Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday message (Mark 16:1-8)

The women who went to the tomb that Sunday, to anoint the body of Jesus with spices (according to custom), still weeping over their loss, were wondering how they would ever get past the huge stone that had been placed in front of the entrance. However, they found the stone had already been rolled back. Then they were told, by this mysterious figure in white, not to be alarmed, because something wonderful had happened. The women heard that their friend Jesus, who had been crucified, is no longer here in the tomb, because, “He has been raised”. These women were told to go and tell the disciples all about this!

But would they? We are informed, in the Gospel of Mark, that, at least for a while, these women said nothing!!! The women didn’t roll on … they hesitated. The reason given for this silence … was fear. Fear of what? The unknown? Change?

I guess we would concede that what had happened, over the last few days, was all a bit terrifying. It was, to them, all so unexpected. Their beloved Jesus had been tortured, and then killed on a hideous Roman cross, just a couple of days earlier. No-one can be fully prepared for something like that. His body had then been entombed, with a big heavy stone protecting the entrance. They had found so much love, acceptance and hope in Jesus, and then this was all dashed. They felt a deep sense of disappointment and loss.

What were they expected to believe?! They were expected to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead, had gone ahead of them to Galilee, and wanted to meet up with all his followers there. Pretty amazing! And many of us have come to know that this is TRUE! This is exactly what happened. These women, and all the other disciples, would spend the next 40 days with Jesus, asking questions and dealing with their fears and doubts. And as we read the New Testament, we discover how truly convinced they became about Jesus, many giving their lives over to sharing their faith.

Now it’s over to us! We have had around 2,000 years to get used this idea. And Christians across the centuries have indeed come to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, was vindicated in his resurrection. The worst that evil could throw at God, crucifying His Son, was incredibly transformed into the path of forgiveness and salvation. As Jesus forgives us and cleanses us from the cross, he draws us, in his resurrection, into a new experience of life. Jesus has beaten death, and opened up all sorts of new life possibilities for each of us. Death does not have the final say. Death is now but a thin line on an eternal journey.

But the question is, how do we experience this NEW resurrection life? What do we need to do?? Faced with the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, do we go on the same way as we have always done, or, do we consider what ‘new life’ might look like for us? Are we thinking that things could very well be better for us? Especially if we had a friend like Jesus on-board! I invite you to consider various areas of your life that might need a re-tune!

Do we need to jump off the fence, and give our life over to Jesus? What does this even mean?? It means accepting that what Jesus did on the cross was for me. Jesus took my burden of guilt to the cross and dealt with it there. There is a gift there to be received and unwrapped … just like you have to unwrap the foil off the Easter egg … to get to the nice chocolate. So, if I put up my hand, and accept this act of mercy on my behalf, I’m then ready for God to start working in my life. The old gets stripped away, and the new begins to emerge.

Sometimes, this all seems too good to be true. Too easy! Too out-there!! But it’s real!!!

Sometimes, we have given up, and we think things can’t change (for the better). Unfortunately, this means that the message of new life can become too easily rejected, or, be missed altogether. Our ears can be blocked to positive possibilities. People stay where they are. The great possibilities of change could be lost. We listen to the wrong voices. The problems remain, the burdens get heavier … and they often still have to be handled alone. In some ways, the Jesus-following life is not easy, because all the issues don’t resolve themselves overnight (as much as you want them too). But then, on the other hand, all you have to really concern yourself with … is one step at a time, with Jesus by your side.

Sometimes people, for many reasons, have become hardhearted or heavily distracted by material things. Sometimes, the old accustomed way of life, is just more comfortable … like some of our favourite old clothes. But we would have to think seriously whether this is getting us anywhere, or are we wasting our one chance of life on earth. Day after day … same old issues, disappointments linger, hurts abound, bitterness develops (to seriously worrying levels). There is another way!!                                 

[So sadly, some people have suffered much abuse and trauma, or suffer under tremendous physical and emotional difficulties. God is reaching out in compassion to you, whether you feel that right now or not, and the resurrection of Jesus has brought hope closer.]

Referring back to those who were around at the time of the resurrection – the early followers of Jesus. They were all seriously deflated and distraught at Jesus’ death. The disciples had scattered. But, when they came to understand the magnificent thing that had happened – for them, this turned defeat … completely into victory. They had not understood why Jesus had to die. We know now it was about our salvation. But back then, they just knew, that what had seemed all over and lost, had now been put back right. Their dear friend who had been killed on a cross, was back amongst them – and there was hope in the world again. This was a dramatic turnaround that they came to celebrate, and then gave their lives completely over to.

The risen Jesus is waiting for us, arms wide open. Jesus wants to rescue us, hang out with us, guide us in life, give us NEW purpose. And this is not just for us to enjoy personally. The resurrection of Jesus is much bigger than that. The power of Jesus’ resurrection is intended to reach into every sphere of society and culture. N.T. Wright has written these words:

The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won. Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things—and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement the victory of Jesus over them all.

Today, resurrection Sunday, is all about the ‘new’! A bit like ‘new year’, but a whole lot better; because it packs a much bigger punch … with all sorts of power and possibilities behind it. In fact, the full capacities of the God who created the heavens and the earth and everything everywhere (out of nothing) … is available to us! This beautiful magnificent setting, we are in today, reminds us of God’s brilliance. If God can make all this, and also raise Jesus from the grave – what can he do for me, and for us!!

Many of us here, will be able to say, that the resurrection of Jesus is the greatest event in world history! This can be proved … as it makes such a dramatic difference in the lives of so many people today.

“Living God, may we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the hearts to believe. May we know that Your love has been poured out over the events of Easter. May we see that our burdens have been lifted at the cross, and that we can gain new life at the empty tomb. Show us Lord Jesus how we might respond to your resurrection today, so that we might best participate in your plans for the world. Amen.”

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