This Changes Everything

Original Date: 
Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mark 16 This Changes Everything

Imagine that you run a bakery in a small town. It’s a tough job, with long hours and little profit margin. You are competing against the big box retailers and just trying hold on as a place for your community.

But then, one day, you get a phone call. It’s a producer for the Today show out in New York. Somebody there ran across your specialty item—a sort of cross between a donut, a croissant, and a cupcake—and they want to feature it on the show. You are about to get free, nationwide advertising for your little bakery.
As you hang up the phone in stunned disbelief, you mutter to yourself: “This changes everything!”

Or, again, imagine that you are a high school basketball coach. For years, your record has hovered around .500. You have a group of hard-working kids who love the game and play year-round, but they are neither particularly big nor naturally talented.

Then, as you hold the first practice of the season, a new kid walks in. His family has just moved into the district. He’s 6 foot eight, and built like LeBron James. You hand him a basketball and he drills a 3 pointer with perfect form. He dribbles like a point guard and whizzes no-look passes all over the court.

With barely contained glee you turn to your assistant coach and say: “This changes everything!”

Or, again, imagine that you have been married for 8 great years. For the past 5 years you have been deliberately trying to conceive a child, but with no success. Now you are both staring intently at the little indicator box on a home pregnancy test, watching as it slowly reveals a “plus” sign.

As you wrap your spouse in an embrace and the tears start to form in your eyes, you say: “This changes everything!”

This changes everything! That moment, or event, or person, that makes everything different. That gives us a new perspective, new meaning, a new way of looking at life.

No doubt about it: Easter is one of those moments. The morning when Jesus walked out of His own tomb, when death was defeated and our Savior was brought back to life, was a morning that changed everything.

Josh Harris says:
• The resurrection of Jesus means death isn’t the end.
• It means that God’s saving purpose is more than just spiritual.
• Jesus’ victory over death means that He is more than a teacher or a prophet: He is the object of our worship.
• The resurrection means that Jesus doesn’t just lead us to God, He is God!
• It means that making Jesus known is the new, ultimate purpose behind everything we do. (”He is Risen”

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is more than just a happy ending to tie off a story that got rather dark in its latter stages. It’s more than wishful thinking by followers who were too sad to let Jesus go. The resurrection is the reality that ties everything together in Jesus’ story. It’s why the man we have been looking at in the gospel of Mark for the last 3 and 1/2 months is worth paying attention to. It’s why the things He said and did matter. It’s the basis for our faith, the lynchpin of our hope, and the most important event in human history.

This changes everything.

The Story
So let’s go through the story. Mark 16, start with verse 1:

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.

These are some of the women who stayed to the bitter end of the crucifixion. Close followers of Jesus who waited until His body was taken down from the cross and watched to see where they laid Him. Because of the circumstances of Jesus’ death, and because it occurred so close to the beginning of the Sabbath, there had been no time for a proper funeral. So now, early on the first day of the week, they are coming to do just that. Verses 2 and 3:

2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

The intentions of these ladies are good, but their planning is poor. When they watched them put Jesus’ body in the tomb, they also watched as a heavy stone was rolled across the face of it. And yet, it does not occur to them until they are well on their way that they have no crowbars and no men to move that stone away. They have no plan for actually getting close to Jesus’ body.
But notice what they were NOT expecting—they were NOT expecting to find an empty grave. Verses 4 and 5:

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

Something strange has happened at the tomb. The stone—very large—has been rolled away. Their access problem has been solved. But when they duck their heads to enter the tomb, they do not find Jesus, but a young man dressed in white.

Mark is fairly vague in his description. Both Matthew and Luke come right out and tell us that this was an angel. But Mark is a bit more circumspect. He wants us to figure that part out for ourselves.

But notice the reaction of the women: alarm.

I listened to a podcast for preachers this week about how to keep Easter preaching fresh. You know, this is a sermon we preachers preach every year, and it’s a pretty familiar story, so it can be challenging to say anything interesting. And the preacher they interviewed on the podcast said we should look for details in the story that we haven’t noticed before, or that strike us in a new way.

And for me, this is the thing that stood out this week: the women were alarmed. This is a key feature of the way Mark tells the story. The women did not react with joy. They didn’t act like this was what they were expecting to happen. Verse 8 uses the words “trembling,” “bewildered,” and “afraid.”

They were going to give a funeral. They were expecting to anoint a dead body with spices. They did not think they were going to discover that Jesus was alive! And when they did, it sort of freaked them out!

The purpose of the young man is to deliver a message. Verse 6:

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.

Here’s the good news. The news that changes everything. Jesus was really dead. He was crucified. He was buried right here. But He’s not dead any more. He’s risen.

This is the resurrection. The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus from death back to life.

I think it’s important for us to be quite clear on what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about Jesus’ spirit living on. We’re not saying that the cause of Jesus, or the ideas of Jesus, survived Him.

You might say that about anybody who died. You might say: “Well, the spirit of Grandpa lives on in our hearts.” Sometimes political causes will rally around a great leader who has died, but whose ideas continue to inspire them. You might say that Martin Luther King Jr. lives on in the fight for civil rights, or that Mother Theresa lives on in the fight against injustice. But everybody understands that their bodies are dead.

