David Jeremiah - The Resurrection
Michelangelo, the great artist, one day turned on his fellow artists and said, "Why do you guys keep filling up gallery after gallery with endless pictures of the one theme of Christ in weakness, Christ on the cross? And most of all, Christ hanging dead? Why do you concentrate on the passing episode as if it were the last work, as if the curtain dropped on Jesus with disaster and defeat. That dreadful scene lasted only a few hours but to the unending eternity Christ is alive, the stone was rolled away, and he rules and he reigns in triumph". Michelangelo was right and, according to Mark's Gospel, the Resurrection is the most important story and account in the entire Bible.
I was a student in seminary before I began to understand the importance of the Resurrection. I thought it was something you just celebrated at the end of the story of the Crucifixion, but the Resurrection was sort of like an afterthought. It wasn't until I began to study the New Testament that I realized that the Resurrection's not an afterthought. It's the main thought. Oh, yes, the Crucifixion of Christ is imperative because without his death we could not be forgiven. But if it is not for the Resurrection we have no way of knowing whether his death was worth anything or not. His Resurrection validated his Crucifixion because Jesus said that he would come back again after death in three days. "As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for that same period of time". But that he would come back.
And if Jesus Christ was not resurrected from the grave, why would we even care about his death? We wouldn't wanna believe that either because it would have no meaning. But because of the Resurrection, we know that the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ stand as a unit in the gospel. There is no gospel without the Resurrection. That's why when you open the Scriptures on an Easter weekend, you don't have to look very far for information. It's in all the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Mark's my favorite writer in the Gospels 'cause he's a man of action. His favorite word is immediately. It's in the book everywhere.
When Mark tells a story, he puts you on the edge of your seat because he pulls all the details together and gives you all of the good stuff. Mark's record of the events surrounding the Resurrection are incredible. Actually, they begin the night before, for we read in Mark chapter 16: "When the Sabbath was past". The Sabbath, by the way, is not Sunday. It's Saturday. "When the Sabbath was past," when Saturday was past, "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Jesus. And very early the next morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, 'Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?' But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, for it was very large".
Mark's account of the Resurrection actually begins the night before. These three women who we'll meet in a moment have gathered together to go to the tomb of Jesus the next day. They've purchased spices that they're going to use to anoint his body. That was the way they dealt with death. There was no internal embalming. They did this by taking spices and they would insert the spices between the rolls of cloth that were wound around the body and the spices, because they were aromatic, would mitigate the odor of decomposition. That's how they honored their loved ones. That's how they prepared them for burial. And so they had their spices purchased, and they were all ready. And the next morning they would get up early and go to the tomb. The last thing in the world they were anticipating was that the person they were going to anoint would not be there anymore. In the record of the Resurrection, women are at the very core. And we honor our women because of their role in what we do in ministry.
In fact, as we've learned already today that Jesus was anointed by another woman by the name of Mary when she poured out her perfume on his feet and Jesus said in that text that she had done this to anoint his body before his burial. So at the first part of the story and the last part of the story there are now four women who love Jesus so much that they wanted to honor him in this special way. Verse 1 tells us the names of these dedicated women. First of all, one of the women was Mary Magdalene. I have to tell you, I think she's the most misunderstood woman in the Bible. She gets blamed for a lot of stuff she didn't do and she had enough problems without that.
The Scripture records that one day Jesus confronted this woman and cast seven demons out of her. And the Bible tells you very clearly that when you are forgiven much you love much. She had been forgiven a lot and she loved the Lord and her love is so evident as she hovers around the scene of the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ. Mary Magdalene. The Scripture also says there was another Mary. This woman is called Mary the Mother of James. We know very little about her. She was the mother of two children, one of whom Jesus chose to be an apostle, and that's about all we know about this woman. And then there's Salome. Salome was the wife of Zebedee.
Now, I'm sure that helps you a lot. Let me fill you in on some of the details of Salome and Zebedee. They had two boys named James and John and I've often thought that Salome must have been a great mother because the nickname for her two boys were the Sons of Thunder. They must have been a handful. Zebedee owned his own fishing business and it was very successful to the point that he hired servants to help him. And one day, Zebedee was fishing and they were actually working on the nets, he and his two boys, and Jesus passed that way and he recruited Zebedee's two sons to come and be fishers of men instead of fishers of fish. And it is really interesting that Zebedee did not push back. There's no record of it, of him saying, "No, I need these boys in my business". I believe that Zebedee loved the Lord as much as his wife Salome did and they gave their two boys to ministry.
