He Has Risen
Key Verse 16:6
“‘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.’”
Mostly everyone has tasted some suffering or another in their lives. So, in a sense we understand what suffering is. But for the most part it’s hard to understand someone else’s suffering or identify with it because each person’s personal suffering is different from another’s. Throughout the ages sincere people have stood transfixed before the cross of Jesus’ suffering and strained to understand what He went through that day. But most of them came out short of understanding his suffering and thereby identifying with him. Some have even gone as far as to lock themselves up in a convent and a monastery for years in prayer and meditation, wanting even a small taste of Jesus’ suffering, and failed. Others tried deprive themselves of life’s comforts, and resorted to self torture just to get a taste of what Jesus went through, and failed. Neither self inflicted suffering nor religious seclusion can effectively help anyone understand nor identify with the Savior’s suffering. But it does not mean that it’s impossible to. There have been some who were blessed to taste the suffering Jesus endured for them and for the rest of the human race.
There was a missionary to the North American Indian tribes by the name of David Brainerd. Brainerd walked many miles each day in the cold winters of North America in an effort to reach the Indian tribes he hoped to evangelize. But they wouldn’t receive him. So what he ended up doing was to walk in the snow in the woods around their camps and pray for them. To those who knew him, he was a man of severe depression and sorrow. One day he died from the cold and winter illness. We can say that he had a taste of the Savior’s suffering. It may seem that he achieved little as a missionary to the Indian tribes during his 30 some years of life. But in his footsteps, a new pioneering spirit came upon some young men and women of his time and later as well. They devoted themselves to mission to the Indians. Eventually the tribes were blessed to have a man like Brainerd who paved the way for the gospel to reach them.
Another person who tasted the suffering of the Lord was Saint Francis of Assisi. He came from an extremely wealthy family. He joined the crusades looking for glory to take back the city of Jerusalem which had fallen to the Moslems. But what Francis found instead of glory was the futility of war and death upon death. When he returned home from the war, he seemed to have been damaged by the war, and was severely depressed. His father tried to entice him out of his depression with promises of a large inheritance and wealth. But instead of delighting in the prospect of receiving his father’s wealth, Francis fell into a deeper depression. He was born a Christian— by name. But after returning from the war with a severe depression, he felt that what the Bible taught conflicted with the way his Christian family was living. One day he noticed a carefree bird flying about. Suddenly the gospel teaching made sense to him. He realized that a creature must live by faith in God. Then the teachings of Jesus came alive in his heart. And He vowed himself to a life of poverty and of serving the underprivileged. He spent his days serving those who were oppressed. Soon, his childhood friends renounced their own heritages, put on simple cloaks and followed him. He became the voice of truth to the corrupt Catholic church of the times. Francis knew Jesus personally and truly suffered with him. If there are even 3 young people who would vow to live by faith, and not worry about material comfort and prosperity, they could change the world!
Jesus suffered and died on the cross to save us. When I accept his sacrifice for me, there is salvation for my soul and the soul of everyone who else who accepts it. But the journey isn’t over yet. Accepting his sacrifice is one thing. But participating in his sacrifice is what the New Testament also calls us Christians to do. It goes beyond our salvation. It becomes our glory— the glory of knowing him in his suffering, understanding it, and relating to him in the way that he intended for us to relate to him. Ultimately, there are two kinds of Christians. Those who believe and accept Jesus’ suffering and those who know Jesus’n suffering because they have give themselves to suffer with him. The first are ordinary, but the others are heroic because it is through them that gospel faith and history are made. Paul tells us: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,” (Philippians 1:29)
At his trial, Jesus confessed that he is the Son of God with the immortal words, “I am”. Then, Jesus was driven to Pilate the hostile foreign governor and was sentenced to death. After that, Jesus was tortured by cruel soldiers and hung on a cross. He had done nothing to deserve what he had to suffer. But he surrendered to it because it was for the will of God for him as well as the hope of salvation for all who believe in him. His unjust death should have brought down the judgment of God on this wicked world and on all people living in sin. But Jesus’ death brought God’s goodness and mercy on us. It brought about the age of grace and forgiveness. A terrible man stood at the foot of the cross where the blood of Jesus from the nail pierced hands and feet was dripping to the ground. He was a soldier. He enlisted in the Roman army with the hope of adventure and the glory of conquest. He came with the invaders and ravaged the land killing as many as it took to subdue the nation. He witnessed and performed many crucifixions. The day that Jesus was crucified was it no different for him— just another unfortunate man— just another crucifixion. But at the sight of Jesus hanging on the cross, the grace of God trickled into his heart. His dead heart came to life and he understood! He understood what God was doing. He understood his own wicked heart and its hopelessness in sin. And he understood that God had to sacrifice his Innocent Son in his place to redeem a man like himself. In his moment he understood that it was a sacrifice of love. He understood that God loved him, even someone like him. He understood why God loved him. God was his Father. And in gratitude, he made a confession of faith that changed his life. “Surely this man was the Son of God.” (15:39)
To know Jesus in his suffering for my sins is the moment of liberation for any one who understands the need for confession and forgiveness and salvation of my soul. As much as Jesus’ suffering for sin was necessary, Jesus’ victory over sin was equally as necessary if not more. Jesus not only suffered for sin. Jesus died to defeat sin. Jesus also rose from the dead to proclaim the victory over sin. It is the witness to the reality that sin is no longer the master of my heart, but that Jesus has instead become my heart’s master. So far, no one has been able to stop the decay of the soul caused by sin and the decay of the body caused by sin. So far, people have known death, but they have not knows the resurrected life. If it is hard to identify with suffering, something we are familiar with, how much harder it is then to identify with resurrection, something no one is familiar with. This is where faith comes in.
