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Mark 16:1-8

Easter Sunday 2022

Sermon Notes + Quotes (PDF)

As most of you know, we study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel. We today will depart from our study of Matthew’s gospel, toward the front third of that. And I want to invite you back next week; we’re studying what you just prayed a moment ago, the Lord’s Prayer, and a wonderful study of the way Jesus taught His disciples to pray. We have a few extra copies of the Scriptures, if you would like one to follow along today, we’re going to be looking at Mark 16 here on Resurrection Sunday. So, we’re going to look at one of the resurrection stories. Raise your hand if you need a copy, and if not, we’ll press right on in and read these eight verses, which I love. A lot of preachers sometimes get panicky around Resurrection Sunday, around Advent, these kind of major holidays in the Christian calendar, because it means they’ve got to figure out something new to say. And I’ve just relieved myself of that burden, I really want to say something very old and very true today, and that’s what gives me hope.

As we look at this passage, I want to set the scene a little bit. We’re going to back up into chapter 15. It’s not posted on the screen, but if you have your Bible open, you can follow along with me. This is the story of when Jesus was buried. “When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath.” Now Christ is on the cross. “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council,” that’s the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious council of the day, made up of Pharisees and Sadducees, I think there were 70 of them. And this guy was a prominent member of that council. “He was himself waiting for the kingdom of God,” and Joseph evidently a secret believer in Jesus. He comes and he gathered up the courage, and he went in before Pilate, and he asks for the body of Jesus. So, he wants to take the body of Jesus down. He’s going to bury Jesus’ body in Joseph’s own tomb. So, Jesus who goes to the cross and bears the weight of borrowed sins, yours and mine, will now move to a borrowed grave. And I’m so excited because the old story is this, He’s going to do to that grave what He’s going to do to my grave and to your grave one day, but I’m getting ahead of myself. So go back.

Now John’s Gospel tells us that Nicodemus is along with Joseph on this and helps to bury the body of Jesus. You can look that up yourself in John 19. “Pilate wondered…” this is Pontus Pilate, the procurator or the governor of the time, “…wondered if He was dead.” In other words, is Jesus actually dead by this time? “Summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead.” The centurion was the executioner, the chief guy in charge at the cross. He was a perfectional executioner. There’s no question of this man’s knowledge base and experience base when it comes to dead. He understood how to kill people, how to put them to death. So, there’s no question. And this man says, yeah. “So, ascertaining the centurion, he granted the body”, well Pilate did, “He granted it to Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph bought a linen sheet, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen sheet, laid Him in a tomb, which had been hewn out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”

I’ve been to Israel five different times, and we stop at a site called the Garden Tomb, and it’s powerful. We don’t know if it was the tomb He was buried in or not, but it’s been dated back to around that time, it’s in the same basic neighborhood, but there would’ve been, of course, lots and lots of tombs. And it’s just one of those kind of moments where you’re sitting in front of this tomb and you see a gigantic stone that would be rolled against it, and it’s really impressive and brutal, and both ugly and at the same time beautiful because of what happens next. “Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joseph were looking on to see where Jesus was laid.” Okay, so Mary Magdalene, a couple other women are there, you can read the other accounts and you’ll find a group of them that are there. And they’re following along, and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are carrying this body of Jesus to this grave site that belonged to Joseph, and they’re going to bury Him.

