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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Great News on the First Day of the Week
Text:Mark 16:6-7 (View)
Occasion:Easter
Topic:Death Defeated
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-04-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 67:1,3                                                                                

Ps 111:4,5

Reading – Mark 16

Ps 22:8,9,10

Sermon – Mark 16:6-7

Hy 68:1,7,8

Hy 37:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, for a lot of years, this church has gathered together for worship. There’s been a lot of Lord’s days on those benches, in front of this pulpit. And for most of us, the Lord’s day has always been special. On the first day of the week for as long as we can remember, we’ve gathered somewhere for worship, whether in this country and congregation or in some other place.

Why Sunday? Why the first day of the week? It’s simple, really. It’s the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the day when He showed that death had no hold on him, that sin’s curse was broken. It’s a great day for Christ—and that means it’s a great day for us! Every Sunday we can celebrate the glories of our Saviour.

And for this reason we will continue to meet on the first day of the week, and we will worship God with joy and thanksgiving. Today we’ll consider one of the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. We listen to the angel’s words in Mark 16:6-7 under this theme,

On Easter Sunday, the Lord’s angel speaks words of hope and promise:

  1. a startling revelation for the women
  2. an encouraging reminder for the disciples
  3. a pressing responsibility for the church

 

1) a startling revelation for the women: If you’ve ever gone to a funeral, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’ll find there. There’ll be tears and long faces. Flowers and cards. And the body of a loved one, lifeless and cold. It’s not a setting where you expect a big surprise or a shocking turn of events.

So think about how those women felt on Easter Sunday. These women are introduced to us at the beginning of the chapter—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They’re making an early-morning trip to the tomb of Jesus. After a funeral in first century Israel, this is often what happened: the friends and relatives of someone deceased would make regular visits to the grave, even up to three days after the burial. Holding onto a faint hope of revival, perhaps; or simply to carry out their grieving.

The women this day have something else in mind, too; they’re going to anoint the body of the Lord. In the rush of events last Friday, with the Sabbath day fast approaching, his burial hadn’t been properly completed. So now it was time to finish it. It was a sad task, but necessary, as they smothered a body with spices and perfumes. This was done to show affection and reverence, but also—very practically—it was done to mask the unpleasant odours of decay. Because other bodies would soon need to be brought into this same tomb. Let’s notice that these women have no expectation of the coming shock. They are expecting the body to rot, not to rise!

But then coming to the tomb, they see that it’s not only open, it’s occupied! There inside is a young man, clothed in white. The women’s surprise is being compounded with every passing second, for at once they know this to be an angel.

And surprise gives way to fear, as it always does when people stand in the presence of one of God’s messengers. Look throughout the Bible at so many appearances of angels to the men and women of old, and the reaction is almost invariably the same: terror! Seeing a glorious angel, sent as a servant of the Most High God, somehow makes a person realize his weakness and smallness like never before.

It’s because we’re forced to think about something we’d rather not consider: just how sinful we are; how unclean we are; how God’s majesty is not to be fooled around with, but how He can overwhelm us in an instant. In this lifetime we may not ever be faced with a shining angel like those women were, but when you think about it, our reaction should be the same: “Who are we sinners, before the Most High God? He’s the Creator, and we’re so small and weak! Shouldn’t we be destroyed by his holiness?” In short: How can this God ever accept us?

But the fears of sinners are answered with the gospel of Easter Sunday. For the angel says to the women, “Do not be alarmed” (v 6). Such a simple rebuke, yet that word resounds among the people of God in every age. Why be alarmed in the presence of the LORD? Why be anxious? For this God is on our side!

“And now I will tell you how it’s possible to be without fear, how it’s possible to begin a new life of joy,” says the angel: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here” (v 6). This is the reason why all fear ought to be banished; this is the reason for our comfort and hope as church of Christ: He is risen.

