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Encountering a Resurrected Christ
Scripture: Mark 16:1-8
Track 18 of 19 in the Encountering a Changing World series
Running time: 18 minutes, 26 seconds.
Easter Sunday. The Resurrection.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Easter Sunday, April 20, 2003
"Encountering a Resurrected Christ"
(Mark 16:1-8)
G. Charles Sackett

You have to admit, it seemed like a bit of odd behavior that Sunday morning, when those ladies decided to go back to the tomb of Jesus. They had bought spices to cover his body to try to cover up some of the smell and I think it probably had to do with their desire to honor him and somehow worship him and yet it would be odd in light of the fact, well, you remember Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days, and Jesus statement was, well you know, he was not going to smell well. But they went, they went because they thought that they could somehow honor him. That particular Sunday, which we celebrate this day, every year, they discovered what you already know, cause you have the privilege of being on the other side of the story, you know the end of the book, you've read the last chapter. He wasn't there. That's the marvel of this whole story, that's what makes church even possible.

We're in Mark 16, the end chapter. The Sabbath is over, it says in Verse 1. 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.

It's a remarkable story, this story of resurrection. You've got intriguing things that happen here, not the least of which is this. This resurrection confronts our assumptions. Ya see. They expected to find Jesus in the tomb. The only question they had on their mind was who's going to move that great big rock? They didn't go expecting the tomb to be empty. They didn't, well, they hadn't caught on yet, what he meant, by the way the tomb will be empty when you get there. I mean he already told them he was going to rise from the dead. They just didn't believe it. They weren't ready for it. They hadn't anticipated it. Their assumption was that he was going to be there and what they found - they found an empty space and an angel saying - by the way, he's not here - you know, the one you're looking for - Jesus, the Nazarene - he told you he'd meet you in Galilee - that's where he is. He'll see you there.

It must have been an incredible surprise for them to find that tomb empty. In fact, it has been an incredible surprise all through history for people to find that tomb empty. That's been the crux of the issue you know. Without the resurrection, everything falls apart. If that body is in the tomb, we're in trouble - you, me, it's all over! And yet, all through history, people have tried to deny that empty tomb. Lee Strobel was one of those people. He was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune. He was their legal journalist. He was an atheist, a skeptic - he set out on his journey to prove that Jesus was, in fact, not true. God didn't exist. Men had made him up. By the way, he's written two books, one's called the Case for Faith and the other one's called the Case for Christ, because by the time he'd got done investigating the empty tomb and discovered that there was legitimate reason to believe the tomb was empty, he became a Christian. He's now a preacher, of all things, can you imagine! What he discovered was, the surprise that these same ladies found that Sunday morning - the tomb was, in fact, empty.

And, if it's empty, well that's pretty significant news. See. My guess is that he will also confront you if you give him the opportunity. You've heard me say this if you've been here before - you stick around here long enough and Jesus will, in fact, get a hold of you. He will confront you - you know, I think he's got some things he will want to confront you about. He may want to confront some of those assumptions that you hold.

Maybe you assume there was no resurrection, I mean after all, maybe the body was stolen - right! Like if they could reproduce the body, don't you think they would have. They could have stopped the church, in the book of Acts, dead in its tracks if they'd a just brought the body out. Tell me, who is going to steal the body and then die for that lie? Well, you answer this. Who's gonna go and take over the Roman guard, have the Roman guard defeated so that they can actually get to the body so they can steal it and then convince the guard to risk their life, because if they got defeated and lost the body, they'd die for it. Oh, maybe you think he just kinda, well the word is swooned, ya know, he was beat up really bad and he was really in bad shape but he got in that cool tomb and in the coolness of the tomb he was revived by the coolness of the tomb and he came back to life and he moved the stone and he took over the Roman guard and he just disappeared - RIGHT! Ahuh! After being whipped 39 times, hung on a cross for several hours and had a spear run through his side so that the blood ran out of his heart, coupled with water, he then revived enough to take over a Roman legion.

Maybe they went to the wrong tomb! They just got confused. Well, you know if that were true, somebody would have drug that body out and said, there was no resurrection.

