Stephen Caswell © 2004
Freeze-Storing The Body
A retired psychologist is dying of cancer but wants his body preserved by freezing for later revival if possible. He therefore leaves $4,200 for a steel capsule and for liquid nitrogen to keep body frozen at 200 degrees below zero centigrade. The Cryonics Society of California helped. And the body is flown to Phoenix where the professor’s remains are kept in liquid-nitrogen storage. Underlying is the hope that when cures for cancer are discovered, the body could be thawed out, cured, and restored to healthy life. But although some of the lower forms of life, such as bacteria, can survive freezing and thawing, no higher animal can, and certainly not man. Not even a single major human organ can be thus preserved. Since even an achievement of restoring a live organ is still future, the prospect of restoring functions to a whole body with dozens of organs and cell types is even more remote. Even with all of our scientific knowledge, mankind is no closer to conquering death today than at any time in history. Mankind's only hope is the resurrection.
On Good Friday we saw how Jesus suffered a cruel death for us. The Gospel records how the disciples plummeted to the depths of despair. Within a week of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem their Master had been falsely accused and put to death. Their world caved in all around them. Even though Jesus foretold His death and resurrection they hadn't understood it. But Jesus also promised that their sorrow would be turned into joy when they saw Him again. Today we will see three things. The Misguided Ministry, The Marvelous Message & The Messiah's Manifestation.
Firstly The Misguided Ministry
Mark 16:1-3 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?
These women were devoted to Jesus. They loved Him dearly. They returned to His tomb within two days of Christ's death. They came just after sunrise on the Sunday morning. To come during the Sabbath day would be to break the Law. They went to the market place and bought spices to anoint Jesus' body. They wanted to care for their Master even though He most of Jerusalem had despised and rejected Him.
As they went there they wondered how they would get into the tomb because of the large stone. It is estimated that it would have taken twenty men to move it. No doubt they were very grief stricken because of Jesus's death. In the past these women had ministered to Jesus often.
They had seen His life and heard His words. They saw His miracles and experienced His forgiveness. They had been touched by His love. They believed in Him as their Messiah. The account of Mary Magdelene's conversation with the Lord in John 20 reveals this too. Life had somehow lost its meaning for them. Unfortunately, the disciples hadn't taken Christ's words to heart. Their ministry although motivated by love wasn't guided by the truth. Only when we believe the truth are we set free and able to minister effectively.
The women who came to the tomb were devoted to Christ. There is no doubt that they loved the Lord dearly. They were also greatly discouraged by Jesus' death. But, just imagine how different their lives would have been had they taken Christ's words to heart. They wouldn't have been caught up in a misguided ministry. Instead of anointing Jesus' body , they would have worshipped the risen Lord. O how important it is for us to listen to God's Word and believe it. Are you living a defeated Christian life because you won't believe what God has said? Have you neglected the truth?
Secondly The Marvelous Message
Christ And Funerals
As a young man, D. L. Moody was called upon suddenly to preach a funeral sermon. He hunted all through the Four Gospels trying to find one of Christ’s funeral sermons, but searched in vain. He found that Christ broke up every funeral He ever attended. Death could not exist where He was. When the dead heard His voice they sprang to life. Jesus said, I am the resurrection, and the life. He did this even more dramatically in His own resurrection.
a. He Is Risen
Mark 16:4-6 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away — for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
Matthew's Gospel records the account of how an angel rolled the stone away. When the women arrived the tomb was open so that they could enter in. They were alarmed to find an angel clothed in white garments. But he commanded them not to be afraid. He meant them no harm but had come to bring them good news. The angel knew why they had come. God had sent him to tell them of the Lord's resurrection. This may have been the same angel who rolled the stone away some time earlier. The angel did this so everyone could see that the tomb was empty, not to let Christ come out. Jesus had already risen. The angels then told them to look at the evidence for themselves. The tomb was empty and the grave clothes were lying there. Clearly Jesus was not here. He had risen.
b. He Is Going Before You
Mark 16:7-8 But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you. So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Then the angel commanded them to go and tell Jesus disciples the good news. This was a time for rejoicing not sorrow. Christ had conquered death. He was alive. In fact He was going before them into Galilee just as He said. Soon you will see Him. The angel reminded them about a prophecy that Christ had made a few days earlier. Mark 14:28 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee. Jesus had done just what He said. He had risen from the dead. Now, He would meet them in Galilee. Jesus had turned defeat into victory. He had abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
How did the women respond to this good news? They went out and fled. They probably sensed that God had had done something miraculous at the tomb. The sight of the angel and his wonderful message was too much to comprehend, so they fled in fear. At first they didn't tell anyone what they had seen and heard because they were afraid. They had just received the greatest news ever, yet they were afraid. O, how doubts can leave us fearful and rob us of God's joy. Firstly, the disciples hadn't believed the Lord's word about His resurrection. Now, the women didn't fully believe the angels word either.
