Second Reformed Church

Thursday, April 09, 2015

"Fear" Sermon: Mark 16:1-8


[Mark 16:1-8]

April 5, 2015 Second Reformed Church

            Jesus had been crucified and had died.  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus received His body from Pilate and placed it in a new tomb and began the process of anointing His body for burial – slathering Him with aloe and myrrh.

            As it was close to the beginning of the Sabbath, they interrupted their anointing and let the Romans seal the tomb.

            And we read:

            “The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last fraud will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard” (Matthew 27:62-66, ESV).

            The chief priests and the Pharisees understood that Jesus had prophesied that He would rise from the dead, and in order to stop the disciples from stealing His body and faking a resurrection, they asked that the tomb be sealed – and Pilate agreed.  So a large stone was rolled in front of the tomb, and wax was poured along the place where the stone was set, and Pilate’s seal was placed in the wax – making it illegal to be broken – and a guard of centurions – was set – an absolute minimum for four per shift – and more likely closer to sixty – given the nature of the Person in question.

            Notice:  the chief priests and Pharisees were concerned that the disciples would fake Jesus’ Resurrection.  The chief priests and the Pharisees understood that Jesus said He was going to rise from the dead, and they believed that humans do rise from the dead.  What the chief priests and the Pharisees did not realize is that the disciples did not understand that Jesus was going to rise from the dead, and the men (in particular) were all hiding.

            Let us understand:  Jews believe in the resurrection of the body – just like Christians do.  And Jews believe that (usually) the bodily resurrection occurs once and at the end of the age – as do Christians.

            After the death of Lazarus, Jesus spoke to Martha, his sister:  “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day’” (John 11:23-24, ESV).

            Biblical Jews and Christians believe that God will raise the physical bodies of all people on the last day.

            Another sign that the Jews believe in the physical resurrection is what we are told they did with bodies:  they embalmed them.  And they did not embalm they like the Egyptians who took parts out of the body or modern mortuaries, where the blood is drained, but they anointed the bodies of the dead and then wrapped them in grave clothes.

            And someone might say, “Well, maybe they anointed them to keep them from smelling – after all, many were buried in tombs or caves – all above ground.”

            But here’s the rub:  they anointed dead bodies with aloe and myrrh and other spices.  What are aloe and myrrh used for?  Healing wounds and infections.  Why does a dead body need to be healed of wounds and infections?  It doesn’t – unless you expect it to rise again one day.

            So, we see, first, this morning, they believed in the resurrection of the body.  (But the disciples were oblivious to what Jesus had said.)

            The Sabbath passed – the first full day of the feast of Passover ended with sunset that Saturday evening.

            And we read:

            “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.”

            A group of the women – including the three here named – went to the tomb – not expecting to find the risen Christ, but desiring to finish the anointing of His body for the resurrection on the last day.  (The men remained in hiding.)

            It wasn’t until after the Resurrection – and specifically, after the day of Pentecost, when God the Holy Spirit began to indwell all Christians, that they finally understood.

            The women went and gathered the anointing spices they needed to anoint Jesus’ body when it suddenly occurred to them that there was a big rock in front of the tomb.

“And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’”

Matthew tells us that an angel caused an earthquake and the stone rolled away.

“And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.”

Not only that, but all of the Roman guards were passed out on the ground.

“And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.”

They were alarmed for two reasons:  they didn’t expect to find someone alive in the tomb, and they recognized that the young man before them was an angel.

“And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Don’t be afraid – Jesus of Nazareth – the Man – the Incarnate God and Savior – has physically risen from the dead – now.  He’s not here in the tomb; He’s not dead any more.  See – here is where He lay – here are the cloths that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped Him in.  Now go – run back to the disciples and tell them that Jesus has physically risen from the dead – He’s alive – and He will meet you all in Galilee – so go.

What would your reaction have been?

