Mark 16-1 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. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As 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.
Broken-hearted. In despair. Shocked. Unsure of the future. Afraid. These words describe the multiple ways Mary Magdalene and the other ladies were struggling as they made their way to the tomb on Sunday morning.
Saturday must have been torturous for them. It must have seemed like a nightmare as they would rehearse the events of the day before over and over in their heads wondering how it could have happened and why it happened at all.
They had witnessed everything. The set up. The false accusations against Jesus. The hoax of a trial. The torturous beating. The ripping of His flesh. The mocking, jeering and humiliation. The crown of thorns pressed into His bloody temples. The cries of anguish as the spikes were driven into His hands. The struggle for breath. The last words, “It is finished!” The last breath. The piercing of His side, just to make sure . . . Mary Magdalene had even accompanied Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb with Jesus’ body. She was there when Jesus’ lifeless body was cocooned in strips of linen and placed in the tomb. She watched the heavy boulder be rolled against the entrance of the tomb. The stone was the exclamation point of it all. It was all over. Mary Magdalene had followed Jesus from Galilee, to Golgatha, and the grave.
And then Saturday came. Mary longed to anoint Jesus’ body with spices for further preservation of what she knew would be His decaying body, but it was the Sabbath. No work was allowed to be done according to Jewish law. You know grief gets worse before it ever gets better. The intensity of Saturday was suffocating. The defeat she must have felt in her heart and mind. . . The questions she had failed to ask would now, she thought, forever go unanswered. She didn’t have enough time with Jesus. She hadn’t told Him “thank you” enough. She regretted not showing Him just how much she loved Him and how deeply grateful she was.
Jesus had delivered her from demonic possession. Seven evil spirits had tormented her. (Luke 8:2) Once delivered, she devoted her life to following Jesus and hung out in the company of the disciples, and that Saturday she thought of all of the things she should have done and should have said. Saturday was full of more than grief. It was full of deep regret.
Saturday was also full of fear. What would become of her now? If Jesus was the Healer, would her demons return now that He was gone? But He was all she had!
On Saturday her Hope was dead. The life of expectation, adventure and miracles she had known while in the company of Jesus as He traveled with the disciples was a distant memory. On Saturday, death was a dead end.
And with the heaviness of Saturday’s crushing grief, fear and hopelessness at work in her mind, she made herself with some other ladies to Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all tell us it was before sunrise that the ladies got to the tomb. Maybe they had been up all night because they couldn’t sleep. Maybe they couldn’t wait a second longer. It would be quite a walk to reach His burial place, so they started out in the dark.
What I want you to see is that Mary Magdalene processed what she saw when she got there in the light of Saturday rather than in the reality of Sunday.
When you walk through life with a Saturday mentality, you focus on problems rather than possibilities. On the way there, Mark tells us the ladies were already fretting over how they would get the stone rolled away from the garden tomb. Scholars believe the stone would have weighed between 1000 and 2000 pounds. Saturday’s mentality tells us we are not equal to the task. How will we pay our bills? How will we get ahead? How will we overcome the sickness we are enduring? How will we get into college? How will move beyond the challenges in our relationships? The answer isn’t pretty to any of those questions if you answer them with Saturday’s mentality and mindset.
But oh what a difference a day makes! Resurrection Sunday tells us we don’t have to move the obstacles in this life out of our way. We only need to come to God in faith and believe He will do it on our behalf! Before Mary and her friends had even gotten there, God had rolled the stone away! He didn’t have to roll the stone away so that Jesus could get out. No, Jesus didn’t leave through the tomb’s entrance. He came back to life and in His resurrected state He simply passed through the stone walls of that tomb. God rolled the stone away so that any obstacle that would prevent the ladies from seeing the truth would be removed.
God wants to remove some stones on this Resurrection Sunday from several of you who have allowed the challenges of life to keep you from seeing and embracing the truth about what you can accomplish, what you can endure, and what you can overcome with God’s help. Some of you need the big boulder of unbelief or doubt removed from your life. You have piled stone upon stone upon stone, trying to shut out the voice and reality of God. Today, He is tearing that stone wall down!
God wants you to know that you don’t have to live a dead end and hopeless existence! God also wants some people to see that the biggest stone of all, the dead end life of sin that we are born into, can be removed from us if we will embrace the truth that Jesus died and rose again and that His blood purchased eternal life in Heaven someday and abundant life in the here and now for all who will believe.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us that the appearance of the angels was frightening to the women. You think? J The message they received began with “Don’t be afraid or don’t be alarmed.” Let’s face it. They had been afraid for a while now. The religious leaders had set up Jesus. Who would be next? The Roman authorities had felt threatened by Jesus and were happy to get rid of Him. Who would be next? Mary Magdalene remembered a time when she was always afraid. She never knew what the demons that controlled her would do next. She knew the torture that came from being used and controlled and manipulated. Was she destined to return to her state of demonic possession? Who knows what rolled around in her mind just the day before?
