Resurrection Hope

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 4/12/2020

To everyone watching, we wish you a Happy Easter! As a preacher, it’s weird for me to say, “Happy Easter.” The word “Easter” actually has nothing to do with Christianity! Easter was the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess worshipped every spring by pagans in Northern Europe centuries ago. As the gospel swept across Europe, Christians hijacked “Easter” as a day of Christian celebration.

What we’re celebrating is what happened to Jesus three days after the darkest day in all history. Technically, it wasn’t three “full days.” It’s what happened over the “span of three days.” On Friday, at 9:00am Jesus was violently crucified on that cross after being brutally beaten. By Friday at 3:00pm, just six hours later, Jesus died and was buried. He lay in that tomb Friday evening, all day Saturday, into the wee hours of Sunday morning. But as the sun dawned on that third day, just as the Scripture foretold, God did the unimaginable!

I suppose it’s equally odd to say “Happy.” By the world’s estimate, these are anything but happy times. I’m not saying we don’t have anything to be happy about. It doesn’t take much imagination to find a silver lining even during dark times. I’m happy to be alive, to be healthy and not sick. I’m happy to have so much time to unplug from the rat race, to refresh my heart-mind-body-spirit, to grow more madly in love with Lara. For the first time in 25 years (not withstanding all the tech troubles we’ve had getting these services online), my Sundays have truly become days of rest.

But what I’m really talking about is the dark, discouraging mood all around us. This Easter, we have this collective awareness of death. So often in life, death is like a fast-passing storm. A storm pops up on the radar. The weather alarm sounds off. Such storms come with varying degrees of ferocity. Often just a light rain. Sometimes a heavy rain, with strong winds, distant thunder, and flooding. And rarely, hail, ground shaking thunder/lightning, violent winds and damage.

But even the worst storms come and go. They are short-lived. No sooner do they arrive, and they leave. A storm may steal our breath for a moment, they may even cause us to cry out to God… but then the storm passes… we hit reset… and life goes on as happily as it always has.

We’ve become accustom to shrugging off death much like we shrug off a storm warning. But this Easter is different. Death feels less like a fast-passing storm, and more like an unwelcome guest lingering uncomfortable into the night. It’s seems like death has taken up residence indefinitely. It’s not just passing through. It’s wreaking havoc, and fear. Every day worse than the day before.

This might be the first Easter, in modern memory, when we can say we’ve entered into the darkness of that Friday Jesus was nailed to the cross. On that Friday it appeared that not only had death prevailed, but that death would continue prevailing! It appeared that the storm, the gloom, the fear, the darkness of death, the losses, would remain indefinitely!

Death isn’t just bad news. It's a cudgel that smashes every lie and every myth and every falsehood we’ve told ourselves. What lies? Death shatters the illusion that our government can save us. That our money can extend our very life. That our medical people…despite their noble, valiant, self sacrificing service… can heal us. That our experts and authorities, religious or irreligious, will always have wisdom, answers, and turnkey solutions. The lie that there is any permanence to our wealth, the things of this world, our homes, our families, our very own flesh. The lie that we can be our own saviors. The lie that empathy in itself, divorced from real tangible hope, offers an ounce of comfort.

It’s into these dark realities, it’s into this world, that Jesus entered. He came not just to announce, not just to bring, but to actually BE good news. He came to demonstrate (tangibly, visibly, undeniably) before our very eyes that what so easily wrecks us has been utterly destroyed by God once and for all. Consider our bases for joy/happiness... three truths.

First, I Have Joy Knowing Jesus Understand Me.

Allow me to take you back to Mark 14:32-42. Jesus has invited his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. This Garden was also known as the Garden of the “Olive Press.” From the beginning, Jesus has known his fate. He’s repeatedly told his disciples that the Son of Man must be betrayed, suffer, and be killed. Mark 14:33 says, “Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” In Mark 14:34 Jesus says, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death.” Mark 14:36, Jesus falls to ground and prays, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” Luke 22:44 says He was so deeply in anguish “his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

This Easter, people are afflicted with Anxiety and Depression. Anxiety and depression are cousins. What is anxiety? Anxiety is anticipation. Fear, worry, its all anticipation. What will I eat, drink, wear tomorrow? How will I pay rent, groceries, healthcare costs? How will I pay my employees? Keep the doors open? Will I have a job? What if I get sick? Who will take care of my children? What if there is a recession? a great depression? global calamity, famine, economic collapse?

If anxiety is anticipation, what is depression? Depression is the pressure you feel. If anxiety is the pump, depression is the innertube. The more you pump your anxieties, the more the pressure within builds and builds, and soon your ready to explode! In the Garden, Jesus felt like an olive in an olive press. The anticipation and pressure was building. He was being squeezed like an olive. Blood falling from his face, like drops of blood, like drops of olive juice.

Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus knew all about anticipation and knew all about pressure but he also knew how to face it without succumbing to it. Jesus understood that no matter how great the pressure, for you who trust the Father, the pressure will not crush you! I have joy this hour, knowing Jesus understands me.

Second, I Have Joy Knowing Jesus Heals Me.

