One Living Hope

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The Risen King – Mark 15:39 – 16:15

Intro

 

Author Philip Yancey says that growing up he always associated Easter not with resurrection but with death. This was because it was one Easter Sunday that his six-week-old kitten was mauled by a neighbor’s terrier.[1] He writes:

I could not have articulated it at the time, but what I learned that Easter under the noonday sun was the ugly word irreversible. All afternoon I prayed for a miracle. No! It can’t be! Tell me it’s not true! Maybe Boots wouldn’t really die. Or maybe she would die but come back—hadn’t the Sunday-school teacher told such a story about Jesus?

There followed a whole succession of scenes I likewise wished to reverse: fights with bullies, broken arms, foolish comments in class, unexpected pop quizzes, the inevitable first automobile accident, and all the other minor jolts of growing up, each one underscoring the dreadful word irreversible…As a five-year-old on Easter Sunday I had learned the harsh lesson of irreversibility.[2]

As I get older, with every new gray hair and as I realize that there is more hair growing in my ears than on my head, as I see that my body is kind of falling apart, as I watch my kids get older, as I realized that college freshmen this past year are now exactly half my age, as I am talking more and more like my parents, as I am watching more and more loved ones die, I keep hearing Poe’s raven perched on my shoulder crying in my ear, “Nevermore.”[3] Sometimes I wish I can go back in a time machine and change some things. But each time I think of that, here comes the cry, “Nevermore!” Irreversible.

But then I come to the empty tomb. The place, as CS Lewis said when Aslan came back to life where, “Death itself started working backwards.”[4] Yancey adds, “Ironically, now as an adult I saw that Easter actually offered an awesome promise of reversibility. Nothing—no act of childhood cruelty, no experience of shame or remorse, and, no, not even death—was final. Even that could be reversed…[5]

Paul says if Christ had not been risen, we are to be pitied because we are all simply dying in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17, 19). But the empty tomb cries, “Death nevermore! Heaven forevermore!” The resurrection of Christ transforms all of our sunsets into dawns. Death, having stung Jesus, is stung to death. We have even greater joy in the promise of not just reversibility, but even of restoration to pre-Fall. So it’s not just that Christ gives our lives back, but that He gives us the life we always wanted back, which we will experience fully at His return.

Today I want to look at what the Resurrection does for us as we come close to the end of the Gospel of Mark (though we will return to Mark 3 next week). First of all:

 

  1. A Gospel for all people (Mark 15:39-16:6)

Often we kind of skim past the burial of Christ and go straight to the resurrection. But notice here three different kinds of people responding to the death of Christ. Through this we see a sneak peek into what God is up to through the death and resurrection of Christ. You have a Roman centurion, pagan if you will, in Mark 15:39 declaring Jesus to the Son of God. This bookends the Gospel of Mark as it starts out with Jesus, the Son of God showing up to the Jews (Mark 1:1), but the Gospel ends with a Gentile declaring it from his own lips. We have the Gospel reaching pagans, the irreligious.

 

Then you have the women who stay with Jesus during this time. Jewish men thanked God every day that they were not born a woman. Yet they are the first to proclaim his resurrection. You have the Gospel that reaches the marginalized. Right after that, you have Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, a religious leader and Pharisee, who notice, “was also himself looking for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43), a strong indication that he became a believer and follower of Christ. Other Gospels also tells us Nicodemus, another religious leader, was there too (John 19:39). You also have a Gospel that also reaches, the religious.

 

These people would normally not be associated together. What are they doing together? What has brought them together? It is the Gospel. Society told these people who they were. According to the Jewish world, the Pharisees were insiders to religion and morality. Women were not on the inside with them, but outside. And outside of the women were probably the Romans (because at least the women were Jewish). According to the Roman world, the Romans were the insiders to power. Women and Jews were outsiders. For the women in their world, they were never insiders to anything.

