"I shook up the world," Cassius Clay proclaimed after he beat Sonny Liston to become boxing's heavyweight champion. Clay later became a Muslim, changed his name to Muhammad Ali, one of the most flamboyant and well known athletes of the 20th century. He was once on a plane and the flight attendant instructed him to fasten his seat belt. He said, "Honey, Superman don't need a seatbelt." She responded, "Champ, Superman doesn't need a plane." He buckled up, but he never lost the sparkle in his eye or the unwavering belief that he could accomplish whatever he set his mind to. Muhammad Ali was a great boxer - maybe the greatest ever. But, while his victory Liston was surprising, he did not "shake up the world." Champions come and champions go.
Historical events leave a lasting mark. The Holocaust, the end of WW II, the landing on the moon, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01; these are events we don't forget. These things matter. But even moments in history and stories that have a lasting impact can be located at in time and to left at that point in time Hitler, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Barak Obama, Donald Trump - they all matter for good or bad reasons; but they all pass away. Time marches on.
One man truly shook up the world. Jesus of Nazareth came from a small village in Northern Israel; he was the son of Joseph, a carpenter, and he lived in the first century AD and as far as we know, spent a few childhood years in Egypt but otherwise never traveled outside of Israel. His life changed the world like no one else has.
Jesus was God in human flesh – 100% divine and 100% human. He lived a perfect life, never sinning a single time. His countrymen accused him of blasphemy and turned him in to the Roman authorities; though Jesus was not found guilty of any crime, to appease the crowd, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, agreed to take Jesus’ life. He was flogged, and they pounded a crown of thorns into his head. The soldiers mocked him and forced Him to carry the wooden beam he would hang on from the city to the hill called Golgotha. And there, he was killed.
Who killed him? The authorities who accused him? The soldiers who flogged him? The governor who passed the sentence? God, who allowed it to happen? Or, you and I? We sin as all humans do. Jesus died on the cross to take on himself the penalty for our sins. We desperately need God's forgiveness, and we receive that forgiveness when put our faith in Jesus.
The story doesn’t end with Jesus’ lifeless body hanging on the cross or laid in a tomb. On Sunday morning, the women who followed him, brought spices to the tomb to anoint His body, a last act of love for their lord. When they got to the tomb, the earth beneath their feet rattled and shook.
They watched as an angel descended from heaven and rolled away the boulder sealing the opening. The angel announced that Jesus was not there. Living people don't lay in graves. They had seen him die. He was really dead. But on Sunday morning, he shed those burial clothes and walked out of that tomb alive and well. Because he conquered death, all who trust in Jesus have eternal life. Everyone who confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord will be saved from eternal separation from God. The only ones who face an eternity apart from God are those who reject Jesus and choose not to follow Him.
If you choose to open your heart to Christ and ask Him in, He'll come. You'll know Him, you'll be adopted as a child of God, and you'll be a subject in the Kingdom of Heaven. Only Jesus "shook up the world."
Matthew, the Gospel writer, uses the word quake three times.
In chapter 27, Jesus hanging on the cross, cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." When he died, the curtain in the temple that cordoned off the section called the Holy of Holies ripped in two.
The people believed that God literally lived in there. Once a year, the high priest would go in there and offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people that year. They tied a rope around the priest so that if he died in God's presence they could drag him out. The only time any ancient person even uttered God's name was on that day. The priest would go in, make the sacrifice, pray God's name, and he was done.
When Jesus died, his sacrifice was acceptable for all sins of all people of all time. God tore the temple curtain to show that he doesn't live in a little room. God is present in all places. In Christ all people can go to Him. At the moment the temple curtain ripped, Matthew reports there was a powerful earthquake. Rocks were split in two. Creation itself cried out when God's son died. One of the Roman soldiers declared "Truly this man was the Son of God." This mighty Roman warrior, was awestruck. He knew that he was witnessing an act of God.
The second time Matthew used the word ‘quake’ comes from what was read earlier - 28:2. Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary went to anoint Jesus' body when the ground beneath their feet began to tremble. But this earthquake wasn't intended to terrify or kill anyone. Just as the earth cried out in anguish, now, Sunday, the earth rumbled praise. Jesus conquered death and just as he predicted they would, the rocks cried out!
On Easter Sunday morning, we see Heaven's power unleashed. When one angel - not an army - but 1, descended, the earth shook. Several strong men working extremely hard were need to move the stone that sealed the tomb. The angel rolled it away effortlessly. He moved the boulder so the women could see that the grave was empty. Jesus was already gone. He didn't need the angel's assistance. His resurrected body cannot be constrained by physical limitations like stones, doors, locks, or walls. This second quake was a testimony that Jesus was and is alive.
The angel's action leads to the third time Matthew used the same word - quake - to tell the story. Before Jesus was buried, Pilate dispatched a small unit of soldiers to guard tomb because the chief priests feared that the disciples would try to stage a resurrection by stealing the body of Jesus. When the angle descended, those guards fell to the ground, stricken with fear. Just as the earth quaked at Jesus’s death and again at his resurrection, Matthew writes that the guards quaked. For fear of the angel, the guards shook and became like dead men. Imagine a battalion of Romans marching into town, the ground rumbling with each step. Now, imagine these mighty soldiers lying in the fetal position and begging for life because one angel showed them the might of the Lord.
The angel told the women, "Do not be afraid. Go quickly and tell His disciples He has been raised." They started down the road to carry out their assignment, but they encountered someone along the way. The risen Christ himself met them to say "Good Morning!"
The women fell at his feet, overcome with joy, relief, and awe. "Do not be afraid,” he said, “Go and tell my disciples to meet me in Galilee." When he met the disciples, he told them, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded."
The Easter story is easy to remember and retell. Jesus Christ has risen. He is alive. Go and tell people they can have life in Christ if they come to Him in faith. The women who were brave enough to come to the tomb were the first messenger, the first witnesses to testify. Next, the 11 male disciples, excluding Judas, met Jesus, believed, and became the leaders of the first churches. They told and retold the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The church was born. The world was changed
Today there are churches all over the world. In every almost language on earth, people can read the story and make their own decision to follow Christ. There are churches of all shapes and colors, and in God's church all people are brothers and sisters. Prejudice has no place here. In His name, we are united. We have peace. We share love. We live life together. Kings and beggars alike find salvation in the cross and eternal life in the empty tomb.
Jesus shook up the world, but you only feel the tremors when you submit your life to His will. You only experience the glory when you ask Him into your heart. Do you want to become involved in the story of Easter by giving your life to Christ? Or, would you prefer to live as if it didn't matter? His invitation is open. You can come to Him, invite Him in, He'll take residence in your heart, and your life will be changed forever. He's done His part. He went to the cross and now the tomb is empty.
The next step is yours. The final line of an old worship song goes like there. “Were you there when he rose up the grave? Were you there when he rose up from the grave? O-o-o, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Where you there when he rose up from the grave?" Let your hear tremble. Ask Jesus to shake up your world. Receive Him as Savior. Worship Him as Lord. Tell of what he’s done as the good new; world-changing news.