That’s not what the young man means to say about Jesus. He’s saying that Jesus is alive again. He has been raised.

Or, again. This is not a claim that Jesus was resuscitated. It doesn’t mean that, having died, He was brought back again to this life, only to die again. C.S. Lewis once expressed his great sympathy for Lazarus, whom Jesus brought back to life. Lewis said it was very hard on Lazarus, because he had to do his dying all over again.

But not Jesus. We’re not talking about the survival of His spirit, or the resuscitation of His body. We are talking about His resurrection. John Stott says:

God performed a dramatic act by which he arrested the process of decay, decomposition, and corruption; rescued Jesus out of the realm of death; and transformed his body into a new vehicle for his personality, so that he had a new power and was now immortal, never to die again. That is something new that never had happened before and has never yet happened since.

This changes everything. So now, the women have a job to do. The young man instructs them, in verse 7:

7 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.’”

This is good news that needs to be shared. But their first reaction is not to rush out and tell the world, it’s to keep quiet. It is not normal for dead people to come back to life, and they are more than a little afraid. Verse 8:

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

If you have your Bibles open, you’ll notice a little note that says “The Earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20”. That means, in the earliest copies of Mark, the gospel ends right here in verse 8.

Either Mark had a longer ending, which got lost. Or this is all he intended to write. What we have printed in our Bibles as verses 9-20 is most likely a later addition by another faithful Christian who wanted to fill in the rest of the story. It is good Christian history, and it lines up with what we know from the other gospels, but it probably isn’t right to consider it Scripture on the same level as the rest of our Bibles.

For our purposes today, we’ll leave off here at verse 8.

The World Can Be Divided Up into Three Groups of People
So, that’s the story of Easter as Mark tells it. A stone rolled away, an empty tomb, and a mysterious young man who announces: “He has risen! He is not here.”

Everything seemed one way on Friday and Saturday. But then everything was different on Sunday!

This changes everything...for everyone.

What I want to do for the rest of the time is talk to three different groups of people in the church today. I believe everybody here today can be placed into one of three categories: skeptics,
fence-sitters, and believers. And I want to apply these verses to each group.

For the Skeptical
So, first, this changes everything for the Skeptic.

Maybe you are here today because, well, going to church on Easter Sunday is sort of the thing to do. You’re here with some family members. You were invited by some friends. Maybe you just thought you’d check it out.

But, at the same time, you’re skeptical. You just don’t see how a dead man can be brought back to life. Deep down, you’re pretty sure this is all at the level of a fairy tale. You are being polite, but you’re not really buying it.

Well, may I say something to you?

Are you sure?

Because you better be sure. Because if Jesus really did come back to life, then you are going to have to pay attention to Him.

And let me suggest to you that as hard as it is to believe that a dead man came back to life and now lives for eternity, there really is no other explanation.

Because, it is a historic fact that Christianity began on this day nearly 2000 years ago. And it began in Jerusalem, the very city where Jesus was killed. And it began with the claim that Jesus was alive.

So if it was all a hoax--all wishful thinking and make-believe--then why didn’t any of the groups that had no interest in a movement of Christ-followers produce His body? Why didn’t they get His corpse and put an end to all the silly talk about resurrection right there?

Obviously there was no body produced because there was no body to be found.

Or, again, if His followers were making this whole story up—if maybe they stole the body and hid it away—then why do they tell the story in such a strange way? We’ve already observed the emphasis on the alarm and fear that these women felt. If they were making up a story in order to convince others to believe, then why do they appear so reluctant to believe it in the first place?

Keep in mind, if you are making a story up, you can tell it anyway you want. It seems like if you were making the story up you would make Christ’s followers look a little more confident. But if you are telling the truth, then you have to tell the story the way it happened, even if the first witnesses look scared and confused.

If you are skeptical, you owe it yourself to at least investigate the story.

Lee Strobel was a man who was very skeptical of Christianity. He was an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He built his life around facts and evidence, and he didn’t have time for superstition or religion. So when his wife came home one night and told him she had gone to church and invited Jesus into her life, he wasn’t happy.

So, in an effort to prove to his wife how silly she was being, he began to investigate the resurrection. He used his skills as a journalist to interview experts and consider the facts. He was sure he would be able to poke all sorts of holes in Christianity.

But a funny thing happened: the more he dug, the more he found the story held up. Instead of proving Christianity wrong, he became convinced. The result was that Lee Strobel became a follower of Christ himself. And he wrote a book about what he learned that has sold over 14 million copies. It’s now a movie, and it’s playing in Spencer this weekend. It’s called The Case for Christ.

And I want to challenge you, if you are skeptical about the story, at least go watch this movie and think about the evidence it presents. Because if Jesus really did rise from the dead, then you have to admit: that changes everything.

For the Fence-Sitter
There’s another group of people here today, and I’ll call them fence-sitters. This story changes things for you too.

Maybe you are here today and you believe with your head that Jesus is alive. Maybe you even enjoy coming to church and learning about Him and singing songs about Him.

