Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Life Without Limits

April 12th, 2009 by Vic

Mark 16

What limits you from being the person you want to become?  What is it that limits your life?  What keeps you from taking risks?  What past disappointments now keep you from trying again?  What regrets do you have?

For 3 years the disciples had enjoyed the best life they had ever experienced.  They had been filled with hope.  Now, tragedy has changed everything.  Evil men and death has eliminated the most loving person they had ever met.  They are huddled inside locked doors fearing the same crucifixion as the One they had followed.

They were probably angry at the injustice.  Maybe angry at themselves and their own cowardice to help him.  Maybe angry at God who had allowed this to happen.  They had loved and lost.  All the old doubts and fears had returned.  All hope was gone.

Let me talk about the resurrection a little before we look at Mark 16.

Early Sunday morning the women come to the tomb.  Where are the men?  When Jesus died and the rocks split under the cross, the disciples were not there?  The women were the last to leave.

The women wanted to show respect to the body of Jesus.  They did not understand what happened, but they wanted to remember Him.  They wanted to be close to His remains.

Resurrection never entered their thoughts.  Houdini said he would come back to life.  A company in California will freeze your body with a promise to bring you back to life when technology improves.   Jesus had raised a few people from the dead, but resurrection was not a common subject of discussion.

John 2:18-23  Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up.

This past month we have seen that 3 times in Mark’s gospel Jesus said He was going to be killed, but He would raise Himself to life.  John says the resurrection is a sign.  The only sign given to the Jews was the sign of Jonah.  The only sign that Jesus gave to prove His authority was His resurrection.  He did all other miracles and signs to point to God’s authority, but the resurrection would prove His authority.  Jesus would be dead for 3 days and rise again.  The religious leaders remembered this prediction and had the tomb of Jesus sealed and guarded.

This is the heart of Christianity.  This is real Christianity.  Many who claim to be Christian don’t understand the importance of the resurrection.  There is no other religious leader who has raised himself from the dead.  If Christ is not raised from the dead then there is no resurrection.  But Christ is raised and He is the first fruits of new life for all who have died.  He was not the first to come back to life.  Others had come back to life, but they died again.  (1 Cor 15:12,20)  He’s the only one who could raise Himself.

President Obama and Oprah Winfrey think many different paths lead to God.  President Obama claims to be Christian.  But the title Christian means many different things to different people.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except by Me.”  Is Jesus a liar or is He who He claims to be?  The resurrection proves His authority.  There is no other path or way to God.

If there were other ways to please God, why didn’t Jesus figure them out and avoid the cross?

The basic decision you must make in life is to believe or not believe in the resurrection.  Belief is a choice.  You can choose to believe anything.  You can base your decision on faith, emotions, history, science, math, archaeology, or signs.  His resurrection is a fact confirmed from many perspectives.  You can’t be a real Christian without believing in the resurrection.

Some have claimed that the resurrection was a wishful fabrication of the disciples.  But they were not expecting a literal resurrection.  Each gospel records a different perspective.  A conspiracy would have told the story the same way.

There is a picture of the resurrection in the OT.  Once each year for 7 days the priest offers sacrifices to cleanse the temple area and the priests.  On the 8th day he goes into the holy of holies and atones for the sins of the people.  He would come out and assure the people their sacrifice was accepted and their sins were forgiven.  John the Baptist’s father came out and could not speak.  This is the only feast where every man had to bring a shekel for the temple tax (Ex 30:15).   That’s why so many money changers were in the temple area during Passover.  The rich and the poor paid the same.  Jesus turned over the money exchange tables.  The year of Jubilee begins with the Day of Atonement.

The priest had a rope tied to his foot so if God did not accept his offering, the other priests could pull his body out of the holy of holies.

When Jesus died, He ripped the curtain of the holy of holies and walked out on His own.  When He rose from the dead He came out of the holy of holies and declared that God was pleased with His sacrifice.  Our sins have been forgiven and will be forgiven if we trust the sacrifice He made for us.

Critics point out that Jesus could not have been in the grave 3 nights.  They argue about words and miss the Truth.  But Jews considered part of a day a full day.  The word Sabbath could be plural.  The feast was 8 days.  Do you want to do the math or research the Jewish feasts?  Jesus died and rose again.  His sacrifice was accepted by God.  If Jesus had not risen, we would never have heard about Him.

Other critics say the disciples stole the body.  But think about how skilled Peter was with the sword and there were probably 20-40 soldiers guarding the tomb.  Roman soldiers never fell asleep.  There is no way non-military disciples could have stolen the body from Romans.

