Todd explains why Christ didn't come down from the cross in order to display His greatness. And answers nine other questions about the crucifixion and resurrection, ending with this one: "What does the fulfillment of Jesus' promise that He will rise on the third day suggests to us about His other promises?"
Ten Questions Driving Home One Point
The Day Heaven and Hell Agreed
This Was No Blowout. This Was a Slow Leak.
Pure, Unadulterated Hell: Dealing with It in This Life & Avoiding It in the Next
A Tale of Three Sacrifices
We are so glad that you are here, and that is the noise we make, that he is worthy and he is holy and that, somehow in the midst of his holiness, he has allowed our unworthiness to be seen as worthy in his sight. We want to let you know that, at Watermark, we are firmly convinced we have nothing to offer God that would ever in any way make us worthy in his eyes.
That's why we're singing right now, because these three days in history that we've just celebrated worldwide point to the moments in time when God crashed into human history and bridged the gap between his infinite holiness and our constant rebellion, and according to the kind intention of his will, he made him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
He is worthy of praise because he was worthy of anything but a cross, yet he willingly took that cross for you and for me and that empty tomb we sing about this morning that "Christ the Lord is risen today," so we sing, "I will praise you, Alleluia," however that goes. The point is, what we're saying is, "We will sing him praise forever because he has done for us what we could never do."
We eagerly extend his grace to you, our friends and guests who are here today who are trying to wrestle with this obscure Jewish figure from Nazareth who somehow was more than a man who did more than die a martyr's death, but he was God on a mission to redeem people who could not be redeemed unless God did a work. The empty tomb is God declaring he has been satisfied that the debt for sin has been paid, so we celebrate that.
We've been working our way through the gospel of Mark. The gospel of Mark begins with a prophet of God declaring what it is that God is about to do. The very first question we want to ask ourselves this morning is…Why didn't Jesus save himself and come down from that cross he was nailed upon?
We ask ourselves, "Wouldn't that have been a more certain way of showing his greatness? Wouldn't that have been the right way to come crashing on the world scene, to have every observable eye in that region watch him nailed to a tree, be scoffed at, slandered, and accused of being a blasphemer, only to somehow miraculously free himself to come and clean house below him and to run for office in Jerusalem?" We think so, don't we?
We're going to help you understand this morning why he didn't come down from that cross. In Mark, chapter 15, verse 27, you will see there are robbers who are being crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled, that he was numbered with transgressors. He was numbered with us.
It says, "Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, 'Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!'" What Mark wants you to wrestle with here is you have two individuals, actually one individual and a group of individuals, who are really opposed at their understanding of what is going on.
This Jesus is nailed to the cross because he claimed to be a King of the Jews. As such, the religious leaders of that day delivered him up to Rome saying, "This man is no friend of Caesar's. He is saying he is our King. We have no king but Caesar. He is an insurrectionist, a tyrannist, and you must do away with him lest you yourself be accused of not being a friend with Caesar.
Being King of the Jews, he is claiming to be our Messiah, and by being our Messiah, he is claiming to take on the characteristics that we know to be consistent with our Messiah, that he is a Wonderful Counselor, that he is a Prince who will bring peace, that he is in fact Eternal Father. This man has claimed to be (Isaiah 9) Mighty God."
He was labeled a blasphemer by the religious authorities of his day. Now Mark shows you there's a group of men and women who are beneath him, and they are wagging their heads at him and yelling, " 'Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days…' you're a liar."
What Mark wants you to wrestle with for the remainder of the gospel and what you need to wrestle with today is simply this: Who is the blasphemer in this story? Is it the man on the cross or is it the people on the ground? Is he in fact the King of the Jews, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, or is he some form of liar, some lunatic, some legend created by men?
You have to wrestle with that this morning. You'll find out it wasn't just the people who are just a part of the crowd before him who are saying some things. Also, the chief priests were. You'll see in verse 31 it says:
"In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes [men who were expert in the law], were mocking Him among themselves and saying, 'He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!'"
We find out not just the Jewish folks who were there but what makes up the large amount of individuals in this room, the non-Jewish folks or the Gentiles, were also crucifying him and insulting him. Now who is it who was right and who is it who was wrong? The chief priests and scribes said, "Show us a sign." It's been well observed that people who say, "Show me a sign and I will believe" will never believe no matter how much of a sign they've been shown.
It's interesting that they told him at one point, as John tells us in his gospel, "If you would just raise someone from the dead, then we would believe in you." At that time, Jesus said, "There will be no other sign except the sign of Jonah, the sign of one who is consumed into a place of death, which in Jonah's case was the belly of a whale for three days but then, all of a sudden, will be spit back up from the grave to live again." Jesus says, "They'll be no more signs for you. I'm not going to show you signs except the sign of Jonah."
Then in the grace upon grace of God, he does raise somebody from the dead in a very public way. For four days, Lazarus had been wrapped and entombed and was beginning to smell, so Martha and Mary were concerned, and said, "If you'd just gotten here earlier… Now our brother is in there, and if you even go in there to try and pray over him, it's not going to do you any good, and it's going to frankly offend the rest of us with the odor," but we know Jesus specifically at that moment says, "Lazarus, come forth," and he came out.
We find out that, not just one chapter later, these men who said, "You show us a sign that we might believe. If you'd just raise somebody from the dead, we would believe," are now conspiring among themselves how they might kill Lazarus because many were starting to believe in Jesus because he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Imagine that, that people would believe he has the power over death and life by raising somebody from the dead. I think he'd get my attention.
