Allen Jackson - After The Resurrection
I wanna begin a new series with you this morning under the theme of "Bold Faith". It's time for a little bit of that. We've had timid Christianity for too long, not condemning, not critical, not judgmental, not self-righteous, just men and women with a bold faith in Jesus Christ. I expect Jesus to make changes in my life. I didn't sign up to be a Christ follower who would sit in church and be polite. I'm not that good at being polite, and I didn't like church that much. But I expect Jesus to change my life, and he has, and he continues to, and I wanna unpack this notion for a few weeks. This weekend, I wanna focus on a very specific period of time and watch what Jesus did and taught, all right, that season after the resurrection.
There's a forty-day window between Jesus' resurrection and his ascension. And it's very clear from the gospel narratives that he had people to see and places to go and things to do. It's startling to me because the cross was the culmination of Jesus' ministry. Through the cross, Jesus provided for us a complete and total victory over Satan and all of his claims on humanity. It's irreversible. The cross was the most tremendous victory ever expressed towards human beings. It's changed our lives for time and all eternity. You know, just a casual reading, you'd think that when the cross was done, surely you'd be done. But it's really clear, in that little narrow window of time, Jesus still had some things that he very much wanted to accomplish.
And I'm gonna ask you to step with me into that little window. Each of the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, addressed some events from that period of time. Some of them give events that others did not include, but together you kinda get the broader picture. Mark gives us the most succinct overview. Not surprisingly, Mark is the shortest of the gospels, and often he speaks with the greatest brevity, and in this case he did it again. So, I wanna start with Mark and read his account of Jesus post-resurrection, and then we'll look at some pieces from the other gospel writers. But Mark 16 says: "When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons".
Now, this is post-resurrection. Jesus' ministry to Mary had taken place about three years earlier. And I think it's at least worth noting in passing that when Mark mentions she was the first one to see Jesus, that he also mentions Jesus drove seven demons out of her. How would you like it if every time your name was mentioned, the darkest chapter of your life was given as your byline? Little awkward, huh? I mean, there's many things you coulda said about Mary. She came from the village of Migdol. She came from a village that was the neighbor to Capernaum where Jesus' public ministry took place. A lotta things you could say about Mary. She followed Jesus for three years. Mark chooses to remind us she was the recipient of deliverance. She found freedom in Jesus.
When Jesus brings freedom to your life, it becomes an unmistakable part of your future. We're indebted to him. He's done something good for us. Being a Christ follower is not a burden. It's a privilege. We have nothing to offer him that he needs. I have nothing. My gift mix did not put the kingdom of God over the top. Thank you for not cheering out loud when I said that. But you know, when I volunteered, when I made the decision to be a Christ follower. It wasn't like a tremendous relief to the angelic host that now they had me onboard. In reality, they took on a tremendous liability, and with you, too. But in Jesus, he's done something for us.
It's so important to remember "Mary Magdalene, out of whom he'd driven seven demons. She went and told those who'd been with him and who were mourning and weeping. And when they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they didn't believe her. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. And they returned and reported it to the rest; but they didn't believe them either". There's a pattern emerging. "Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; and he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, and whoever does not believe will be condemned.'"
Let's pause there a minute. I know that's in your Bible and it's Jesus speaking, so you're nodding like that makes perfect sense, but I would submit to you, that's weird. It's post-resurrection, Jesus has begun appearing to some of his closest friends. They're reporting it to his other friends, and they are refusing to believe it. "We can't believe it," they said. "We don't dare believe it again". And then Jesus steps into the room with them and he says, "I'm back". And he chastises them for their stubborn refusal to believe. And then his very next sentence is, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation". Huh? Two breaths before, they didn't even believe you were alive, and you've just given them a global assignment? And I'm reading like that like, oh yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.
