Summary: Today's lesson is about Jesus' resurrection and its significance.
Last time we saw that forgiveness is a gift, paid for by Jesus Christ. We don’t deserve it, and we can’t earn it. And that is grace: God behaving towards us in a way we simply don’t deserve. We saw this in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” In other words, it’s faith in what Jesus has done that saves us. Nothing else.
We have seen that Christ’s death brings us forgiveness. This week we will see what his resurrection adds to that.
All of us know we are going to die—the only uncertainty is exactly when we will die. We are mortal, and each one of us will die. We all have a terminal disease. It’s called “life,” and its fatality rate is 100%.
The question I have for you is this: How do you cope with the certainty of death? And not just the certainty of your own death, but also the deaths of those people you love.
Ministers sometimes have difficult tasks. One of them is standing at the graveside, and saying words like these from Psalm 103:15-16, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”
But that’s the truth. Our lives are brief, and however flourishing they have been, they soon come to an end.
This is a miserable start to the sermon, isn’t it?
Now, Jesus was in his early thirties when he died. And yet here we are, two thousand years later, still discussing his life. You see, if Jesus had not risen from the dead, we would probably never even have heard of him. But his resurrection changes everything.
At the end of his account of Jesus’ death, Mark focuses on three women who have watched the whole gruesome ordeal. Please turn with me to Mark 15, and I will start to read from verse 40:
40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, 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 that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 15:40-16:8)
Today’s lesson is about Jesus’ resurrection and its significance.
I. The Shadow of Death (15:40-16:3)
So, first, let’s note the shadow of death.
It was unusual for crucifixion to result in death so quickly. So in verse 44 the Roman governor Pontius Pilate queries the centurion—the same centurion who had stood only a short distance from the cross and watched the extraordinary way in which Jesus had died. The centurion confirms that Jesus had indeed already died.