Faithlife Sermons

Easter 2003

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There is a difference between preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and simply preaching about the resurrection. It is important for the Church to never forget how to tell this story. This shape of the story is how we find it in the synoptics; additional texture is found in the gospel of John.


6And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him (Mark 16:6).


When the sabbath was over, three named women came to anoint Christ’s body for burial (Mark 16:1). The three women were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. Perhaps Salome was also called Joanna, or perhaps she was one of the other accompanying women. An earthquake had happened which rolled away the stone, and which terrified the guards (Matt. 28:2-4). But this meant that when the women arrived, the stone which had worried them was already removed (Mark 16:3-4).

They enter the tomb, find it empty, and are reassured by two angels (Matt. 28:5; Mk. 16:5-6; Lk. 24:4-7). The women are told that Jesus has risen (as He said He would) and that they should go tell the disciples (Matt. 28:7-8), particularly Peter (Mark 16:7). They said Jesus wanted to meet them in Galilee. The women departed in joyful terror (Matt. 28:8; Mk. 16:8). Jesus met them on the way and repeated the message to meet Him in Galilee (Matt. 28:9).


Some of the guards, whose initial reaction was to lie down dead (Matt. 28:4), got up and went into the city and told the chief priests what had happened (Matt. 28:11). After deliberating with the elders, the chief priests took a lot of money and bribed the guard to lie about the resurrection (Matt. 28:12-15).

We see here the mystery of unbelief—the women were the second to know about the resurrection. The guards were the first, and the chief priests were the third. They had Moses and the prophets. If they would not listen to them, then why would they listen if someone came back from the dead?


Two of the disciples (one named Cleopas) were walking out to Emmaus, a near-by village (Mk. 16:12), when Jesus appeared to them—but they did not recognize Him (Lk. 24:13-16). Jesus has them tell Him the whole story, down to the fact that some of the women had witnessed Him as risen (Lk. 24:17-24). Jesus then admonishes them for being slow of heart and shows them from Scripture how this was all necessary (Lk. 24:25-29). Jesus reveals Himself to them in the breaking of the bread, and then disappears. The two immediately return to Jerusalem to report this, and they discover that Jesus has already appeared to Simon (Lk. 24:30-35). Particular importance was placed on how He became known to them in the breaking of the bread.


While they were talking about this, Jesus suddenly appeared (Mk. 16:14). They were all terrified (despite the fact that this was the fourth appearance), and Jesus rebuked them for hardness of heart (Lk. 24:36-40). He shows them that He is no ghost; He has flesh and bones, and He ate some broiled fish to prove it (Lk. 24:41-42). By this time, the unbelief has turned to joyful incredulity—pinch yourself “disbelief,” not unbelief.


Jesus set a meeting for them on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16). Most of the disciples were convinced by this time, but some still doubted (Matt. 28:17). We are probably dealing with hundreds of disciples at this point. Jesus comes to them and delivers the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-18). He then gives a final exposition of the Scriptures (Lk. 24:44-48). He tells them them to wait in Jerusalem until power comes upon them, and then they will preach to the nations in fulfillment of Scriptures, just as Jesus rose from the dead in fulfillment of Scripture. 24:36-40).


We are telling the story, but we are telling the story as a means of unfolding it. We do not tell a completed story. At the beginning of the book of Acts, Luke says that in his first volume he recorded all the Jesus began to do. The history of the Church is what Jesus continues to do.

Our applications are not to be detached from this story, as though it were a fable from Aesop from which a timeless truth might be extracted. Rather, we have names, just like the first disciples—Mary, or Cleopas, or Peter. Our role is to live as consistent characters in line with the unfolding story.

This story has soft characters (Mary, Peter, Cleopas), and it has hard characters (the guards, the chief priests). This means we should want to be soft characters, with no attempting it both ways. Jesus rebuked the disciples for just such unbelief. Secondly, everything revolves around whether Scripture is submissively read or unsubmissively read. The resurrected Christ appears to His disciples, and He labors in the first place to ground what is happening in Scripture. Third, the scriptural proof meant very little to the disciples (just as it meant little to the chief priests) apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in the breaking of the bread. In the breaking of the bread, the resurrection is being distributed. The story of the risen Lord will continue world without end.

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