You know, in the first century, you may not remember but in the first century, the Internet was just gettin' started. Going global wasn't just a few clicks of the mouse, it required a lotta steps of the feet. And Jesus' three years of ministry with the disciples had been almost entirely focused on the inhabitants of Israel, the Jewish people. On multiple occasions, he refused to accept invitations to anything but the Jewish people. He sent the disciples ahead of him into the villages and the towns of Israel. They very carefully avoided the more Roman cities in the land of Israel. They didn't, you know, there's no record of them in Caesarea or Beit She'an or the other, the other Roman places. They went to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he said, and now he says to the disciples the first time he sees them, "Stop being doubters. Go into all the world".
Bold faith. When you met Jesus, whether you were conscious of it or not, he was gonna put an invitation in front of you that requires more boldness to follow than any invitation from wickedness you were ever presented with. Bold faith. Following Jesus will take greater courage, greater conviction, greater strength than any exercise in ungodliness you've ever encountered. If you think bein' a Christ follower is being about sedate, you haven't paid much attention to the story.
Now watch what he says: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved". I don't think it's an accident that Mark keeps his focus on believing. He's told us who wouldn't believe and who stubbornly refused to believe, and now he says there's a promise to those who believe: they'll be saved. "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they'll drive out demons, they'll speak in new tongues; they'll pick up snakes with their hands; they'll drink deadly poison, it won't hurt them; they'll place their hands on sick people, and they'll get well. And the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. And the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it".
There's no termination on that assignment. Folks, we're the 21st century edition. I believe when we see Peter and James and John or the Lord himself, they'll ask how we've been doing with that assignment. We have their life experience for momentum. Then if you'll allow me with the time we have this morning, I wanna step back into that narrative a little more carefully. I wanna begin by asking you what do you think the mood was with the disciples after Jesus' resurrection? You got some clues; I put some words in your notes. I would submit to you that they were totally enmeshed in an atmosphere of despair, of defeat. They were disheartened and discouraged. They were havin' more than a blue day. They had no hope left. Not just for themselves. They're not just grieving the loss of a friend.
This isn't just the death of someone they have loved. Jesus extended to them a hope for their lives and their future, a whole different outcome for who they were as persons, and they have followed him wholeheartedly. They are all-in, and when they saw Jesus die on that Roman cross, it wasn't just his life they're grieving. Their futures were totally changed. They can't lift themselves above it. In John chapter 20 in verse one, it says: "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple," that's John, "the one Jesus loved, and said, 'They've taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!' So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb".
John goes on to tell us they ran, that John outran Peter to the tomb; but when Peter got there, he pushed John aside and he went right into the tomb and said, "Yes, it's empty". And John relates that they stood and had some dialogue about it, trying to understand and to discern what had happened, because they didn't have any... there's no suggestion that they had any imagination whatsoever that Jesus was alive. They think someone's stolen the body. When Peter and John go back to the home where they were, it says: "The disciples went back to their homes," and in verse 11, "but Mary stood outside the tomb crying".
This is days after Jesus' death. She stood outside the tomb crying, "And as she wept, she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and she saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. And they asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?' 'They have taken my Lord away, and I don't know where they've put him.'" May I ask you a question? Why do you think God sent angels to talk to Mary? I mean, they're not really there with a new assignment. This isn't like a, do-do-do-do, you're gonna have a baby. What are the angels there for? I think God was acknowledging how brokenhearted she was, the depth of her despair. And his intent was not to leave them there.
So he had angels on assignment. "Why are you crying? All of heaven is rejoicing! This is not a day of despair, this is a day of triumph"! Is it possible to be a Christ follower, a godly person walking with the Lord, not walking in disobedience, or rebellion, or stubbornness, or ungodliness, or immorality, doin' the best you know to walk a God path, and to find yourself filled with despair? Is it possible that we could be unaware of all that God is doing, that we couldn't see it, we couldn't grasp it, that our own pain or our own perspective is so limited, we can't grasp it, and we need God to break in to give us eyes to see? It seems to me that's precisely what's happening here.
