Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Alive

Part 4 of The Road to Redemption, a series on Mark 14-16

Text: Mark 16:1-8

You can listen to this sermon here.



And [the angel] said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (v. 6). 


Good News to Share

What do you do when you get good news? You share it with other people. (When a woman becomes engaged, she calls her mother. When a child wins a prize at school, he tells his parents. People now share their good news on Facebook or Twitter.)

What about the resurrection of Jesus? We are often afraid to share the good news of the resurrection. Why? (There is a difference between a woman sharing the good news of her engagement with her mother and a Christian sharing the good news of the resurrection with someone who might not want to hear it.) There is the fear of offending people, the fear of getting tongue-tied, and the fear of being ridiculed.

There is no better news than the good news of the resurrection, so we must overcome our fear and share it. 


Overcoming Our Fear

How can we overcome our fear of sharing the good news of the resurrection? We should constantly remind ourselves of two truths.

1. There is an abundance of evidence in favor of the resurrection. 

The case for the resurrection of Jesus is sort of like a murder case. A murder case is usually built on several pieces of evidence. The case for Jesus’ resurrection can also be built on several pieces of evidence. (Of course, a defense attorney usually has an explanation for every piece of evidence against the defendant, just like the skeptics have an explanation for every piece of evidence in favor of the resurrection.) Some of the pieces of evidence in favor of the resurrection include (1) the empty tomb, (2) the disciples’ belief that they had really seen the risen Jesus, (3) the conversion of a former skeptic like Paul, and (4) the growth of Christianity.

The women being the first witnesses of the empty tomb is a detail that adds to the genuineness of Mark’s account. “Unless women were actually present at the tomb, the early church would scarcely have placed them there since Judaism did not accept the testimony of women” (James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, 492). The resurrection accounts are not “cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16). 

Skeptics will argue that the Gospels don’t agree on which women went to the tomb of Jesus. Mark says that three women went to the tomb (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome), while John mentions only Mary Magdalene. But we shouldn’t expect the Gospel writers to mention every single detail. There would only be a contradiction if John had written that only Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.

2. There is a need for people to hear about the resurrection. 

The first sharing of the good news was done by the angel at the tomb: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (v. 6). And then the angel said to the women, “Go, tell his disciples” (v. 7).

Sometimes being silent can have negative consequences for others. Back in my younger days, I was in the passenger seat of a dump truck as the driver was backing up the truck. I assumed he could see the car behind him, so I didn’t say anything. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice the car.

The destiny of people is a much more serious thing than the destiny of a car. There are people all around us who need to hear the gospel. People can’t receive eternal life unless they hear about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). 


What if 16:8 Had Been the End of the Story?

Many scholars believe that 16:8 is the real ending of the Gospel of Mark. The ESV has a note that says, “Some of the earliest manuscripts don’t include 16:9-20.” (My purpose is not to convince you of a certain view about the ending of Mark.)

What if the Gospel of Mark did really end with the words “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Obviously, Mark’s original readers (probably Christians in Rome) knew that the news of the resurrection had been shared. But ending the Gospel at 16:8 would have caused Mark’s readers to ask the following questions, “What if there had been no appearances of the risen Jesus? What if the women had never told anyone about how they found Jesus’ tomb empty? What if they never told anyone about what the angel had said to them? What if no one else had ever heard about the good news of Jesus’ resurrection?” And then they would say to themselves, “I must not be afraid. I must not be silent. I must share the good news.”

Who in your life needs to hear the good news of Jesus’ resurrection?