Where Will You Find The Risen Jesus?

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation. 

Mark 16:1-8

Let us listen to story of Resurrection told by Mark. I’d like you to listen for where Mark says, we will find the risen Jesus. It may not be where you think!                                                                                             

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

This year, I’ve been wondering, “Where will you find the Risen Jesus?”

Where might you encounter the one who can resurrect our dead hopes and dreams and maybe even dying faith? The one God sends to help us deal with our fears and nightmares.

For that is where the story begins, you know. Among those whose faith, whose hopes, whose dreams were dying or dead. People whose world as they knew it is collapsing.

The story begins for Mark on a sad Sabbath day. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome are going to the tomb.It has been a hard, long, emotionally exhausting three days. They had watched Jesus die on the cross.  Seen him tortured and suffer with their own eyes… to his last suffocating, dying breath… to the last cry of his voice. They had seen it all… and likely living in deep grief and disbelief… maybe in some despair. Maybe wondering:

 “How could a just God allow this to happen to him?  What are we going to do without him? I’m going to miss him so much. What will happen to his cause? To us?”

 That’s where they were physically and emotionally early on Easter morning.

That’s also when they run into the unexpected. The tomb was already opened. They walk in, see that young man dressed in a white robe.

They must have had the look of shock and dismay on their faces because the first word that comes from the young man is this:  “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him just as he told you.”

And what do they do? Sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today?” No. They run away… not telling a soul!

Why?  Mark says– because they were afraid.

Empty tombs and even the words, “He has been raised”… do not resurrect the faith of these women. Maybe they are so lost in grief… they were just two days away from his death…What are you to believe after all? What you had just seen with your own eyes on Good Friday which was so brutally real? Or the word of some young man… who tells you, “He has been raised.”

If seeing is believing, words alone will not be enough for them.

According to Mark, the Easter morning begins not with faith, but with fear, doubt and dismay.

Why would Mark end his gospel this way? Well, that is a question that puzzles many preachers and commentators. It is not the way we would have ended the story. Apparently others felt the same way. Later, other writers would add to Mark’s original ending.

So why would Mark end his gospel the way he did? Here is what I’ve come to understand.

Mark— who already believes the resurrected Jesus—Mark also understands that faith does not come easily for us…he knows empty tombs are not proof enough–  

Easter does not rid the world of Caesar or Roman armies… of the terror of living for so many people.  People still suffer and die in this world… And Jesus rising from the dead did not change that for Mark or his church or us.

As Mark writes this story, his church is undergoing persecution and death years after the first Easter. In fact, faith has made life harder for Christians—not easier.

People in the church were suffering and dying for the faith. Nero was feeding Christians to wild animals and dogs… and setting them on fire to light his garden and entertain his guests. Peter and Paul were executed under Nero.  Persecution and suffering were real as is still true for too many Christians in the world today. I understand over 200 million Christians in over 60 countries in our world are persecuted today.

So, in the midst of the suffering and their fears and doubts… Mark wants to encourage them.

He reminds them of the story of their Lord Jesus who also suffered under another emperor… who also died a brutal death… he tells the story of other disciples who were fearful…

And he tells the story of a God who would not let suffering or death have the final word.He also tells the story of resurrection… of a God who did not forsake Jesus and will not forsake you.

Remember, thanks to God,  Jesus is not dead, the cross and the tomb did not defeat him. Suffering and death are never final with God. Christ is risen! Christ is alive and well, thank you very much! That’s what Mark wants us to know.

And he wants them to know where they can find their risen Lord in a world like theirs and ours.

First he says you can stop going to cemeteries to find Jesus. You won’t find him there. ( I find it interesting that we keep going to empty tombs on Easter morning)

You want to find the resurrected Jesus? Mark says, the young man told us where to find him!
  “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

You don’t have to take the stranger’s word for it… “In Galilee you will see him”

Barbara Brown Taylor says that

“Those who want to see him will not stay in the tomb trying to verify what did or did not happen there… the young man in white does not say Jesus is going ahead of them to heaven; he says that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee. God’s hope is alive on earth. That’s what the women are supposed to go tell the disciples and Peter.”

Galilee is where you’ll meet the risen Lord. Galilee, you remember Galilee don’t you?Galilee is where it all began with Jesus. Home base. Galilee is also home for these disciples. Jesus is going back to where you live. The place they will see the risen Christ is back at home—perhaps, we might even say in the ordinary stuff of life. Jesus is going ahead of them to where he first proclaimed the Kingdom of God… when they saw him heal the sick and care for the poor.