In fact, watch what happens next. "At this, she turned around and she saw Jesus standing there, but she didn't realize it was Jesus. He said, 'Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you're looking for?' And thinking he was the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you've carried him away, tell me where you've put him, and I will get him.'" She's seen angels, and she still says, you know, "If you've hidden the body, just tell me. I'll go get him". And "Jesus said to her, 'Mary.'" And she turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni"! What do you think happened in Mary when she heard Jesus mention her name? Boom! Think we could call that an adrenaline bump? Jesus loved her. There's no criticism. There's no condemnation. There's no rebuke. There's no sternness. "Mary, it's me! We talked about this"!
There's something so profound in this to me. In the midst, folks, they're not just havin' a bad day. This isn't because it rained, and they wanted sunshine. It isn't that they missed getting tickets to the concert they'd been looking forward to, or their kids didn't make the travel squad. They have no hope! Angels speaking to them doesn't bring them any hope. And all of a sudden, here's Jesus, post-resurrection Jesus. "Mary". Yeah, I wanna suggest something to you. Look at Psalm 34. It says: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all".
A significant part of Jesus' effort after his resurrection is his ministry to his closest friends, a ministry of renewal and hope and encouragement. I say that to you because it's possible to be a Christ follower with some experience, and some momentum, and doing the best you know, and find yourself in some really dark places. You haven't missed God. We just read it. The psalmist said God is close to the brokenhearted, not angry with them, not punishing them, not judging them or criticizing them. God is close to us; and if you're in one of those seasons, you matter to the Lord. The Lord loves you! Don't give up your confidence, the Bible says. Don't grow weary. "But I am weary"! Well, there's a difference in being weary and giving into it. And I wanna encourage you that the Lord loves you. You matter to him. Sit with people, godly people, that you know that aren't in as low a place as you are, and just listen to the joy they have for the Lord. It's contagious. Don't bear it by yourself. God will bring you through.
Now, one last observation and I'll do it quickly. I wanna draw a contrast for you between the struggle with doubt and belief, and the determination not to let go of it. It's an interesting contrast. In John 20, it says: "Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came". That first time Jesus was with them, Thomas wasn't there. "So the other disciples were saying to him, 'We've seen the Lord!' But he said, 'Unless I see His hands, see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place and my hand into His side, I won't believe.'"
Now, I think we've been a little unfair to Thomas. We've called him a doubter, but Thomas is no more persistent in his unbelief than the rest of 'em were. When Mary came and said we saw the Lord, they said, "No". When the Emmaus crew showed up, they said, "No, we don't believe that either". And when Jesus stepped into the room, he said, "Here's my hands, and you can check it out for yourself". And Thomas says, "Look, unless I see it, I'm not believing". The despair is too great. Now watch what happens. Verse 26, it says: "After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them, and Jesus came". Eight days! That's a long time to carry that burden, isn't it?
You know, I have never, I have no complaints about the faithfulness of God. In my life over the years, God has always been faithful to me, but I have had some major complaints about his timing. Sometimes I think God is not paying attention to my calendar. I know he has one, but I'm saying, "God, have you seen mine"? And I'm thinkin', eight days later, Jesus comes. It says, "the doors having been shut". That seems to be his entry of choice, "and He stood in their midst and he said, 'Peace be with you.' And he said to Thomas, 'Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here with your hand and put it into My side; and don't be unbelieving, but believe.' Then Thomas says, 'My Lord and my God!'" My Lord and my God.
Folks, it reminds me of the... unbelief is a challenge. I don't want you to treat it as if it's some shabby opponent, some weak adversary. Unbelief, the challenge to the truth of God in your heart and my heart, is a real adversary in our journey, because life will present events to you; and your enemy, the opponent of your faith, will use them to diminish your belief, to make you more cautious, to make you more timid, to make you pull back, to dial back. What's our topic? What's our objective in these weeks? Bold faith. And I'm tellin' you, to be a person of faith, a believer in Jesus, in the power of God to transform a life, it takes strength. It takes courage. You have to fight for it.
