The Fact that Informs Faith

Posted: September 28, 2014 in Mark
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Mark 16:1-8, “The Fact that Informs Faith”

Dazed and confused.  That’s how the morning began for these three women, and that’s how it continued for them after leaving the tomb.  They had come in grief, and they left in bewildered amazement.  They had come certain of what they needed to do, and they left uncertain how to feel or what to believe.  They had received the best news in all history, and it left them completely overwhelmed.

It’s understandable.  After all, although their world had come crashing down when they witnessed Jesus crucified and buried, they at least had a plan on dealing with their grief.  No one want to endure the death of a loved one, but there are cultural norms on to which we can fall as we begin to work through the process. That is what Mary Magdalene, another Mary, and Salome all had begun to do, but all of that was undone upon their meeting with the angel at the tomb.  It was a wonderful confusion, but it was confusion, nonetheless.

What do we do when we’re not sure how to feel, or what to believe?  How do we deal with questions of faith when we’re in the middle of grief – or our world is being turned upside-down in myriads of ways?  Those are the days that we hold onto facts.  Those are the times that we grab hold of truths…things that are verifiable and unshakeable.  Truth is always more important than feeling; but it’s especially important in those time.

On Resurrection morning, the angel gave three women a fact…the most wonderful verifiable fact in all of history.  Jesus had been literally raised from the dead, and it was upon that fact that they could found their faith.

Mark 16:1–11
1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.

  • All three women had been at the cross when Jesus died, and Mark mentions the two Mary’s witnessing the tomb where Jesus had been laid.  Mary Magdalene is described for us later in Chapter 16, but who were the other Mary and Salome?  The Bible tells us very little about either one.  Tradition holds that Mary the mother of James (and Joses) was a sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, while Salome may have been the mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee).  If true, then they would have had close family ties to Jesus, which might account for their coming to the tomb after Jesus’ burial.  Like other family members, they wanted to ensure things were done properly.  That said, what about Mary Magdalene?  She has no family tie to Jesus, nor any of the other disciples.  This was a woman whose relationship to Jesus was based purely upon faith, and nothing else.  That’s not to say that the other women didn’t have a devoted faith towards Jesus, but they certainly had other reasons that could have brought them to the tomb.  Not so with Mary.  If she didn’t have faith in Jesus, she had nothing.
    • Likewise with us.  We have no family tie to Jesus – as Gentiles, we don’t even have a cultural identity with Him.  But through faith, we are tied together on the deepest level.  We share in the very inheritance of Jesus, and have been made the children of God.
  • Why did they come to the tomb?  Devotion. They had “bought spices” and intended to “anoint Him.”  The Jews did not usually embalm their dead or mummify them (like the Egyptians), but they did pack spices around dead bodies, and bind them through tight wrapping.  It didn’t do much to preserve the actual flesh, but it did cut down on the stink of the natural decomposition.  It wouldn’t take long in the warm Mediterranean climate of Israel for bodies to break down (which is why Mary and Martha knew that their dead brother Lazarus was already rotting after four days – “He stinketh,” Jn 11:39, KJV).  The gospel of John tells us that Jesus’ body had already been packed with spices by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (so much so, that it would befit a king!), but the women had come back with more.  Perhaps they had only observed where Jesus was laid, and hadn’t seen the other burial preparations – perhaps they just wanted to personally address things.  The logic of those in grief isn’t always easily explained, as we all know from personal experience.  What is not in question is their love and devotion for Jesus.  He had died upon the cross, and in the eyes of all who followed Jesus, the Messianic hope had died with Him.  They had no reason to come to the tomb; they had every reason to stay away.  Many would have gotten disillusioned or even angry. “How could He die if He was the Messiah?!  He lied to us!”  Not these women.  They were confused, but they were faithful.  They did not understand Jesus’ death, but they did not abandon Jesus’ person.  They were devoted and faithful even in the midst of their confusion.
  • Note what all of the actions of the women underscores: the women truly believed Jesus was dead.  They had seen Jesus die with their own eyes, and they were coming to the tomb, expecting a corpse.  They did not come with food and medicine to help an injured rabbi recover from wounds; they came with the tools of a mortician, ready to treat the dead body of a beloved Friend and Master.

