Summary: Mark’s account of the resurrection feels abrupt. Like it’s not finished yet. There’s a reason for that. We are the rest of the story.
The Rest of the Story
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. It is such a blessing to be with you on this Easter Sunday Morning. Please take your Bibles and turn to Mark 15. But I also would like you to put a bookmark in 1 Corinthians 15, because we are going to be flipping back and forth between the two passages.
I want to take some time this morning to talk about how on the cross, the story moved from unfinished to It Is Finished. The story of the Bible is the story of God’s rescue mission of humanity. Adam and Eve were created to have perfect fellowship with God. But when Satan deceived them, they rebelled against God. Sin entered the world, the man and the woman had to leave the paradise God had made for them, and from that moment on, human beings who had been created to live forever knew that they would one day die.
But the story isn’t finished there. God told the man and the woman that one day one would be born who would be the seed of the woman, and he would crush the head of the serpent. And the rest of the Old Testament is the story of how God worked to bring that prophecy to fulfillment.
And that brings us to Easter. After centuries of Judges, kings, and prophets, God sent his son Jesus to finish the story.
As of First Importance (1 Cor. 15:3)
The Apostle Paul wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 15:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
Let’s zero in on that phrase “as of first importance.” Is it really that important that we believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus?
About thirty years ago, I came to a real crisis point in my faith in Jesus. I was about midway through college, trying to fit in as an English major at a state university, surrounded by people who respected the Bible as literature but couldn’t believe anyone actually believed it was true. And I heard a religion professor say, “Even if you could prove to me that the resurrection didn’t really happen, it wouldn’t change my commitment to Jesus, because I’ve based my life on his teachings, and I live my life by his example.” At the time, I thought, “This is great. I can still be a Christian without having to believe in all the parts of the Bible that seem to contradict the laws of nature.”
Which is another way of saying “I can have all the respectability that comes with following the teaching of Jesus without feeling embarrassed around the academics and intellectuals.
Why is this of first importance? Does it really matter that Jesus really died, was really buried, and was really raised from the dead? Paul definitely thought so. Just a few verses later on in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says,
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
“If there is no resurrection then our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Friends, a real crucifixion and resurrection matters! So we are going to spend the rest of our time this morning talking about our basis for belief in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Let’s turn back to Mark 15. We’ll look at Paul’s four points—Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ was raised, and Christ appeared—and see how they play out in Mark’s account.
24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour[d] when they crucified him.
Unlike the Passion of the Christ, the details of the suffering and death of Jesus are pretty sparse in the gospel. Maybe Mark is echoing Roman sensibilities here. Cicero, the Roman statesman who lived from 106-43 BC, said this about crucifixion: