Sunday, 22 April 2018

From Despair to Ecstasy

From Despair to Ecstasy

Mark 16:1-8

                Dr. Carl F.H. Henry wrote, “Jesus planted the only
durable rumor of hope amid the widespread despair of a hopeless world.”
                At the entrance of the tomb the first whispers of that wonderful rumor—“He has risen!” And then it spread through the streets of Jerusalem! And it is still being shared today—some rumour!!
                This rumour began amid hopelessness and despair according to Mark 16. The women brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body but they were not sure about how they would get into the tomb to do this. Yet upon arrival the stone had been rolled away from the entrance and when they set about their task, there was a young man dressed in white sitting there. He said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Jesus who was crucified is risen.” The women left the tomb and out of fear, said nothing to anyone.
                What were they thinking as they left the tomb? Joy, hope fear?  They were in awe and amazement and even maybe bewildered, shocked, numb?  Maybe they were caught up in an ecstasy of wonder in learning that Jesus is alive.
                When the women came to the tomb they were concerned about how to get into the tomb to be with Jesus’ body as there was a large stone which blocked the entrance. Yet when they arrived they no longer had a task to perform. Jesus was alive. The body was gone but the grave clothes were left behind. The cloth that had been around the Lord’s head was neatly folded and separated from the other grave clothes. The strips of linen that had been around the body had not been unwrapped or unwound. They were lying the form of a person as though the body had vanished from inside them.
                In John’s account of the resurrection story, it is because of the grave clothes that Peter and John were convinced that Jesus was alive. The story of Jesus’ empty tomb and the resurrection spread the Christian story very quickly. It was not a rumour—it is  a central fact of human history. Jesus is alive.
                Recent debates indicate that Jesus’ resurrection is still not certain. But when a rumour spreads and is proven false it usually does not last in its telling for over 2000 years.  Jesus is alvie. And this affirms our faith in God because of his love for us all he gave us Jesus. Jesus came not only to teach and heal, but to give us hope beyond our death. And this is what He did by rising to new life. Do you believe in the resurrection of Christ? How else would you explain the empty tomb?
A rumour of hope led to the establishment of the Christian church as believers came to know the Christ of the resurrection as the Son of God. People gathered like Jesus gathered his disciples and ate together, shared love and worshiped God because there was no need to be afraid. Are people afraid to be identified as Christian today by attending church? What does this say about putting our faith out there? Is it by action only and not in the words or the way we live? What does this mean for us/ you?

We praise you God for the gift of Jesus and that he rose from death for our sakes. Help us to spread the story to others that it is not a rumour, but that you have received His Spirit and know in your heart and mind that he is alive. Help us to believe this with our whole lives and lie for Jesus. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Ray Stedman, “A Rumor of Hope: The Good News of Easter” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2017. (p.23-28)

a Rumour of Hope

The View from the Cross

Who was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified?
3) Mockers and Priests and  4)The Centurion, the Women and the Secret Disciple
                These people’s lives were changed because of their encounters with Jesus- even briefly.

3) Mockers and Priests
                There were passersby at the foot of the cross.
They were bystanders to the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion but when they saw him hanging on the cross they remembered the claims he had made. He claimed that he would destroy the temple and raise it up again. They were shaking their heads at him. Ironically this was the time of the 3 days that he was in fulfilling his own words as he hung from the cross, anticipated his death and his burial.
                The priests and scribes plotted the death f Jesus and they too were at the foot of the cross. They mocked Jesus. “He saved others, but he can’t save himself” They had been frightened and jealous of Jesus as they had witnessed his teaching nd blessing the crowds in ways they could never do. So they plotted against him and they were revelling in the moment as he hung on the cross.
                An unknown man who yells out is also at the foot of the cross. When Jesus calls out to the Father, the voice heard states,”Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” At this moment someone runs and fills a sponge with wine vinegar, puts it on a staff and offers it to Jesus to drink. The voice then states, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.” Then Jesus breathed his last.
4) The Centurion, the Women and the Secret Disciple
                After Jesus’ death, there is no one who abuses, mocks or reviles him. The centurion was in charge of the soldiers who carried out the crucifixion. When he stood in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this was the Son of God.” He was a Roman soldier, a pagan and likely believed in many gods. Yet to this man the crucifixion was a mistake- an innocent man of God. There was something about the way Jesus died that the centurion had never seen before- dignity, nobility,  a force of personality that transcended the merely human (p. 16)
                The women who cared and loved Jesus included Mary Magdalene, May the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome. John the other disciple was with Jesus’ mother, Mary for in the first 3 hours Jesus was on the cross he committed his mother to the care of John. They have no hope but pray for a resurrection.
                Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of Council went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead but gave the body to Joseph. Joseph bought burial linens, took down the body, wrapped it in linen and placed it in a tomb. He rolled a stone in front of the tomb. Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus body had been buried. Joseph was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin and believed in Jesus but was afraid to profess his faith.
                Jesus cries, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus dismisses his spirit. His death was deliberate and voluntary. He was a sacrifice. Within the temple wall the veil which enclosed the ‘holy of holies’ was torn from top to bottom. Yet now with Jesus’ death the holy of holies was exposed.  These 3 events tie together to form the meaningful truth: The way into the heart of God is wide open. All are welcome.
Reflection  Read Mark 15
In sharing the story of Jesus’ death have you ever paid attention to the role of the bystanders? The centurion’s words and Joseph of Arimathea?  Often we dismiss them because we are overcome with the death of Jesus. Yet these people played a significant role in this story. They see the bigger picture. But do you? Often we are bystanders to a situation and like witnesses to the crime we should tell others.
God of grace and love we thank you for Jesus’ death on the cross for our sakes. Help us to have and kep hope alive because of him. We ask O God in prayer. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Ray Stedman, “A Rumor of Hope: The Good News of Easter” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2017. (p.15-21)