2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

  • This might seem to be a minor detail, but there is something here that is carefully pointed out by Mark: the women came to the (empty) tomb on Sunday morning.  Jesus rose from the dead on the “first day of the week,” which is the reason that Christians have traditionally gathered on Sunday mornings for worship.  Obviously the first Christians were Jewish, and they met with their fellow Jews on Saturday during their Sabbath, but those who believed in Jesus as Messiah also met on Sundays from the very beginning.  The book of Acts does not yet end before the church is seen meeting on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), and Paul gives instructions to the Corinthian church on how to receive their financial gifts – when?  On the first day of the week (1 Cor 16:2).
    • Every so often, you’ll run into people claiming that Christians violate the Sabbath when we worship on Sunday mornings.  Typically they’ll claim that we engage in some sort of pagan Roman form of worship, as Constantine was the first emperor to set aside Sunday as a day of rest.  Such claims ignore the plain testimony of Scripture.  Yes, the English word “Sunday” is in reference to the sun, but the English word “Saturday” is in reference to Roman god Saturn.  It doesn’t matter how the Romans used the days; it matters how the Bible uses them.  Not once does the NT ever show the Sabbath day changing from the 7th day (Saturday) to the 1st day (Sunday), but it does consistently show Christians gathering on the 1st day to worship.  Why?  It’s all in remembrance of the resurrection.  The very reason we CAN rest from our labors (which is what the Sabbath symbolizes) is because Jesus died for us and rose from the grave.  We don’t work to earn our salvation; Jesus purchased it on our behalf and freely gives it to us in faith.  THAT is the true Sabbath rest.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter in the slightest which day we choose to worship; what matters is the fact that we actually worship Jesus Christ as Lord.
  • Question: why is it so important that Jesus rose on the “first day of the week”?  Because that’s when Jesus said He would rise.  Not only had Jesus said that the sign that demonstrates His authority and identity is the sign of the prophet Jonah (dead for 3 days, and then brought back to the land of the living – Mt 12:39), but He specifically prophesied three times that He would die and then rise “the third day.” (Mt 16:21, 17:23, 20:19)  It would be a specific enough prophecy if Jesus had said it only once.  Yet He said it no less than three times (and likely more, considering the gospels are not exhaustive transcripts of everything Jesus said and did).  For Jesus to be wrong on this account would make Him a false prophet – and that would be a terrible problem, even if He did rise from the grave and do other miracles seemingly through the power of God.  If Jesus was wrong on the timing of His resurrection, yet still showed power, we would be left with a massive disconnect.  What could we trust about Him?  Would we need to reinterpret everything He said?  Yet that’s not the situation Jesus left us.  He proved Himself to be fully consistent, and true to every word of prophecy He spoke.  He died prior to sundown on Friday afternoon (day 1) – He was in the tomb Friday night and all day on Saturday (day 2) – He was raised sometime prior to sunrise on Sunday morning (day 3).  If He had stayed in the grave until Sunday sundown, that would be the 4th day (invalidating prophecy), and if He rose earlier, it would be the 2nd day (invalidating prophecy).  Jesus rose perfectly on time – just like He said He would.
    • Every word Jesus speaks is true.  Every word Jesus taught can be trusted.

3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large.