Let’s take apart the message of the angel, to see how startling it is. The first phrase can be taken as a question: “You are seeking Jesus of Nazareth?” In other words, the angel suggests to them, that’s a useless labour, a pointless project. You shouldn’t even be here, if you think about how often Jesus said He would rise up on the third day. The women were actually doing wrong by seeking him among the dead—they were doing wrong by not accepting his word. But as we’ll see, the Lord is so patient with his people.

Notice a second thing, how the angel refers to Christ: Jesus of Nazareth. Why would he say that? It’s a subtle reminder of how lowly this King once was. After all, He came from an insignificant town of Galilee. One of his own disciples had once asked the question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). The same kind of ridicule, mockery, and doubt had afflicted Christ his whole life. The Nazarene would never amount to anything!

What’s more, the angel says, He “was crucified” (v 6). The women know this, of course; they were there on Good Friday, and they saw the nails and the terrible cross. But notice how “crucified” is what Christ is, still now, after his resurrection from the dead. This was more than an ugly means of execution, this would define him!

Even thirty years later, Paul writes to the Corinthians, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). Even in heaven, the Lamb bears the marks of being slain. Forever remembered as “crucified”—and why? Not to rub it in. But to rejoice in it! Because crucifixion means the price is paid. It means He’s carried the curse of God against our sin. He was humbled all the way, down the darkest depths. He was hung on a tree, because even God didn’t want Him.

But now it’s all over. For the crucified Jesus is not here, “He is risen” (v 6). The one who’d never amount to much is now the great Conqueror. The one rejected and despised by men is now the champion of their Salvation. The one condemned by God has now been raised by God, because his work was well done. He did what no one else ever did: He went to hell and back. He conquered the grave, and took the sting out of sin’s curse.

“He is risen.” What a startling revelation—and what good news! It means that we now have a way to be right with God. Just like the angel said: there’s no more reason for alarm. There’s no longer a cause for fear.

That’s precious for us to know, because we’re still given to all manner of anxieties. Like most things, we can hide our fear pretty well. But it’s there: fear. You’re fearful of other people, what they will say about you, what they will do towards you, or if they’ll approve of you. You’re scared of failing or being rejected. Perhaps you dread being poor, or getting sick, or being lonely, or suffering pain. Or you’re anxious about all kinds of unknowns: anxious about tomorrow, and next month, next year. We might even live in the fear of death, dreading that day when our time on earth is done. Because what happens then?

Or we tremble in fear for the same reason as those women: Because we sinners stand in the presence of the holy God! Maybe a person thinks a lot about God’s wrath, and how unworthy they are, how their sins are so terrible, and how often we fail. We feel like God could easily get rid of us, at any moment—like we’re always hanging by a thin thread.

But whatever your fear, hold onto the Easter Sunday gospel: “Do not be alarmed.” And here again is why, “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, is risen.” He went through hell, for you. He was hung on the accursed tree, in your place. And then He defeated Satan’s power by rising up. So much more than the approval of other people, it means that God approves of you, and God accepts you!

This gospel can give our lives a sure confidence. We don’t have to live in insecurity. We don’t have to be anxious. No, when we live by faith, we can live the best kind of life—life in the presence of God, life in covenant with God, now and always. In the risen Christ, our inheritance is steadfast and secure. In the risen Christ, we have the promise from God himself, that He’ll be our God forever! That’s a revelation to remember.

 

2) an encouraging reminder for the disciples: The angel has told the women about the resurrection. He’s even pointed out the spot where Jesus lay. Yet they must not hang around: “See the place… But go!” (v 7). Because there’s work to do. Their first duty is to share this Easter message. The angel tells them, “Go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee” (v 7).

The eleven will be among the first to know that He’s alive. Jesus told them this was going to happen, but they hadn’t really accepted it. Nevertheless, the message needs to be brought: “Go, tell his disciples…” Imagine that: to them it would’ve looked like a message from the grave! Someone who they knew was dead was telling them to make a three days’ journey north to Galilee, where He said He would meet them. A real test of faith—will they trust his words? Would we?