“Now, when Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary mother of James, and Salome bought spices that they might come and anoint Him.” And so, the folks that say they went to the wrong tomb, that’s why they didn’t find a body. Nah, it’s men that need to stop and ask directions, not women. The women had the foresight to actually follow Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, they physically followed them to the tomb. So, there’s none of that, that just is way out of bounds. They come early in the morning, they’re early risers, and they’ve got these spices, verse 1 says of chapter 16, that they might come and anoint Him. So, what did they expect as they come to the correct tomb? They expected a dead body. They didn’t expect a risen Savior, a risen Christ. They expected to see a dead body, but they’ve got one problem, and that’ll be referenced here in just the second, “Very early on the first day of the week they came to the tomb when the sun had risen,” and they’re wanting to anoint with spices, this ritual that they would do back then, they’d wrap dead bodies in 75 to 100 pounds of grave clothes and spices. And it’s an honor to do that, it’s honoring those who have fallen, those who have died. And so, they’re coming to do that. “And they were saying to one another”, verse three tells us, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” See, they understood because they’d seen how big that stone was, who’s going to roll away the stone? Great question, really is a good question. Interesting that they came in spite of the fact that they didn’t have that sorted. Great question for us to ask ourselves in our own day and time as well, who will roll away the stone for you? Who will roll away the stone for me? Who will roll away the stone for the Ukrainian family on the screen? For all of us, who will roll away the stone from the entrance of our tomb?

“Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.” Another one of the gospel records says the angel rolled away the stone and then sat upon it. I thought that angel was probably wearing blue jeans, just casual, you know, had some kind of rock and roll t-shirt on, and just sat down on the stone and took a break, a little union break there for that moment. I love this, just rolled the stone away, and the angel can do that, right? The women are asking, who’s going to help us roll away? No, the angel just took care of it, and God took the initiative to do all of that. And I suggest to you that the stone was rolled away, not just so Jesus could get out, but so we could get in, so these women could get in. They’ll go and tell the disciples, and they’ll be breathless, they’ll burst through the door, and they’ll sound hysterical to some of the other disciples, but two of the disciples will light out the front door of that room where they’re gathered. John and Peter.

And in John’s gospel, John tells us he beat Peter to the tomb in their foot race. But interestingly enough, he also tells us that he stopped at the entrance to the tomb, and he didn’t go in. His religion told him that he would be unclean if he went inside the tomb. Peter, on the other hand, same religion, but just was so desperate, because last time we read about him, he had denied Christ three times. “I don’t know Him, I don’t know Him,” and the last time he cursed when he said, “I don’t know Him.” He was just so confused, he was so fearful, and we’ve all been confused and fearful. We’ve all said things, bursting out with that kind of fear that just represents what’s going on, the chaos in our own mind, our own heart. And he did that. And the thought that Jesus might be alive… oh, here’s Peter, desperate for reconciliation. And he basically says, “Man, to heck with the religious rules,” and he runs into the tomb headfirst. And sometimes I think things that are really important need to be entered into before we can experience them. And the tomb was that way. The empty tomb was that way to really understand that He’s risen. Sometimes you just have to take a step of faith and believe that, see?

Well back to the women, there they are asking the question, and “They looked up, the stone had been rolled away,” even though it was really big. Verse five, “Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe, and they were amazed.” And the other accounts will also talk about angelic figures being there, in one of the other accounts it’s two angels, in this one it’s one angel. Does that mean the Bible contradicts itself? Oh no. If you and I run into each other in the grocery store and you go home later and say, “You know, I ran into Kim at the grocery store and had a great conversation, got this really cool idea.” Is that wrong, what you said? No, I was there too, it’s just, I don’t know anything about food, except to eat it, you know? And so, it’s not wrong, it’s just a different perspective on the same reality, same truth, the same story that happened.

And this one angel speaks to them, verse six, and says, “Do not be amazed.” In some of your English translations it might say, “Do not be alarmed.” And even as Tommy was saying, one of the most frequently mentioned positive commands is “Sing.” Well, one of the most prominent negative commands in the Scriptures is “Don’t be afraid, do not fear.” So, he’s calming them, comforting them a little bit here, right? He says, “…you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene who has been in crucified.” This angel reminds the women, He’s been crucified. Yes, He’s indeed been killed. “But He’s risen, He is not here. Behold, here is the place where they laid Him.” And the angel unfolds his wing and points right to the place where His grave clothes were lying. “And then he looks at the women and says, but go, tell his disciples and Peter”, I just love that that’s there. And Peter, why did he have to just add, “and Peter” on there, I mean, he’s one of the disciples, isn’t he? Yes, He is, but He’s the one that failed miserably three times by denying Christ. And the angel and the Lord, through the angel, wants Peter to know that he’s still included, even though he failed so miserably.

And I want you to know that too. And I need to remind myself of that all the time, because I fail as well, I deny Him as well. When I’m afraid, I’m thinking God might get it wrong. When I’m angry, I’m thinking God did get it wrong. And Peter is added by name here. “So go tell his disciples and Peter. He is going before you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He said to you.” His promises are sure. “They went out, they fled from the tomb for”, and here, I love this, “Trembling and astonishment had gripped them. And they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” This is the good kind of fear, this is the good kind of trembling and amazement. I fear myself that in our day and time we tremble at the wrong things. We should be trembling, yes, for who the Lord is and what He has done, trembling in a very good way, because we’re so astonished and amazed at his grace that would save a sinner like me. Are you kidding me? I failed Him like Peter failed Him, you failed Him like Peter failed Him, and yet He’s chosen to love of us. Well, I’m going to try to make the case, if you’ll just give me a few more minutes, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ stirs hope even so many years later.

Here we are, a couple thousand years later. And I’m going to make the case that this resurrection is an event. It’s not just some bit of mythology; it’s not just meant to be a metaphor for springtime. And I love springtime by the way, I found us one of those open nursery things yesterday, came home sneezing, loved the whole experience of planting stuff in the yard, or out on the patio. I love all of that, but that’s not what the resurrection is about at all. And I’ll give you the four points in advance here, even though it’s not on a slide. I’m going to argue the resurrection of Jesus is philosophically reasonable, historically credible, globally beautiful and personally transforming. And I’ll do it as quickly as I can. I suggest to you that all of us have worldviews, each and every one of us in this room, every person alive has a worldview. We all, in some way, interpret the world around us as to what’s going on, as to our own life experiences, as to what we think about reality.

And there are lots of categories to a person’s noetic structure or their worldview. These might be metaphysic, epistemological, anthropologic, theological, ethical and aesthetic. Do you need a cup of coffee after those terms? I don’t think you do; I think you understand a bit of what I’m saying. Epistemology is that study of philosophy that deals with what can we know, and with how much certainty can we know it, and how do we come to know it? That’s really important, isn’t it? And so, everybody’s got a view of these things. Anthropology is a study of humanity, what do we believe human beings are? Are they random chance, colocation of chemicals and atoms? Is it just a surprise, and you’re here? A happy accident, if you will? Or have you been meticulously designed by a loving Creator who treasures you and treats each and every human life with equal value? This impacts the way you and I see other people as much as it impacts the way we see ourselves.

And so, in the biblical view, we look at others and we see the image of God. We don’t see a repugnant other because they voted the other way, or because they have more than we do, or some opportunity. No, there’s no repugnant other for Christians, for those who follow Jesus. If one believes Genesis 1:1, that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ is actually quite plausible. If you can create everything out of nothing, everything that exists out of nothing, then to rise again from the grave is cake, there’s nothing to it. You can walk on water, if you created water and gravity, if you created gravity, you can ascend back into the heavens. If you created life, if you know what it means to put air in lungs and to breathe life into the human person, as you created the human person, you certainly should have the ability to create life, to rise again to life. We are saying as Christians, our presuppositions set in our philosophical view is that there is a God, that there is a Creator, that He’s designed all of this. He has the ability to do these kinds of things. And so, we see it as quite reasonable that Christ could have risen from the grave.

“As only God can create, only God can renew…”

Richard Bauckham, world-class scholar on New Testament studies.

“…He can renew His whole creation. It started with a resurrection of Jesus – one new thing that changes everything, In lives transformed by the spirit of Christ, we have a foretaste of a new future.”

Richard Bauckham

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to sit up straight, I’m excited about that. I would like there to be a new future for us. I hope that things might be set right. Secondly, I think the resurrection stirs hope in our hearts because it is historically credible. Was the resurrection of Jesus history or hoax? There are a lot of people that would say it’s a hoax, which doesn’t happen, dead people do not get up. Well, I would argue they do if they are God. Because nobody would be alive if it wasn’t for God, there wouldn’t even be in the atheists to not believe in God if God had not created people. And so, it’s interesting to me to think about it from a historical standpoint, because I think there is a lot of evidence from a historical standpoint anyway, for the resurrection of Jesus.

There’s the empty tomb, for instance. Now, if you wanted to disprove, if you were really upset with the fact that these first-century Christians are running around saying Jesus rose from the dead, well then, why don’t you just produce the body and show everybody that he’s really dead still? That’s how simple it would’ve been to disprove the resurrection, but they could not do it. They posted a guard, and I love it that Pilate said, put your guard there and make the tomb “as secure as you can.” As secure as you can against God? There is no secure as you can against God. And so, the empty tomb stands as just sort of an obvious piece of evidence. The unlikeliness of the first eyewitnesses being women, they would not have been acceptable eyewitnesses in the court of law back then, that’s just the way it was. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying that’s just the way it was. So, if you’re going to make up some kind of conspiracy about Jesus having risen from the dead, you never would’ve chosen women to be the eyewitnesses.

Then there’s about a dozen post-resurrection appearances of the risen Christ, with a cumulative total of over 500 people that actually saw Him alive again, according to the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. There’s the transformation of the fearful disciples, from scared, whipped, little puppies into bold, brave individuals preaching the gospel right there in Jerusalem. There’s the wildfire like spread of the gospel itself within a highly resistant religious, and political, and cultural context. And we complain about our own context all the time. But let me tell you, this 1st century was really difficult. They weren’t just, you know, mean-spirited politicians. It was Nero, it was people that would literally post thousands of Christians outside of Rome on the Appian Way up on crosses and kill them. A.N. Wilson, former atheist, English writer, newspaper columnist, also has written a biography of C.S. Lewis. He has now become a believer, he says,

“Easter confronts us with a historical event set in time. We are faced with a story of an empty tomb, of a small group of men and women who were at one stage hiding for their lives and at the next were brave enough to face the full judicial persecution of the Roman empire and proclaim their belief in a risen Christ.”

A.N. Wilson

So, I believe the resurrection of Jesus stirs hope because I believe it’s philosophically reasonable and I believe it’s historically credible. There’s much more evidence, we don’t have time to go into all of it right now. Third reason I believe that the resurrection can stir hope in your heart and mind is because it’s globally beautiful. And we’ve experienced some of that just in what we saw in the video, the family from Ukraine singing in their kitchen. And as Tommy was sharing about the heavenly vision of worship in Revelation 7, people from every tribe, and tongue, and nation, I mean, that’s where this is going. And I love this; it’s globally beautiful. Jesus commissioned his disciples to go out into the world and preach the gospel. Just like the angel tells the women here, “Go!” You’ve come and you’ve seen it, now go and tell; and that’s the same thing. This Christian faith is that way, come and see, go and tell. It’s not just for us to huddle up together on Sunday and congratulate ourselves on our new Easter outfits, or how the song went, or how the preachment went. No, we’re supposed to be going and telling. It’s really important for us to get that straight. And it becomes globally beautiful as this good news spreads around the gospel. It is true, the gospel’s true, but I’m going to argue today that it’s also beautiful.

Don’t we long for more of what’s true, good and beautiful in this world? We all do. I think there are people that don’t even believe in God that are longing for more that’s true, good and beautiful because the world is crazy, and ugly and dark. And here’s the story of the Gospel, here’s the real historical event of the resurrection, and it’s true and it’s good, and I argue it is beautiful because of how it changes all of us.

“Christianity is the largest, most diverse belief system in the world with roughly equal numbers of Christians in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, with a rapidly grown church in China that is expected to outgrow the church in America by 2030 and could include half of China’s population by 2060.”

–Rebecca McLaughlin, The Secular Creed

So says Rebecca McLaughlin in “The Secular Creed”. I highly recommend it, just a little book, about a 45-minute read, it’s pretty simple, but I love the research she does, she’s a brilliant woman. The research she does is all backed up, and she really is presenting there to us this vision of globally beautiful body of Christ based on this message of the resurrection of Jesus.

