The Day Nobody Believed

Resurrection Sunday

Mark 15:43-47, 16:1-7
April 4, 2021
The message of Easter has never been more relevant for the modern world than it is right now. And the interesting thing is that everybody is sitting up straight, and paying attention. Fear is on high alert.

Sickness & death is more real than ever.
There's more uncertainty than ever before.

The events of Easter are relevant because they address our deepest and our greatest fears and all of our fears are pretty much front and center right now.
Is everything gonna be alright?
Is my family gonna be alright?
Does God know about this?
Does God care about this?
Does God care about me?
Does God care about my family?
Does God hear my prayers?
Does God care about our country?
Does God even listen...

In fact, perhaps the only time in history that the events of Easter were more relevant was the very first Easter.

Now, those of us who are Jesus followers, we have this advantage, because we have something to look back on and to hang our hope. But for the first century Jesus followers, it was a very different story. And this is the part of the story that I think most of us misunderstand or miss altogether. And perhaps, if you're not a Christian, this is part of the story that no one ever told you, and I understand why because of the way that a lot of us read our Bibles or the way a lot of us don't read our Bibles. But here is what was so difficult for first century Jesus followers and this is the part we miss. When Jesus was crucified, hope died.
  • It was the day that HOPE DIED
  • It was the day that NOBODY believed and NOBODY could believe

Can you imagine yourself there that day?
Put yourself in their shoes...
When Jesus died, nobody believed he was the son of God. Nobody believed he was the Messiah. Nobody believed he was the Savior of the world. After Jesus was crucified, there were no Christians because there was no Christ. 

There was a broken-hearted mother. There were some confused Galilean fishermen who thought they had wasted three years of their life. But, there were no Jesus followers, because there were no believers.

Think about that. So, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus go to Pilate, they ask for Jesus' body, they take his body down from the cross. They put him in a cave-like tomb. They roll a stone in the front of it, and they go home because it was all over.
...And the tomb was as dark as everyone's faith!

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, all the authors of the New Testament. They were very clear. No one was planning to keep the dream alive, and nobody was planning to keep this movement moving. And here's why: If Jesus couldn't keep himself alive, what was the point of trying to keep the movement alive because clearly Jesus was not who he claimed to be, and this was the crux of the whole issue.

It wasn't Jesus' teachings

It wasn't his teachings - as amazing as they were.  Sermon on the mount - profound. GREATEST sermon ever. Teachings about money & possessions. Parables. Most people didn't even understand much of his parables. But, it was actually his claims that he made about himself, it was the outrageous claims he made about himself that kept the disciples together and kept the movement going. And it was the claims about himself that drove the religious leaders crazy.

It wasn't Jesus' miracles

It wasn't his healings – as amazing as they were.

Blind Bartimaus.
Dead being raised.
Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter.
Feeding of the 5000.
Leper cleansed.
The demon possessed made whole.

All these were amazing works of God. But, Jesus was relentlessly attributing to himself things that only belong to God. For example, he claimed to have the power to forgive sin but only God could forgive sin. This is what drove the religious leaders mad and caused such hatred. At one point, Jesus said he was greater than the temple, who would say that?

He said he was greater than Moses
He was the Lord of the Sabbath.
He claimed to be greater than Father Abraham – who had many sons.
He claimed to be greater than the prophets.
He was constantly giving himself names and labels that only God carried.