When the Hebrews got to the Jordan River, and they sent the spies into the promised land, they came back and they said, "It's a beautiful place, milk and honey, great crops, it's exactly what we were told it would be, but the effort to take it is more than we're willing to make". That's what they said. "It's just a little more work than we're willing to make". God's inheritance for them, God called it a rebellion. But if you look at their answer, they said, "You know, that's just a little more effort than we're up for". Who told you that being a Christ follower was simple? Oh, I get it. I know how we get birthed into the kingdom of God. I'm in with that. I believe in the new birth, the conversion, salvation, it's something supernatural that happens for you.
That doesn't require great determination on your part. You gotta be willing to participate, but it doesn't require a great determination on your part, but to grow up in the Lord does. For a baby to be physically born, the bulk of that effort, the baby goes through some trauma admittedly, but the bulk of that effort resides elsewhere. But that child will never grow up if he's waiting for somebody else to exert the rest of the effort. And you and I, to grow up in our faith, we have to decide we're gonna give God the best in our hearts. Matthew's telling of this season of times says: "While the women were on their way," they're on their way away from the tomb, they're gonna get the guys to see what's happened. While they're on their way to get the crew to come back and inspect the tomb, there were some "guards who went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that happened".
You see, the Sanhedrin went to the governor and said, "You need to post a Roman guard at this tomb 'cause they're gonna try to steal the body and keep this myth alive". They've been sayin' Jesus was a myth for a long time. It's not new today. And when God opened the tomb, he didn't do it quiet. It says there was an earthquake, that the soldiers were knocked to the ground. The stone was rolled away. They knew something supernatural had happened. The tomb was empty. The women are goin' to find the fellas to bring them back, and the guards are headed into the city: "When the chief priests had met with the elders and they devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money and they said, 'You are to say his disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. If the report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.'"
Keep you out of trouble. If you were assigned to guard that place and you failed, the trouble is they'll execute you. "So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day". It intrigues me. The high priests, they know the story. They know the drill. They know of the miracles. They know the dialogue. Now they know the tomb is empty, and what is their choice? We will bribe the soldiers to tell the lie that we want them to tell. They are choosing, they're doubling down on unbelief and doubt. You know what fascinates me in this is who Jesus chose to spend his time with post-resurrection.
The last time the world saw Jesus, the last time those, the high priest saw Jesus, he's on a cross. God made no personal attempt to revisit them. Jesus, he spent his time with his closest friends helping them back up, helping to, to refocus and to repurpose them. Makes me smile... see, if I'd have been in charge of that, that's not the way I'd have done it. If I'd have been raised from the dead, I wouldn'a gone lookin' for Mary. 'Cause I'm thinkin' Mary woulda been an easier sell. I'd have gone lookin' for Pilate. I would have loved to climb into that boy's judgment hall, wouldn't you? "Do I look familiar"? "Do you happen to remember the last time I was here and you told me you had power of life and death? Could we talk"? How sweet.
I would have gone lookin' for a Roman soldier. I'da gone lookin' for that guy that put the blindfold on me and the crown on my head, and then hit me in the face and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell me who did it". I'd have introduced that man to the back hand of a resurrected boy. Boom! "What's my name"? That's why God didn't put me in charge. That's not where Jesus went, is it? He went and found Mary and said, "Mary". He went and stood in the room with the crew, and he said, "It's all right. Now you've got an assignment. I've done what I came to do. I'll be back, but in the meantime, you got some business to attend to". I brought you a prayer. Won't you stand with me? We'll read this together. It's at the very end of your outline. We're a people learning to pray. Your faith, your willingness to pray will change things. It will. If you found your prayer, let's read it together:
Heavenly Father, open my heart to understand what was accomplished through the cross. Grant me a revelation of Jesus that is more real than any discouragement or disappointment. Thank you for Your grace, mercy, and forgiveness in my life. I choose to live for Your purposes. Help me to see the opportunities around me that I might bring honor and glory to the name of Jesus. In Him I put my trust, amen.