 

By the way, notice three times that Mark mentions the women’s names are mentioned (Mark 15:40, 47 and 16:1). Why? I mean, you told us once, why do you keep saying it over and over? Richard Bauckham, a British scholar and historian says that “when you see these women’s names put down over and over and over again, what you have is the earmarks not of legend but of history. These are footnotes. These are citations. These women must have been alive at the time that Mark was writing, or he wouldn’t have used them, because that’s how historians used eyewitnesses.”[6]

 

A woman’s testimony in that day was not considered credible and dismissed because as one early Greek philosopher put it, “we all know women are hysterical.” That’s how that world viewed women. So if Mark is writing a legend and making all this up, why would he use women as his first and major witnesses to the resurrection? Unless, this really happened?!

 

This is not legend. This is history. But the point here is that we have a Gospel for all people. This goes against what people do. We find our identity through these man-made rings of the world. We have cliques. Remember that in junior high or high school? The cafeteria? I remember! Jocks sat with jocks, nerds sat with nerds and I remember the Jewish kids sat with Jewish kids. The kids who just came from India sat with others who just came from India. I sat by myself. We do the same now. We look down on people different from us whether by looks, personality, social class, race, etc.

 

It’s almost like mini-solar systems. Each group revolves around something and if you don’t have that something (whether it is looks, education, color skin, etc.), you are not allowed in the group.

 

See what God is doing? All of these are really outsiders in God’s eyes. God has leveled the playing field. Joseph may have said at one point, “I’m a Bible teacher. Roman soldiers need to be born again. Or women with demons like Mary need to be born again.” Jesus is saying, “No. Bible teacher or prostitute or pagan or whoever you are, you all need to be saved radically by my grace. You are all lost and need to be converted and saved by grace.”

 

In Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear (a toy astronaut) thinks that he is really a space hero. It is a belief that drives everything about him. Meanwhile Woody (a plush toy cowboy) shouts at him, “You’re not a space ranger! You’re an action figure—a child’s plaything.”

 

It is only when he fails to fly, that Buzz realizes the truth of Woody’s statement. He is crushed. He hangs his head in resignation and despair, and he says, “I’m just a stupid, little, insignificant toy.” He’s trying to fit into the world, the ring of important and heroes of the world.

 

Woody later seeks to comfort his friend. He says to him, “You must not be thinking clearly. Look, over in that house, there’s a kid who thinks you’re the greatest, and it’s not because you’re a space ranger; it’s because you’re his.” Not because of who you are, but whose you are. He focuses on the fact that Buzz may only be an action figure, but that what give him value is that he belongs to Andy and he is dearly beloved by An

 

And when Buzz lifts up his foot, he sees a label fixed to the bottom of his little shoe. There in black permanent ink is the name of Andy. Buzz breaks into a smile.[7]

 

We do not have Andy’s name written on our foot. We have something better. Look at Is. 49:16: “I have engraved you on the palm of my hands.” Sometimes in ancient times, the name of a master might be tattooed on the servant so people would know that the servant belonged to the master. But never, ever is the name of a servant tattooed on a master. That would mean a master who is devoted to his servant.

 

It is a horrible image. Why? It says, “I have engraved you…” Not tattooed, but engraved. That word “engraved,” means “to engrave with a hammer, chisel or a spike.” See the image? Why in the world would someone out of love allow people to take a hammer and drive a spike through the palm of their hands?

 

Someone out of love did do that exact thing centuries later. Remember Thomas after the resurrection? He was like Israel in v.14, filled with doubts and fears saying, “I can’t be sure.” Everyone else says, “He is risen!” Jesus appears to him and says, “Look at the palm of my hands. See my love for you.”

