Easter Message

Jesus Has Risen!

Mark 16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” 8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Tonight, we are looking at our Easter Gospel lesson which highlights an empty tomb. At least we talk about an empty tomb but it was not at all empty. First of all, there were two angels there and secondly, just as important, there were the linen cloths lying there, proof that no one had stolen Jesus’ body. Had they taken His Body away, they certainly wouldn’t have unwrapped it!

Easter! Our victorious celebration of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It is our guarantee as He said, “Because I live, you will live also.” It is a proof positive that anyone who made such a promise, namely, “Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it again”, and keeps that promise, then there is no promise He ever made that we cannot wholeheartedly trust.

This is what we take to the grave with us as we bid farewell to our loved ones who have died in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” And because of Easter we do not mourn as those who have no hope rather, we bid a farewell, knowing that in God’s good time, we will be reunited with our loved one in the presence of Jesus Christ Himself!

Now that being said, I would like to look at a couple of things which this text brings out. I am reminded of someone who has opened my eyes to look more deeply into Scripture, namely Kenneth Baily, who examined almost every word in the parable of the Prodigal Son, to show the depths of Jesus’ teaching and the way the people at His time understood Him. In doing so I am going to borrow once more from our Lenten Theme by asking, “Were you there when the women brought the spices to the tomb?”

Think about that for a moment. Here were followers of Jesus. Some of them very close followers who had been with Him for some time. What they hadn’t personally heard Him say, they most likely heard repeated from the apostles and others who had listened to Him. And what had Jesus said?

As I already stated, “Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it again.” Now granted, that was somewhat cryptic. However, recall that the leaders understood Jesus for they said to Pilate that he should post a guard because Jesus said he would rise again in 3 days and they feared the outcome would be worst for them then it was before.

However, this was not cryptic: In Matthew Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!” By the way, this was repeated in Mark and Luke two times each!

In other words, these believers should have believed this. But they didn’t! Now we know they loved the Lord Jesus, they were doing the best they knew how. They were sacrificing from their own purses whatever the cost of these spices was. (We established on Good Friday that these were very expensive items!) But in everything they were doing was in effect – was saying that they didn’t believe Jesus when He said in 3 days He would arise!

I see the same thing in some other denominations. They give lip service to the Gospel. They say they believe Jesus when He said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” They can even quote it. But then they add, this that or the other saying, “You still have to….” I actually had one pastor tell me “You faith alone people are going to wind up in hell.”

Eph 2:8-9 simply cannot be taken literally by them. “For by grace are you saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Now, do we sit back and live like pigs and despise all Jesus teachings? No! The same text goes on to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared before hand for us to do.” The word which they do not seem to understand is Gratitude. We do the things we do because we are grateful that He saved us from our sins.

I love ice cream! I eat ice cream, not because I have to but because I love it, I want to! I fell in love with this girl I worked with. I dated her. I proposed to her, I married her. I have stayed with her for 57 years! Not because I had to but because I wanted to. Because I loved her.

David said it better than I ever could: “Lord I love the habitation of Thy house, the place where Thy glory dwells.” When I was a layman I never missed church. I didn’t do it because I wanted to get saved but because I was saved. I did it because I loved being in God’s house with God’s people under the care of God’s servant- my home pastor! And I am here in this church for the same reason, including our pastor!

Now back to the text. These women loved their Lord but they were all wrong in how they were going about to show Him that love. You do not embalm a body that isn’t dead! If they wanted to serve Him correctly they might have thought of putting on another Palm Sunday where Jesus, alive and well, could proclaim His victory to everyone!

So the question again, “Were you there when the women brought the spices to the Tomb?” This I take means not understanding what Jesus said, or understanding what He said but not really believing it.

Well what about us? We believe that Jesus arose and is very much alive but what are some of His teachings that we quibble over? How about worry? Did Jesus say something about that? Is worry any different than these women trying to embalm Jesus on Easter day!!!

How about our treasures? Are we storing up for ourselves on earth or in heaven? The Old Testament says we are robbing God if we do not bring the full tithe into the storehouse. The promise of the Old Testament is that will bless those who tithe returning to them more than they can handle. In Matthew, Jesus said the tithe is still good, but we could go beyond that. St Paul talks about tithes and offerings!

How about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, blessing those who curse us? How about going to our brother or sister who has offended us and trying to make things right, instead of avoiding them or harboring bad feelings? How about a lot of things that we know in our hearts in our quiet time that bothers us?

Again, we don’t do these things because we have to, but because the Holy Spirit, who is in us, is leading us to. That is why we sang last season: What language shall I borrow, to thank Thee dearest Friend For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end. O make me thine forever and should I fainting be, Lord let me never, never, outlive my love for thee.

Question: Are we following Jesus or the women’s example? Spices or palm branches? Confidence or worry? A sense of obligation or a sense of gratitude? Doing things to get right with God or doing things because we are right with God? We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law. Amen

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