Maybe what he wants to confront in you is that this idea that Christians are a bunch of wimps - that they really only want to be Christians because of what they can get out of it. But you know those people who rely on God as a crutch? - Have you read the Bible lately? - Or the persecution that the early church went through for being Christians? - Have you read about the stoning of Stephen or the beheading of James? - Have you read about anything in the news recently where there are more Christians martyred in the 20th Century than all the previous 19 put together? All of that because we're wimpy? Don't think so! The church isn't for wimps, by the way. The church is for people who have the courage to stand against a culture in believing something that other people don't choose to believe in.

Maybe you will be confronted by the fact that God is the safe place to be. Ah, one of my students said he just preached a message the other day - ah - being in the will of God is the safest place to be and then he went to the conference down in Atlanta, Georgia. He heard Erwin McManis, who preaches in Mosaic in Los Angeles say, of all the places not safe - it's in the will of God - because the next thing know, he's going to challenge everything about you. He's going to want to change your entire life. He may want to send you to Afghanistan. . . . .of all the not safe places to be! It's right in the center of God's will, cause he may want to stir your life completely up and change everything about you.

Maybe your assumption is that Christians only come to church because they want everything to be easy for themselves. Try it sometime and see how easy it really is. See, my suspicion is that you come to the empty tomb and one thing you'll discover is, he may want to confront your assumptions about him and about yourself.

But not only that, the resurrection can reverse our failures. You notice that in Verses 6 and 7. This is the most magnificent thing that's happened. More than once in the book, already, of Mark, but did you notice this down here in Verse 7? go, tell his disciples and Peter - he's the one that just got done saying, three times the night before - I don't know who this guy is - I don't know him - I don't know anything about him! And yet here he is, having failed absolutely miserably. And God says, tell Peter too, to come along, because I haven't given up on him. Do you remember that, back after he has said, I believe you're the Christ and then he turns around and says, oh by the way, you're not going to go to Jerusalem and die. Jesus calls him Satan and then turns around in the second verse of the 9th chapter and says, oh by the way, take Peter, James and John up on the mount of Transfiguration. He belongs up here too. See. He just keeps reversing those failures. It's interesting to me that in chapter 1, the first disciple called is Peter and the last disciple mentioned in chapter 16, verse 7, is Peter because he is the grand testimony of having your absolute worst failures turned around. See. That's the nature of this resurrected Christ. He wants to come in and reverse your failures and he can. If you stick around with him long enough, he's just apt to turn your life over. And, the exciting thing is, he can turn almost anything, well almost, anything you'll let him turn around, he can do.

I'd love to stand up here and just give you a litany of stories. How about if I tell you about one couple that I know from another church, in another area, who were separated for very good reasons, for a number of months. In fact, it looked very much like they were going to get divorced. They're happily married - why - because they both decided to submit to Jesus and when they submitted to him, their lives came back together.

How about I tell you about this fella who was a mechanic in a car shop. This is the statement that was made about him - that man - we'll call him Joe. Joe will never become a Christian. He's an elder in a church now. Why is that possible? Because HE specializes in doing the impossible in the lives of people. You think you've messed your life up? My guess is you have. That doesn't mean HE can't turn it around. There is not one thing you have done or could do that he cannot reverse by the power of the resurrected Christ. I mean, HE can come back from the dead. Whatever you've done HE can handle! HE's big enough! You stick around him long enough, you give him a chance - he'll take your failures and he'll turn them in to the most remarkable successes you have ever seen in your life.

Well, the resurrection may not only do that, it may dumbfound your heart.

See. This book shouldn't end this way. This is an odd ending. This is the only gospel that ends this way. Did you notice down there, probably in your Bible it says, right under Verse 8 - The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses don't have Verses 9 - 20 - See most scholars would think Mark ends at Verse 8. And here's how it ends. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. And you think, WHAT? It's not supposed to end that way. They're not supposed to end in fear. They're supposed to end in amazement. We expect them to go forth singing and dancing - not going forth in fear and in silence.

