Saturday, April 15, 2006

Matt Messages - This Changes Everything

“This Changes Everything”
Resurrection Sunday
April 16, 2006
Mark 16:1-8

Since before Christmas, we have been studying together the short, action-packed biography of the world’s most important Person written by Mark the Evangelist. And today on Resurrection Sunday 2006, we have reached the end of the Gospel of Mark.

It is a short ending, just eight brief verses, but what a message those eight verses contain!

The Gospel of Mark ends abruptly at verse 8. It seems that what is printed in many of our New Testaments as verses 9-20 is a later addition by another faithful Christian to fill out the story that Mark leaves off so abruptly. The earliest and best Greek manuscripts do not have verses 9-20, and I don’t think it sounds like the rest of Mark when you read it, so I don’t believe that 9-20 is Scripture though I’m certain that it is full of good Christian history and the basic facts in it are true, regardless. It doesn’t affect basic Christian teaching one bit. If anyone has a question about that, I’d be glad to go into that more with you another time.

But today, I just want to focus on verses 1-8. They tell what Paul Harvey would call, “the rest of the story,” and the truth they contain is life-altering, life-changing, life-transforming.

Would you pray with me?


Have you ever had one of those experiences where something comes into your life and you have say, “Well, this changes everything!”

I’m sure you have.

Maybe you’ve been given a piece of information that you didn’t have before.

Maybe you made a big decision–or you were going to make a big decision–based upon a certain amount of information, and then one new piece of information comes in, and you have to say, “This changes everything.”

Or maybe it’s a relationship.

You’re going down one path in your life and then someone comes into your life and so influences you, so impacts you, so affects you, that that relationship makes you say, “This changes everything.”

Or maybe it’s a loss.

When Heather and I lost our first child to stillbirth 7 years ago today, I remember thinking that, overnight, my entire course of life had changed. “This changes everything.”

That’s what the truth of Mark 16 does to the story of Jesus Christ.

It changes everything.

Last week we read chapters 14 and 15 which told the story of the abandoning of Jesus.

He was betrayed by one of His twelve closest followers.
He was deserted by all the rest.
He was denied by His closest follower three times in one night.
He was arrested, tried in a mockery of justice, tortured, and killed in one of the most gruesome ways ever imagined. And He was all alone.
His corpse was not properly anointed for burial and was quickly wrapped and placed in a tomb sealed by a large stone.

And if that was the end of the story, we would be foolish to be here this morning.

But that’s not the end of the story. Mark chapter 16, 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.” Stop there.

These are some of the same ladies who saw where Jesus had been buried in chapter 15, verse 47. They were eyewitnesses of His burial.

When Jesus died, there wasn’t enough time to properly anoint Him. The Sabbath was coming on. But on Saturday night, when the Sabbath had passed, these ladies went into the marketplace and bought some spices that they hoped to use to anoint Jesus’ corpse.

And they set Sunday morning as the time to try to do it. V.2

“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?’”

They had spices, but they had no crowbars, and they had no men. They were worried. They were leaving it up to luck to see if they could get into the tomb to anoint His body.

Notice what they weren’t expecting–they weren’t expecting to find an empty tomb!

But that’s exactly what they did find! V.4

“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.”

Something’s going on here! This is a God-thing! They had to go in and see. V.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. [Luke tells us that this was an angel. No wonder 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.”

This is the greatest news ever! And it changes everything!

“‘Don't be alarmed...You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified [Yes, He was crucified! But]. He has risen! [Literally, He has been raised!] He is not here. See the place where they laid him [with your own eyes].” V.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.'’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

This changes everything!

Everything seemed one way on Friday and Saturday.

But then everything was different on Sunday!

This changes everything...for everyone.

I want to talk to three different groups of people who are probably among us this morning. And I want to apply these verses to each of us.

Because this changes everything for everyone.

This changes everything FOR THE SKEPTIC.

You need to figure this one out!

Is Mark chapter 16 true? You need to do your research and figure that out!

Because if Jesus Christ was Who He said He was in Mark chapters 1 through 15 and then did what Mark chapter 16 says He did, then that makes a big difference in how we should live our lives!

Perhaps you are skeptical of the truth of Christianity.

There is a lot of skepticism in the world today about Christianity. Silly things like the DaVinci Code and the recently released so-called “Gospel of Judas” feed a lust for conspiracy theories that people love to believe.

Maybe you have a hard time believing in the claims of Christ.

Mark 16 calls you to do your homework and figure out what you really believe.