And it was their confidence that Jesus was right about himself that kept the disciples and the apostles following. So, Peter and the disciples, they didn't choose to stay with Jesus, because of the miracles or even what he taught. As a matter of fact, they chose to stay with Jesus, in some cases, in spite of what he taught. John tells us about this incident where Jesus feeds 5000 people with 5 loaves and a few fishes. And afterwards, they want to make him king right there because that's what kings did, kings fed the people. But, Jesus and his disciples get in a boat, and they travel across the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, just to get a break from the crowd. When they get out of the boat, the crowd has found them and other people make their way around the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. And next thing you know, Jesus has another crowd on his hand, so he takes advantage of the situation and decides to teach. And as he's teaching, he says that he is the bread of life that has come down out of heaven. The problem is, somebody in the crowd says, "No, you're not. We know your dad Joseph, and we know your mother and you didn't come down out of heaven", this was just weird. And then Jesus continues to teach and he continues to talk about himself in terms that are confusing and even offensive to them and the crowd starts to walk away.
In fact, John says this,
John 6:66 (ESV) After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
They decided they were no longer going to follow him because the terminology he was using to describe himself, it was just too difficult to believe. Well, Jesus sees everyone leaving and asks the disciples, "You guys aren't thinking about leaving too, are you?" Well, nobody makes eye contact with Jesus because perhaps that's what they were thinking. They turned to Peter because he's kind of like the spokesman and Peter responds. And what Peter doesn't say in this moment is as important as what he does say.

Here's what Peter doesn't say:  
Leave you, are you kidding, Lord??? You perform the most amazing miracles. You give out free food. Your teaching and your lessons are off the chart. Your content is compelling and your storytelling skills; my goodness, Now, granted today didn’t land as well as usual. But, one mediocre message is no reason for us to abandon you.

That's not what he said at all, why? Because they weren't following Jesus because of the miracles or even the teachings. They were following Jesus because of who they believed he might be. Here's what Peter actually said:
John 6:68–69 (ESV) Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Translated - you are the Messiah of God, the Son of God, the Christ.

They followed Jesus because of who He claimed to be. But now he's dead. And now he's buried. And clearly, they were wrong.... They knew they were wrong because:
The Holy One of God
The Son of God
The resurrection and the life the bread of life…

He can't be crucified, couldn’t be executed.

I mean God would not allow the Messiah that the Jews have been waiting on for hundreds of years to be executed by a pagan, corrupt power… that was impossible.

Clearly, they were wrong about Jesus. And clearly Jesus wasn't telling the truth about who he was. They watched him die. And it's remarkable that from the gospels, all of them expected Jesus to do what dead people normally do, stay dead.

Andy Stanley rightly says, “No one, we find absolutely no one standing outside the tomb on that first Easter morning counting down backwards from 10.”
And equally as interesting, nobody writes themselves into the story as a die-hard believer. Nobody writes…but I was the one who never lost faith. Not Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or even Peter. It was the day that NOBODY believed. And nobody could believe. Because hope had died when Jesus died. Can we press pause for just a moment and ask the obvious? What’s the current state of the world?
We have a corrupt religious system
We have the ruthless Roman Empire
Pilate is relieved
We have some sad Galileans.
But, there's no savior, there's no son of God, there were no Christians because there was no Christ.

But then something happened that changed everything...

Because then came that morning that sealed the promise. His buried body began to breathe and out of the silence, the roaring lion declared the grave has no claim on you and the grave has no claim on me. Come on, Church! This is why we celebrate! Easter has never been more significant for us because at Easter we celebrate, not something that was just written about. On Easter we celebrate the event that launched the movement called Christianity. So, the order of events around Christianity is so very critical. In fact, if you get this out of order, it will not only be confusing but your faith will become fragile. In fact, if you're watching today or listening today and you’ve lost your faith I have some great news for you.

The Christian faith did not begin with Genesis.
The Christian faith began with Jesus.

