This week in worship we celebrate Easter!

Pastor Doug shares the Easter story from Mark who shares that the joy of Easter comes when we believe and tell the good news of the resurrection.

We all benefit from believing the good news of Easter that God can bring resurrection out of crucifixion, hope out of despair, joy out of sorrow, new life out of death.

He has Risen! He has Risen Indeed!

Thank you for worshiping with us.

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The first video below is JUST THE SERMON.
If you would like to watch the entire service, scroll down a little more.

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The video below is the WHOLE SERVICE.

What Will You Do When You Leave?

Easter begins where many of you have been at some point in the last year, in the last few months, even in the last week – with people grieving the death of a loved one. It begins with people in pain. With people who have lost hope, who are going through the motions that people go through in the immediate aftermath of a death. Taking care of details, making sure everything is set at the cemetery. Wondering about how to go forward in life. Facing uncertainty and fear. Finding it hard to feel good about the future.

I’m going to read from the New Testament, which is the part of the Bible about Jesus. Jesus had taught for three years, died on a Friday, and his body had been put in a tomb. His followers, like everyone else (and maybe like you,) thought dead people stayed dead. But early on that Sunday morning, we meet some of the women who followed Jesus during his ministry on their way to the tomb to pay their respects. And that’s when they discovered something they never expected.

Mark 16:1-8, “When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome (suh-lohʹmee) 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.They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But 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. 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.”

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.”

There are many grieving people who find themselves in a similar place as these women. Easter is a day for those who are grieving. In case that isn’t clear, the word “tomb” is used four times in this passage.

What do we know about these grieving women who came to the tomb – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome (suh-lohʹmee, the mother of Zebedee’s sons, James and John)?

In Mark 15:40 these women are present at a distance when Jesus is dying on the cross which tells us they have the courage to risk being publicly associated with Christ. If you look outside the United States at countries like China, Myanmar, and Iran, it takes a lot of courage and faith to be publicly associated with Christ when it may mean the possibility of beatings, imprisonment, even death. I wonder how I would handle that kind of environment. How many of you would be watching online or here today if that threat hung over our participating in worship? Give the women in the Gospel credit – they have the courage to risk being publicly associated with Christ. Are you willing to do that?  

In Mark 15:41 we learn that the women followed Jesus and provided for his needs when he was in Galilee. They have not just been casual or occasional observers in the crowd. They have committed themselves to following Jesus, serving him, and providing resources to support his ministry. Again, they’re an example for us; Jesus calls us to do the same. I am deeply grateful to all of you who give generously and even sacrificially to support our ministry at BBC and who serve in countless ways.

In Mark 15:47 we discover the women stayed long enough after Jesus died to see Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Jesus and to see the tomb where Joseph placed the body, so they knew his final, (they thought), resting place.

In Mark 16:1-2 the women are portrayed as going to the tomb at the first possible moment to properly anoint Jesus’ body. In all these scenes the women are examples of a virtue that’s desperately needed today – courageous compassion. It’s exhausting to be a person of empathy and compassion.

So much of what is wrong in our country and in the world – hatred, cruelty, and division comes from a lack of compassion and empathy. Too many people not caring about the pain and suffering of others. We have crises seemingly on every side – a pandemic, unending violence, political strife, tens of millions of people living in poverty, environmental degradation – it can feel overwhelming and discouraging to care about other people. But failing to care is making everything worse. Whether people look like us, talk like us, or worship as we do – Christ followers are called to empathize with the plight of others and to act with courageous compassion.

That’s what the women who go to the tomb have done in their lives. They tell us they’re followers of Jesus without telling us. They care enough about Jesus to stick with him and to serve and support him even when it’s risky and difficult. As the women went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week, the question foremost in their minds was who would roll away the large stone blocking the entrance to the tomb so they could anoint Jesus’ dead body. 

The women are worrying about who will roll away the stone for them, because that obstacle is too large for them to move on their own, but when they arrive God has already taken care of it.

Often in life you spend many useless and wasted hours worrying about things that never take place or that you never have to face. God has gone before you and cleared the path, made a way, or opened a door.

What would have happened if the women had chosen not to go to the tomb until they had all the answers to their questions?

Often it is only in going forward in faith that God’s answer is revealed.

The women are shocked not only that the stone has been rolled away but also to discover a young man robed in white who tells them not to be alarmed and then shares the shocking news about Jesus of Nazareth, “He has been raised; he is not here.”  The women are charged to tell the other disciples that Jesus will meet them in Galilee, just as he told them. This word from the messenger is meant to remind the women that Jesus had already told them about what was to happen before he was crucified.

