Before we leave the Easter story, there is something we just cannot miss. When you boil it all down, there are really just two options and whatever we decide, determines most everything about us.
One thing we know for sure—Jesus' tomb was empty. As for why it was empty, only one of the gospel writers clearly lays out the two possible explanations of what happened that day. EITHER Jesus rose from the dead and changed the course of history OR the disciples snuck in, stole the body and fabricated the greatest lie that has ever been told. As my Long Beach street friends1 used to say, ‘let’s talk real talk right here’ — What. Do. You. Think. Happened?2 Hmmm.
Let’s go back. It is dawn (on the third day after Jesus’ dead body had been placed in the grave) when Mary Magdalene and another Mary go to Jesus’ tomb. An earthquake
shakes the ground and everything around them trembles violently, as an angel comes to roll the stone away from the tomb. It is as though lightening splits the gray morning and touches down right before their eyes . . . the heavily-armed guards falling to the ground in terror.3 Wow.
The angel gets right to the point: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”4
So the women turn and run to tell the disciples, practically running right into Jesus, who said, “Greetings!”
The two Marys came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him and Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”5
Meanwhile, another story is concocted. The guards go into Jerusalem and tell the Jewish leaders what has happened – Jesus’ body is missing! Reasoning among themselves, they pay the soldiers to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed.6 Seriously?
But wait. This story does not hold up. The soldiers were asleep, but they saw the disciples steal Jesus’ body? No way. There is no way the disciples could have crept by the armed guards to roll back the enormously heavy stone without waking them… just no way. The soldiers were asked to lie for everyone to save face, and they did. Their story did not make sense - for surely a bunch of disciples who tried to roll the stone away would have caught the attention of the Roman guard—and remember, the soldiers’ very lives were on the line if something happened to the tomb, or Jesus for that matter! Yet that was the story they told, that was the line they held.
What. Do. You. Think. Happened? Was Jesus’ lifeless body stolen from the tomb or did Jesus rise from the dead? If you are reading this, I suppose it is likely you believe that Jesus Christ did what he said he would do – he rose from the dead. But wait . . . not so fast.
If we believe that Jesus walked out of the tomb, then this is not a one off. It requires that we must take seriously all of what Jesus had to say. There was not just a lot at stake for the guards of the tomb, there is a lot at stake for you and me. We cannot just pick and choose.
The most reasonable explanation for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is that he did. But if he did, then we must look back at all he said before he went to the cross, because this one act made him a figure to be reckoned with for all time. And so I will take you back to earlier Mark's gospel, resuming our place in Mark chapter 5 - because Jesus is who he said he was and he did what he said he would do. And so we look at what he said and what he taught, how he lived and how he loved.
"You've Already Won" Shane & Shane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEGI6DPJ9Lg
Because He lives,
1 – When I asked to meet my friend Gary Smith up in Long Beach, California, to see what in the world he was doing with the homeless folk of the town 40 miles south of LA, I could not stay away, but got involved myself. Time and again, I thought, this is the place Jesus would be.
2 - This ‘take’ was heavily influenced by the sermon my minister preached on Easter morning, Dr. John Yates, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Raleigh. It was so impactful for me, I thought it the perfect segue back to our journey through the gospel of Mark.
3 – Matthew 28.1-4 paraphrased
4 - Matthew 28.5-7
5 – Matthew 28.9-10
6 – Matthew 28.12-15