Fourthly, I think that hope has stirred in our hearts because of the resurrection in that it is personally transforming. We see that here as well. I mean, these women came expecting dead and they went away with the news of life, with the news of resurrection. What is God doing about all the pain, evil and suffering in the world? I can’t answer for every specific case of it, but here’s what I do know: He turns crucifixions into resurrection. I’m in, how about you? That’s the kind of God I want to fall down and worship. That’s the kind of God I want to trust my eternity to, one that can do that, knows the pain and suffering of death, knows all of that, knows rejection, knows what it’s like to be victimized, knows all of that; Jesus does. And yet He turned it into a resurrection. And that hope is on offer for us; it’s personally transforming, that’s for sure. The Gospel message is not: “Here’s some rules, see how you do following a few of them.” No, the Gospel message is: “Look at Jesus, look what He’s done for you. Put your faith in Him.”

This same disciple, Peter, that we’ve been talking about a little bit, wrote this a few years later after the resurrection, after Jesus ascended back on the high, he wrote this,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…”

He will hold you fast.

“…You are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

1 Peter 1:3-5

So, the worst thing that can happen is not the last thing that can happen. If the worst thing that can happen, and that’s the way these women felt when they were walking to the tomb, “He’s dead, in our tears, we will honor his body. The worst thing has happened.” But it isn’t the last thing that happened, is it? Because of the resurrection, there is a hope stirring within our hearts. The resurrection fills the believer’s heart with inexhaustible hope.

We can find rest in the hope that we have in the personal work of Jesus, including his death, burial and bodily resurrection. You see, resurrection power works best in graveyards, and that’s what we see here with Jesus. Is He dead? Yes, He’s dead. And so, every bit of suffering that you and I will experience in this, and when the time comes for us to die, here’s what we know: Jesus has defeated the last and greatest enemy, death itself. So, we put our hope, our confidence in Him. He is our hope in life and death. Tim Keller says it this way, “The resurrection of Christ brings the future power of God, which will someday heal and renew the entire world into our lives now. Christians have a realistic and irrepressible hope. It is not a naive, utopian expectation of paradise today, but a hope for our lives and our society that we can participate in the fullness of paradise yet to come.”

What difference does the resurrection make in your life or in my life? Why does the resurrection matter? I think it matters because it’s philosophically reasonable, it’s historically credible, it’s globally beautiful, and it’s personally transforming. As the angel said that day, “He has risen. He’s not here. Here’s the place He lay, go tell his disciples and Peter, come and see, and then go and tell.” I love that. Right now so many people are living in fear of what might happen in the world, what might happen in their own lives if something has gone wrong, or if the violence in our own streets will come here to us, if we’re drowning in some kind of a river of rancor and acrimony, some kind of intellectual confusion or moral bankruptcy.

Here’s what I want to know: Do you believe in this One who has defeated our last and greatest enemy, death itself? He’s worthy of putting your trust. Why? Because of what He’s done, what’s already been accomplished. On the one side of the coin, the crucifixion, He’s paid the price in full for your sins and for mine; we can now be reconciled to God completely. And then that other side of the coin is this resurrection where He’s defeated our last and greatest enemy. N.T. Wright says it this way,

“The resurrection of Jesus is the only Christian guide to the question of where history is going.”

– N.T. Wright

And I’m so excited that we’re invited to be on that side of history’s story as it continues to unfold. Will you trust and will you believe in Him?

Let’s pray: Lord, thank You for this Good News of the Gospel and of the resurrection of Jesus. We want Your inexhaustible hope. We, Lord, are longing for Your inextinguishable joy. We, Lord, want to come bow before You trust in You, place our hope, and our confidence in You, trusting that You will roll away the stone for each and every one of us. So, Lord, move on our hearts this Easter day, break through the clouds and darkness, and reveal Yourself to us, Lord, that we might know Your grace, Your mercy, Your kindness, and the fact that You are our hope in life and in death. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen and amen.

(Edited for reading)

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