Resurrection Sunday, 17 April 2022

Resurrection Sunday
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 16:1-8
Series Big Idea: Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.
Big Idea: The resurrection changes everything for the Christian.
How will we live today? How will
you live today? We live in a world filled with death. We’ve had church family members die recently. We see the horror of death in Ukraine on our screens. Good Friday two days ago was a remembrance of the death of Jesus. Yet perhaps the only thing more tragic than the death of a person is a person who never truly lives.
Are you alive today? Are you fully alive? How will we live today? How will you live today?
I believe there are two types of people in this world: people who will watch a
movie repeatedly and people who will only watch it once. Which are you?
Although there are exceptions, I generally watch a movie only once. More than that and the suspense is gone…the mystery, the intrigue, the excitement. I like to be on the edge of my seat, preparing for a surprise.
You only get one chance to be surprised by the story of the resurrection. The characters at the first Easter were certainly not prepared for the miracle we celebrate today. Yet one question looms large today for all of us…
So What?
Easter is a matter of life and death…not only for Jesus, but also us.
We’ve been going verse-by-verse through the book, the gospel of
Mark, a biography of Jesus written by a man named John Mark drawn largely from the eyewitness accounts of Peter, one of Jesus’ three best friends. You may recall the scene Pastor Mike described last Sunday from the 15th chapter of Mark. After emotional torture, Jesus experienced physical and spiritual anguish leading to not only his death, but the death of his movement, his crusade, his mission…or so it was thought.
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. (Mark 16:1, NLT)
Our treatment of corpses today is far more sophisticated than in days before electricity and other technologies. These three women had to wait until the end of the Sabbath—since all business is closed on the Sabbath, even today in Israel. They bought what was likely many pounds of spices to anoint the crucified body of Jesus. I’m sure they were depressed, devastated, still in shock and horror that the so-called Messiah who was going to liberate their people instead was dead. Jesus had
raised people from the dead, and now his life was gone…and so were all of their hopes for the future…or so they thought!
Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3 On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (Mark 16:2-3, NLT)
This was a great question since the stone may have been large and extremely heavy. We know from other books it was a guarded tomb, too.
But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. (Mark 16:4, NLT)
Who rolled the stone? Again, most of you know the story and have heard it many times, but it imagine this is your first time watching the movie. Imagine you’re in the movie!
When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. (Mark 16:5-6, NLT)
This is the greatest news ever! These three women were the first eyewitnesses at the empty tomb.
Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” (Mark 16:7, NLT)
These women were to be the first evangelists—proclaimers of good news—of the resurrection of Jesus. The one who was most certainly killed had conquered death.
The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened. (Mark 16:8, NLT)
It’s impossible to imagine what they must have felt…and thought. Who moved the stone? Who was that young man clothed in a white robe? Where was the body of Jesus? Is he really alive? Dead people don’t rise from the dead…or do they?
I want to acknowledge some Bibles contain another three verses that may or may not have been in the original manuscripts pertaining to Mary Magdalene. Scholars debate their authenticity, but they do not in any way impact the reality of the resurrection.
Let’s return to that question,
“So What?”
So Jesus died and rose from the dead. Great story. Cool miracle. But what does that have to do with me in 2022 when I’m trying to afford to fill my gas tank…or even afford a car? Why difference does the resurrection have on my relationships? Is it possible that a two thousand year old event can impact my mental health?
the resurrection changes everything for the Christian. The symbol of Christianity is the cross, but it really should be the empty tomb. I just don’t know how to make a gold necklace out of a tomb! Jesus paid for our sin on the cross. He died so we might live. He was the perfect sacrifice. But if we serve a dead God…here’s what Paul, one of the leaders of the early Church, said:
And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19, NLT)
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:20a, NLT)
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
The resurrection is everything for the Christian. One popular religion respects Jesus, but they don’t believe he died…so the resurrection is irrelevant. If Jesus died, we have no forgiveness of sins, no ability to know our Creator, no hope for the future or even the present…which leads me to ask again:
Are you fully alive? How will we live today? How will you live today?
Because of the resurrection, you can be fully alive today. We can experience the abundant life Jesus promised in John chapter ten. I don’t know how true followers of Jesus can be dull, boring, or gloomy. Sure, many struggle with mental illness and we all have bad days, but the resurrection is all about life. Jesus is all about life. It can be well with your soul even if it’s not well with your circumstances…because Jesus is alive. In fact, he’s praying for you and me right now.
Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. (Romans 8:34, NLT)
It took me decades to fully recognize this incredible truth! Jesus is praying, pleading, interceding for us at the Father’s right hand. How cool is that?!
But there’s another “so what” in the resurrection I want to declare today.
Because of the resurrection, your story is not over. As Tony Campolo famously said, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” No matter what today looks like, today is not the end of your story. Part of the thrill of life is we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It might be the day your prayers of months or even years is answered. Do you have any of those? I do! Tomorrow might be the day you get an unexpected check in the mail, the raise you’ve been waiting for, a lead on a new job, or good news about a loved one. The resurrection means tomorrow might be better—radically better—than today!
I love Paul’s words to the church in Galatia,
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Your story is not over. Turn the page! These past two years have been challenging for all of us. I remember recording my Easter sermon in 2020 and hoping people would watch it online when our building was locked-down. We’ve been dealing with not only the COVID-19 pandemic but racial and political pandemics…to say nothing of the economic challenges of inflation, non-stop negative news, and a host of other challenges. But your story is not over. It may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming!
Because of the resurrection, another life awaits. There is life beyond the grave. Jesus proved that. His resurrected body gives us a sneak preview of what ours will become someday…free of sickness and disease and even possessing what we might call supernatural abilities. The next life will be free of tears, temptation, suffering, and death…for the Christian.
I said
the resurrection changes everything for the Christian. Are you a Christian? It frustrates me how the word has been corrupted to mean an American or a member of a political party or even a religious person. A Christian is someone like Christ. It’s a follower of Jesus. It’s someone who has said, “Jesus, I give you my life.” It’s about surrender, truly “letting go and letting God.” My guess is not all of you have fully surrendered your lives to Jesus. Not just Easter morning. Not just Sundays. 24/7/365.
Jesus didn’t give part of his body. He gave everything…his very life to provide his love, to rescue you and me from a life of misery, hopelessness, fear, and death. He came not to take us to heaven when we die, but to help us experience heaven on earth before we die…life with God. We will rise someday, but the message of Easter is not just for the next life. It’s for this one! Followers of Jesus can live with the assurance of salvation, with peace and contentment, with a personal relationship with their Creator, with the hope of heaven, and living a rich and satisfying life now…not necessarily easy or comfortable, but satisfying.
Again I ask, are you a Christian? Have you surrendered your life to following the one who conquered sin and death, who proved he was God by rising from the dead? Two thousand years later billions of people follow Jesus the Messiah.
Perhaps you’ve never made Jesus the leader of your life and today is the day of salvation, the day to have your sins—past, present, and future—forgiven. This might be your spiritual birthday, the day you begin your journey with Jesus as LORD, as Master, as the one who is in charge. I can tell you there’s no greater way to live, and it begins by saying, “Jesus, I’m a sinner. I’m far from perfect. I believe you died and rose from the dead to offer me a life filled with grace, peace, love, forgiveness, and hope. I repent of my sins, turn away from my prideful, selfish life and surrender to you. I give you my life today. Amen.”
Maybe you’ve prayed a prayer like that in the past, but you haven’t been living for Jesus. You’re a vampire Christian who’s been using Jesus for his blood, wanting him to be Savior but not LORD. You’ve been living life on your terms, your way, for yourself. How’s that working out? Today would be a fantastic day to re-commit, to re-surrender your life to Jesus.
I know we all want to do it our way, but I promise you living for Jesus is filled with freedom, joy, and life. In a world filled with death, followers of Jesus can live like nobody else!
He. Is risen! He is risen indeed!