And so now, we have these three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome, and they're together in one purpose: to honor the body of their Lord who has died. The second verse of Matthew 16 tells us that these three friends woke up early on Sunday morning and they were staying in Bethany and so they woke up to take the journey from Bethany to Jerusalem which is about a 30-minute walk, couple of miles. And you can imagine what they were feeling as they took this journey. This wasn't a happy moment for them, to go and minister to the dead body of the one they had loved and thought was the answer to all of the problems of the world. So as they walked along, their hearts with filled with grief and they were sorrowful. But Mark tells us that they were having a conversation about something else and he's the only one of the Gospels who mentions this.
Mark said that as they were walking, verse 3, "they said among themselves, 'Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?'" They had all of their spices and they were on their way and then on the way they thought, "Wait a minute, we won't be able to get to the body of Jesus because he's sealed in a tomb and a giant stone is in front of the door". And someone might say, "Well, wouldn't they expect their friends, the disciples, would help them"? Not. They weren't anywhere around. The disciples went underground, remember that? There weren't any men to help them and so here are these three women. "How are we gonna get inside the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus when this huge stone is in front of the door"?
You say, "Well, how big was it"? Well, I've been to Israel now many times and if indeed he was buried in the tomb called Gordon's Garden Tomb, then I have been in that tomb and I know how big that stone must have been because the opening into the tomb, it's about 4 feet high and it's this wide. And scholars have said in order to close off that tomb, you would have to have a stone that was maybe 6 feet in circumference. And a stone of that size, even if it's only 2 inches thick, would weigh well over 4000 pounds. So these women had a problem. And they didn't know what to do. And so they were talking about it. The interesting thing to me is they kept going. Now, if that had dawned on some of us, we'd have said, "Oh, man, this isn't working. Let's go back home. This is not gonna happen". But they went in faith and they believed and they kept going, and the Bible says that as they got near to the tomb where they could see it, they realized that the stone had already been rolled away.
And you say, "Well, how did it happen"? Matthew gives us a little insight into it. Matthew says that, "there was a great earthquake; and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door". The language of the Gospels is that it wasn't just rolled back, but it was picked up and put in place by itself. If you go to the garden tomb where we have been, you will see that in front of the opening, there's a little groove that was dug and that that round covering for the tomb would be rolled down an incline in that groove in place of the covering of the tomb and then if they were to open it, they would have to push it back up the groove and put a shiv underneath it so that it wouldn't roll down. But when they came to the garden tomb that day, the stone wasn't in the groove. It was in a place by itself, almost as to say, "This is not a human thing. God has been involved in this".
And mark it down in your notebook that they did not need the stone to be rolled away from the tomb so Jesus could get out. The stone had to be rolled away so that they could see in and realize that Jesus was not there. The women finally realized that their problem has been solved and they get to the tomb and verse 5 says: "And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed". I love that little phrase that Mark adds. And I want to say to myself, "I guess". I mean, think about these women, what they've been through, the anguish in their heart. They're living on an emotional edge. They're on their way to the tomb. They don't know how they're gonna get in.
They show up, they walk toward the tomb and before they can reorient themselves, they see this guy sitting in there in a long white robe. And the guy says, "Why are you alarmed"? C'mon. "And then he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go and tell His disciples, and Peter, that He is going before you into Galilee; and there you will see Him, as He said to you.'" When the women entered the tomb, they expected to see the lifeless body of Jesus. What they saw was neither his corpse nor an empty tomb. What they saw was a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side and the Bible says they were filled with fear and wonder and amazement and astonishment and distress, all mixed up together in one package.
And the word "alarmed" describes it all. And the angel responds to their anxiety by announcing for the very first time, this is the first announcement of the Resurrection of Jesus. His words were directed to three women who lived in the 1st century AD but they're just as important to us today as they were to them. And the Resurrection of Jesus spoke to these women about their fears and their hopes and their purpose. First of all, they were told not to be alarmed, not to be afraid. When Jesus rose from the dead, he conquered fear. What is the biggest fear men have today? What is the one thing nobody has any control over? Everybody dies. Nobody wants to. We fight it. It is the one enemy we have no control over. And I've known people in my life as a pastor who are so afraid of death they can't live. They're so afraid of dying, they have nothing left for living.
In fact, the author of the book of Hebrews wrote that Jesus died that, "through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all of their lifetime subject to bondage". Isn't that an interesting verse? Jesus came to take the fear of death away so that you don't have to live every day afraid of dying. I know Christian people maybe not taught about the Scripture who should know better, who live every day of their life so afraid of dying they have no energy left to be living. Now, let's all agree that we don't wanna die. Can I get a witness? I mean, we're all in this together. God has put within us DNA that wants to keep us alive. I work hard at that and you do too. And shame on you if you don't. Life is precious. But we don't have to be afraid of it. Because when Jesus came out of the grave, he stomped all over death so that it couldn't hurt us anymore.
