By Gerry Straker, 13 Apr 2020
Everyone’s hopes have been dashed in all sorts of ways whether that’s going away, enjoying the sunshine, or eating lunch with friends.
This coronavirus seems to know no boundaries and no borders. Country, class, colour, clan, culture or creed make no difference. And some people’s hopes have not just been dashed but crushed. Thousands of people are grieving their dead loved ones: famous people, normal people, and medical people.
The other day a reporter questioning the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said this: ‘The country needs some hope as it heads into the Easter weekend.’ As Dan put it in a message to me, if only he had tuned in this morning!
At Church by the Bay we are all about hope. And we don’t mean wishful thinking, like hoping that we can go on holiday, that loved ones won’t get sick, that this ends soon. We have no control over those things and we don’t know what’s going to happen.
But Christian hope isn’t wishful thinking, it is based on evidence, on history, on the extraordinary events that happened recorded in Mark’s gospel.
We join some women in Mark 15:40. And if anyone had their hopes crushed it was them. Mary, Mary, Salome, amongst others watching – watching the horrific and crucifixion of Jesus. This was a death so horrible that Romans wouldn’t even talk about it!
They had followed Jesus (15:41), heard his teachings, seen his miracles and come with him to Jerusalem, and they had been there when Jesus was welcomed to Jerusalem as King. And they had loved Jesus and cared for him. Watching someone die is a very sad experience, let alone a loved one. But watching the one you had invested all your life and hopes in, die, and in this way! Their hope is crushed.
It’s the same for Joseph of Arimathea. As it’s evening, Joseph wants to take Jesus’ body and put it in the tomb before nightfall. Jewish law said that a body shouldn’t be left over night (Deuteronomy 21:23) and so Joseph, who had hoped Jesus would bring the Kingdom, wants to honour his memory, and he asks Pilate for permission to take Jesus' body.
Again and again in these verses Mark emphasizes that Jesus is dead, really dead. The situation is checked thoroughly by the experts in death, the Romans. No one comes back from a crucifixion. Jesus really did die - he didn’t swoon. The women saw where Jesus was laid – they didn’t get the wrong tomb. This is Mark’s way of giving Jesus a death certificate.
Their hero is dead, their hope is crushed.
But their hope is about to be resurrected from the dead, because Jesus is resurrected from the dead! It’s not all over. In fact, it’s just about to begin!
So here are Mary, Mary and Salome who had watched Jesus die on the cross, going to anoint Jesus’ body, now the Sabbath is over. They want to try and give Jesus’ bloodied, broken, bruised body some kind of dignity.
We’ve had a fair few shocks these past weeks: what’s been the biggest shock for you? It's nothing compared to theirs!
- The stone is rolled away (16:4).
- Instead of a body, an angel (16:5).
- The angel tells them Jesus, who was crucified, has risen! (16:6).
The tomb was not his home, death could not lock him down, and no way was Jesus staying inside there!
The women have come to anoint a body, there is no body. Instead an angel, who tells them Jesus is alive! This was a shock. Nobody was expecting a resurrection. Jesus had told them three times (recorded in Mark: 8:31; 9:31; 10:34) but they didn’t get it. In their Jewish thinking, there was a general resurrection for Judgement Day but not an individual resurrection. Greeks didn’t even have the concept. So it was just as surprising to them, as it might be to us. They are not primed and ready to see something extraordinary, and in their distress their minds fill in the gaps. No! They were not expecting or hoping for this. This is a complete one off, and it has to be: because this is something only Jesus could do – dying for sins and beating death.
Read the angel’s message: ‘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.' (Mark 16:8 NIV 1984). Think what Jesus could have said: ‘You idiots, I told you so!’ or even ‘I’m going to get some better followers.’ But Jesus says (through the angel): ‘I’ll be there; I’ll be waiting for you; I’ll meet you.’ And that includes Peter. One of Jesus’ closest friends who had let Jesus down so badly: trying to turn Jesus from the cross (Mark 8:31-33); falling asleep instead of praying (Mark 14:37-40); promising to die with Jesus (Mark 14:29-31), but instead denying him (14:66-71). The last time we met Peter he ‘broke down and wept.’ (Mark 14:72 NIV 1984). He was devastated with no hope of restoring his relationship with Jesus.