You see, when you walk through life with a Saturday mentality, you filter everything through fear rather than through faith. Mary Magdalene came to Sunday’s Resurrection with a Saturday mentality that was hard to shake. It didn’t help that she and the other women were traveling in the dark to a graveyard that they believed would be guarded by Roman authorities. Upon arrival, Mary would have found the whole scene unsettling. Nothing was as it should be. Where were the guards that had been assigned to guard the tomb? Some of the Gospel writers tell us the guards were so scared about what they themselves experienced when the earth shook and the stone was rolled away that they had passed out in fright. By this point, scared for their lives, they had run away.
Hmmm. No guards in the graveyard. No stone covering the entrance. If it was a movie, the ominous music would start about here as the ladies tip-toed over to the entrance of the tomb, holding hands with their hearts beating out of their chests. Their blood pressure would have skyrocketed when they saw the angel show up out of nowhere, and I can hear them screaming and getting ready to run when the angel brought his “Fear not” message.
Fear is a trap. When we let our minds play the “what if” game, we start to unravel our peace of mind. Fear has a huge negative impact on us. It’s not surprising that one of the big messages delivered on that first Resurrection day was “Fear not.”
When we give in to fear, our thinking gets skewed. Fear can cause depression. Fear can cause us to become paralyzed and make us miss what God wants to bless us with just ahead of where we are. What if Mary Magdalene had stayed home because she was afraid to be seen at the grave? What if she let herself become convinced that if grave robbers had come after Jesus they would come after her? Somehow she had pushed past some of the “what ifs” and Mary found herself face to face with an angel in the empty tomb. And what she heard next was truly amazing, 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. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” 8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, (why?) because they were afraid.
It was hard for Mary and the other women to shake off Saturday’s mindset. Mark tells us they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. We know the women eventually did testify to the other disciples about Jesus’ resurrection, but it wasn’t immediate according to Mark’s Gospel. When you’re afraid it can actually be hard to embrace good news. Fear always makes us want to believe the worst.
Mary did. She believed Jesus’ body had been stolen. She was realizing her worst fear; that she would never see Jesus again. Though she had been given the news by an angelic being that Jesus had risen (something He had predicted time and time again), though there had been a supernatural phenomenon at the graveyard with an earthquake, the stone being rolled away and the guards having left in fear, though according to John 20, she actually had gone into the tomb and saw the grave clothes in tact still in the shape of Jesus’ body to indicate He simply passed through them . . . How could His body have been stolen if the grave clothes in the shape of His body were still there? It surely didn’t look like a crime scene, but because of Saturday’s mindset, she still couldn’t embrace the truth. In John’s Gospel we read that she went and told Peter and John the grave had been robbed. So they took off running with Mary and headed for the tomb. John tells us that when he saw he believed. Mary? Not so much.
Look at John 20:10ff 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” (She was still touting the stolen body theory) 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (Now she was accusing Jesus of stealing His own body!)
But when Jesus called her name it was as if she snapped out of Saturday’s mindset into Sunday’s mentality:
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Oh what a difference a day makes! All fear was gone! The thing she feared the most, never seeing her Lord again, was over! Her future was secure. Because Christ was alive she would never be alone.
Romans 8:38-39 reminds us, 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.
A Resurrection mindset tells us we need not fear our future.
I remember a time I feared for my future. I was nearing the end of seminary and was sitting in my bedroom thinking about the next step, wondering how I would get a job in ministry and how I would pay off my student loans. J As sure as I am standing here, I heard a voice say, “You are young. You are single. You are female. There will be no place for you.” I hesitated just a moment and then recalled the fact that God had called me. I then went immediately in my mind to I Thessalonians 5:24, “The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” I was in ministry full-time in Cincinnati, OH upon graduation. The God who said, “Follow Me” to those first disciples is trustworthy. Following Jesus is not a dead end street. He is forever leading so that we can forever follow and nothing and no one can keep you from God’s love or your God-given destiny. Tell your neighbor, “Your future is secure!”
Some of you need to stop believing the worst and starting believing with Christ your future IS secure and God’s love will never fail you.
A Resurrection mindset tells us we need not fear our past. In Mark 16:7, we see the angel gave Mary special orders to make sure when she told the disciples the good news that she singled Peter out. “7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” Why the purposeful message for Peter?
Those of us who have read through the New Testament know Peter was a disciple with an incredible future, and he became a powerhouse for the spreading of the Gospel! But he was also a disciple with a shaky past, just like all of us. Prior to Jesus’ arrest, Peter had bragged in front of Jesus and the other disciples in Matthew 26 that he would never turn his back on Jesus. Just a few hours later, following Jesus’ arrest, wanting to distance himself as quickly as possible from any personal repercussions, Peter denied he ever knew Him. In the middle of Matthew 26 Peter said he would die for Jesus. By the end of Matthew 26, he walked away from Him. And the last verse of the chapter said he started to cry bitterly. Bitter tears. Tears of failure. Tears of personal disappointment. He couldn’t believe what he had done. He betrayed a friend. He went back on His word. He became a coward. He looked out for number one. He had broken his commitment.