  • This was a legitimate problem for the women – one they hadn’t fully thought through in their grief.  It would take several men to roll away the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb, and they hadn’t brought any with them.  They may or may not have known of the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb (it’s doubtful they would have gone there that morning if they had), but even if they knew of the soldiers, few Romans would have taken pity on the women and opened the tomb for them.  The soldiers had been placed there by the authority of Pilate at the request of the Jewish priests specifically to ensure that the grave was NOT opened.  There had even been an official Roman seal placed across the stone, warning everyone who approached not to break the seal, under penalty of the wrath of the Roman empire.  No soldier would have dared touch it.
  • Interestingly, Mark does not even mention the Roman guard in his account (Matthew alone does).  Why not?  From the women’s perspective, the guards were already gone by the time they arrived.  When the angel of God appeared, it shook the guards to their core, and the hardened soldiers were so frightened that they became as dead men (Mt 28:4).  Apparently, they ran off pretty quickly!
  • Yet the Roman guard was not the only item that had moved away…so was the stone.  Problems for people are not problems for God.  Our biggest obstacle is not a massive rock, but our massive sin.  Yet in Jesus, that is tossed aside just as the stone was! 

5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

  • It’s no wonder they were alarmed…they were looking at an angel!  Mark does not use the specific label of “angel,” but there can be little doubt that is what he described.  Matthew and John each use the word to identify the heavenly witness, whereas Mark and Luke simply describe what can only be angels.  The “long white robe” was special clothing worn by priesthood and aristocracy in the culture.  Obviously the priests or other upper-class Jerusalem Jews would not be in the tomb offering comfort to the women…this had to be someone else. Biblically speaking, this kind of robe is also worn by believers clothed with Jesus’ righteousness in heaven.  Mark describes the robe as being white, which is a bit of understatement on his part.  Luke describes it as “shining garments,” (Lk 24:4), and it’s somewhat reminiscent of how Jesus appeared upon the Mount of Transfiguration.  This wasn’t just any guy wearing any robe; this was something special…something heavenly.
  • Why did the angel appear as “a young man”?  Angels don’t always have their appearance described in the Bible, but this is the only description of one as a “young man.”  Sometimes the angels defy description (as with Ezekiel), while other times they appear in heavenly glory, bronzed and majestic (per Daniel).  Yet this one appears as a youth, perhaps even a teenager.  There’s something disarming in all of this.  Here is a being with immense power given by God – one who is able to toss back the stone in front of the tomb and cause the Roman soldiers to fall over as if dead.  Yet at the same time that he disarms the soldiers of Rome, he appears in the most disarming of ways.  Just the way God presents the angel is a demonstration of His grace to the women.
    • Was there one angel or two?  Matthew and Mark both record one angel, Luke records two, and John doesn’t get into this aspect at all.  If we piece it all together, there were two angels, with only one speaking.  It’s just different perspectives of the same event, as might be expected from the various tellings of different eyewitnesses.
  • Regardless how many angels were present that glorious morning, what is far more important was the news that was shared.  See vs. 6…