But the angel has a message for Peter personally: Jesus will be there for Peter; Jesus will be waiting for Peter, Jesus will meet Peter! Jesus has died for Peter’s sins, and risen from the dead - his death worked, and Peter is welcome.
There are so many unique truths in Christianity including:
- God comes down to help us.
- Jesus dies on a cross,
- taking God’s anger at our sin,
- paying for our sins,
- and welcoming sinners.
- The Son of God rises again and beats death.
And we desperately need Jesus to do this, because death knows no boundaries and no borders. Country, class, colour, clan, culture and creed make no difference. Famous people, normal people, medical people and you all face the ultimate hope-crusher. One day. death will be there, waiting for you, ready to meet you.
Death comes because of sin. Sin is rejecting the giver of life, and so death is part of God's fair punishment for sin. But Jesus, the Son of God dies in the place of sinners. And the resurrection means his death worked! And so Jesus says to you and me: ‘I’ll be there; I will be waiting for you; I’ll meet you.’ Even though we still die, all who trust in Jesus need not fear death, but look forward to the future resurrection.
A few years ago an Anglican church in York ordered some Easter banners with the words ‘Christ is risen’. They came back from the printers missing the letter ‘t’. But actually because Christ is risen it will be true that if he trusts in Christ, Chris is risen. And Caroline, Dominic and Darren and insert your name if you trust in him. Jesus’ resurrection means our resurrection: our hope is resurrected.
But what will resurrection life be like? Right now, we want to go back to ordinary life. Here’s the thing with resurrection life with Jesus - it will be ordinary life made perfect. New bodies witn no coronavirus, no sickness, no suffering, no death and no fear of death. I love this from Tim Keller: ‘ordinary life is what is going to be redeemed. There is nothing better than ordinary life, except that it’s always going away and always falling apart. Ordinary life is food and work and chairs by the fire and hugs and dancing and mountains – this world. God loves it so much that he gave his only Son so we – and the rest of the ordinary world – could be redeemed and made perfect.’
Resurrection life with Jesus:
- When all wrongs will be righted
- All sad things will come untrue.
- And all agonies turned to glories.
Our wonderful hope that is 100% in Christ Jesus and his resurrection in history. Hope based not on wishful thinking, but on evidence…
- The empty tomb.
- The disciples and Peter met Jesus.
- Jesus ate, Jesus drank, Jesus spoke, Jesus could be touched.
- Before Jesus went back to heaven, there are 12 recorded times in the Bible that Jesus met people. Once he appeared to five hundred people. There were plenty of witnesses, at plenty of times.
- Those disciples went from jibbering jellies to powerful preachers of this most extraordinary and unexpected news.
- They not only became powerful preachers, but motivated martyrs. They were so certain that Jesus had risen from the dead, that many of them would die for preaching it. And they died, safe in the knowledge that they would rise. That they had something so much better than this life to look forward to: resurrection life with Jesus.
- What was in if for them, if they made it up?
- Plenty of other messiah movements sprang up around those times, and when their leader was killed, they withered away, and they are unheard of today - they ended. But this one is different: Jesus’ resurrection is just the beginning.
- Millions and millions of people down the centuries have been convinced by this.
And yet, Mark, surprisingly, ends his gospel with trembling and bewildered women who run away and say nothing out of fear. (Mark 16:8). (Don’t worry about the extra bit from verse 9 - we go with the earliest and most reliable manuscripts).
Of course, later they shared their story. That’s why Mark names them three times in these verses. This is Mark’s way of underlining, of putting something in bold. They were still alive when he wrote this, and Mark is saying: go and ask them!
And he chooses to end here, to ask you: what do you make of Jesus’ resurrection? One day we will all see Jesus and there will be a day of judgement. We will be raised from the dead. And Jesus will be our judge. But for all who have put their trust in Jesus, he will meet you as your Friend and give you resurrection life.
Praise him this Resurrection Day!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.