The women had just received the best news in the world. The empty tomb also backed up the angel's message. How did the women respond? With excitement yes, but they were also afraid. Doubts and fears often keep us from seeing the truth that God reveals. Let's totally believe God's Word. Jesus has conquered sin, death and hell. He's alive!! Let us believe this message with all of our hearts. Let us live in the light of it. Let us tell everyone, Jesus saves!!
Thirdly The Messiah's Manifestation
The Grieving Caterpillars
Arthur Brisbane once pictured a crowd of grieving caterpillars carrying the corpse of a cocoon to its final resting place. The poor, distressed caterpillars, clad in black raiment, were weeping, and all the while the beautiful butterfly fluttered happily above the muck and mire of earth, forever freed from its earthly shell. Needless to say, Brisbane had the average orthodox funeral in mind and sought to convey the idea that when our loved ones pass, it is foolish to remember only the cocoon and concentrate our attention on the remains, forgetting the butterfly soaring on high.
This is what the disciples had done. They paid so much attention to the tomb and the grave clothes that they failed to see that Jesus Had risen. He was alive. Christ had to appear to them in resurrection power to put their doubts and fears to rest. When we put the Gospel accounts together we find that Mary Magdalene went and told Peter and John that the tomb was empty. They both ran to the tomb and Mary followed after them.
a. To Mary
Mark 16:9-10 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.
Jesus first revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene near the tomb in the garden. Although she didn't recognize Him at first but thought He was the gardener. Doubts had blinded her from recognizing the Lord. John records this appearance for us in detail in chapter 20. After this she went and told the disciples of Christ's resurrection as Jesus commanded her. The disciples were still mourning and weeping over Christ's death.
b. To The Women
Secondly, Jesus appeared to the women as they traveled back to Jerusalem to tell Jesus disciples. These women had mixed emotions about all that had transpired. They were afraid, yet they also sensed that something wonderful had happened. Matthew 28:8-10 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, Rejoice! So they came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.
c. To Two Disciples
Mark 16:12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. A full account of this story is found in Luke 24:13-35. Cleopas and his companion had heard the report of the women. They knew how the angel told them that Jesus was alive. They heard how Peter and John had gone to the tomb and found it empty. Yet they didn't believe it. So, Jesus appeared to them on the road to Emmaus and explained the Old Testament to them. They didn't recognize Jesus until He broke bread and blessed it. Immediately they went back to Jerusalem to tell the rest of His disciples.
d. To Peter
Luke 24:33-34 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon! When the two disciples returned to Jerusalem they found the eleven gathered together. Peter was in their midst sharing how the Lord had appeared unto him. Jesus was alive indeed. He had seen the risen Lord. Then the two disciples who had just returned from Emmaus recounted their story to.
e. The Disciples Response
It’s my belief that Jesus wanted all the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. He told them to go there. But because of their unbelief He appeared to them many times in and around Jerusalem first. Mark 16:11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After Mary Magdalene told them how she had seen the risen Lord they refused to believe the good news. As Jesus progressively revealed Himself to them those who hadn't seen still wouldn't believe. They heard all of the evidence presented and still wouldn't believe.
Mark 16:13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. When the two from Emmaus recounted their encounter with Christ they rejected their testimony too. Remember it was at this time that Peter was sharing His meeting with the Lord. Yet they still wouldn't believe. Here is the evidence presented so far.
1. Jesus said on numerous occasions that He would be put to death and rise on the third day.
2. The angel confirmed that Christ had risen from the dead. They would see Him in Galilee.
3. Peter and John had seen the empty tomb and the grave clothes lying there.
4. Mary had seen the Lord face to face in the garden.
5. The group of women also met Christ when returning from the tomb.
6. Jesus appeared to Simon Peter.
7. Jesus appeared to two disciples at Emmaus.
f. To Eleven Disciples
Mark 16:14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
After this Jesus appeared to all the disciples and the two from Emmaus. But Thomas was absent on this occasion. How did He respond to them? He rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart. Of course this wasn't the end of their unbelief because Thomas and others who hadn't seen Him still doubted. Jesus asks us to believe Him without seeing.
The disciples refused to believe the good news that Jesus was alive. Why? Because they had hard hearts. What is the lesson that we learn from this? That we must believe God's Word to receive eternal life. Paul put it like this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
The Gospel is the greatest news in the world for mankind. Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death and hell. The tomb is empty. More than five hundred saw Him alive at one time. Yet it does us no good unless we personally believe it. Have you believed in Jesus Christ?
Romans 10:8-10: But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Do you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins according to the Scriptures? Do you believe that He rose again the third day? Only a risen Christ can save you! Will you confess Him as your Lord and Savior?
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.