But not the birth of Jesus and not the miracles of Jesus or even the teachings of Jesus. The Christian faith began with the resurrection of Jesus because there were no Christians, there were no followers until after the resurrection. You see, the Bible did not create Christianity. Christians did not even create Christianity. The resurrection actually created both Christians and Christianity! And that's why we celebrate. I know some of you are thinking, “the Bible is how we know about the resurrection.” Well, yes and not exactly. But most folks think it is, and the reason most folks think it is, is because of people like me, because of preachers. So, listen carefully this is so important.
The Bible was not assembled until about 350 years after the resurrection in the fourth century. So, if nobody knew about the resurrection until the Bible came along then no one knew about the resurrection until almost 400 years after the resurrection. We don't know about the resurrection solely because of the Bible. Do you know how we know about it?
We know, because Matthew (an eyewitness) told us about it and Mark told us about it, and Mark got his information from the Apostle Peter, and Luke told us about it, and Luke says this, I thoroughly investigated everything, I talked to every single eyewitness and Luke tells us something else as well. Luke says that many people sat down and tried to put together an orderly account of the life and the teaching of Jesus. We know about the resurrection, because the Apostle John was an eyewitness and tells us about it. Peter who wrote two letters that ended up in the New Testament.
And then James - the brother of Jesus. What would your brother have to do to convince you that he was the Son of God?

And James shows up in the Book of Acts as a leader of the church. He was martyred because he believed his brother was his Lord. James was killed because he believed his brother rose from the dead. So no, we don't believe in the resurrection just because the Bible tells us so. We believe because Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James and the Apostle Paul all gave their lives for the FACT that Jesus rose from the grave. We don’t have a resurrection because of the Bible. We have a Bible because of the resurrection. Without the Resurrection, there would be no Bible. And the only reason Jesus’ story is worth telling: Is not because of his amazing teaching Or even the astounding miracles It wasn’t even His death on the cross – thousands were crucified

The only reason Jesus' story is worth telling, is because of the resurrection.

So, for over 30 years, the Apostle Peter would tell that story. he would travel around to villages and towns and everywhere he went, the Christians would invite him into their homes, and they would say, "Peter, tell us one more time." So for 30 years, he tells this story and then Peter ends up in Rome, Nero's Rome and he's imprisoned. Peter doesn't know it at the time but he will not leave Rome alive. And he's accompanied by Mark who had traveled with him for several years, and Mark had heard him tell these stories over and over and over, and Mark coaxes it out of him one more time, and Mark documents it for us and it comes to us as the Gospel of Mark. And imagine with me Peter and Mark sitting there and they're to this part of the story, the resurrection. And Mark says, "Okay Peter, speak slowly, I gotta get this down." And here's what Peter said.

Mark 15:43–47 (ESV)
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Mark 16:1–7 (ESV)
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 why did they go to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body? Because like everybody else, they expected Jesus to stay dead. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 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. 7 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.”

So, the women find the disciples that is Peter and John, rushed to the tomb. They look inside, they walk away confused, they do not assume a resurrection. They make their way to Galilee, just as they were instructed to do, and Peter and the rest of the disciples get there and they meet their Risen Lord. They have breakfast with him on the beach. And I just have to wonder if this is the same spot that Jesus said to them, Come, Follow Me! Now, if you're a follower of Jesus, Peter would tell you along with Andrew, and James and John they would all assure you that your faith, your sacrifice, your compassion, your generosity, your loyalty, your love and most importantly, your hope is not in vain. If you're unconvinced. I think Peter would lean in and he would speak first, "Look, I understand. I too was unconvinced. I too lost faith, I was in the back of the crowd and I saw him die, but then something happened, something happened that changed everything. Something happened that caused me to spend the rest of my life risking my life so that you could know that your Savior lives. And when I saw my resurrected Rabbi, it was only then that I finally understood what he had been telling us all along.

Mark 1:15 (ESV)
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near which means you are not far from it. What’s the invitation all about?

The invitation then, is the same as it is today. 

To repent!
To turn from sin and turn towards Jesus! 
To embrace the King and His kingdom values!
To believe the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel!

The Resurrected King invites us into His Kingdom. Peter would tell you, "God has done something for you because God is for you. And he wants you to receive this good news and to accept his invitation to follow Him.

We have a living hope!
A living Lord. Why?

Because Jesus is alive. Hope is alive.

We don’t place our hope in a government, a vaccine, an economy....

We place our hope in the resurrected Jesus.

Hallelujah, HE IS RISEN!

I pray God's bountiful blessings over you, reader. 

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