6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

  • First: the fear.  The angel recognized the “alarm” of the women for what it was, but they didn’t need to fear.  Of course, as they left the tomb they would be afraid (as seen in vs. 8), but at the moment, they didn’t need to panic.  Again, they were looking at an angel…it was natural for people to panic (as did the Romans!).  If we saw an angel, we might think we were about to die – either we were intruding somewhere holy where we ought not to be, or the hour of our death had come upon us and the angel was going to take us out.  That was not the case here.  The angel had not come with bad news, but good news…the BEST news! He had not come to pronounce judgment from God, but to tell the sign of the grace of God.
  • Second: the past.  Jesus had been “crucified.”  There was no question whose body the women were looking for.  They hadn’t gone to the wrong place – they hadn’t imagined His death.  “Jesus of Nazareth” (the literal human being that they had walked and talked with) had truly been crucified and He died.  Again, there was no swoon – no coma – no mistaken identity.  This had been the tomb of the crucified Jesus.
    • Although it comes across in the past tense in English, this is actually the perfect tense in Greek, referring to a completed action at a particular point in past time.  IOW, Jesus was crucified, and that crucifixion is over…it’s done.  Despite the many depictions in so many churches around the world, Jesus is no longer on that cross. When Jesus became the sacrifice for sin on the cross, He hung there at a particular point in time, died there, and it was over.  It was enough – it was sufficient.  As Jesus said in His own words: “τετελεσται” = “It is finished!”
    • What does that tell us?  That the price has been paid.  There is a fierce penalty to pay for the crime of sin: death.  Every sin carries its own penalty, which lasts for eternity – and how many sins did we commit in a single morning, much more a lifetime?  Yet it’s all been paid!  Someone stepped in and paid our penalty on our behalf.  That Someone is Jesus.  He was crucified, and His literal death paid for your spiritual crimes against God.
  • Third: the present.  “He is risen!”  Hallelujah!  He once was crucified, literally dead and buried for three days, but that’s not the case any longer.  Jesus had risen from the grave.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record it in the same way: just one word (ἠγέρθη) meaning He has been raised.  This is exactly what Jesus said that He would do, and He did it.  He was raised from the dead, and He is still risen from the dead today.  Jesus died at that one point in time, He was raised at a different point in time three days later, and the effects of His rising continue even now.  Obviously Jesus no more need to be re-resurrected than He does to be crucified (in fact, multiple resurrections would imply multiple deaths); His one resurrection is sufficient, and though it began in the past it continues to the present. 
    • The resurrection changes everything!
  • Fourth: the proof.  There were a lot of people in that tomb that morning, but Jesus wasn’t one of them.  Interestingly enough, Jesus is nowhere to be seen at this time – it’s as if God is stressing that Jesus has been long-gone by this point.  It’s not as if Jesus just barely was getting up and needed help from anyone.  Jesus didn’t even need anyone to remove the stone!  Matthew tells us that the angel removed the stone from the door, but the whole implication is that Jesus was already gone.  The angel removed the stone to let the ladies see inside; not to let Jesus out.  The three women would see the place where Jesus had been.  No doubt they recognized the linen cloths that had been wrapped around His body – after all, with as bloody as Jesus had been, those cloths would not have been confused for those used with another dead body in a different tomb.  No, this was the tomb in which Jesus had once laid – it’s just that He wasn’t there any longer.  The physical proof was right in front of them.
    • Out of all of the religious faiths in the world, Christianity is the one faith that is based on historical fact.  We do not merely believe that Jesus rose from the dead; we know that Jesus rose from the dead.  The historical evidence surrounding Jesus’ resurrection is overwhelmingly abundant.  Of course we cannot go back and recreate the scene for a scientific experiment – we have to rely on eyewitness accounts and testimony, just as we do for every other act of history.  How do we know the Titanic sank because of an iceberg?  After all, the iceberg is gone.  We know it through testimony.  How do we know George Washington was our first president?  Through historical record and testimony.  It’s no different with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  How do we know that Jesus rose from the dead?  Through the testimonies of those who were present when it happened.
      • The testimony of the women.  It’s notable that all four gospel accounts plainly show women being the first witnesses to the empty tomb.  For all of the variety of details about Resurrection morning, this particular one is consistent.  Culturally, the testimony of women was not valued, nor particularly trusted. (It may be sexist, but that’s the way it was.) It’s that fact that makes their testimony all the more valuable.  If the Biblical writers were going to make up a story about Jesus’ resurrection, why would they begin with the least believable people possible?  Persuasively, it seems that they would be shooting themselves in the foot (so to speak) by giving the testimony of the women.  There’s absolutely no reason why the Biblical authors would do it this way, unless it really happened.  And it did.