The story of the resurrection is simply outlined by Mark in the last passage of this magnificent gospel. It is simple and powerful enough that it has swept over the first century down to our times with unbridled power. It is a story of hope and of victory. And it takes simple faith to believe it. When faith in the resurrection is shaky or vague, no amount of faith in Jesus’ suffering is enough. It only adds to the sorrow and hopelessness of life. But the real power of the cross comes alive together with faith in the resurrection. Together, such faith is the power that not only saves us from sin and the meaninglessness of life, but it is also the power that urges us on to proclaim this gospel boldly and confidently to all people.
Look at verses 42-46. Jesus died and was buried. But even in his death and burial, the power of grace was already flowing into the hearts of wicked men. Joseph of Arimathea was a religious man. He was a faithful Priest. He was a holy man. He was also a leader of his people. He never missed his duties to God and man. Everyone else was convinced that this Joseph of Arimathea was a man whose name was written in heaven. But Joseph himself was not so convinced. Something seemed to be missing in his heart. At times he could ignore it and at other times he could not. Everyone told him, “Joseph, you’re a good man.” But at the trial of Jesus, Joseph was no longer sure if he were a good man or not. Jesus was innocent. But the whole assembly wanted to kill him. Joseph was expected to agree with them. When the sentence of death was pronounced on Jesus, Joseph realized what was missing in his life. In all his godly life, the strange thing was that God himself was missing from his life. He realized that he was living before the eyes of others, and not before the eyes of God. He saw his helplessness in the face of overwhelming evil. He saw himself powerless to do what is right. He saw how far from God he had been. And he saw the heart of this Jesus bound to God even in his death sentence. During the crucifixion Joseph agonized what to do. It was a time of decision for him. He could maintain his position as a famous holy man and close his eyes to the injustice. Or he could for the first time in his life identify with the truth and associate himself with Jesus. It was agonizing to think about it. But in the end, his desire for truth won over everything else in his life. He overcame himself, went to the governor, boldly asked for Jesus’ body and buried Jesus in his own tomb. Now Joseph was a marked man by all those who had honored and respected him. He had lost everything in his life in order to identify himself with Jesus. But to Joseph, it was all right, because Joseph knew that he had gained Jesus and eternal peace with God.
Look at verses 47 through 16:5. Some of the women had watched Joseph carry Jesus’ body to the tomb and seal the tomb with a large stone. They wanted to do something for Jesus. They wanted to at least embalm him as a sign of love and respect for the dead. But they could not because the Sabbath eve had come where they must do no work. But later when the Sabbath was over, and very early in the morning, they went to the tomb in order to do for Jesus what they could not do for him on the eve of his death. Amazingly, they went to the tomb knowing full well that the stone they had seen rolled over the mouth of the tomb was too large for them to move. Still, they went. It was madness to even anticipate that they could do anything about it. But it was not madness! It was devotion and loyalty to someone they loved more than their very lives. It was these women with their absurd hope and anticipation to do for Jesus one last act of kindness that the glory of the resurrection was first revealed. Their minds told them that the stone was impossible to move. But their faith in him told them to go anyway. Driven by their love for Jesus, they were the first to witness the end of the reign of death and the beginning of the reign of life and resurrection. When they arrived, they saw that the stone had been rolled away and they saw a young man sitting there dressed in white. It was an angel sitting there, waiting for them to arrive to give them the good news. God honored their devotion to Jesus and wanted to bless them with joy to replace their sorrow. He wanted to bless them with hope to replace their hopelessness. But they were alarmed. Of course, it was an unusual sight.
The angel had a message for them. Read verse 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.’” It wasn’t what they expected to see, nor what they expected to hear. It was far more than anything they could have ever imagined. It was what Jesus had always told them— about to be true. It was prophesy coming to life. It was the end of sorrow, the end of despair, and the beginning of the most glorious hope there can ever be for us human beings. It was the simple news of the resurrection. There was no doubt that he had risen according to what he had said.
Look at verse 7. “But go, tell the disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” They had abandoned him. The news of the resurrection was wonderful. But with the news of the resurrection also brought with it news of forgiveness and of hope for the disciples— who had abandoned him. It was news of an undying friendship for Peter who denied him three times. There was nothing sad about all the events that had taken place. In fact, the resurrection of Jesus had been like a bright light sweeping away the darkness in the world and in the hearts of all men. The messenger of God had two pieces of great news to give the women. Jesus was no longer dead. Now he is alive. And Jesus who is alive again wants to see his disciples. He has a special mission to give them. The women were so terrified that they fled from the tomb. It was just a matter of time before they came to their senses, and reported to the disciples the message given to them about the resurrection.
In time, these women became the heartbeat of the Christian fellowship. They who were terrified became the driving force among the early Christians to spread the gospel news. The disciples who were captives of fear were emboldened by the resurrection and became witnesses to it. They not only identified with Jesus’ suffering, but they came to also identify with Jesus’ resurrection. After each of their trials and hardship to taste the suffering of Jesus, they also prayed and overcame and had a sense of victory. They had many problems. But when Jesus ruled their hearts, the problems were overcome by faith. In every victory they had a taste of resurrection. They could testify that the resurrection was God’s power to change lives and to bring those who are lost back to God. In every generation Christians, true Christians suffer. But when they overcome the suffering with the hope God gives them in his word, they also have a taste of the resurrection of Jesus. No problem can stand against the resurrection. Nothing can outweigh the hope God gives us through the resurrection. When we believe the resurrection and decide to live it, we can fall and get up again. We can die and rise from the dead. We can then also be the witnesses of Jesus to our generation. Read verse 6 again.