Easter Sunday



Easter Sunday

There are many things I dismiss out of hand.  Alien Abductions, I disregard such a testimony.  Time Travel, I disregard such a testimony.  A flat earth, I disregard such a testimony.  Chemtrails are medicating us from the skies, I disregard such a testimony.  There is a secret Cabal of super elites running the world, I disregard such a testimony.  There is an unknown civilization living at the center of the earth, I disregard such a testimony.  Seeing Ghosts, I disregard such a testimony.  Elvis is still alive, I disregard such a testimony. 

The extraterrestrial origins of Crop Circles, Ancient astronauts, Bigfoot, LochNess type creatures, the Illuminati, Vampires, Werewolves, Skinwalkers, the Easter Bunny, in my thinking are all suspect.

There are many things that I won’t buy into.  The Holocaust is just Israeli propaganda and never happened, nope. The government covered up the crash of an alien spacecraft in Roswell, nope.  The moon landing is a hoax, nope. Princess Diana was murdered by a British intelligence agency, nope.  The tragedy of 9/11 was a CIA plot, nope.  FEMA is building concentration camps, nope.  The FDA and Big Pharm is withholding the cure for cancer, nope. 

Jesus of Nazareth bodily rose from death. I believe that one. Jesus was tortured and executed, stone-cold dead, entombed and three days later rose bodily from death.  Not an illusion, not a trick, Not a hoax, not a conspiracy theory, not a myth, not a hallucination, why believe that it is true?

Some people are called apologists.  Now they don’t go around saying they're sorry for stuff.  In the study of Christianity, there is a field called apologetics which focuses on the reason why followers of Jesus believe the things they do.  The resurrection is a topic highly researched.

I am still reading the Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright, it is a lengthy and scholarly work that I have been meandering through. Lee Strobel’s books The Case for Easter, and the Case for the Resurrection are very readable.  Gary Habermas, and Michael Licona their book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus is another good choice. In these books, you will find the convincing arguments that the event we call the resurrection occurred.  If you need reasons to believe then these are the recommended books.

The gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John all have accounts of the resurrection. All of the accounts differ slightly.  Harmonizing them is an error, making the four accounts fit together to form one narrative is a mistake.  We should allow each account to speak to its intended audience.  It’s Mark’s account we’ll consider today.

Mark 16:1-11 (NIV)

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 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.'"

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

9 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. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

May God allow this truth to penetrate our hearts today.

Because of the Passover rules, the body of Jesus could not be properly prepared for burial.  So after the Sabbath, which would have started at sundown on Friday and ended at sundown on Saturday, Sunday just after sunrise a group of Jesus followers, all women, by the way, arrive at the tomb site to prepare Jesus body for proper entombment.

None of the 11 disciples are around.  The men following Jesus are nowhere to be seen and on the way, the women are wondering how they could move the stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb.  As we read, it is open as they arrive.  Who is the young man dressed in white?  The identification “young man” is only used twice by Mark, one time here and in Mark 14.  Mark 14 is the account of Jesus' arrest.  There we read

Mark 14:51-52 (NIV)
A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. 

Other than the identification “young man” we don’t know much about this follower of Jesus other than he’s wearing a linen garment and in his escape, its torn off of him and he runs away naked.  Nudity is very taboo in this culture, it would be considered shameful.  It is plausible that Mark is telling a story within the story. 
To his shame this “young man” abandons Jesus. He was eager to follow Jesus but when it came to cost him, he fled. You’re following Jesus and all of a sudden things take a terrible turn.  It shakes you.  Tough times often cause people to flee the faith.

When the going gets tough the tough get going, and the not so tough get lost.  Have you gotten lost in your faith when tough times smacked you up the side of the head?  If so, I’ve got some good news for you.

Mark’s story within a story also makes note of what the “young man” is wearing, that’s a strange detail.  He is wearing a linen garment.  In the next chapter in Mark we read that after His death, Jesus is wrapped in a linen cloth.  In Greek, the words linen cloth and linen garment are the same. There’s a connection, the garment left in shameful flight is now worn by Jesus in his death. Is this a garment of shame, perhaps?  Mark is telling us that Jesus took upon Himself the failure of His disciple to keep committed.

If you’ve gotten lost in your faith, half of the good news is that Jesus has already taken upon himself the behavior you are now ashamed and embarrassed over. Jesus has taken care of the offense. The other half of the good news is on its way.