He did what Goliath had happen to him. David took Goliath's sword and cut off Goliath's head. Death was Satan's number one tool for the manipulation of people. Satan thought he had a corner on it. The Bible says he was a murderer. Satan uses death to intimidate people but when Jesus went in and died he trumped Satan's best tool and when he came out of the grave victorious over death, Satan was defeated. There was nothing left that he could do. The worst thing that could have happened happened and it turned out to be better than anyone could have thought. So you say, "Well, if Satan is defeated, why is he doing so good today? Why am I having such a fit with him"? His victory is absolutely ultimate and permanent but in between now and the fact when it's carried out, he has his little skirmishes but he can never win the war 'cause the war is over.
Satan has been defeated and Jesus has won and death is gone and that's why, listen to me, that's why Christians have this whole different perspective about death than anybody else. The Bible says that "we sorrow not as others who have no hope". We don't sorrow because we have hope. You say, "Well, when I lose somebody that I love, then.."., yeah, you're gonna cry and you should. But it's not the same. It's not the same kind of sorrow. The Bible says that when Jesus came out of the grave victorious over death he took the sting out of death. What that means is that if you're a Christian and you know Jesus Christ in a personal way, you know that you have a relationship with the One who overcame death by his own Resurrection, who promises to you if you will put your trust in him you too shall live.
And so it's amazing to me. I've been doing this for almost 50 years but I started as a seminary student in Dallas years ago, at Dallas Theological Seminary, and I was looking for some part-time work 'cause Donna and I had just gotten married. We didn't have any money. I was going to school. We were trying to figure out how to get through school. Somebody offered me the idea that Baylor University Hospital was looking for people. So I went over there and I applied. And they were looking for chaplains. And I needed a job so I took it. They gave me about a half-hour worth of orientation and then told me that my task was to go around and encourage people.
I was willing to do that but they gave me a little beeper and they said, "When this beeper goes off, you go immediately to the family section because somebody has come into this hospital in deep trouble. There's either been an accident or a death or something's happened and you need to be on duty. I swallowed hard on that one because I had never done anything like that before. And I have to honestly tell you I walked around Baylor Hospital with that beeper in my pocket and it was like a bomb ready to go off, you know? I was thinking, "Oh my goodness, if that thing goes off I'm on duty". And I did that for two years. At first, very awkwardly but I got better at it. And it was a tremendous time of learning for me, somebody who's gonna be a pastor.
And I will tell you what I learned that I've never forgotten, that fits right into the core of this truth. I would be called into a situation where there had been something serious that had happened. And by the time I finished my tour of duty there I could have told you almost without mistake whether or not, before any word was spoken, when I walked into the room, whether these were Christian people or not. If they were Christian people, there would be sadness and sorrow, sometimes even a bit of despair. But in the midst of the sorrow, there would be this something I can't even describe. It's kind of like a sense of strength that comes up in the midst of sorrow that puts sorrow in a different place. Sorrow but not sorrow as those who have no hope because even in death, for those of us who are Christians, hope is all over the place. Because our hope is in Jesus Christ.
And who is Jesus Christ? He's the one that stared death right in the face and took it out so it never has to hurt us again. Do I want to die? No, and I hope you don't either. But I'm not afraid. And I know one day I will, if the Lord doesn't come back. I kind of faced it a few years ago with some serious disease. But the beauty of the Resurrection is that it takes fear out of your life. When you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, he is the resurrected Lord and every time you talk to him, you're talking to the one person in the universe who's overcome what you've been afraid of and you will not be afraid like you were, because of the Resurrection. The Resurrection also sustains your hope.
When the women walked into the tomb, the angel sustained their hope with seven simple words. Here they are: "He is risen. He is not here". The last three days for these women had been filled with despair. The women's hopes and dreams had been shattered but now the angel is telling them that all was not lost, that Jesus really was crucified but now he's still really alive. And at that moment, the despair in those women's hearts must have jumped. "Oh, he's not dead. He's alive". I wonder what they did with the ointment. Did you ever think about that? Put that away for some other time. 1 Peter 1:3 says: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead".
We have a living hope because of the Resurrection. Now oftentimes, when we talk about the hope of the Resurrection we think, "Oh, yeah, well, that's good and somewhere down the road I'm gonna go to heaven and be with Jesus and all that". But do you really understand all that's gonna happen to you? Do you realize that the hope of the Resurrection is the answer to every ache and pain you've had since you got up this morning. I won't even begin to mention 'em because somebody will think I've been reading their mail so that won't work, right. The Bible tells us that when we are resurrected in our bodies, like the body of Jesus, everything about us is going to change.