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First Communion, 3 April 2022

First Communion
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 14:12-72
Series Big Idea: Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.
Big Idea: Be on guard! Be alert! Keep watch!
Scripture Readers’ Theater
Did anything surprise you about that reading…besides the length?!
Holy Week is right around the corner. For those of you unfamiliar with that expression, it’s essentially the last week of Jesus’ life…before the Resurrection! It begins with Palm Sunday, events described back in Mark chapter eleven and traditionally celebrated next Sunday.
Our scripture passage today covers what’s known as
Maundy Thursday, the last supper and the day before Good Friday, our subject for next Sunday’s sermon. That day, of course, while good for us is the most horrific day for Jesus. But we’ll save that for next Sunday.
Our text today is a preview…preparation for Jesus’ death. While Jesus is the central figure, there are many other characters in the story, most notably Judas, Peter, and the high priest, none of whom are particularly admirable!
We could go verse by verse and dissect every word—which would take some time—but today I want you to get a feel of the narrative, the big picture. It’s a haunting story. A soundtrack composer working on a screenplay of this writing would fill the score with minor chords, dark tones, and heavy textures. This is anything but a party, and each scene gets progressively more hostile and terrifying.
You know the rest of the story, but what if you didn’t? Jesus told his friends repeatedly what would happen, but they failed to comprehend it, no doubt surprised at his arrest and crucifixion, to say nothing of the resurrection. Let’s look at the various scenes.
The Last Supper (Mark 14:12-25)
Mark 14:12               On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?”
Mark 14:13               So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: “As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 15 He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 16 So the two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.
Mark 14:17               In the evening Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”
Mark 14:19               Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”
Mark 14:20               He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”
Mark 14:22               As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”
Mark 14:23               And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”
Mark 14:26               Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
Mark 14:27    On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
‘God will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
Mark 14:28    But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”
Mark 14:29               Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”
Mark 14:30               Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Mark 14:31               “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed the same.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
Mark 14:32               They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Mark 14:35               He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Mark 14:37               Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Mark 14:39               Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.
Mark 14:41               When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”
Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested
Mark 14:43               And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. 44 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” 45 As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.
Mark 14:46               Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 47 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.
Mark 14:48               Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 49 Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.”
Mark 14:50               Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. 51 One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, 52 he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked.
Jesus before the Council
Mark 14:53               They took Jesus to the high priest’s home where the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law had gathered. 54 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and went right into the high priest’s courtyard. There he sat with the guards, warming himself by the fire.
Mark 14:55               Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any. 56 Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. 57 Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’” 59 But even then they didn’t get their stories straight!
Mark 14:60               Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
Mark 14:62               Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Mark 14:63               Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? 64  You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
            “Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!”
Mark 14:65               Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away.
Peter Denies Jesus
Mark 14:66               Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by 67 and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.”
Mark 14:68               But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.
Mark 14:69               When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” 70  But Peter denied it again.
            A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.”
Mark 14:71               Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” 72  And immediately the rooster crowed the second time.
         Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind:
“Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept. (NLT)

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

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