April 16, 2017
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. It is crazy that it is already Easter. I honestly can’t believe it, but it doesn’t matter if I believe it or not, Easter is still here. And this past week, I was preparing for Easter.
I had to go down to Austin to rent some things for today’s worship service, and as I was stopped at a stop light, I looked over. There was a man sitting at the corner with a sign which read, “Lost my wife and dog to ninjas. Need money so I can learn kung fu. I want my dog back.” Some things are unbelievable, and rightly so because they aren’t true.
But then there are some things that are unbelievable, but they’re true. They are facts. Recently my friend sent me a link to a cruise ship known as “The Harmony of the Seas.” This cruise ship weighs 227,000 tons. Tons! And yet it somehow floats. That is unbelievable! Not because it’s not true, it’s a fact. This ship weighs that much. But how can something that heavy actually float on water? How does that work? It’s unbelievable. But sometimes…
Sometimes facts are hard to believe
No matter how true something is, no matter how much something is a fact, sometimes it is hard for us to believe it. So what’s harder to believe? That a boat weighing 227,000 tons can float on water? Or that someone who was dead rose to life? Because let’s be honest. That’s pretty unbelievable.
Almost all of us have had a loved one pass away, and one thing we know for sure is that once you die, you don’t come back to life. That isn’t natural. Yet, here we are celebrating the fact that Jesus died, but rose again. He was pronounced dead, put in a tomb which was sealed with a large boulder, but three days later he came back to life. The tomb was empty. Some facts are hard to believe, but just because they are hard to believe doesn’t’ t mean they aren’t true. This Easter morning, we are looking at Mark 16, and we are going to see that even Jesus’ own disciples found it hard to believe that he rose again, but we’re also going to see how wonderful this fact is.
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.
Can you imagine how Mary felt? She had to be so excited! Here’s what she knew: On Friday, Jesus died. That was fact. No way of getting around that one. Early that morning, she went to the tomb and the tomb was empty. That was a fact. Jesus’ body was gone. And then, somehow, someway, Jesus appeared to her alive. Risen. That was a fact. She didn’t know how, but there he was!
Imagine how excited she was on her way to tell the disciples? She knew they were back at the house mourning and weeping. Imagine what they’d say? Maybe they’d shout for joy. Imagine what they’d do? Maybe they’d run around the house. Maybe she imagined their faces turning from sadness to joy. She had the facts that would turn their crying to laughter, and turn their sorrow to joy. She gets to the house and reports the good news that Jesus is alive…and…
When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
They didn’t believe Mary. Nor did they believe two of their friends who were walking in the country. They just couldn’t believe it. Why? Why weren’t they overjoyed? Why weren’t they running to find Jesus? Why didn’t they believe?
Well, the disciples had experience some big time lows in the last 48 hours. Not only was their best friend, their mentor dead, they had promised to Jesus that they would never leave him. They would never disown him. But then all of them did just that. When Jesus was arrested, they all took off. Leaving him as the soldiers took him to his death. Guilt and shame weighed them down. It would be nice if Jesus rose from the dead, but that’s not how life works. When someone dies, they don’t come back to life. Though two separate people told them about this fact, they couldn’t and wouldn’t believe it. Some facts are hard to believe.
My cousin served as a marine and he was deployed in Iraq. When he came back and his tour was done, we had several conversations. He just couldn’t believe that he could be forgiven for what he did over there. He had such a guilty conscience and he didn’t think God could ever forgive him despite what the Bible said.
Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing. You can remember something that you did, something so awful, that you have no idea how God could ever forgive you. Maybe you cursed God in the darkness of your room. You remember those ungodly relationships. The hurt you caused to people. Despite reading in the Bible that God has forgiven you, you just can’t believe it. Or maybe you said something extremely hurtful or did something so terrible to your spouse that even though they say they forgive you, you can’t believe it. You replay the image in your mind over and over again.
You know that your loved ones say that they love you, but how can they be serious when you’ve disappointed them again. You didn’t make the team or the honor roll. You didn’t get into the college you and your parents wanted. You didn’t get the promotion and you aren’t as successful as you thought you would be. The addiction struck again and you let your family down another time. They tell you they love you, but how can they? How can God love you? You fell into that same sin again. Those same judgmental thoughts. The prideful arrogance. The lustful thoughts. You realize that God has entrusted you with your children, and though you try your best, you still feel inadequate. Every night you lay your head down, feeling worthless. Knowing that you haven’t lived up to God’s standards. Wondering how in the world could you be worth anything to God when you continue to fail him.