      • The testimony of the apostles.  We don’t get to it in our text this morning, but eventually all the apostles saw the resurrected Jesus, and they believed.  Even Thomas (who held onto his doubts for a full week) fell to his knees at the sight of the Risen Jesus & proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).  The apostles went through torture and death holding fast to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.  They had every reason to recant or change their story, and none of them did.  They had no reason to die for a lie if they knew it was a lie…they died for the truth, knowing it was the truth.
      • The testimony of many others who believed.  It wasn’t just the 11 remaining disciples and the women who saw Jesus risen from the dead.  Paul reminded the Corinthians that over 500 people saw Jesus at one point, and many of those people were still alive at the time of his writing (1 Cor 15:6).  Any one of them could have been questioned by a Corinthian about the resurrection.
      • The testimony of people unlikely to believe.  The Jews of Jerusalem had no reason to be fooled by stories of Jesus’ resurrection if He had not been raised.  After all, any one of them could have seen the tomb for themselves, just as they had seen Jesus crucified.  Yet over 3000 people came to faith on that first Pentecost Sunday, having known for themselves that Jesus was risen from the grave.  Even the Jewish priests and Roman soldiers testified to the reality of the resurrection simply through the cover-up they attempted to arrange.  If the story that the Roman soldiers told was true (that they had fallen asleep at the tomb as the disciples stole the body), none of the soldiers would have lived to tell the tale.  They would have all been killed by Rome as punishment.  Their survival (and the Jews’ intervention on their behalf) loudly testifies to the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection.
    • There is much proof that Jesus rose from the dead.  The question is whether or not you believe it.  No one has the excuse of “I just don’t know.”  We CAN know; the proof is abundant.  How you respond to that proof is up to you.
  • Fifth: the instruction.  The angel told the women to “go, tell His disciples” of Jesus’ resurrection, and for them to go to Galilee as previously instructed.  It’s virtually a preview of the Great Commission.  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome had all been told of the resurrection – now they were to go tell others.  The news was not meant for their eyes and ears alone.  It was far too important – ALL of the disciples needed to know it as well.  Not only did they need to be told just to get them moving on the road to Galilee (as Jesus had told them during the Last Supper – Mk 14:28), but they needed to know just so they could come to faith!  Think about it.  At this point in time, these three women had more knowledge of Jesus than the 11 apostles.  They knew that Jesus had been raised from the dead.  The others were back in the city, locked away & afraid for their own lives.  They were living in grief and hopelessness.  There were three women who could offer them hope – but those women needed to share it with them.
    • That aspect hasn’t changed in 2000 years.  We have been given the best news in all history: Jesus is risen!  God sent His Son to the world, and gave Him as a sacrifice for the sins that we committed against God.  Now Jesus is alive, and our sins can be forgiven when we believe upon Jesus as our Lord.  That is life-changing news!  That is the kind of message that takes people from hopelessness to hope, from death to life.  It’s far too important to keep to ourselves.  There are people WE know who are dying in their sin, languishing without any real hope in God.  All they need is for someone to tell them the good news.  We’re the ones that need to share it with them.
    • Will you do it?  It would be easy to write it off & think that someone else will tell your friend, your co-worker, your neighbor of the gospel.  But imagine if every Christian thought the same thing.  Who would be left to tell the news?  God gave YOU the news.  YOU need to be one to share it with others.
  • Sixth: the grace.  In all of the instruction, did you notice who was specifically pointed out to be included?  Peter.  Some have interpreted this as Peter being given the preeminence among the apostles, but there’s nothing from the context that implies such a thing.  (It seems an obvious attempt to try to elevate Peter into the position of the pope, which the Bible never proclaims.)  Far from Peter being assumed to first among the remaining 11 apostles, it seems to point out that Peter likely did not even count himself among the apostles at this point.  Just a few days prior, he had three times denied Jesus, after boasting that he would never do such a thing and would even die with Jesus.  When Scripture last saw Peter, he was grieved over his failure and bitterly weeping.  That’s where the grace is so loudly proclaimed through the angel.  He told the women to go tell Jesus’ disciples this news, and guess what?  Peter is still one of those disciples.  Peter needed to know he was one of those disciples.  Peter of all people needed to know this news that Jesus was alive, and that Jesus still had plans for Peter to be used by God.
    • Had Peter failed?  Yes (so had the rest of the apostles).  But Jesus did not define Peter by his failure.  Jesus still had a plan to use Peter, but Peter needed to go to Jesus to learn what it was.  In the grace of God, God desires to use us.  Why?  I can’t say…I know I wouldn’t use me. J  But God is full of grace & He sees things differently.  He reaches out to the foolish things of the world and uses them for His glory.  Have you failed?  It doesn’t mean that God is done with you.  It just means that you’re reminded once more the reason why Jesus died upon the cross.  Remember His death, but especially remember His resurrection.  In His resurrection there is hope and future.

