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Easter 2021. Meeting with Jesus

Mark 16.1-8

We’ve just read Mark’s account of the resurrection of Jesus

Although it doesn’t tell us of the resurrection. It tells us what happens when the women go to the tomb, find the stone rolled away and a young man who tells them that Jesus is alive. What makes it powerful, and particularly relevant for us, is that in Mark, the women do not meet the risen Jesus. There is the promise of the meeting, but no actual meeting.

And that helps us to identify with this passage

1. There is the messenger who brings them the word that Jesus has risen from the dead.

The messenger is not described as an angel. The women thought that he was a young man, dressed in white, sitting on the right side (that is a fascinating, completely pointless fact, but it is a very eye-witness sort of thing that someone might say: I can’t remember what he looked like, but he was there on the right-hand side). I suspect that it was only later, as they thought through what had happened, they realised that the young man must have been an angel.

I wonder who your messenger (that is what ‘angel’ means, the bringer of good news) was, who first told you the word of God, about Jesus, about his life, his death and his resurrection.

A grandparent (never underestimate the power of the grandparent – they kept the faith alive in this country) or a parent?
Maybe they read bible stories with you when you were a child: those of you who have younger children I do encourage you to do that. Take time each evening to read a bible story with your child, tell them of Jesus and pray with them. One of our friends used to always read a psalm also with her small children: so much so that her daughter would say, if it was missed, ‘sarm, sarm’. It is something that is very precious: it means that a child can grow up knowing the story and knowing the person the story is about.

I try to meet with couples who want to be married here. They are usually from one of the Baptist, Pentecostal or independent congregations. And it is a privilege to hear their stories. Some of them have been brought up in Christian families. But quite a few have told of how they had no Christian knowledge, and a friend brought them along to a church, and they heard the message and they came to believe. Their friend was the angel who told them about the risen Jesus.

It happens in our Anglican churches here in Russia! A couple of weeks ago we were at a wedding blessing in St Petersburg. Ben is a Christian who went with his Indonesian friends to the Anglican congregation. Rumiya came from a nominal Moslem background. But she wanted to find out more about the Christian faith, so Ben put her in touch with an Indonesian Roman Catholic priest – some of you may know him – and Rumiya heard the message of the risen Jesus from them. She was baptized and confirmed in the Anglican church a year ago.

I wonder who God used as a messenger for you.
And I wonder if maybe God is calling you to be a messenger for someone else? To tell them of Jesus.

2. The women are shown the evidence.

The angel tells the women that Jesus is risen.

But of course, they need more than that.

So, the angel shows them the empty tomb. ‘Look, the tomb is empty. The body has gone.’

And when someone tells us that there was this man Jesus, who lived 2000 years ago, who was the Son of God on earth, who died and who was raised from the dead – then of course we need something more.

I mean we are talking here about a man rising from the dead.

We do need a bit of evidence!

We need to know that it is reasonable.

What did happen to the body – did someone take it away?
How do we explain those first appearances of Jesus to his followers and the impact they had on people’s lives?
Why were so many of the earliest Christians, who said that Jesus had risen from the dead, prepared to die for their conviction?
Why did the church change the main day of worship from Saturday to Sunday?

And I think that you will find that there is evidence for the resurrection.

Wolfhart Panenberg, a German theologian wrote, ‘The evidence for Jesus' resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.’

In 1930 Frank Morrison set out to write a book disproving the resurrection of Jesus. He did thorough research and ended up writing a quite different book. Morrison was so convinced that the evidence did not disprove but rather proved the resurrection of Jesus that he became a believer. And he wrote the book ‘Who moved the Stone?’ setting out the reasons why he was convinced that Jesus rose from the dead.

Of course there is so much more than ‘scientific evidence’, because that in itself will never lead a person to faith.

· There are those people through the ages who are convinced of the truth of the resurrection and whose lives have been shaped by the resurrection.

· There is the example of the men and women who have been willing to die for their faith

· There is the change in people’s lives when they do meet with Jesus

· There is the way that the word of God speaks to our minds and our hearts

3. The women, having heard the word and seen the evidence, are called to take a step of faith

Faith often comes before experience.

And that is the case here.

The young man says to the women, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:7

In other words, “Believe that Jesus has risen. Do what I say. And then you will meet him”

There are those people who meet with Jesus in a completely unexpected way.

They are minding their own business and suddenly God turns up.
We think of Saul on the road to Damascus – he was on his way to persecute Jesus’ followers and the risen Jesus appeared to him.
One man, in one of my previous churches, came one Sunday to church to support his wife because she was doing something. He had no spiritual interest at all. And God met with him.

That is quite dramatic, and a bit unusual.

Often it is the other way round. It is when we take a step of faith - even if we have not seen him, even if we are not completely 100% convinced that it is all true - that we then meet with the risen Jesus

We hear the word of God, we step out of our comfort zone, and in obedience we throw our lives on him.

So the women, even though they have not seen Jesus, are told to go and tell the disciples that Jesus is alive and that they are to go to Galilee – and when they get there, they will see him.

In the Old Testament God tells Moses to bring the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. And Moses – after quite a bit of whinging – says to God, ‘What sign will you give me so that I know that you will go with me?’ And God says, ‘The sign will be this. When you have brought the people of Israel out of slavery, you will worship me on this mountain’. In other words, ‘Trust me. Do it. And you will discover that I am with you’.

That is why, when Peter speaks to the people on the day of Pentecost and challenges them that they have rejected and crucified the one who is God’s King, and they say, ‘What should we do?’, Peter says, ‘Be baptized – and you will receive his Holy Spirit’.

‘Take a step of faith: be baptized; put aside time to read the bible and pray; meet together with God’s people; tell a friend that you have become a follower of Jesus - and then you will meet with God.

Please do not do this as a way of testing him – that is not a step of faith, but an experiment.
We do this as a response to him and what he has done.

Jesus himself says, ‘If you seek, ask, knock - you will find, you will be heard and the door will be opened to you’

Following Jesus is like learning to swim or ride a bicycle. Someone can be beside us to help us, but in the end we have to take the step of faith, and push off on our own.

The danger is that we miss out on so much because of fear

There was the rich young ruler who came to Jesus earnestly asking how he could get more of heaven. And Jesus tells him, ‘Sell all you have and give to the poor and come follow me’. Jesus was inviting him to become one of his disciples. But he goes away sad, because he can’t let go of his money, and he misses out on so much.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome almost miss out because of fear.

“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark 16:8

But we know that they do not miss out in the end.

Mary Magdalene is heartbroken and goes on her own to the garden, searching for the body of Jesus. And Jesus in his mercy, comes to meet her. But that is another story.

The other Mary and Salome do, it seems, decide to go to tell the disciples, and Jesus in his mercy meets them as they are on the way to see them.

This Easter we are called to be like the women

to hear the message of Easter, that Jesus is risen
to consider the evidence
and to step out in faith, in obedience and trust

And it is when we do that, that we will encounter him.

Maybe today.
Maybe tomorrow
Or maybe we will persevere, and keep on going, until we get to our Galilee.


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