Verse 8 records their response to this incredible experience, “So 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.” 

Why did these courageous compassionate women flee in silence and terror?

We can understand how a tomb or cemetery can make some folks uneasy. You might be uncomfortable walking into a tomb at first light where someone’s body was placed just a short time before. There are many reasons why the women are justifiably afraid.

First, because they’ve been in the presence of God’s messenger, which always unnerves people.

Second, fear of arrest or worse for being associated with a crucified man.

Third, the potential for being mocked by the disciples as unreliable witnesses if they do what they’re told because the very idea that women would be given this hugely important task was a major reversal of roles in that culture.

The terrifying prospect of Easter is that God called these women to return to the same world that crucified Jesus with a very dangerous gift: hope in the power of God.

Give these women credit. They’re the last at the cross, the first at the tomb, and they are still looking for ways to serve Jesus. They are not portrayed as hiding in a room or going fishing to forget their troubles like some men we could name. The women had the courage to go to the tomb, but they fled in fear and initially didn’t tell the story, but eventually they did because we have their story.

There’s something about Mark’s resurrection story that distinguishes it from our memories of Easter and from the other gospels. I’ll give you a hint, someone is missing, and it isn’t the Easter Bunny.

In Matthew, Luke, and John, Jesus appears to the women or the other disciples to take away their fear and doubt and to give final instructions.  But Mark ends literally almost in mid-sentence and there’s no appearance of the risen Jesus following the report of the young man that Jesus has been raised. A good study Bible will make plain in its notes that Mark’s gospel ended at verse 8. The verses that come after are a later addition. Mark ends like an interactive, unfinished story or movie and we’re invited to write the next chapter.

The Easter story is an invitation.

We’re invited to become part of God’s story by deciding if we are going to believe the good news and share it with others or not. The messenger told the women, “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.”

Will you go and tell the story of Jesus to others or will you run away from your mission and remain silent out of fear?  

The good news for the women and for us in our fear is Jesus goes before us, just as he told us. Jesus goes ahead and if we want to see him, we must keep trusting his word and moving forward in faith. In the command of the messenger lies the good news of forgiveness, hope, and new life. 

The good news of forgiveness is that Jesus doesn’t give up on you when you fail.

That’s why Peter is specifically mentioned. He was the leader among the disciples and the one who denied Jesus three times. Yet Jesus is looking forward to seeing him in Galilee, Peter will be forgiven.

Believing the good news includes the freedom that comes with our failure being forgiven. Even when we have failed Jesus, he still goes on before us telling us what to do next on our journey of life and faith, if we’re ready to resume following him with all our heart.

Part of the hope of Easter is a renewed purpose and a fresh start for disciples who have denied and betrayed Jesus.

We can betray Jesus in many ways: when we give in to the pressures of temptations and trials, when we have spoken words or made decisions that contradict who God calls us to be; when we treat people inappropriately and fail to confess and address our wrongs; when we have forsaken our commitments, ignored the lost, neglected the poor, or been indifferent to injustice.

Jesus knows how his disciples fail him then and now, yet he still goes before us, inviting us to meet him and to resume the journey together. The messenger knows who the women are looking for – they are looking for Jesus. Who or what are you looking for today?

For Mark, the joy of Easter comes when we believe and tell the good news of the resurrection. We all benefit from believing the good news of Easter that God can bring resurrection out of crucifixion, hope out of despair, joy out of sorrow, new life out of death. God can use anybody – frightened women fleeing an empty tomb or even you and me. We can tell the story with compassion and courage. Courage is doing the right thing despite of our fear. 

The ending of Mark’s telling of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is left open. As a follower of Jesus, your mission, should you choose to accept it, includes sharing the good news of the resurrection, courageous compassion, forgiveness, working for a just society, and holding on to hope even when it’s incredibly difficult to do so. One of the only ways I hold on to hope these days is because I still believe God can bring life out of death.

In the 1994 movie, Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne who escaped from Shawshank prison writes in a letter to his best friend and fellow inmate, Red “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” In his message, Andy is encouraging Red to undertake a journey whose outcome is uncertain, like the women leaving the tomb. The final lines spoken in the movie are by Red who says, “”I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.” For the women who left the tomb, the hope of seeing their friend overcame their fear.

Hebrews 10:23 declares, “Let us hold unswervingly to the HOPE we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  You have many opportunities to offer HOPE to all who cross your path. One way to give, share, and build hope is to Help One Person Every day.

“He has been raised; he is not here,” is the message from the angel that gives hope to us all. Believe the Good News! Now, what will you do when you leave?   

Blessing: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3–5

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