8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

  • They followed the instructions of the angel – the fact that “they said nothing to anyone” doesn’t mean that they said nothing to the 11 disciples, but rather they didn’t say anything to anyone on their way TO the disciples.  Not only were they understandably overwhelmed by what they had just witnessed and heard, but they still had the very legitimate fear of retribution from the Jewish priests and leadership.  After all, their Messiah has just been crucified three days earlier.  They heard Jesus was raised from the dead, and they saw the evidence with their own eyes but it’s doubtful that they truly understood the ramifications of what it all meant.  This was life-changing for them, and they needed to have some time to let it all sink in, and have Jesus teach them more about it.
    • As for us, we don’t need to be afraid.  We’ve been given the very best news in all the universe – and we know what the three women that day did not yet know: not only is Jesus raised, but Jesus reigns.  No power can stand against Him, and He gives power to all those who believe!
  • No doubt they feared the Jews, but was that ALL they feared?  Mark writes that “they trembled and were amazed.”  The Amplified Version says “they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and bewilderment and consternation had seized them.”  That’s not typically the way we imagine the women.  After all, Matthew writes that they had gone out “with fear and great joy,” (Mt 28:8), whereas neither Luke nor John write of their emotions.  Was there joy?  Obviously so, but that doesn’t seem to be their primary emotion.  Their hearts and minds were whirling, and they were (understandably) on an emotional roller-coaster.  Part of them rejoiced at the idea and possibilities, while another part of them was on the edge of panic.  The word Mark uses for “amazed” is the same word from which we get “ecstasy.”  The Greeks used this not so much to describe “amazement” in terms that we might be amazed at a grand stunt we witnessed in a show, but “amazement” in terms of being driven out of one’s mind in a state of confusion.  No doubt if anyone had a right to be confused, it was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome!  They had seen an angel, heard of and saw the empty tomb, and were trying to come to grips with the fact that the One they personally saw die three days earlier was now alive again.  That brought them to a place of virtually being beside themselves.  Not only did they have a fear of the Jews, but it’s highly likely that they also had a renewed fear of God.  It’s impossible not to fear God when we witness His power…and what is a greater demonstration of the power of God than the resurrection of Jesus Christ?  Mark often showed people in fear of Jesus when He performed some sort of miracle identifying Him as God (after calming the storm – Mk 4:41, after expelling the legion of demons – 5:15, after walking on water – 6:50).  The resurrection is the greatest miracle of all, and it is a declaration that Jesus is none other than the Son of God. (Rom 1:4)  So did the women fear?  Yes – and they had every reason to do so.
    • We need to recover a sense of what it is to tremble in holy fear before a Living God.  Obviously born-again believers in Jesus don’t ever need to be afraid to come to God in prayer – through faith in Jesus, we’ve been made children of God.  God loves us greatly, and His gentleness towards us is seen through Jesus’ invitation to come if we are heavy-laden, and He will give us rest for our souls (Mt 11:28-29).  But in all of His mercy and love, God never stops being God.  He is still the All-powerful Creator, who holds the universe in the span of His hand.  He is to be reverenced and rightly feared – never treated casually or with disrespect.  When He shows Himself in His power, we’re reminded of all of this…and the three women at the tomb had the most visible reminder possible.

Conclusion:
It seems like a weird place to end.  Everything is somewhat unsettled at this point.  The women, once so devoted in their grief, have been told the very best news imaginable, and yet here they are running off in a virtual state of panic.  If the only gospel we had was Mark, and we were to read to this point & go no further, we’d be left with all kinds of questions.  Would the women be obedient or not?  After all, they fled the tomb but we’re not told where they went.  If they went to the disciples, would the disciples believe?  We were told of an angel’s appearance, but what about Jesus – would we even see Him raised from the dead?  At this point, everything is tense and there are all kinds of unresolved questions.  (Which makes it all the more curious as to why so many scholars believe that this was the way that Mark intended the book to end.  We’ll get into that issue next week.)