But you are not really a committed Christ-follower. You believe the stories with your head, but you haven’t really allowed them to change your life.

You are a fence-sitter, someone watching from the sidelines, but not in the game. Your life outside of church doesn’t look a whole lot different from the rest of the people around you. You talk a good talk while you are here, but you aren’t walking the walk out there.

But if you really believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then that has to change things for you. You have to see that if this is true, then Jesus has the right to make all kinds of claims on your life. If Jesus really did walk out of His own grave, then we need to think about how the things we do in this life affect the life to come.

There is a scene, early in the movie Gladiator, where General Maximus—played by Russell Crowe—says: “What we do in this life echoes in eternity.” He was talking about how his army’s story would be told in the pages of history. But if Jesus really did rise again, then that line is even more profound than the character, or probably even the filmmakers, realize.

I read a sermon this week by a man named Ken Shigamatsu. He said:

…if our life one day simply ends, and we just rot in the ground like a carrot, and we're no more … and if this world, billions of years from now, overheats and makes life no longer possible, and then there is nothing … then our careers—which seem so important to us—and our romantic loves, and our family loves, and our friendships—which seem so important to us—the kind of people we're becoming—which seem so important—mean nothing. Things like elections or sports games mean nothing. If this planet one day overheats, and life is no longer sustainable here, and there is no more life, then it's over. Period. Full stop. The fact you've made vice president or partner, or that you were in love with somebody? Ultimately, it won't really matter long term. It makes no ultimate difference. We are just the echo that dies out in the darkness.

But if the Easter story is true, if God raised Jesus from the dead that first Easter Sunday morning, then we can believe a God who says, "I will also make a new heaven and a new earth. I will protect this planet. I will one day restore it to its original intention." If that is true, then everything matters. (
If it is true that Jesus rose from the dead, then everything we do in this life echoes for eternity. And that means there can be no fence-sitters. Either you are on this side, or that side. You are in, or you are out. Either you follow Him with your whole life, or you aren’t really following Him at all.

If Jesus was still dead, then it wouldn’t matter much. You could follow His principles or not–the way that people follow Mohammed or Buddha or whoever. Those guys are dead even if their ideas live on.

But Mark 16 forces you to decide about Jesus. He’s alive. Are you going to follow Him with your whole life or not?

For the Believer
And then, third group of people here today: the believers. The Christ-followers. Those of us that have already committed ourselves entirely to Jesus. The resurrection changes everything for us as well.

If you are here today as someone who is already committed to Jesus, then today is of course a day of great joy. It’s a day that we celebrate Christ’s great victory over death and take comfort that His victory guarantees an eventual victory for us as well. Today we celebrate the basis of our hope.

But today also reminds us of our purpose. Because if Jesus is alive, then that means making Jesus known is the new, ultimate purpose behind everything we do.

After telling the women that Jesus was alive, the next thing the “young man” does is give them a job. “Go, tell” he says. This is good news. It needs to be shared.

The women did not at first. Verse 8 says that trembling and bewildered they said nothing to anyone. But we know that only lasted for a short while. The other gospels tell us that they got to the disciples yet that morning. The extra ending to Mark tells us that they shared the news. Obviously, they told somebody, because we’re here today.

And the mission the angel gave to the women is one that Jesus extends to all who would believe in Him. Each of the other gospels have their own version of the Great Commission, probably best known from Matthew 28, where Jesus instructs His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations..

Even the extra ending to Mark has a version of the Great Commission. We may not believe this was written by Mark, but it certainly matches up with Jesus’ teaching elsewhere. Mark 16:15:

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

The resurrection gives us a mission to accomplish. We can’t keep quiet about it! We can’t just go home to our nice Easter dinners all happy about the songs and the worship service and not share the news this week that Jesus Christ is alive!!!!

Jesus was not raised just for the benefit of the few who followed Him during His earthly life. It is good news which needs to be spread to all creation. And more than that, it is a matter of life and death. For those who hear the news of Jesus' resurrection and accept it, it means salvation. But for those who do not accept it, for those who do not know and treasure God's offer of reconciliation through Jesus Christ, it means condemnation.

We need to tell people about the empty tomb, and tell them that the reason it is empty is because Jesus has been raised. We need to go confidently, knowing that this risen Lord is in control and goes to accompany us. But mostly, we must go. For the resurrection of Jesus is not something to keep to ourselves. It is not something meant for church people alone.

One of the reasons I believe Mark may have intentionally ended his gospel at verse 8 is because he wanted the story to be incomplete. He wanted to leave us in suspense, asking ourselves what we would have done if we had been in those ladies’ place.

Because the story belongs to us now. It is up to us to share.

This changes everything.

It changes the way we live, the way we think, the way we act, the way we interact, the way we relate to each other–everything.

Believer, stick to it. Celebrate the good news of Christ’s victory and keep telling people about it.

Fence-Sitter, get off the fence. What you do today echoes for eternity. Stop holding back and surrender your life to him.

Skeptic, do your research. This is too important to simply ignore. Find out: What happened on that Sunday morning so many years ago? Because if it is true that Jesus is really alive, well…
That changes everything.