And so you pray about it. Through the hard times you’re constantly praying, and despite what the Bible says, it’s hard to believe that God is actually listening when he isn’t answering your prayers the way you want. You just don’t feel that he is.
And then a big tragedy happens. You find yourself standing graveside next to the person you love, and the bitterness of death is so real. In that moment, it’s hard to believe the fact that you will see your loved one again. Yes, the bible says it. Yes, it says it’s a fact, but it’s just too hard to believe. You know from experience that death is final. No matter how many people tell you, no matter how many Bible verses you read, it’s just too hard to believe. That’s where the disciples are at. Some facts are too hard to believe. But then they are confronted with the fact.
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
The risen Lord appears to them and he rebukes them for their unbelief and their stubborn hearts which refused to believe despite being presented with eyewitnesses. Jesus basically says, “I’ve given you more than enough facts. You’re just being stubborn and refusing to believe the good news.” It’d be like someone today refusing to believe that Donald Trump is our president. It may be hard to believe, but refusing to say, “No Donald Trump isn’t the president,” is just being stubborn. For the disciples to not believe Jesus rose from the dead is exactly like that. And so Jesus, the risen Lord, stands before his disciples and rebukes them. They were faced with the fact that he rose from the dead. It happened. Whether they, or we, believe it or not, it happened. It’s fact. And…
The fact that Jesus rose changes everything.
The fact that Jesus died, the tomb was empty, and he rose from the dead changes everything. It really does. Because Jesus rose from the dead it means that the price for each and every one of your sins has been paid in full. It means that the payment was accepted by God. On the cross, Jesus paid for each and every one of your sins. Every sin you have and ever will commit was paid for in full by Jesus. And when he rose, it was God saying, “I’ve accepted the payment. It is complete. Your debt is paid in full.” So, that image you have in your head, the one where you feel extreme guilt over, your broken past, your ungodly relationships, you’re the hurt you’ve caused, it’s been forgiven by God. You’re forgiven in full. And the resurrection proves that. Your guilt is gone. You stand before God full forgiven.
There’s no more feeling inadequate. You can rest in peace knowing that you can’t be perfect. You can’t go back and change the past. But Jesus has changed your status. He lived perfectly for you. Because he rose, it proves that God accepted Jesus’ perfect life in your place. You now have Jesus’ perfect record for your own. Now God looks at you and he doesn’t see a failure, a disappointment, someone who is inadequate. God now sees only a perfect person when he looks at you. That’s what Jesus proved when he rose. He proved his perfect life, which is now yours, was accepted by God.
Because of the resurrection you know that each and every one of your prayers are being heard; not by a distant, cold God, but by your living Savior who has promised to never leave you nor forsake you.
And let’s not overlook the most comforting aspect of this fact. When Jesus rose, he put his exclamation mark on the plan of salvation. He rose and conquered death. He utterly destroyed it. Death has no power over him. It couldn’t keep him in the grave. When you and your loved ones pass away, you don’t die into the cold hands of death, but into the loving and living arms of your Savior. And he has promised that because he lives so will you. When this world ends, he will raise you to life and you will live forever with him in heaven.
And so, the resurrection calms our fears and anxieties because we know that no matter what the future brings, death has been conquered. Death has lost. The victory is Jesus’. There is no guilt in life, nor fear of death. This is the power of Christ in me.
Some facts are hard to believe, but the fact that Jesus died changes everything. So…
So believe and spread the fact that Jesus rose.
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
The fact that Jesus rose from the dead completely changed the disciples lives. Jesus now told them to go and spread this message full time. That’s how important it is.
I don’t know where you’re at today. For those of you who still aren’t sure about this resurrection thing, I pray that you are open to learning more. Find a class you can take to explore more about the Bible, and believe this good news for you. For those of you who believe this good news, I pray that you continue to grow in this message so that you continue to believe that your Savior is listening. He is alive and with you always. So that you can continue to believe that death has no power over you because your sins are forgiven, the price has been paid, and death has lost.
And then go and tell others. When you’re at home, talk about it with your family. When you’re at work and death comes up, tell them why you don’t have to be afraid. Invite your next door neighbor to come and hear about this Savior who died and rose again.
Some facts are hard to believe, but they are still facts whether we believe them or not. The good news that Jesus rose from the dead is fact whether we believe it or not. So believe and spread the news. He is risen; he is risen indeed. Alleluia.