You want to find the risen Jesus? says Mark.  Go look for him where you first met him. Go home—look for him among people whose suffering is relieved…  You’ll find him wherever wounds are being healed and wherever seeds of hope are being planted. You will find him where you always found him.You will find him where the hungry are fed, grieving are comforted, the sick are healed… You’ll find him where hope is proclaimed… love is shared freely…enemies are prayed for… where sins are forgiven.

I mean… when you think about it… where else would you expect to find Jesus after the resurrection?

So you want to find the risen Christ? You will find Jesus present among those gripped by fear… whose faith was faltering and who were losing all hope.

You’ll find him where you always found him: offering hope and courage to those who need it most…

 That is what Mark is trying to offer his fearful friends. Hope.

Hope. In my mind as essential to your spirit as breath is to your body.

 Hope.  Where are we without hope in this life?

 Sharon and I went to see the Hunger games last weekend. The story is set in a context of utter fear, suffering and hopelessness. The story depicts a bleak future world in the nation of Panem.  The central government controls its outlying population through various cruelties, most horrifying of which is an annual reality show featuring young people chosen from the land’s various outlying districts.

The young people, ages 12 to 18, are forced to fight one another to the death, for the sport of the Capitol’s citizens and to remind the districts how completely they are at the mercy of their rulers. (Reminds me of the Christians being thrown to the lions in the Roman coliseum for sport)

During the story, as the young people are sent out to fight, again and again they are offered this word of encouragement from the government: “May the odds be ever in your favor”. That’s the best you can hope for in their world.

But it was another line uttered by President Snow—the dictator that really caught my attention. He was speaking to his chief aid—Seneca Crane who has been manipulating and managing the game. Katniss, the heroine, was becoming too popular and there were uprisings beginning to take place in the district. President Snow says, “Hope is the only thing more powerful than fear. A little hope is effective; a lot of hope is dangerous. …. So contain it.”

“Hope is more powerful than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous.”

Mark knows that to be true. In the face of suffering and fear… hope is very powerful.

Mark is offering hope to us with the Easter message: That Jesus is alive and well ready and waiting for you and for me—back home in Galilee where you live.

Therefore you need not fear… in fact, thanks to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead,  you may have life and you may now have it fully than you’ve ever had it before… nothing in life or in death can  touch you anymore.

Frederick Buechner says: “No matter what dreadful things take place, “the essential message of Easter is this: that underneath us are the everlasting arms of God. There is that wonderful thing from the British saint, Julian of Norwich:

 “All shall be well, and all manner of things will be well.” That somehow remains true, not matter what. That is, I think the message of Easter.”

That is a powerful statement of faith coming from a person whose father committed suicide and whose daughter struggled with anorexia.

A few years ago I discovered the power of the Easter message in a way I had never experienced it before. It was during those days you’ll remember when we were dealing with the fearful news that our daughter had Lymphoma. The future was uncertain and fearful in many ways. We did not know how it would turn out those days—would the chemo and radiation work. Tough times many of you know about as well—in your own ways and in other circumstances.

During that time, I listened to a lot of music. Music is so comforting.  What a gift.

It’s why the Hallelujah chorus has such power. It’s why I asked Larry to allow the congregation to join in the singing this year.

One song I turned to was written by Bob Frank. He wrote a song soon after learning his own young daughter was diagnosed with an orthopedic condition.

A frightening time for her. Bob wrote for his daughter, a song that speaks of hope… a hope that cast out fears… and through it, the resurrected Christ spoke. It speaks to me still. So I share it with you as an affirmation of faith on this Easter morning:

The thunder and lightning gave voice to the night,
The little lame child cried aloud in her fright,
Hush little baby, a story I’ll tell,
Of a love that has conquered the powers of hell.

Refrain:

Alleluia, the great storm is over,
Lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over,
Lift up your wings and fly!

Sweetness in the air and justice on the wind
Laughter in the house where the mourners have been
The deaf shall have music, the blind have new eyes
The standards of death taken down by surprise.

Release for the captives, an end to the wars
New streams in the desert, new hope for the poor,
The little lame children will dance as they sing,
And play with the bears and the lions in spring.

Hush little baby, let go of your fear,
The lord loves his own and your mother is here,
The child fell asleep as the lantern did burn,
The mother sang on ’til her bridegroom’s return.

Alleluia, the great storm is over,
Lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over,
Lift up your wings and fly!

Alleluia! For Christ is Risen, he is risen indeed! Amen.

 


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