Now notice how the angel puts it, “Tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee.” Why Peter? Think about what Peter had done, only a few short days before. He denied the Lord three times. In the presence of many witnesses, he’d insisted up and down that he didn’t know him. Jesus had every reason to abandon Peter—after all his big talk and bold claims, what kind of disciple was he? Weak. Faithless. We know that Peter had been deeply troubled at the thought of his disloyalty, later weeping bitterly.

So when the women bring that message to the disciples, how the angel’s words must’ve cheered Peter’s heart! Here was a special word from the Master, kindness for someone who deserved none at all: “I won’t leave you in guilt, but I’ll meet you in Galilee!” Christ is eager to comfort the sinner rather than punish the sin. There’s still hope of restoration for this fickle disciple. As we’ll see, Jesus has a special task for Peter and the others, and Jesus is glad to use them in his service.

In a way, this is a key part of what is happening in Mark 16. Because right next to all the glory of the angels, and the empty tomb, and the appearances of the risen Christ, we see a whole lot of weak and sinful people.

We see frightened women in verse 5 and 8, “they were alarmed… they were afraid.” We see dubious disciples, in verse 11, and then in verse 13, “they did not believe.” We see people who don’t pass on the message like they were supposed to, in verse 8, “they said nothing to anyone.” And even on the day of Christ’s great victory, we’re reminded of Peter—chief among the apostles—who didn’t even have the courage to speak up for his Master. This doesn’t look very hopeful, does it? This is the church of the risen Lord? Not exactly an all-star team. These are the people He came to save, the people He’ll call into service? Doubters, deniers, and cowards!

We could look around the church today, and say the same thing. In this church there are people who are plagued by their fears and anxieties. There are others among us who struggle with doubts. All of us struggle with our sins and constant failings. For there are many times when we show that we don’t fully believe the words of our Saviour—if we believed him, we wouldn’t get so worked up with worries, would we? There are many other occasions we disobey his words, and times when we even deny our Lord, like Peter did. Aren’t there times when we say we don’t know him? Aren’t there times when we act as if we don’t know Christ at all?

But then we cling to the gracious word of the angel, that angel sent by Christ, “Go, tell his disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you.” On Easter Sunday, the Lord isn’t giving up. He doesn’t flee to heaven, and tell his hopeless disciples to figure it out on their own. He doesn’t suggest to Peter that maybe he should go back to his fishing boat, and be a fisher of fish. Just like He doesn’t tell us sinners that He’s had enough, that He won’t put up anymore with our flaws and complaints.

No, Christ affirms us with his mercy. He promises to restore us in his power, and He upholds us in faithfulness! Because we are the people He bought for himself on Good Friday. Despite all our failings, we’re the people for whom He was willing to shed his precious blood. We belong to him, and now—as his disciples—we’ve got work to do!

“Meet me in Galilee!” During his ministry, Jesus told the disciples that He’d suffer, be killed and rise again. He’d also told them that, when it was all over, they had to go to Galilee. Just look back to Jesus’ words in 14:28, “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” It’s like when you’re in a crowded market, you say to those who are with you, “If we get separated, this is where we’ll meet. This is our rendezvous point.” Yet just like the disciples barely paid attention to Jesus’ other predictions, so the mention of Galilee was quickly forgotten. This was a needed reminder from the women: “You will see him in Galilee.”

So why is the risen Christ so eager to meet up with his followers? Doesn’t He have better things to do? Imagine He showed himself to the Pharisees and chief priests, and vindicated himself! Or He could renew his acquaintance with Pontius Pilate—it’d be nice to prove to him that He was indeed the Christ and King! But Jesus has a wider purpose in mind. He wants his disciples to go to Galilee, because He’s got something very important to tell them.

And why Galilee, of all places? Why go on a three-days’ journey out to the sticks? This was where Jesus came from, of course. But more than that, Galilee stood at the edge of Israel’s northern-most border. It was a long-time neighbour to pagan peoples. Because of a lot of intermixing by marriage and by trade over the years, it became closely connected to the heathen nations. “Galilee of the Gentiles” it was called, already in the time of the Isaiah. This was one of the reasons that nobody expected anything good to come from Galilee—it was basically written off as part of Israel, on that fuzzy line between land that was holy and heathen.

