Summary: This is an Easter message.
henever you watch something on TV that is a continuation of a previous show, they always bring you up to speed on what is going on. They say, “Previously on ‘I Love Lucy,’ Ricky caught Lucy in one of her little pranks.” You know the drill. So I think it is only fair to bring everyone up to speed on the events immediately preceding the scripture passage today.
The previous Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey, which was a way of making the claim to being the conquering hero or Messiah. Thousands of travelers to Jerusalem for the Jewish festival celebrating the deliverance from slavery in Egypt welcomed him by shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus popularity was never greater.
Jesus then has several encounters with religious leaders, which irritated them. They try to find some way to get rid of him. The problem is that everyone in Jerusalem loves Jesus, so there is fear that a riot would ensue. Jesus celebrates the festival with his disciples on Thursday evening. On the way back to where they were staying, Jesus stops to pray. One of his disciples gives the authorities the opportunity to arrest him.
Once arrested, all of the disciples get lost. Through a series of mock trials before the Roman governor, the Jewish king, and the religious leaders, no one can find a serious, provable allegation to hold Jesus. They come up with some trumped up charges to execute him. No one really wants to take the responsibility for executing him, because he had done nothing wrong. On Friday morning, the religious leaders manage to convince Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, to execute him because he had allegedly made claims to be a king, which violated Roman law, as Caesar was the only king under Roman law. Jesus is severely beaten and executed. The efficient Roman crucifixion machine quickly makes sure that Jesus is dead.
He is hurriedly taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb that is hollowed out of a hill. By late Friday afternoon, it is all over. The followers that Jesus had attracted were devastated. They had left everything—family, friends, and lucrative businesses—to follow him. He let them down. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Some of the women, who had followed him, wanted to put some spices on his corpse, as was the tradition in that time. It was a way to show love to a loved one for the last time. The end had come, and they wanted to honor their fallen leader. Because of the late hour of the death and burial of Jesus, they were not able to get to it that day. Saturday is a holy day in Judaism, so they had to wait until Sunday. That’s where we pick up the story.
Turn with me to Mark 16.
Read Mark 16:1-8.
Jesus is more than a memory.
Jesus’ life is more than a memory because he rose again. He did live a life during a period in history, but he is not confined to that era. Elvis Presley was a famous man. He lived in a historical period, and his life is confined to that. He is still famous. People flock to Memphis to see Graceland. His music is still popular. People impersonate him. As time goes by, even the memory of Elvis fades. He is not nearly as popular today as he was a quarter of a century ago. I was four years old when he died. Elvis has left the building, and he is not going to come.
The memory of Jesus has not faded, even after nearly 2000 years. This is true, because he is not dead. The memories of dead guys fade, but Jesus’ memory has not faded. If anything, it has grown stronger over the centuries. The Christian faith continues to gain ground around the world, because of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead early on that Sunday morning.
His memory was fading fast while he lay in that grave. The disciples were probably making plans to go back to their businesses and families. These three women were making one last trip to the tomb of their fallen Lord to show him one last act of love. They weren’t expecting anything to happen. In fact on the way there, they suddenly remembered the 1000-pound stone that stood between them and the body of Jesus. There was no way they could possibly move it. They were going to go in and do what they needed to do and get out. They would then go on with their lives.
When they look up, perhaps because they were down about the events of the week, they notice that the stone is gone. Shocked they walk into the tomb, only to see a young man sitting there. The young man was an angel. This really freaks them out. Perhaps they thought they were in the wrong place, or something.