This isn’t the normal way we might think of ending an account on the resurrection.  In our minds, we think of the tragedy of the cross, leap ahead to the surprise at the empty tomb, and leap again to the actual appearance of Jesus, belief of the disciples, and incredible joy.  And of course, all of those things did indeed happen…but all of those things took time.  Jesus did die upon the cross, and He was dead for three days.  Three days normally doesn’t seem long to us, but time moves interminably slow when we’re grieving.  They were not only grieving a beloved friend, but the Man they believed to be the Son of God.  What would our faith have been like on that Saturday as the minutes ticked by?  Finally the availability comes for the women to bring their spices to continue their burial rituals, they get to the tomb, and their whole world is rocked.  Try to imagine what they must have been feeling as they ran from the tomb Sunday morning.  Remember that this was a literal point in time.  There was a moment that the women didn’t know what to believe.  Their emotions were heaving like waves at sea, and they didn’t really know how to react to it all.

Have you ever been in that same place?  Have you been at the point that your entire world is turned upside-down, and you don’t know what to believe or how to react?  That’s the point that many would tell us, “Just trust your feelings!” – yet that’s the worst advice possible at that time.  How can feelings be trusted when our feelings are on a roller-coaster?  Our feelings can rarely be trusted anyway, because our hearts are wicked and deceitful.  At that point, what we need are not feelings, but facts.

And that’s what the three women had been given.  They had been given the fact that Jesus is risen from the grave, and that fact ought to affect everything.  No matter how the women felt at the moment, nothing changed the truth that Jesus was alive again.  Praise God that we do not base our faith upon our feelings, but upon fact! 

Obviously we have an advantage over the women at that moment because we know the rest of the story.  We look back on the completed work of Jesus, and our faith is built upon the foundation of the doctrine the apostles came to believe.  Our response doesn’t need to be panic, but joy!  Think back to the words of the angel:

  • Don’t “be alarmed.”  The women were alarmed at the sight in front of them – for us, it’s different.  We don’t have an angel in front of us, nor a stone blocking our paths.  But we do have fears of our own.  We have our own sins and failures.  We have things that we think make it impossible to come before God.  But what is impossible for man is possible for God.  Don’t be alarmed – don’t be afraid.  Come freely to Jesus, just as He invites you to do.
  • Jesus “was crucified.”  There’s no doubt that Jesus was dead – “was” being the key word.  Jesus was crucified for our sins once, and once was enough.  His death was done, and it was completed.  The price for our sins has been paid, and there is nothing left for us to fulfill in regards to it.  We don’t owe God penance – we could not earn our forgiveness if we tried.  It’s done because Jesus ensured that it was done when He died for us upon the cross.
  • Jesus “is risen.”  We’ve been given proof of it.  The women, the apostles, the church, the Jews, the Romans – they all testify to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. There’s no reason to doubt that Jesus is risen, and there is every reason to rejoice that He has done so!  Because Jesus rose, we have proof that Jesus is the Son of God, and proof that the wage paid in Jesus’ blood is sufficient. 
  • Go and tell.”  We’ve been given wonderful news, and it is news to be shared.  How can we keep this to ourselves?  All around the world (not to mention in our own neighborhoods), people are lost in hopelessness or in the deceit of false religion.  They need to be saved just as badly as we needed to be saved, and there’s only one way that they can be saved: if someone tells them about Jesus.  WE are to tell them.  YOU are to tell them.  This news has been given to us, and it is a sacred trust.  If we don’t tell them, who will?

Christian, this is our hope.  This is the fact upon which our faith is founded.  This is what we can be grounded upon even when our world gets turned upside down.  Hold to it!  Cling to it!  Stay grounded in it, no matter what!  And…share it.  We cannot afford to believe this, and never share it with others as if we’re hoarding it away for ourselves.  The historical fact that saves us will save the world if they but believe.  We have to take it to them.

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