Because there is a lot on the line here.

Notice the attention to eyewitness accounts. People are named in Mark 16, they saw with their own eyes the place where Jesus had laid–and He wasn’t there any longer.
And He still isn’t! The tomb is still empty!

One amazing feature of this eyewitness account is that it is women who give it! If you were a Jew in the first century making up a resurrection story, you wouldn’t have a bunch of women as your chief witnesses! We know that women make great witnesses, but the Jews didn’t believe that. And so, for the story to be that His tomb was first seen as empty by women (and the other gospels tell us that the first eye-witnesses of His actual resurrection body were women, too)–just adds to the credibility of this story. Nobody in the first century would ever make that up!

And the New Testament documents, more historically substantiated than any other comparable documents in human history, indicate that Jesus’ tomb was empty on Sunday morning, and that, over 50 days, the resurrected Jesus appeared to over 500 of His followers. There is more historically substantiated documentary proof of that than that Julius Caesar ever lived!

So, skeptic, I’m glad you are here today. I’ve been praying for you this week.

You need to get this figured out. Now.

You need to do your own research and decide whether or not you believe what Mark 16 says happened.

I have a stack of books in my office that I’d be glad to recommend to you with the facts in them that you need to consider.

I’ll tell you about two of them.

One is called, Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison. Morison was a skeptic himself. And He set out to prove that Jesus never rose from the dead.

Who Moved the Stone? is the story of what He found out to be true.

The second book is The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. Strobel was a skeptic, too, and an investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune. In the Case for Christ, Strobel documents his own journey to faith through the evidence, as well as, hard-hitting interviews he conducted with leading scholars in a host of disciplines who lay out the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And there are many others. But you need to figure out what you believe about this.

Because this changes everything.

I was a skeptic once myself. But doing my own research and forming my own conclusions strengthened my belief that Jesus is Who He said He was and did what He said He was going to do. I believe He is risen from the dead or I wouldn’t be up here before you today.

This changes everything.

If you come to believe that Jesus is alive and you put your trust in Him and on what He did on the Cross that Friday–paying for your sins–then you will be saved from your sins and enter into an eternal love relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

That’s what’s on the line. Eternity with God.

This changes everything...FOR THE FENCE-SITTER.

Maybe you are sitting out there and you believe with your head that Jesus is alive today. Maybe you even enjoy coming to church and singing songs about it.

But you are not a committed Christ-follower.

You are a fence-sitter, someone watching from the sidelines, but not in the game.

Your life outside of church doesn’t look any different from the people around you.

You talk a good talk while you are here, but you aren’t walking the walk out there.

Some peolpe are only “committed to Christ” on a couple of holidays–Christmas and Easter and maybe Mothers’ Day.

Mark 16 changes everything for you, too.

Do you believe that He has risen from the dead?

If you do, then He is making demands on you today. He’s calling you to follow Him.

In Mark chapter 8, when Jesus predicted His crucifixion and His resurrection, He gave a condition for those who would call themselves Christians. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 16 says that the Jesus who said that has risen from the dead!

And He is saying that to you today.

You need to make a commitment.

You need to take up your cross and follow Him.

Mark 16 forces a decision.

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. He’s alive. Are you going to follow Him with your life or not?

Fence-sitter, you need to make a commitment. Because, ultimately, there are no fence-sitters–it’s either this side or that side, either all or nothing.

The Risen Jesus is calling you to take up your cross and follow Him.

I was a fence-sitter once myself. Most of us here were at some point or another.

But the Risen Jesus wouldn’t let me stay quiet on the pew. He has moved me into commitment, prayer, Christian fellowship, spiritual growth, church involvement, and ministry.

It won’t look the same for all of us, but we are all called to get off the fence and start following Christ.

Do you believe that Jesus is alive today? If so, it changes everything.

What changes need to be made in your life?

Some of you need to start a daily Bible reading and prayer time.
Some of you need to get into a Link Group or another Bible study.
Some of you need to start going to Sunday School.
Some of you need to start up family devotions.
Some of you need to get involved ministry.
Some of you need to come out from hiding and speak up about Christ with your friends and family.
Some of you need to join the membership at church for your own spiritual growth and the good of the Body.
Some of you need to figure out what your spiritual gifts are and start using them.

What changes need to be made in your life so that you are no longer sitting on the fence?

Are you going to live for Him? I hope so. I’m here, we’re all here, to help you to follow Him.

Because this changes everything...FOR THE CHRIST-FOLLOWER, too.

