The book is viewable online at

The order of our Lord’s appearances on the day of His resurrection would seem to be:

(1) To Mary Magdalene (John 20:14–18)

(2) To the women returning from the tomb with the angelic message (Matthew 28:8–10)

(3) To Peter, probably in the afternoon (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)

(4) To the Emmaus disciples toward evening (Luke 24:13–31)

(5) To the apostles, except Thomas (Luke 24:36–43; John 20:19–24)

A. He Appeared To Those Who Were Women

1. He Came To One Woman With A Message Of Reassurance

(Mark 16:9) Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

(John 20:14-16) And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. {15} Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. {16} Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

The word “weep” in this context indicates that she was sobbing and wailing aloud. But with a single mention of her name, Jesus restored hope and happiness.


(John 20:11-12) But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, {12} And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

McGarvey and Pendleton said of this scene: “The angels were placed like cherubim upon the ark, as though the grave of Christ was a new mercy seat, which indeed it was.”

2. He Came To Other Women With A Message Of Rejoicing

Mary Magdalene had already run to get the disciples at this point, so this group of women that included Mary the mother of James, one named Salome, and one named Joanna had heard the message of the angel…

(Matthew 28:8-10) 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.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says that this phrase “All hail” (Greek ‎chairete‎) was “the usual salute (and the Greek form of salutation), but from the lips of Jesus bearing a higher signification.”

hail – Greek 5463. chairo, khah’ee-ro; a primary verb meaning to be “cheer”ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off; impers. espec. as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well:--farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.

We might render this salutation as “Good Morning,” or “Good Day to you Ladies,” or “Hope you are well today.” But the word also has the idea of “Rejoice.” And that must have been the essence of what Jesus wanted to convey to these women on this special morning.

B. He Appeared To Those Who Were Waiting

One of the interesting post-resurrection appearances of Jesus was when he came to the Emmaus road disciples, to Cleopas and his travelling companion…

(Luke 24:17) And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?

To these two He came in their Forlornness. But there was one appearance before the Emmaus road and one after the Emmaus road that I want to mention in a more particular way…

1. He Came To Simon In His Failure (See John 20:1-10)

We have no specific details of this encounter, but the Bible says…

(Luke 24:33-34) And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, {34} Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.

(1 Corinthians 15:3-5) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; {4} And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: {5} And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

2. He Came To Some In Their Fearfulness

(Luke 24:36-39) And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them (the eleven who had gathered without Thomas and possibly without Simon), and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. {37} But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. {38} And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? {39} Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

troubled – Greek 5015. tarasso, tar-as'-so; of uncert. affin.; to stir or agitate (roil water):--trouble.

thoughts – Greek 1261. dialogismos, dee-al-og-is-mos'; from G1260; discussion, i.e. (internal) consideration (by impl. purpose), or (external) debate:--dispute, doubtful (-ing), imagination, reasoning, thought.

May I say that because the risen Christ is still alive today, He is able to come to you spiritually and speak to you in your times of confusion and sadness, in your times of failure and fear. And if you do not know Him personally, He is able to come and save you by His grace.


One of the great Easter songs that expresses the truth that this was a funeral that didn’t last is the song written by Robert Lowry. In his book “101 More Hymn Stories,” Kenneth Osbeck said that “During the Easter season of 1874, while having his devotions one evening, Robert Lowry was impressed with the events associated with Christ’s resurrection, especially with these words recorded in Luke 24:6-8:

He is not here, but is risen; remember how He spoke unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words.

Osbeck continued by saying…

Soon Robert Lowry found himself seated at the little pump organ in the parlor of his home, and, in a very spontaneous fashion, there came forth the music and the words, giving expression to the thoughts that had been uppermost in his mind. … The hymn’s verses and refrain depict a vivid contrast between the moods of death and resurrection.

The songs says…

Verse 1: Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Verse 2: Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior; Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Verse 3: Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior; He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!


Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,

He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!