That Changes Everything!

That Changes Everything!

Grace United Methodist Church

Easter Worship

April 4, 2010

Mark 16: 1-8 (NIV)

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”

8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Throughout history, there have been significant mile markers that humanity points to saying, “That changes everything!” First, there was fire. We can easily imagine people shivering and cold, huddled in the caves of a glacial landscape, eating raw plants and meat. And then suddenly, perhaps because of a lightning strike, the power of fire is discovered. “That changes everything!” Sometime later, there was the invention of the wheel, making it possible to settle in one place and haul back the heavy loads from a great hunt, rather than having to follow herds of animals around. “That changes everything!” Then, a few hundred years ago, the printing press came about. Gutenberg’s invention in 1440 finally made it possible to print the written word and mass distribute it. “That changes everything!” In just the last century and a half, we have seen the discovery of electricity and the invention of the lightbulb; Henry Ford’s first Model T rolled off an assembly line; and the Wright brothers were airborne in the first powered flying machine. I don’t think I have to tell you that, “That changes everything!” And just in my lifetime, we have seen the rise of computers and the internet, cell phones and wireless communications. As we know, “That changes everything!”

Certainly, these are all monumental events in human history, but none of them is as significant as the life of Jesus Christ. So significant is Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection, that our entire calendar is based on him. But what makes Jesus so important? Above all, it was his resurrection; the empty tomb that was found on that Easter morning so many, many years ago. Nothing else even comes close to so completely changing the world as Jesus’ resurrection. As the women entered the tomb, the angel says to them, “He has risen!” “He has risen!” These three words form the greatest watershed of all time. More than anything else in all of history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ “changes everything!” There are those who flatly deny the resurrection of our Lord. The whole idea is just too ridiculous for them, and cannot be true. But to all who can and do believe in it, there is something indescribably impressive and wholly life-changing about those words, “He has risen! He is not here.” And for over 2,000 years, the Christian church has been testifying ceaselessly to a living, loving, grace-filled God. Why? Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Without the resurrection, it is virtually impossible to imagine that the Jesus movement would have continued. “This event had changed the world forever. It announced not as theory, but as fact, that God’s kingdom had come…and that there was dawning not just another day, another week in the history of Israel and the world, but the start of God’s new age.”[1] And sure enough, here we are over 2,000 years later, brothers and sisters in Christ declaring with faith and boldness: “Christ, our Savior is Risen from the dead! Hallelujah! Jesus lives!” Many, if not most of us here this morning, base our entire lives on this fact! It is the reason we do not fear death. It is the reason that so many of us have put our whole trust, even our whole lives into the hands of Jesus. It is the reason that so many of our lives have been changed so radically and continue to change, as we deny ourselves each day, take up our cross and follow Christ! It is the reason that billions of people around the world are able to face this terribly difficult life with courage, hope, faithfulness, and thanksgiving! It was Christ’s resurrection that made the Christian church. It was Christ’s resurrection that transformed a huddle of dispirited and frightened people into that valiant band who were willing to risk anything for the sake of Christ! It was Christ’s resurrection that brought into being and set in motion this mighty Gospel, which has been proclaimed to nearly the entire world and has changed the face of humanity! And the Words of the New Testament itself leap for joy first of all, most of all, and last of all over the empty grave! This is the Good News! And as we consider the entire Gospel story; as we study the record, as we hear from the eyewitnesses, as we see the results of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can say nothing less than, “That changes everything!”

The transforming power of the resurrection began 2,000 years ago when three women walked into Jesus’ empty tomb to hear the words, “He has risen!” And the transforming power of the resurrection has been changing history and changing lives ever since. In fact, no single event in all of history has changed more lives around the world! We think of the sign of the Christian faith as the cross. But really the greatest sign of the Christian faith is no sign at all, but the presence of the risen Lord in us; changing us, giving us hope in eternal life. The resurrection gives us hope and meaning; it makes this nearly unbearable life worth living. And this is so because in the resurrection we see the triumph of good over evil. Through the resurrection we see that Jesus really was God. And God is a God of love, of peace, of mercy and forgiveness. God is also a God who will never leave us, nor forsake us!

In Mark, as in every gospel account of the resurrection, the women are surprised to find an empty tomb; and yet, this is precisely what Jesus had been promising all along. It was never God’s intention that we would be left alone; it was never God’s plan that Jesus would just die. We are not alone after all! There is purpose to this often chaotic and confusing existence. There is sanity in the midst of turmoil. There is hope! There is hope for the unemployed parent struggling to keep her sons and daughters fed and clothed. There is hope for the lonely teenager who is bullied at school and is tempted with self-loathing. There is hope for the addict who struggles to find a way out. There is hope for a family left homeless by a disastrous earthquake. There is hope for the child who has lost his parents. There is hope for the wife who has lost her husband. There is hope for the depressed who feel that life is completely worthless. God is alive! God is alive and loves each and every one of us unconditionally with a grace that never falters.

And the great message of the resurrection is that when life comes to an end, it is, in reality the very beginning of life; the start of something so great we can’t possibly wrap our minds around it. Despite every calamity; though wars rage, tempers flare, people hurt us, and we are often in pain, there is hope and there is peace. It is a peace that a faith in Christ gives. It is a hope that we were made for, and it comes from a personal relationship with the Author of Life itself. And this isn’t just any peace, peace that means that bombs aren’t flying anymore; in fact, it doesn’t depend on circumstances at all. This is the peace which surpasses all understanding.

Do not despair. God is alive and God loves you more than you could even love yourself! If you feel bogged down in sin or are loaded with the weight of guilt, remember this: You have a God who forgives you and then forgets, and sends you forward trusting you with his gospel; with his work, with his love! Just look at what Jesus did for Peter, after Peter had denied and betrayed Christ! After the women discovered the empty tomb, the angel instructed them to go tell his disciples and Peter. Even Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, was not beyond his forgiveness. And eventually, Jesus entrusted the care of his people to Peter.

Take a look at what the apostle Paul, who endured so many hardships one could never count so high had to say, “Jesus Christ, who died…who has been raised to life—is at the right hand of God interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The resurrection is the defining moment of history. The world has never been the same since, and millions upon millions of lives have changed because of it. Mark’s account of the women at the empty tomb ends somewhat abruptly with the women fleeing from the tomb, afraid, saying nothing to anyone. It is now widely believed that this is the last we have of Mark’s original writing and that what follows is a later addition adapted from other sources. For such a momentous occasion, this is unquestionably an unsettling ending. But “[p]erhaps, in the strange providence of God, the way Mark’s book now finishes encourages us all the more to explore”[2] the true impact of the resurrection on our own lives; to consider not just the faith of the early church, that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, but to look at our own faith. “There is a blank at the end of the story, and we are invited to fill it in ourselves;”[3] to cast aside fear; to look beyond the seeming hopelessness; to allow the life and hope that is planted within us to blossom in the knowledge of our risen Savior; and then to seek out the tasks which Christ has in store for us today and everyday beyond. The resurrection has radically changed the past, the present, and the future! And it is when we begin to fill in the blank at the end of the gospel with the story of our own lives that we are able to see with complete certainty that the resurrection of Jesus Christ indeed “changes everything!”

[1] Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 200.

[2] N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 224.

[3] Ibid., 224.

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