This gospel, this Jesus, this resurrected Christ may also dumbfound you. It may not come out exactly the way you think it's supposed to. In fact, he may dumbfound your sense of responsibility. You may find yourself saying to him - you really expect me to do that? I mean, he may come along and he just may get down in your soul and say I want you to reconcile with that person over there - and you go - oh you can't be serious! He may say to you - oh I think it's time for you to give your heart to me and I want you to be immersed in water - and your gonna go WHAT - you want me to do WHAT?? - He just may dumbfound your sensibilities and your sense of responsibility because he may want you to actually stand up and act like a real person, in a real world. You may be dumbfounded in the sense of absolute surprise when you say - HE CAN DO THAT?

You'll look at what happens in somebody's life and they'll tell you where that came from - they'll identify it as having come from Jesus, himself and you'll look at that and you'll go - CAN HE REALLY DO THAT? You're telling me he can change that? And - the answer is YES.

He may surprise you with that offer of freedom. You think this whole thing is about being locked up in some kind of a tomb? It's about freedom.

There's a story that comes out of Folklore, I don't - I'm assuming it's not a true story - but it's kind of an interesting story about an Arab chieftain who catches a spy in his land - and he's up for execution. They take him out and put him in front of a firing squad and there is a door right over there and he says to the fella - you can have one of two things, you can either have the firing squad or you can have what's behind that door. After a bit of hesitation, this spy says, I'll take the firing squad. The man turned to the Arab chieftain and said ah, what's behind the door? Freedom. But seldom is it ever chosen, because people would rather have the known than the unknown.

And some of you have been sitting in church and you know there's a door of opportunity for you to have freedom - you're just a little leery to go through it because you would rather have what you know, than what you don't know.

Maybe he'll dumbfound you in that sense of anticipation where he gives you absolute hope and confidence in the future. Maybe he will dumbfound you with a peace and contentment that comes in your life that is beyond understanding. You know that text - there is a peace that passes all understanding -

Some of you know Mike Seever (??) fairly well. Mike and I had a conversation this last week - he says - I don't understand, but I can tell you this, I've experienced it. I cannot explain to you a peace that passes understanding - but he says, it's a good feeling.

It's true isn't it - those of you who know that peace? That you couldn't put an explanation on it if you wanted to, but you recognize it, because when you have it, it's there and you just sense this is right. So you stick around long enough and he may just baffle you, in all of your own expectations.

This much is certain, the resurrection demands a response. You cannot come to the empty tomb and leave in the same way that you came - whether it happens to be that you are dumbfounded or your failures are reversed or your assumptions are confronted - you cannot come to the tomb that is empty and walk away the same that you came. It is the nature of Jesus to change us. Now it strikes me as odd behavior but these ladies who came with such incredible courage to honor Jesus in a way that had not yet been done by anointing his body were told, when they found the empty tomb, go, tell his disciples and Peter and instead, they leave and they don't tell anyone anything. Now how do you explain that? About this way!

It was October of the late 1960's. I had been going to church for, I don't know, three or four months. The Lord had started to get a hold of my heart and I'd finally come to the place that I was ready to stand up and acknowledge who HE was. I went forward in a church service just like this one and the preacher took my confession of faith, we climbed up in the baptistry together, he immersed me into Christ, I went home - and you know what I did? I hid my wet clothes so my parents wouldn't know. Because just like this set of disciples, I was a f r a i d! I'm not proud of that. I'm embarrassed by it. But it's the truth. Sometimes, trying to stand up for Jesus is just a whole lot harder to do than it looks. But now, thirty-five years later, I'm telling you what - I'd make the same decision over again. I just wouldn't bother to hide it.

And I'm inviting you to make that same courageous decision, to stand for Jesus and to live for him because he wants you to experience the life he has to offer. And yeah, it's gonna be hard. And yes, there will be those who don't like it. But in the long run, it won't matter, because the one person who will like it is the only one who counts.

It's Easter, and you can come to this empty tomb, and you can try to walk away, but you cannot walk away unchanged. You will have to deal with the resurrected Jesus. What we're inviting you to do, is to deal with him the right way and to let him have control of your life. Don't turn him away!