April 16, 2017 – Fear at Easter
Preacher: Rev. Charles Drew
Sermon Series: Lent/Easter
Mark 16:1-8 (ESV)
1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, 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 that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Introduction: The resurrection of Jesus is strange, but it is at the core of Christian belief. It is also a great challenge to modern thinking about religion, which either dismisses religion altogether or relegates it to the subjective realm of experience. Why should we believe in it and what impact should it have on us?
I) Why should we believe in the resurrection of Jesus?
A) The evidence comes from eye-witnesses
- Mary, Mary, and Joanna
- Mark was written about AD 60, within the lifetimes of those who could corroborate what Mark reports.
- Papias: …living and surviving voices
B) The evidence is credible
- Confused and terrified women
- Details consistent with eye-witness reporting
The cosmic meaning of the resurrection does not appear in Mark, though
- Mark knew it
- The reporting is restrained. Compare to the second century Gospel of Peter
C) The particular form of resurrection is odd
- No precedent in first century imagination
Choosing not to believe
II) What impact should the resurrection have on us?
It should disturb us
A) We tend all to be “status quo” types
B) What do we expect from God? Is Jesus, for all practical purposes, still dead?
- Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. (Mr. Beaver, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, by C. S. Lewis)
- Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens….God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:26, 29)
Patient but arguing: Pray at all times in the Spirit with all prayers and supplications… (Eph. 6)
Expecting to be upended by one who loves us
Conclusion: Encouragement from the paucity of literal “Jesus sightings”, even back then. There you will see him, just as he told you (v. 7)
Questions for Reflection
- The resurrection of Jesus is a core doctrine of Christian belief, but that does not mean that it is easy to believe. What struggles do you have believing it?
- List the words that describe the reaction of the women to the empty tomb and the explanation they receive (vv. 6, 8). Why do they react as they do? How might you have responded under similar circumstances? Why?
- Reflect on the following: Richard Bauckham (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses) explains that Mark precisely identifies the women in our story (certainly the two Marys) because best practice in first century historical writing was to appeal to eyewitness testimony. The Gospel of Mark began circulating around AD 60, less than thirty years after Jesus died, when in all likelihood Mary, Mary, and Joanna—or many who had heard their testimony first hand—were still alive for corroboration.
- Reflect on the following evidence for the credibility of the report we have in Mark: (1) No one at that time would have used women for testimony unless they had to (women’s testimony was inadmissible); (2) The reporting in Mark is full of eyewitness details; (3) The cosmic meaning of the resurrection of Jesus, though well known to Mark, is nowhere found in our passage because his commitment was to report accurately what the first witnesses experienced and understood; (4) The reporting, unlike the much later “Gospel of Peter”, has none of the marks of human invention.
- No one in the first century, not even those who hoped in a great resurrection at the end of human history, had imagined a single human resurrection in the midst of the continuing status quo. Given this reality, how do you explain the “mutation of resurrection belief” (N.T. Wright) that we actually have in the four Gospels?
- One may believe or not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. But in either case it is important to admit that such belief (and unbelief) is, most deeply, an act of the will, and not simply a reasonable deduction from the evidence. (In fact disbelieving the resurrection is a choice made contrary to the evidence.) What we want and do not want has enormous influence on what we end up believing Why might you, or a friend you know, not want the resurrection of Jesus to be true?
- The women in our story are so confused and terrified by the empty tomb because they arrive assuming that Jesus is dead—that God has done nothing to change the status quo. We may say that Jesus is alive, but we often live, for all practical purposes, as if he were not. How might (ought) the resurrection of Jesus) change your behavior in the upcoming week—your choices, your priorities, and especially your praying?
- What do the death and resurrection of Jesus tell us about God’s attitude toward us and our world? Reflect on Romans 8:32 sand other passages as you answer.
Prayer of Confession
Our loving and almighty Redeemer, you have raised your Son and our Brother from the dead. Nothing will ever be the same: our guilt has been exposed, punished, and erased; the power of sin has been broken; eternal life has begun. We confess that your surprising and undeserved intervention does not rule us as it should. We live too much as if nothing has changed. We tend more to worry and complain than to rejoice. We tend more to manipulate than to obey. We tend more to fear people and circumstances than to fear you. We expect too little of you and too much of ourselves. Forgive us. By your Spirit open our eyes to what you have done and will do. We pray in the name of Jesus, who died and rose again on our behalf. Amen.