 

There is only one inner ring that matters. It is the inner ring of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We were once inside there, but our sin and rebellion kicked us out. Ever since then, we have been creating smaller rings so we feel like we belong somewhere. It’s like we all lived in a castle together and when we got kicked out, we started building sandcastles to make us feel better. But God in His infinite love through the cross and resurrection, brought us all in again—the Great Reversal!—the same way: through grace. We are all the same, saved by pure grace, not by looks, race, personality, income, morality, etc. All of us belong to Him, purchased by the same blood.

 

  1. Grace for the worst failures (Mark 16:7)

Notice the first words from the angel in Mark 16:7. “Don’t freak out. Check it out. Jesus died, but He lives. In fact, go and tell his disciples AND PETER He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him.” Notice he doesn’t say, “Tell those back-stabbing, no good, faithless and cowardly ex-disciples that I’m coming for them! They better be repenting and maybe I might forgive you and love you.” Notice the angel says, “HIS disciples.” They are His, always. Later, He will rebuke them for their unbelief, but I’m going ahead of myself.

 

Notice two small words here, “And Peter.” Are there any words more precious than this? I kind of imagine this angel sent out for this assignment here in Mark by Jesus, possibly going this way in my sanctified imagination in the Robin Standard Version:

“Listen, when the women show up, you make sure you tell them to tell my disciples that I will see them in Galilee and that I’ll meet them there.” The angel says, “Got it chief.”

As he walks away, Jesus stops him. “Hey, one more thing.” “Yeah, what’s that?” “Make sure the women know to tell Peter especially that I will see him as well. He desperately needs that word.”

 

Keller notes, “if the message had just been, “Go tell the disciples to meet me in Galilee. I want to see them in Galilee.” If that’s all the message Jesus makes, and the message comes to the disciples, and they’re all sitting around along with Peter, and the message is, “Jesus wants to see you in Galilee,” do you know what Peter would have said? He would have said, “You guys go. That can’t mean me. Not after what I’ve done.” You remember what he did. What he did was a lot worse than what anybody else did, but Jesus specifically says, “I have loving plans for my disciples, and that means you, too, Peter, you jerk.”[8]

 

Some of us need that word today. If you are wallowing in your failure today, Jesus wants us back more than you can possibly want to be back. Listen to Brennan Manning:

 

For me, the most touching verse in the entire Bible is the father’s response: “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). I am moved that the father didn’t cross-examine the boy, bully him, lecture him on ingratitude, or insist on any high motivation. He was so overjoyed at the sight of his son that he ignored all the canons of prudence and parental discretion and simply welcomed him home. The father took him back just as he was. {{{THE GREAT REVERSAL}}}

 

What a word of encouragement, consolation, and comfort! We don’t have to sift our hearts and analyze our intentions before returning home. Abba just wants us to show up. We don’t have to tarry at the tavern until purity of heart arrives. We don’t have to be shredded with sorrow or crushed with contrition. We don’t have to be perfect or even very good before God will accept us. We don’t have to wallow in guilt, shame, remorse, and self-condemnation. Even if we still nurse a secret nostalgia for the far country, Abba falls on our neck and kisses us.”[9]

 

  1. A Great Commission for the whole world (Mark 16:8-15)

The women obey and do as they are told, but notice nobody believes them, especially Mary Magdalene. Then He appears to the two on the road to Emmaus. They don’t believe them either. Then He actually shows up as rebukes them for not believing the people He had sent to them.

 

What’s the next verse? Mark 16:15: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole world.” I laughed for two minutes. “You guys stink! How many times did I tell you I would rise from the dead? He said it in Mark 8 and Mark 10. I told you so many times! Then I send these people to tell you and you are sitting here cowardly and in fear and unbelief. Now go into the world and proclaim the gospel.” What?! Did we miss anything here?

 

No, this is the way the Gospel of grace works. God takes the biggest screw-ups and failures and says, “You, that’s right you, you tells others about how deep, how long and how wide my love goes for people.” Why does God work that way? Because the more we see how wickedly sinful we are, the deeper our repentance can be and the greater our grasp of grace can be. These are the people that can change the world for Christ.