It’s comforting to know that God sympathizes with us in our weakness. He certainly sympathizes with our feelings. Who doesn’t feel the comfort when someone comes alongside us, and puts their arm around us, and weeps with us, and cries with us, and shares in our grief? We welcome sympathy do we not? But what we really long for is “healing.” We want the advance of this invisible enemy, this enemy that infects us, that infects others, that’s ravaged humankind . . . destroyed.

The enemy is sin living within us. Sin has been our root problem all along. How does Jesus heal our sin? First, he calls us to repentance. Repentance sounds like such a negative word, but its actually a positive invitation, that we no longer welcome those thoughts/attitudes/behaviors/intentions which destroy and kill. Hebrews 6:1 speaks of repenting… no longer welcoming into our lives, those things that lead to death. But then Second, he offers us forgiveness. There isn’t any sin Jesus cannot wash away, and cleanse, and forgive. But what good is his offer of forgiveness without his invitation of repentance? What’s the use of cleaning up a pig, if its going to return to the mud? What’s the use of a dog throwing up if it’s going to return to its own sickness?

1 Peter 2:24-25 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” What a beautiful thing to contemplate! I’ve repented, I’ve returned to God. He’s my shepherd. He oversees my health, my well-being, my very soul. He cleanses me to keep on leading me. He’s my Lord!

Third, I Have Joy Knowing Jesus Raises Me.

Mark 16:1-2 says, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they could go and anoint him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise.”

Somebody said one of the greatest miracles recorded in all of Scripture is Mark 16:2. Here it is Easter Sunday, and the women are already up, and ready, and out the door to see Jesus before the men! Can I get a testimony! Husbands, if you’re practicing social distance, you should be safe and out of striking distance. Come on, testify!

Mark 16:3-8, “They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” [They should have waited for men] “4 Looking up, they noticed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away. 5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you.’” 8 They went out and ran from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.”

If I’ve learned one thing these past months, it’s that we are surrounded by falsehood and lies. Under threat of death, who’s words can we really trust, who’s words can we stake our life, our wellbeing, our hope upon? It’s the one whose words have never once failed. It’s the words of the one who said: “It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed, and suffer many things, and be rejected, and be killed, and rise after three days.” It’s the one who said, “Destroy this temple, and I’ll raise it up in three days.” It’s the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, do you believe?” It’s the one of whom the Father said, “this is my Son, with him I’m well pleased, listen to him!” It’s the one who came preaching a simple, happy, gospel, “Repent and believe.”!!!

Here is the gospel in a nutshell: Mark 1:15-16 says, “Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: ‘The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” That’s exactly what we find the disciples doing as Mark 16 draws to a close, they went out and preached everywhere.

God commands us to repent; and promises complete forgiveness/healing. God commands us to believe; and promises complete victory over death. Happy are those who take Jesus at his word, who trust his promises!


Scripture Verses

Mark 14:1-15:44

Worship Playlist

Glorious Day by North Point Worship

Crown Him (Majesty) by Chris Tomlin

Forever (We Sing Hallelujah) by Kari Jobe

Living Hope by Bethel Music

Study Questions

Retreat:

As Easter nears, small groups will not be meeting. Once again, we want to encourage you to retreat from all the busyness and noise to deeply contemplate celebrate God's hope for you. Mark 16:15-16 says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (CSB)  

Start: Set aside an hour or more this week to read and meditate on Mark 16:1-20 and 1 Corinthians 15. Use this simple outline to guide your understanding of the text:  

  • Bewilderment! Read Mark 16:1-8 again. What were the range of emotions the women experienced on this morning? What extraordinary news did the angels share? What were the women to do with the good news? What are you doing with the good news? What emotions do you experience knowing that Jesus died for you and rose from the dead?  
  • Repent and Believe! Read Mark 16:9-14. Why was it so hard for Jesus disciples to believe? Who first told you about Jesus and his resurrection? How long did it take you to believe and act on your belief? Have you responded to Jesus by repenting of your sin, confessing your belief in Jesus to others, and being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins? What do you remember? Share your story with someone this week.  
  • Go and Share! Read Mark 16: 15-20. Jesus’ followers are sent out on a mission to preach the Good News. Read the book of Acts to understand what signs accompanied their preaching. What does preaching look like for you? Who are those you would most like to have respond to Jesus for salvation? What is your motivation to share Jesus with people “everywhere”?  
  • Deepen Your Hope. Read 1 Corinthians 15 for the single most power explanation in all the Bible about the meaning and significance of Jesus resurrection from the dead.  

Finish: Close your mini retreat by internalizing what you have just experienced. Easter is a time of joy, celebration and hope. It often involves church services, family meals, and more. Plan a time in the day or week following the busyness of traditions to focus on Jesus. Here are some great suggestions:   

  • Write a letter explaining your hope in Jesus that you might pass on to future generations.   
  • Plan a new tradition for you and your family that might spiritually enrichen future Easters.   
  • Watch a movie based on the life of Jesus with family and friends. Stop and discuss, or note if it strays from the Biblical account. We recommend the Jesus Film Project. Watch at https://www.jesusfilm.org/watch.html  
  • Find a piece of art or a song celebrating the resurrection and spend the week enjoying it.    

Apply It!

Resources