That’s where Jesus had begun his work. And that’s where He’ll now return—in triumph. Because as a result of Jesus’ death, and now in the power of his resurrection, the Gentiles will be included in the preaching of this new gospel. “Meet me in Galilee,” Christ said to his disciples, because “Galilee of the Gentiles” would be a stepping-off point for the gospel, from where the message of redemption will go out to all nations!

 

3) a pressing responsibility for the church: Once the women know about the resurrection, see what they have to do. They have to tell others! When Jesus appears Mary Magdalene, see what she does: “she went and told those who had been with him” (v 10). And after Jesus appears to two others as they walked, “they went and told it to the rest” (v 13). That’s how it always goes with the good news of Christ. Those who know about it aren’t allowed to keep it to ourselves, no matter how fearful we are.

The women must tell the disciples, so that they, in turn, can tell the whole world. That’s the job that Jesus is going to give them. Matthew tells us that it was on a mountain in Galilee some days later that the disciples finally catch up to Christ. There “they see him,” just as the angel said—which was so necessary. Now they can testify with great conviction that they saw him with their own two eyes.

So when they’re finally together in Galilee, Jesus says to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (vv 15-16). Now the message is complete. The crucified Christ is risen! That’s a gospel to share with all, regardless of colour or race; regardless of background or personality.

If they looked back, the disciples could’ve remembered how Jesus spoke about this before. Think of what Jesus said after being anointed by the woman of Bethany, “I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told” (14:9). And in 13:10 He said that before He would come again on the clouds of heaven, “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.”

Christ still hasn’t come again. So what does that mean? That this is our pressing responsibility: to share the good news of his resurrection, and to preach the gospel to all nations. Until He comes, Christ’s command resounds across the ages. Be ready to share the message of Jesus Christ. Hasten the day of his coming by making Him known! “Go and tell,” says Christ. “Go and tell your neighbors. Go and tell the nations.”

So how did it work out in those first days? After the women left the tomb that Easter Sunday, remember how “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (v 8). At least initially, the message stopped with them, and went no further. Sadly, that’s not an uncommon response for the church, to hear about Christ yet “to say nothing to anyone, because we are afraid.” It can be hard to speak to others of what we believe. There’s fear again, isn’t there? We’re afraid of rejection, afraid of opposition, afraid we won’t know what to say. In these days, we’re afraid to be singled out as hateful and intolerant. 

Yet we can’t be silent. God didn’t want the gospel of Christ’s resurrection to be hidden away in the land of Palestine—from Galilee, to the nations! And God still doesn’t want the gospel hidden behind the walls of the church.

So let’s share it. First with those closest to us: tell this gospel to your children, explaining it to them, impressing it on their hearts, reminding them that it’s already theirs, through God’s promises. Talk about it with your fellow believers too: encourage one another with these words of life, exhort and remind and teach. Don’t be afraid to speak about it, even if you’re the only one. And then let’s also share it with others: tell it to your co-workers, and tell it to your classmates, and your neighbors, and with the people all across this world. They need to know. And don’t be afraid, for Christ is risen!

While we wait for Christ to come again, that’s our pressing responsibility. He won’t come again until every nation has heard! It means work and hardship, but what an honour: to be servants of the risen Lord. To speak for Him, and about Him, and for faith in Him. With this message, you can go anywhere. The setting may change, but the message does not. It’s the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

Even on the greatest day in history, the women are filled with fear, and the disciples are filled with doubt. But what does that matter? Christ is risen! And Mark tells us what the living Christ will do with this unlikely group. For once He fills them with his Holy Spirit, “They went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (v 20).

Wherever the gospel goes in the power of the Spirit, it has that power. It can save the worst of sinners. It can heal the most broken. It can restore the lost. That’s what Christ can do: He can do it through his people, there in Galilee, here in this congregation, and everywhere—until He comes again.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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