Jesus knew the news of the Resurrection might not be perceived as Good News by Peter. Put yourself in Peter’s place on Saturday. You know what it’s like when you’ve really messed up, and you beat yourself up over and over again for your failure. You don’t want to be around anyone. You wallow in shame and regret. You’ve blown it beyond repair. That’s what Saturday was like for Peter. And then the word came that Jesus was alive! In light of what he had done, how would Jesus treat him? Could He ever forgive him? Could He ever love Peter? Would he even want to be around Peter? Could He ever trust Peter again? Could he ever use Peter in His service? That’s why Jesus wanted to send a special word to Peter. He wanted Peter to know that the plan was still on. The game wasn’t over. Failure is never final with the Father!
When Jesus had called Peter in Matthew 4, He told him to follow Him and that Jesus would make him a fisher of men. The plan hadn’t changed. Peter’s failure wasn’t a deal breaker. But people with a Saturday mindset have a hard time believing God can get past their past. Some of you here this morning have a hard time believing God could love you, want you or use you because of the things you’ve done. Resurrection day means we can all have a new beginning, a fresh start, a clean slate just by asking God for forgiveness.
And so the angel told Mary to get the news to Peter. Can you imagine how Peter felt when Mary, in all of her excitement said, “Jesus is risen from the dead!” and “Peter, he especially wanted to make sure you knew it!” “He wanted me to know?” “He gave special orders to tell me?” “He must still love me!” In an instant his past didn’t matter anymore because Jesus was alive! Peter took off running to head for the tomb to see it himself. He didn’t let Saturday’s mentality of failure and self-disappointment keep him from experiencing the power of the Resurrection. Some of you here this morning need to quit letting your past mistakes keep you from your future God-given destiny. Oh what a difference a day makes!
Several years ago there was a controversy in the Church of Scotland. A 39-year old man named James Nelson had nearly completed his course of study for ordination. What made this controversial was that some years before, he had murdered his mother.
He was sentenced to life and served nine years before being paroled. Along the way he had a profound Christian experience and submitted himself as a candidate for the ministry. As the final step of his ordination process, he was to undergo what was called “trials for license,” which involved preaching an acceptable sermon before the presbytery, but some protested. They felt the moral purity of the ministry would be compromised. Others however said that this was the greatest evidence they had ever seen of the redeeming power of God. Finally, he was accepted into the ministry.
James Nelson said, “I could not believe that God could be gracious to someone like me…but I know that he has indeed been gracious enough to love and forgive a repentant sinner, gracious enough to call that sinner to tell others the good news.”
Jesus endured the worst kind of treatment a person could suffer. Even from the cross, He forgave. His special interest in settling Peter’s mind is critical for you and me today. Because Jesus endured the worst and still forgave, we can believe there is nothing you or I could ever do, that would cause Him to turn His back on us, to not want us, to no forgive us, to not be able to use us. Oh what a difference a day makes! Because of the Resurrection, we need not fear our past.
One final word. A Resurrection mindset tells us we need not fear death. The disciples and women had witnessed how horrible and excruciating death was. They watched as Jesus’ mother’s heart broke. She couldn’t even get to Him to wipe a tear from His eye. There was nothing she could do to even comfort Him in His final hours. But the worst part about death was the finality of it all. Jesus was gone from them forever. On Saturday, all who had watched felt what the sting of death was like.
However, thanks be to God, the message the angels gave Mary that day included the greatest three words ever uttered, “He is Risen!” The one thing we fear most in this life, our greatest enemy is death, but because of the Resurrection, we know death has no power over all who are in Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 says ““Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
When Jesus cried, “It is finished” on the cross, it didn’t mean Jesus was finished. . . but that fear and death were finished forever! When sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, death entered as well. It was part of the curse, part of the consequence of sin, but praise the Lord, Jesus has taken the sting out of death for all who will believe in His death, burial and resurrection and become His followers! Say it with me, “Oh what a difference a day makes!”
After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to over 500 people during a forty day time span. Many went on to give their lives to make sure others knew about the difference Resurrection Day made. They wouldn’t have died for a lie. He is risen! He is alive!
Today, Resurrection Day, can be a difference making day in your life. You can quit trying to deal with life’s obstacles and problems on your own and trust God to make a way where there seems to be no way. Today, you can quit worrying over your future and find security in a personal relationship with the Risen Christ. Today, you can let go of your past and become a new person in Christ. You can have a fresh start and a clean slate by having your sins forgiven! Today, you can overcome any fear of death you may possess.
When Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven 40 days later, He went to prepare a place in heaven where all will live with Him eternally if they choose to be raised with Christ through their personal faith in Him. Oh what a difference a day makes, not just any day, but Resurrection Day. Will you let this be a difference making day in your life today?
If you made a decision to accept Christ as Savior today, I invite you to Text “next” to 96362. You’ll receive a text for 30 days to help you grow in your faith. I also encourage you to let one of our staff pastors know and to tell a friend so that others can celebrate with you regarding your decision to follow Christ.