We come to the end of our series called The Last Week looking at the last week of Jesus life’ here on earth, and in Jerusalem. Over the course of the last few weeks we have walked with Jesus through his week.
We started seven weeks ago looking at the beginning of Jesus week, on what we call Palm Sunday or known more specifically as the Triumphal Entry. We talked about his coronation as King and how his Kingship (represented by the animal that he chose to ride on) was not like the Kingship of this worldly Kingdom.
We then looked at Monday of that first holy week and his cursing the fig tree and cleansing the temple. We talked about how Israel and the religious leaders were getting in the way of people coming back to and finding God. We talked about how Jesus turned over tables so that people could find their way to God and how he needs to do that today in our own individual lives and our corporate lives.
Then we entered Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week and saw that for most of those days he encountered strong conflict and more conflict. We took one of those encounters when the Herodians and the Pharisees got together and asked him about paying taxes to Caesar. And Jesus responded by saying Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
And then we came to Thursday of Holy Week and looked at Jesus dinner at Bethany and how Mary anointed Jesus head and feet with oil and how she was pouring her whole life out onto him and preparing him for burial.
We gathered Friday night to walk through that fateful Good Friday. We read the account of Jesus journey that day to the cross and his death on that instrument of capital punishment in the Roman world.
When we left this darkened room on Friday night, Jesus had died. He breathed his last, was taken off the cross, and laid in a tomb. Death seemingly had won. The powers of sin, death, evil, the devil, and hell had triumphed, or so it had seemed to everyone, including the disciples. The disciples had fled and only the women had followed and saw where Jesus was buried. Ideally to be able to come back and anoint his body, when time allowed for it, and after the day of Sabbath.
This is where we pick up the story. That first Easter morning 2,000 years ago. The disciples dismayed, out of hope, confused, and unsure of what to do from this point on. They gave their lives to follow this messiah, this Jesus, and now he was dead laying in a tomb that wasn’t even his.
Let’s pick up the story in Mark 16:1-8 and see what we encounter on that 1st Easter Sunday, who we encounter in the story, and what that first Easter tells us about our lives, our world, and the future of everything.
Mark 16:1-8 says, “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?” 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. “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.’”Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
So we need to talk about the ending of this text before we dive into the story. We should notice that there are two alternative endings to Mark and a footnote at the end of the section that we have just read. It seems like Mark’s original ending was lost. The two best manuscripts from the fourth century end where this text breaks off. The alternative endings were later writings. So a question that we could raise would be something like, “What do you think Mark’s original ending looked like? What part of the resurrection story did it contain?” If you look at the other 3 gospels and also the flow of chapter 16 you could probably fill it in like this, “the women eventually speak to the disciples. The disciples go to the tomb. And they all eventually meet Jesus somewhere in Galilee.” But that is getting ahead of ourselves and the text that we are looking at today.
So that first Easter morning 3 women got up early, headed off to the tomb where two of them saw Jesus laid only 3 days earlier. They were going there, not because they expected to encounter a risen Savior. They were going there to anoint Jesus body for burial. You see, a traditional burial process in the 1st century Jewish world was a two step process or burial. The first step would be to anoint the body with various spices and lay the body in a tomb. The spices were to mask the smell of decomposition. The second part of the two step process was to come back a year later when the body was nothing but bones and collect the bones and put them in a box called an ossuary. That way you could use the tomb over and over and over again. So these women went to the tomb to take part in the first first part of the burial process. They didn’t get a chance to do this before laying Jesus in the tomb because the body was taken down, and immediately put in the tomb, so that it wasn’t on the cross during the sabbath.
You see in verse 2 this understanding about what they were going to do. They were talking about who was going to roll away the stone, in order to get into the tomb to anoint his body. They had no concept, no idea that this day, this first Easter morning, would change the course of their lives, but also the course of history, from that day until this day, and for all of history.
When they arrived at the tomb, after their discussion of who would roll the stone away from the tomb, they saw that it was already rolled away. When they entered the tomb, no doubt wondering what was happening. No doubt, their hearts beating out of their chests. No doubt, their brains moving a million miles an hour seeking to understand what this all meant. When they entered the tomb, they came face to face with an angel. His presence no doubt freaking them out. His words hitting them like a ton of bricks. His words shattering their darkness. His words shaking them to the core.