Mark 15:44-46 (NIV)
Summoning the centurion, [Pilate] asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, [Pilate] gave the body to Joseph [of Arimathea]. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.-

Three days later when the women arrive at the tomb the unidentified “young man” is dressed in white.  The only other time in the gospel according to Mark that someone is dressed in white is in the 9th chapter where the inner circle, Peter, James, and John witness the glory of Jesus in the event we call the Mount of Transfiguration. 

Mark 9:2-3 (NIV)
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.

The white garment represents holiness, righteousness, overcoming victory, and that fact that its dazzling white makes it that much more so.  In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John reports that those who overcome are clothed in garments of white (Revelation 3:5, 4:4, 7:9, 7:13, 19:14).  The sign of redemption is the garments of white.

That’s the other half of the good news. The young man who ran from his commitment in shame, now, because of the resurrection has been restored, sins forgiven and fulfilling his duty as a disciple of Jesus. He is an ambassador of God, telling the women the good news of the resurrection.  Jesus took upon himself the garments of sin and shame, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

Maybe this Easter Sunday morning this unidentified “young man” is your story.  Once you were eager to serve Jesus, to be his disciple, but then times got tough and you slipped away into the night.  You’ve done things you regret.  In shame, you have thought that you can never follow Jesus again.  My dear friend, Mark tells you that in his story within a story that redemption is yours if you will just again choose to follow Jesus.   Yes, you’ve made a mess of things, but give yourself, heart, mind, soul, and strength again in a no turning back commitment to Jesus and Jesus will take your mess and create something beautiful from it.  Is this what you need this morning?  It can be yours if you want it.  If it is what you want, take a moment to think things through.  As you do there is also a message for those who have never believed.

Having looked at the story within the story I want to spend our remaining time on just one aspect of Mark’s Easter Sunday narrative. Early Sunday morning the women arrive at the entombment site, the stone is rolled away, the young man proclaims his message.  The women are freaked out and flee.  The resurrected Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and after that encounter, she tells the disciples in hiding that she has seen Jesus.  The response from those men, men who had been with Jesus, men who had heard his teaching, men who had seen the miracles, signs, and wonders that Jesus performed to demonstrate His message was true, they don’t believe it.

There are some things I dismiss out of hand.  The earth is the center of the universe and everything revolves around it.  Sorry no.  Area 51 contains alien technology.  Not today. The mass suicide of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple cult was an experiment conducted by MK-Ultra.  I’ll pass.  The man we know today as Sir Paul McCartney died in 1966. Please. There are foreign troops under the United Nations command stationed in the United States.  Skip it. 

There are some things I just can’t buy into.  The Human Immunodeficiency Virus that results in AIDS was genetically engineered by the ultra elites to cull the human population.  Save your breath.  Vaccinations are part of some nefarious government plot.  There’s a lot of misinformation.  The Bilderberg group is a Satanic cult bent on world domination as the New World Order. You can leave me out.  Megan Markle is a robot or at least has a robot double.  Ridiculoso.  Jesus married Mary Magdalene and their kids became French royalty.  No thank you, Dan Brown.

The bodily resurrection from the grave of a Jewish rabbi around 33 AD, yes I believe that.  You may wonder what evidence do I have to support my belief.  I am not going to appeal to personal experience, though I have encounters with whom I have decided is the Living God revealed to us in scripture.  I am not going to appeal to the great apologist of Christianity though they present very convincing arguments.  I am not going to appeal to the testimony of others, no matter how reputable they are.

Mark 16:11 (NIV)
When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

For me, I choose to believe it.  That’s the bottom line, I choose to believe. My mind is made up. Regardless of my rationale, what is most important is that I choose to believe in Easter. Case closed.  I have chosen to simply believe.  It’s something a person decides to do because the story resonates with something inexplicable deep inside.  You hear and are drawn into the story and simply believe because it feels true.  The disciples that day choose not to believe.  They refused the testimony of Mary who they all knew.  If anyone should have been prepared to believe it was those men. But they didn’t.  It took some spectacular convincing.  Today you can simply believe that the resurrection event occurred because it speaks to you, it calls to you, it beckons you into mystery.

If you are a Christian who fled into the night when times got tough, Easter Sunday is a good day to choose to turn things around and again start following.  If you have never believed in the resurrection, Easter Sunday is a good day to choose to do so.

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is either the most incredible life-changing truth ever or the grandest 2000 plus year conspiracy theory.  It will be as you choose. 

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