Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mark 16:1-8 Fearless Resurrection

The word “gospel” means “good news.” The gospel of Mark tells us the good news about Jesus Christ. The good news about Jesus is all throughout Mark. Jesus casts out demonic spirits. He heals lepers, paralytics, the blind, and the mute. He confronts hypocritical religious teachers. He walks on water and calms an angry storm. He feeds five thousand and another four thousand. He heals an old bleeding woman and raises a 12-year old girl from her death. So three women expected good things when they watched Jesus ride triumphantly into Jerusalem.

Jonathan is currently a Master of Divinity student at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and wants to become an ordained pastor upon graduation. Till then, this blog is in honor of his Dad, the real Pastor Romig. Please do not preach this sermon, but feel free to quote it using proper attribution (aff link). Check out his other sermons here or on Vimeo.
Their names are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Mk 15:40-42). We don’t know much about Mary the mother of James or Salome. Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. But even though the women, disciples, and crowds loved Jesus the religious leaders hated him. They were jealous and wanted him dead so they used Judas to betray him. 

The morning after Passover these three women awake to find Jesus in custody. The man they just watched ride into Jerusalem as king is to be put to death as a criminal. He is beaten and tortured and nailed to a cross. The women’s joy has turned to fear. And that fear is confirmed as Jesus utters a loud cry and breathes his last breath.

A few hours later the women help Joseph of Arimathea take down Jesus’ body. They wrap him in linen and Joseph roles the stone over the entrance (Mk 15:46). The women are left to spend the Sabbath in mourning. But something strange is about to happen. Jesus promised it to them beforehand but they forgot in their fear and grief. Let’s read what happens in Mark 16:1-8 (Read Mark 16:1-8).

We stop reading in verse 8 because this is probably where Mark wanted us to end. Although church tradition has added the remaining verses the oldest manuscripts stop here. So we get to ask why Mark ended here in such an odd way. Learning about Mark’s audience, the church in Rome, helps us understand the ending.

Like the women the church in Rome was afraid. The emperor Claudius was persecuting the believers in Rome. In 49AD he ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. The Christians were seen as a subset of the Jews and had to go too. These persecuted believers would have understood the women’s despair. They would have known a deep sense of fear and worry. And they would have needed encouragement. The Christians were Rome’s only hope. And they were up against a fight. They were surrounded by pagan temples filled with the world’s gods.

The church in Rome is a little like our local church. We’re surrounded by men, women, and children worshiping the world’s gods. They worship their careers, families, grades, money, and the Easter Bunny. They’ll do anything but bend their knee to the risen Lord. It’s our privilege to share Christ in this city. And we’re up against a fight. So we too need to hear Mark’s encouragement to Rome.

Like the church in Rome the women were afraid. The women had no idea how they would move the stone. All they wanted to do was anoint Jesus’ body for burial. They wanted to show him love and respect. And they were willing to face Jesus’ smelly corpse to do it. On the way there they keep asking themselves, “Who will roll away the stone?” But when they arrive the stone is moved out of the way. And they enter the tomb. Then something strange happens.

They are greeted by an angel wearing a long shinning white robe. And the women are filled with fear. But how does the angel respond to them?

The angel casts out fear with good news. The angel commands the women, “Do not be afraid!” But that doesn’t make sense! The women’s Messiah just died bleeding on a wooden beam. But what does this angel tell them? They are seeking Jesus the Nazarene the one crucified. He is risen! He is not here! See the cold hard cemetery-slab where they laid him. Man may have closed the tomb on God Friday afternoon. But God rose from the dead Sunday morning!

The angel sends them to share the good news. He tells them that they will see Jesus alive and well in Galilee. It’s like showing up at a open casket funeral for uncle Bob. But the undertaker tells you uncle Bob got up and left. And not only that but he is alive and left a message for you. He said, “I’ll meet you at Dunkin Donuts, just like I promised.” “Drinks on you.” No wonder the women had a nervous breakdown.

Mark ends in verse 8 with these women fleeing from the tomb and telling no one. We know the rest of the story because Matthew, Luke, and John record it. Jesus appears to the women and disciples and they believe. But why doesn’t Mark finish with Jesus’ physical presence? Because he is leaving his readers with an option. They can either flee in silent terror like the women. Or they can obey the angel and share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. We have a similar choice. Once we leave here we can either keep silent about our risen Lord. Or we can share the good news about Jesus with our coworkers and friends.

But talking about Jesus is a scary thing. I can’t think of much else that makes me so nervous. We are we so afraid?

We don’t have to be afraid because Jesus is alive. Jesus is alive and has promised we will see him at his second coming or when we die. The good news of Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope. It gives us courage, strength, and happiness. The women were so over laden with fear that they forgot the good news. Don’t get trapped in that same fear. Pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to share Jesus (Eph 6:19, Phil 1:20). People want to know they don’t have to be afraid anymore. And we have a really good reason for what we offer. We don’t have to be afraid because Jesus is alive.

A 12-year old boy named Dale went swimming at a beach in Washington state. He began to play in the water but didn’t realize how strong the rip tide was. The waves pulled him from the shore and he shouted for help. A girl tried to rescue him on her bogie board but they were separated.

Dale’s pastor and youth group were standing on the shore. But all they could do was drop to their knees and pray. The surf rescue team finally spotted Dale floating a few feet below the surface. He had spent between 15 and 25 minutes underneath the water. The medics got a pulse and rushed him to the hospital but no one thought he’d live. He went swimming on a Friday and by Sunday evening all hope was gone. The doctors tried one last time by taking him off the sedatives and calling his name, “Dale.”

That’s when Dale opened his eyes. Dale drowned on a Friday and God raised him on a Sunday. His pastor told the press this was a miracle from God. And his mother said that even if God had taken Dale he still would have been good. Dale is now walking and going to school as his brain heals from lack of oxygen. Dale shares on the blog that when he dies he gets to go to heaven because he believes in Jesus. Dale is not afraid of death. He has heard that Jesus is alive and he will see him soon. The Scripture offers this same good news to us today. We don’t have to be afraid because Jesus is alive.
Image By: Laszlo

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