The round grave stone that has been found near the area and is part of an early church weighs 1 ½ – 2 tons.

There were over 500 first hand witnesses to the resurrection.  Thousands died rather than deny the resurrection.

If you believe in the resurrection you are a Christian.

Here’s the story from Mark.

16:1-8

The women bring spices to keep the body from rotting and smelling.  The earthquake had just occurred.  The soldiers may be lying around like dead men or running for fear.  The women see and hear.  Like Christians, they could see and hear things that were hidden from others.

They did not bring lamps (2).

They confess their helplessness.  Tombs had no doors.  The stone sealing the tomb reminds us of life’s impossible barriers.  We may be focusing on the things we can’t do rather than doing what we can.  They needed a champion to move the stone (3).

“Looking up they saw…”  Matthew tells us they had great fear and joy.  Who had rolled the stone away?  They rushed to the tomb.  Jesus was not there.  How could they anoint his body?  Someone had frustrated their plans (4).  This is scary.

A young man sitting in the tomb was in white robes.  If he moved the stone he did not get sweaty or dirty.  In the midst of their amazement, he preaches the first sermon after the resurrection.

Fear not

Look at the facts

Go and tell

He promised

The women find joy seeking the body of Christ.  We are now the body of Christ to bring joy to others.  If you want joy, hook up with the body of Christ.

Why did the message come to the women first?

He chooses the weak things.  (Which is weaker, a mug or a goblet?)

The women were the last ones at the cross.  The ones broken deeply are used mightily.

Death came through Eve’s sin.  God takes curses and makes them blessings.

They were available to hear and tell.

Matthew tells us that the resurrection cost the Jewish elders a lot of money.  They bribed the soldiers and Pilate.  If there was no resurrection, they would not have wasted their money.  The true story leaked out from some of the guard.

The resurrection verified who Jesus was.  Jesus did not claim to be a good teacher or a prophet.  He claimed to be One with God, the Messiah.  The Jews understood who Jesus was claiming to be.  The resurrection validated His claim.

The resurrection confirmed the power he claims to have.  The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  If He had power to resurrect Himself, He surely has power to resurrect us.  The resurrection confirmed His power over life and death.

The resurrection validated the promises He made.

16:9-20

This is a short summary of resurrection appearances found in the other gospels.  One of the early church fathers, Irenaeus, said this part of Mark was added later because the ending in verse 8 was too abrupt.  Maybe Mark did not have time to write a long conclusion.  Maybe the ending was damaged or torn off.  We only know that the earlier copies of this gospel do not have these final verses.

It was love not a great commission that impelled Mary to report the good news.  But her report was not believed.  It was assumed a woman’s emotions always distorted the facts.  You needed to have some scientific evidence to confirm facts.  Right?

They chose not to believe (11).

Then a couple men reported a sighting, but the other disciples chose not to believe them either (13).

It seems like the disciples preferred unbelief and despair to God’s truth and hope.  Unbelief and hardness of heart is a danger in our scientific culture.  When we get frustrated at other’s unbelief, let’s look in our own hearts and see how hard it is to believe and see God working in our lives sometimes (14).  It seems easier to me to be negative than positive.

As you are going about your way of life throughout the world (passive participle) preach (imperative) the good news to all creation (15).

Until the disciples had met the risen Lord, and were convinced of the resurrection, they had no gospel to preach.  During their time with Jesus they had a healing and teaching ministry to the Jews.  Now the Temple curtain is ripped and the Jewish nation has ceased to be the only people of God.  The earthly ministry of Christ was to the Jew first.  Now it is to all mankind without distinction.

In God’s eyes it is faith that justifies and unbelief that condemns.  All Jewish men had already been baptized.  But now they can be baptized in the fully revealed nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (16).

Signs are given to confirm the activity of God and the authority of Christ, but not to unbelievers.  Until you believe you can’t see.  Chose to believe and then see.  Many feel these signs only occurred until the NT was available by oral word or written text (18-20).

Recognizing the fact of the resurrection is one thing; realizing the power of the resurrection may be another.  Disappointment and discouragement make belief in the resurrection look risky.  Jesus will find ways to present Himself to you alive.  He shook the earth.  He told the disciples His ministry would continue through them.

The way to have life without limits is to be filled with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  The way of life modeled by Jesus now became the disciple’s way of life.  They too were resurrected into a new quality of life.  Life without limits had begun.

You can have life without limits.

1. Confess your sin and selfishness.  Die to self.  Declare Him Lord.

2. Accept His forgiveness and freedom.

3. Walk in His will and ways.  Let Him be Lord.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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