Does the Resurrection of Jesus Make You Afraid?

How do you respond to the news that the tomb is empty, that Jesus has risen? With fear? With joy? Why does Mark 16:1–8 emphasize fear? Do rejoice! But even so, don’t forget the element of fear he describes.

God reassures you that Jesus of Nazareth has risen! The tomb stands empty. The women were followers of Christ, who now were completing the burial process. They had witnessed Christ’s death and burial, Mark 15:40–47. Now, after the Sabbath, they had purchased spices and early Sunday, had come to anoint him. Their coming shows that they had forgotten Christ’s promised resurrection. Mark adds the detail that it is only as they were going to the tomb that they remembered that the entrance was blocked by a very large stone, too heavy for them to roll away. The news is genuine. The resurrection account has been dismissed as a story made up. But the first witnesses are women, perhaps unremarkable to us, but in first century Judaism, the testimony of a woman was not considered competent in court. An invented story would have had others go there, and would have concluded on a more positive note than verse 8. As these first witnesses approach, they find the heavy stone rolled back and on entering the carved out tomb, see a young man dressed in white. What does he say?

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The Coming of the Blessed One

You know how it is when you get a song in your head. It sticks. The Hallel, which included Psalms 113-118, was sung by the people of Israel as part of the Passover celebration. (It was probably the hymn Jesus and his disciples sang, Mark 14:26.) The crowds in Jerusalem had going through their heads the words which would be sung a few days later. No wonder they used some of them, especially those in Psalm 118:25–26, to welcome the messianic King!

Cry “Hosanna” to the Son of David! Hail the Messiah who saves you. “Save!” became an exclamation of praise. The cry looks back to the deliverance God had given his people. The Psalm likely is post-exilic and celebrates the salvation the Lord has provided for his people. It may grow out of either the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:27, 31, 45, 46), or the dedication of the rebuilt temple (Ezra 6:16–18). In the face of tremendous opposition the people had gone about the task of rebuilding. The cry looked back to God’s deliverance, but also forward to his continued meeting of his people’s needs. The sense of need for God’s saving work shifted over the years. With the growth of Pharisaical self-righteousness, the people began to see the primary problem, not as their own unworthiness before God, but the oppression of the occupying Roman army. For the crowd welcoming Jesus on Palm Sunday, “Hosanna” or “Save” may have been more a cry for political freedom than a recognition of a need for God. That was one of the reasons that the hosannas of Sunday could modulate into shouts of “Crucify him!” by Friday. What is the content of your cry to the Lord? Is it a search for success by the world’s standards? Is it a hope that God will be your comfort and encouragement when life gets really difficult? Or do you recognize that you are in daily need of your Lord’s forgiveness? Do you ask God for what you want, or for what you really need?

“[T]hey misread their own Scriptures. They are looking for a Messiah who does miracles, and have long ago closed their ears to a Messianic sermon which preaches redemption from sin and restoration of God’s justice.”

K. Schilder, Christ in His Suffering, pages 123–124
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Do You Believe?

John 3:16, is likely the best known verse in the Bible. Don’t let your familiarity with it make you overlook the crucial question with which it confronts you — do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Understand the love of God. The world that God loves is the world that has rebelled against him. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. The time reference seems to suggest the darkness into which the incarnate Word came, John 1:4. Sometimes “world” simply refers to the physical creation, the planet on which we live. But in John it often has an ethical tone. John 1:9–10 suggests the character of the world. This is the world that hates Christ, John 7:4,7; “prince of this world” is Satan, John 12:31; 16:8. 1 John 2:16–17 describes the character of the world. This is the world dead in sin, justly under God’s righteous anger, the world of which you and I are part by nature. Do not think of yourself as needing a tune up, minor surgery, or even major surgery. By nature you are part of the world, you are dead, you need nothing less than Christ’s sacrifice and the renewing, rebirthing, work of the Holy Spirit, as we saw last week. As Warfield puts it, God’s love is so great “that it is able to prevail over the Holy God’s hatred and abhorrence of sin.” Does your God love people? The God of the Bible does. But does the God you deal with every day, does he love people? Does the conviction that he does color your life as a Christian, your efforts at reaching out with the good news?

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The Mortal Swallowed up by Life

John Doone’s Holy sonnet 10, published after his death in 1633, “Death, be not proud” begins,

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;”

The concluding words are “Death, thou shalt die.” I don’t know what specific passages of Scripture Donne may have had in mind, but he echoes Paul’s thought in 2 Corinthians 5 that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

You have a better house coming! Your death means your presence with the Lord. Why is human death a reality in this world? Go back to the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Is is the wages of sin. Only two human beings in the history of he world have passed from this life without dying — Enoch and Elijah. Even Jesus, the God-man, went through death, not because he ever sinned, but he became our sin-bearer. But even in Genesis 3, God graciously postponed death to allow the line to begin from whom the Messiah would be born. But the fact of death still remains for all of us until Christ returns. Christians face death in a way that is profoundly different from the way unbelievers do. The destruction of your earthly body is not the end: a) there is a continuing life, and b) there is the restoration and glorification of the resurrection. To be at home in the body is to be away from the Lord. Right now you are out of Christ’s bodily presence. At the moment of your death, that will change. Christ’s presence is Paul’s preference (though this is not a call to seek martyrdom), verse 8. The sting of death is gone—for him and for you.

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“I may forgive, but I don’t forget!” “That’s unforgivable!” As humans we struggle with the idea of forgiveness. What does it mean when God forgives? The prophet Micah shows you that forgiveness is part of God’s character, Micah 7:18–1.

Who is like your God? Who is a God like you who pardons? Micah puns on his own name, “Who is like the Lord?” Prophets for pay have proclaimed peace when there is no peace, Micah 3:5. But Micah is not making empty promises. Micah focuses on the character, the nature of God.

The Lord is faithful to his remnant. He has preserved, and will preserve a remnant. “Remnant” does bring to mind the punishment that God has brought upon his disobedient people. Remember that Micah’s prophecy included the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C., and the near fall of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Judgment came because of the sin which Micah has recounted. Yet the term also speaks of God’s faithfulness. Even in all of this, he does not abandon his people. He preserves a remnant. God remembers his inheritance. His people belong to him. He has purchased them. They are precious to him. God’s forgiving character is connected with the church. His church is made up of forgiven sinners. His faithfulness grows out of his covenant relationship with his people, verse 20.

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