The resurrection changes everything for those of us who follow Christ by faith.

The resurrection brings us GRACE.

Look again at verse 6. This struck me for, I think, the first time ever this week in my study. V.6

“‘Don't be alarmed,’ [the angel] 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.”

Now stop for a second and think about what might be in the minds of the disciples when they hear this.

I don’t think I ever thought about it this way before. But they might have been afraid. After all, they had just abandoned Him three days ago.

A risen Jesus might have gotten back up angry and ready to take it out on those who had deserted Him!

But look at v.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.'’”

The original plan is still on. The relationship is still there. Jesus is not angry. He is gracious. Jesus has not risen to take vengeance on those who left Him. He has risen to love them and continue to fellowship with them forever!

Christ-Followers, the resurrection guarantees grace for us!

Notice that Peter is singled out! “Tell His disciples AND Peter.” Make sure Peter gets this. There is grace.

Christ-Follower, do you need grace? I know you do. I do.

You haven’t blown it past His grace. He has grace for you beyond your imagining.

The Cross releases a downpour grace on His followers.

Hell cancelled and Heaven guaranteed.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
Blessings all mine and ten thousand beside!

The resurrection guarantees us grace.

And it brings us TRUTH.

Notice that it is happening (v.7), “just as he told you.”

The resurrection validates everything that Jesus has said already in the Gospel of Mark.

He said that He would rise from the dead. If He did, then everything else He said will happen.

Flip through the pages of Mark this week and write down all of the promises.

They are all true.

Every last one. Since Jesus rose from the dead, we can count on every last one.

Everything He said about Himself. About paying a ransom. About coming back for us, about forgiveness through His blood–all of that is true. And we can bank on it.

Christ-Follower, do you need a dose of truth? I know you do. I do.

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees everything that Jesus has ever promised us.

Doesn’t that change everything?

It sure does. And it brings us POWER.

What kind of power does it take to raise a dead person to life?

The women were worried about the big stone. But rolling that away was nothing compared to defeating the power of death and raising Jesus to new life!

The Bible says that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in those who believe in Him.

You may not feel like it, Christ-Follower.

You may feel like the Red Moshannon.

But you actually have a Niagra Falls at work within you.

That changes everything.

And it gives us a MISSION.

The “young man” told the women (v.7), “Go, tell...”

This is good news. It is gospel. It needs to be shared.

The women didn’t at first. The gospel of Mark ends (strangely enough) with them being afraid and silent. V.8

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

Well, that wasn’t the right response.

But we know that it wasn’t their final response. I have a feeling that Mark intended to write more (and perhaps he did and it was lost early on and that’s why somebody felt the need to attach the longer ending).

But we know from the other gospels (and even the extended ending of Mark) that these ladies eventually shared the message about Jesus’ resurrection and that He began to appear to them and to the other disciples and then He gave them the Great Commission–to go into all the world and share the Gospel.

This changes everything.

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!!!!

I think one of the reasons why God the Holy Spirit allowed the Gospel of Mark to end like it does in verse 8 is to kick it back to us to finish.

We need to carry the message on.

Christ-Followers, we need to persevere in following Jesus by faith.

We need to stick to it.

All of the grace, all of truth, and all of the power we need to fulfill His mission is given to us in the resurrection.

We need to stick to it.

One of my favorite verses on the resurrection is the “So What” verse at the end of the great resurrection chapter–1 Corinthians 15.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul goes all over the place showing how important the resurrection is to our faith now and how it guarantees our resurrection some day.

And at the very end, he says, (v.50) “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality [Resurrection!]. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [Through His Resurrection! And here it is, verse 58:] Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

The resurrection changes everything.

Stand firm. Let nothing move you, Christ-follower. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

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.

Christ-Follower, stick to it. All the grace, all of the truth, and all of the power you need to accomplish His mission for you is available to you in the resurrection.

Fence-Sitter, take up your cross and follow Jesus. You can’t stay un-committed.

Skeptic, you need to decide.

Because this changes everything.

This week, my son Isaac, was sick and he had us up literally all night on Thursday night. And I was scheduled to get this sermon done on Friday, and it didn’t look possible. I had strung together about 2 hours of sleep.

But I drew strength from the fact that Jesus was alive. And that He had called me to be a herald of the good news of His resurrection to you this morning.

And Jesus met me in my study with grace (cause I needed it after the week I had had) and truth (His promises were very real to me), and power–the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

And I got this message done by the end of the day on Friday.

His resurrection made all the difference.

It changed everything.

And it will for you, too.