 

Keller adds, “We hate admitting we’ve failed. We do everything we possibly can to avoid it. We say, “If you had my mother or my father or my situation …” We blame people. We do everything we possibly can. We just do everything we can other than repent. We do everything we can other than to say, “I am a failure,” and take responsibility … “I am a moral, spiritual, personal failure.”

 

Do you know why? Because it feels like a death. It is a death, but if you let your failure drive you deeper into the gospel, it becomes a resurrection. If you let your failure drive you into the gospel that says you’re saved not by your work and your past, but by Christ’s work and Christ’s past, then do you know what happens? Do you know why it becomes a resurrection?

 

It drives you deeper into the gospel, which means you come to see, more than ever, the costliness of his love and the radicalness of his grace. You see your own flaws, but you also see how infallibly and infinitely and endlessly you are loved. What that means is it makes you humbler and bolder at the same time. Nothing else does that.

 

It gives you greater self-knowledge and greater self-forgetfulness. Nothing else does that. And on and on and on you grow and grow and grow, because the biggest repenters are the biggest lovers, the best leaders, the best counselors, the best parents, the best children, and the best everything! Isn’t that radical? It’s a word of grace and it comes at the resurrection, because what does the resurrection mean? It means your sins are forgiven.”[10] What a great reversal!

 

Conclusion

 

Let me close with a few applications today. First:

 

Living Hope is about the Gospel for all people. The Gospel is for all people. Some time ago someone asked me, “I hear great things are going on at Living Hope! You’re goin’ after the Indians huh?” I said, “No, I’m going after everyone that God has brought into our lives.” Our mission here is a Gospel for all people. Some churches have special callings to specific groups. We cannot control who God brings here, but we believe here that we are about reaching everyone that God has brought into our lives, regardless of who they are.

 

Secondly, the Gospel ends cliquishness. Whether you are in school during lunch, church, small groups, work place, remember you are saved by grace. How can we then feel superior? How can we keep to our own small group people? How can we keep to our own race? How can we just keep to people we have known for a long time? I say this a lot because like the disciples, we have gospel amnesia and we always fall into default mode of our hearts. Let the Gospel reverse the natural gravity of our hearts.

 

Thirdly, through the Gospel, our failures die and get resurrected. Plunge your failures into His grace and God will resurrect you into the husband you are to be, the wife you are to be, the parent you are to be, the friend you are to be and the servant of God you are to be. He is still reversing our screw-ups and using us for His glory.

 

Lastly, see risen King going before you in your day-to-day. What would happen if every morning as you get up, the Lord says, “Go boldly to work. I will be there before you.” Or “Go boldly to watch your kids today. I will be there with you.” Or “Go boldly to school. I will go ahead of you.” Would you see your day differently?

 

In fact, He has gone ahead of us preparing a place for us. We too will rise as He did. We too will sit around His table. Life would not have ended, but just begun, not because He lived and died, but because He died and now He lives!

 

[1]Yancey, P. (1995). The Jesus I Never Knew (209-210). Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan.

[2]Yancey, P. (2000, April 20). Easter Sunday. Retrieved April 17, 2014, from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/aprilweb-only/45.0b.html?paging=off.

 

 

[3]Poe, Edgar Allan (2013-08-26). The Raven (Kindle Location 1-81). Gallery

Books. Kindle Edition.

[4]Lewis, C.S. (1950). The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (179). New York, NY:

Harper Collins.

[5]Yancey, P. Easter Sunday. Ibid.

[6]Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon, “Women, Pagans and Pharisees,” preached April 1, 2007. The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

[7]Taken from http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2001/may/13058.html Retrieved April 18, 2014.

[8]Keller, T. J. (2013).  Sermon “The Empty Tomb, preached April 23, 2006. The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

[9]Manning, Brennan (2008-08-19). The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out (p. 189). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[10]Keller, T. J. (2013). Ibid.

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