The angel in the tomb spoke these words to the women, “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.’”
Obviously, as I mentioned before, these women didn’t expect the resurrection. Didn’t expect Jesus to come back from the dead. But Mark, told us, over and over again that Jesus tried to teach his disciples that he would suffer, die, and then be raised back to life. But they didn’t understand. In fact, it seems like the only ones who understood and thought about what Jesus said about his resurrection (even though they didn’t believe it) , were the chief priests and the Pharisees who come to Pilate and asked if they could put a guard at the tomb and secure it (Matthew 27)
We have clearly established that the early followers of Jesus, including the women, weren’t expecting the resurrection, even though Jesus clearly taught that he was going to suffer, die and then three days later be raised back to life. But my question for us today is what does the resurrection of Jesus actually mean for us and our world today? Resurrection isn’t just to secure an eternal future for us beyond this life. Resurrection for Jesus was about coming to bodily life after bodily death. So if it isn’t about an eternal future in some place called Heaven, what is resurrection all about? To get at that let’s go back to the text specifically verse 2 which says, “Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise,” Something about this part of the text clues us into, I believe, what the resurrection of Jesus is truly pointing towards. The first day of the week, if we are thinking biblically, should push our minds back to the beginning, back to Genesis and the story of creation. What is happening here in the resurrection of Jesus is connected with the story of creation. Jesus resurrection is to be seen as the beginning of the new world, the first day of the new week, and what God wants to do not only in Jesus, not only in us, but in all of creation. If Genesis 1 is about creation, than the resurrection story is about recreation. Jesus was re-created first, and then someday the rest of humanity who are in relationship with God will be re-created along with the rest of the created order. What we are witnessing in the resurrection stories is the birth of new creation. The power that has tyrannized the old creation has been broken, defeated and overthrown. God’s Kingdom is now launched and launched in power and glory, on earth as it is in heaven.
The resurrection is probably the ultimate place where heaven and earth overlap and inner lock. NT Wright has this to say about the resurrection, “The point of the resurrection is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a good future in store for it. What you do in the present- by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building, happily digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor and yourself- will last into God’s future.” The resurrection of Jesus is about this, that it affirms the material world that is currently broken and the promise of the renewal of all things. Scripture says it like this, “Behold I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) Jesus through his death and resurrection is making all things new. He is making everything, including you and I (as we follow him) new. He has redeemed all things (Colossians 1:20….and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.).
But the point of the resurrection is that God’s new creation has already begun. It began with Jesus. He went first. And that if you are in Christ, he has begun that work of re-creating you, making you a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). And then he wants to use you and put you to work to make more bits of new creation happen within the world as it still is. And that we still live in the tension of a world that is being re-created but isn’t fully re-created. The world is not what it used to be, or what it will be. But we can know that because of the resurrection of Jesus, all will be made whole, made right, made new. And that because of Jesus resurrection, that shalom has happened, is happening and will happen. And that because of Jesus resurrection, we can not only be made whole, made right, made new but that we can be instruments of new creation (or as Paul says ambassadors). We are empowered to partner with God to remind our world that it isn’t always going to be like this. We, the people of God, are invited to live as though tomorrow’s new creation has already begun. And we know that, according to our resurrection text this morning, it already has.
Let me close with a quote from NT Wright about the resurrection and the work of new creation that the resurrection of Jesus began and what that means for you and I, and ultimately our world, “people who believe in the resurrection, in God making a whole new world in which everything will be set right at last, are unstoppably motivated to work for that new world in the present.”
So where are you seeing the resurrection work of re-creation in your life, in your relationships, and with the world around you? Where is the resurrection of Jesus touching down and breaking into your reality? These are the questions that we’ll be discussing together.
1. What thoughts, insights, questions, comments, push back, etc.. do you have regarding the Scripture and/or the message?
2. Where are you seeing the resurrection work of re-creation in your life, in your relationships, and with the world around you? Where is the resurrection of Jesus touching down and breaking into your reality?
3. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?