I like to tell everybody, "On your way to heaven you're gonna get an extreme makeover". What does that look like? Maybe this will help you. In his book, "The Reason for God," Tim Keller said: "Every Easter I think about Joni Eareckson Tada. She was in an accident when she was 17 years old and ever since has been a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. While she was still trying to come to terms with this horrible accident, she would go to church in her wheelchair. And the problem with being in a wheelchair, she wrote, was that at a certain point in her church's liturgy every Sunday, the priest called everybody to kneel, which drove home to her the fact that she was stuck in a wheelchair. Once she was at a convention when the speaker urged people to get down on their knees and pray and everybody in the whole convention did it except for her. And she said, 'With everybody kneeling and my not, I stood out. And I started to cry. And I couldn't stop the tears. But,' she said, 'I wasn't crying out of self-pity, I was crying because the sight of hundreds of people on their knees before God was so beautiful. And then,' she said, 'I continued to weep at another thought.'"
And listen to these words. "Sitting there, I was reminded that in heaven I will be free to jump up, dance, kick, and do aerobics. And sometime before the guests are called to the banquet table at the wedding feast of the Lamb, the first thing I plan to do on Resurrection legs is to drop on grateful glorified knees and quietly kneel at the feet of Jesus". And she added, "I with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from my shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness, powerful and dazzling. Can you imagine the hope," she said, "that the Resurrection gives somebody who is spinal cord injured like me"?
Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ do people find such enormous hope to live. Only the Resurrection promises us not just new minds and new hearts, but new bodies. And they're gonna be more perfect and more beautiful than you can imagine. And they will be able to be what a body is supposed to be without any flaws or without any weakness. And Joni Eareckson Tada helps us understand the absolute incredible truth of the hope of the Resurrection. And finally, the Resurrection supplies our purpose. Now that we know all this and especially those of us who are believers in Christ, what are we supposed to do? Well, verse 7 in the 16th chapter says this: "Go tell His disciples, and Peter, that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as you said".
Now I read that verse many, many times but I've never really stopped to think why they mentioned Peter in this verse. I mean, he wasn't the only person. He said, "Go tell His disciples," and then they mention Peter. What I think happened is when Jesus thought about his disciples, the first thing he thought about was, that the last thing Peter did before Jesus went to the cross was Peter denied him three times. And Jesus probably knew that Peter was overwhelmed with the guilt of that. And so Jesus said to those women, "Go tell the disciples I'm still alive, and tell Peter I love him, that we're still okay". Over in the 21st chapter of John you see Jesus and Peter getting together and getting that all resolved. But on this day, on this moment, in this greatest day in Jesus's life, he didn't forget Peter.
And what had Peter done to deserve the memory of Jesus? He had denied him three times. That's what you call grace, men and women. That's what you call mercy and that's what you call Jesus. That's who he is. For Peter, for me, the many times I have failed him, and for all of you. Go tell his disciples and tell Peter. And these women went out and they were so amazed at everything that had happened, the Scripture says, they didn't tell anybody. They just went, kept quiet until they finally were able to process this all and then the gospel of the Resurrection began to be told. If you go to the book of Acts which is the record of the early church, there you will find the sermons of the apostles that were preached in the early days of the Christian church and you know what you will find about them?
Almost every one of them are all about the Resurrection. Because these men who were the apostles had seen the Lord Jesus Christ before he died. They had seen all of the details of his death. They knew he was dead. They knew there was no mystery about that. They knew he had been buried. But they had seen him alive after his death. And when they preached the gospel, they talked about the death of Christ but mostly they talked about the Resurrection because the Resurrection was the fear-relieving, hope-reviving gospel that men and women needed then and need today. I don't know what you think about Jesus or how you feel your relationship to him is, but I like to recommend to you that if you don't know him in a personal way, Easter's a good time to fix that. Easter's a good time to say, "I'd like to know this Jesus".
You have to admit, he's pretty wonderful. I mean, have you ever heard of anybody like Jesus who makes people go out and buy dresses and hats and go to church all over the place like they've never done before and take their families out to eat for dinner and celebrate and, you know, they don't even know why they're doing it but Jesus is behind it all. He's the one who started this. And he is so incredible, my friends. I am glad I don't ever have to live one day without him. He's always there, just a breath away. He's not just my Savior and my Lord, he's my friend. He's my partner. And what he is to me, he will be to anyone and the only way you get that started is with an invitation: "Lord Jesus, come and live within my heart". It's not profound, it's not complicated, it's not rocket science.
The Bible says if you believe in your heart that he is Lord and you accept him, he will come and forgive your sin and give you a new heart and a new life. Not a life sometime, somewhere, someday, but a life today, beginning the moment you believe. That's the story of the Resurrection. And that's why every Easter I tell you this story in a different way but with the same message. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God who went to the cross and paid the penalty for all of our sin, was buried, and on the third day rose from the grave to prove that he was who he said he was and that if we would put our faith in him we could have life everlasting.