During the past week – your Rabbi – your Teacher – the One you thought was the Savior of Israel was betrayed, tortured, crucified, died, and was buried under heavy guard.  And when you came to finish preparing His body, the guard was out cold, the tomb was open, a supernatural being was in the tomb, and he told you that Jesus had risen from the dead and would meet you all in a nearby town.

“And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

“Our hope has been in Jesus, but now He is dead.  And the Romans are out cold.  And the stone has been rolled away.  And the tomb is empty – Jesus’ body is gone.  And there is an angel.  And he says that Jesus has physically risen from the dead, and we should tell His disciples and meet Him in Galilee.  AAAAHHHHH!”

The words that Mark uses – “trembling,” “astonishment,” “afraid,” – are powerful words:  The women were shaken to their core and in awe of what happened.  They had entered an abnormal state of mind – their minds had been blow.  They were filled with fear.

Are you afraid this morning?

I hope you’re afraid.

Let me tell you about two times that Jesus caused people to fear Him and how they responded:

            “And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, ‘If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.’ And he said to them, ‘Go.’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region” (Matthew 8:28-34, ESV).

            Jesus delivered two men from demon-possession.  And He granted the demons’ request to enter a herd of pigs, who committed suicide after becoming possessed.  The herdsmen fled in fear to the town and told them what happened.  And the town went after Jesus and begged Him to leave.

            Jesus came bringing with Him deliverance from demons and salvation from the Wrath of God and the town’s response was to gather against Him:  “You’re going to ruin our economy – please get out of here!”

            Another time we read:

            “On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:35-41, ESV).

            Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, and suddenly, a super storm broke out on the sea – this was not a normal storm – Mark indicates that this was a ship-smashing, ship-sinking, fisherman-killing, super storm.

            The disciples ran around the ship, trying to bail out water to keep them from sinking – and then they noticed that Jesus was asleep.  And they woke Him up and asked Him how He could be as uncaring as not to help them during this storm – and Jesus commanded the wind and the waves to be quiet.  And there was – as Mark explains it – not just calm – but super calm.

            And the disciples were terrified and talked among themselves, trying to understand Who this Man is Who is Sovereign over the Creation.  And they continued to follow Him.

            You see, there are only two responses to encountering Jesus:  our response is either, “AaaHhhh – get out of here – You’re going to ruin my life!”  or “AaaHhhh – I can’t quite wrap my head around everything about You, Jesus, but I know who I am, and I know that I need You – please receive me into Your Kingdom!”

            The women who arrived at the tomb, found the tomb open, the guards disabled, Jesus’ body gone, and an angel that told them He had physically risen from the dead and would meet them in Galilee.

            “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

            The women were afraid – they had seen unexplainable things – Jesus’ body was gone – physically resurrected according to the angel – an angel!

            And they ran from the tomb in fear:  “Whoa!”

            And Mark tells us that they told no one.

            Then how did we get here?

            They told no one as they were running to tell the disciples.

            John records:  “So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:2-9, ESV).

            Over the next few days, the disciples hid and wondered what was going on.  They were afraid – they didn’t understand – but they had gotten the message:  Jesus had physically risen from the dead – He was alive and would see them soon.

            Over the next forty days, over five hundred of Jesus’ disciples met with Him and touched Him and ate with Him and saw that He was really alive – but they still didn’t really get it.

            But on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached:

            “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

            “‘The Lord said to my Lord,

            “Sit at my right hand,
                        until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

            “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:29-38, ESV).

            What about you?

            Do you fear that Jesus will take over your life and change you?  He will.

            Do you fear that you won’t understand everything about Jesus?  You won’t.

            Still, it is put to each of us:  fear God and believe that God the Son came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law, died for the sins of all those who will ever believe, and physically rose from the dead, and ascended back to His throne.

            Or, tell Him to go away, and fear God’s Wrath for your sins.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for the Gift of Your Son and the salvation He merited for us.  We ask that You would help each of us to know where we stand before You this morning, and we ask that those who have not yet believed will be stricken with fear that they might be drawn to You, and we ask that we who do believe will have a fear that makes us continually run to You as our only Hope and Salvation.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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