Now they're saying, "Show us a sign," and Jesus is again saying, "I'm about to show you a sign, but it's not going to be the sign you think I should show you." See, these men thought, if they had the power Jesus had, they would not let anybody treat them the way Jesus had been treated. They evaluate power in human, self-serving terms, according to their own standard of practice which is, "If you have power, you use it and don't let others abuse you, so if you are God, you shake those nails off your hands and those shackles off your feet, and you come down."
What they did not know is that it was no nails that held him to that cross. It was the power of his purpose, when he said, "…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many," Jesus made it very clear that, "Nobody takes my life from me. I lay it down, and I will take it back up again. What has me on this cross is not your nails but the power of my purpose and the power of my love for you who hurl insults at me and blaspheme my name."
Jesus told his followers they should take up their cross and follow him…not come down from a cross but take one up. This man was there not because he was powerless but because the power of his love kept him there. He did do what he said he was going to do. He did rebuild the temple. The temple of sacrifice which was the system God had revealed that he should teach the children of Israel what it was that would allow them to be acceptable in his sight was a temple that was about to be made completely defunct.
Now, though the lambs and bulls and goats were the means through which God, in his patience, overlooked their sins for a time, there was now one who was going to come who was going to show that the blood of lambs and goats was impossible to remove sin. There was now going to be a perfect Lamb who would be sacrificed that would allow the High Priest to sit because his work is done.
This temple will be rebuilt that is not made with human hands. The temple will not be tied any longer to a geographical location. The animal sacrifices in that temple are no longer going to be necessary. That which separates you in the temple from the holiness of God, you will find out in a minute is about to be torn asunder. Jesus did not not come down from that cross because he didn't like power but because he was filled with purpose and he had infinite power to love people who mocked him and cursed him.
Now if you and I were going to create a God figure on this earth, we would have him wearing a blue suit with an emblazoned S and a red cape. That is the view of what God would look like if he came to earth. If you and I had powers, we would, in human self-serving terms, make ourselves supermen who could fly, who could resist bullets, and who would fight in war against evil. Let me tell you why God did not do a Superman-like thing in this moment when he was mocked, when evil was supposedly having its day and doom was closing in on our super man.
Unlike every Batman episode you tuned in for on the next Bat-day, on the next Bat-channel, same Bat-time, when you found out that somehow that buzz saw stopped and Batman survived, in this story, the buzz saw continues. Why is that? Why is Superman a lousy Messiah? Well, here's the reason why.
There is no one Superman film. There are endless Superman comics. There are endless characters Superman is constantly battling against and trying to destroy. It isn't just Lex Luthor. Sometimes, it's Bizarro. Sometimes, it's Doctor Light. Sometimes, it's Brainiac. Sometimes, it's the Lord of Time. Sometimes, it's the Demons Three. With all the infinite perpetrators of evil in Superman comics, all Superman does is he fights against evil as it continues to exist.
Had Jesus come down from the cross and dealt with the blasphemers in that moment and set things in order as they should be and grabbed Pilate by the scruff of his robe and said, "I told you, you had no authority," had he stilled and quelled the masses at that moment, had he dealt with the evil of disobedience in that generation, there would only have needed to be another episode one generation later, when another group of characters filled with the exact same evil that destroyed that land in time would well up again in disobedience against God, and our superhuman figure would once again have to do battle with them.
This is not so with Jesus because he is not taking on some abstract presence of evil. He is taking on the very root of evil, which is sin that rules in the hearts of men, and the greatest product of evil which is death, which is both a symbol of actual separation from God who is the giver of all that is good and pure and light and whose presence is abundant in eternal life, and that's why we are dying creatures…because we have been separated from God by sin.
What Jesus is about to do is take on sin and sin's greatest tool, which is death, and he will eradicate the wage which our sin demands. Had he come down from that cross in that particular moment, he would've dealt with evil in that character who was there in that day and time, but evil would still reign in the hearts of men.
If, on the other hand, he deals with sin and allows him who knew no sin to become sin so that God in his own perfect wrath could have all his judgment poured out on it in a way that would satisfy him so God could eradicate evil, not in the moment but in all of time, God finished his judgment and his completion against evil, and that is why he stayed on that cross. God made it clear that he was satisfied with Christ's payment for evil, not in taking out his wrath on the chief priests and scribes and on the wagging masses but on evil that reigns in the hearts of men, and he proved it by having an empty tomb to show that the wages of sin had been paid.
Now you ask yourself, "Well, wait a minute, Todd. You said that evil has been dealt with completely. Why does evil still exist?" That is because the grace of God continues to ring out at this moment, and that I why every time you see the resurrection is spoken of in the Scriptures, it's always spoken of in context of a responsibility.
The responsibility is, "Look, you go tell people this Jesus who said he would rise again is going to come again and will then claim what he has already won, and the grace of God continues to allow time to go on until he comes back and takes what is rightly his, which is his right to rule as Prince of Peace when evil is forever judged and we're driven not now from the power of evil, which he accomplished, but from the very presence of evil because he is here in our midst."
Folks, that is the story, and you will be driven today to ask yourself…Do I believe that that's why this Jesus was on the cross? Or will you believe that he was there because he was a liar, some lunatic, some legend created by the myths of men, or was he Lord God, who knew how to deal with that which separated those who he loves from the Creator who made them?
The next question I want to take you through is…Why was there darkness from noon to 3:00? If you'll look here with me, we find that, in the sixth hour in Mark, chapter 15, verse 33, it says, "When the sixth hour…" Now what's that? By Jewish accounting, we have daybreak, and then we have from 6:00 a.m., if you will, to 7:00 a.m. as the first hour, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. as the second hour, so the sixth hour would be six plus six, which is high noon.
From the sixth hour to the ninth hour, from noon till 3 o'clock, it says, "…darkness fell over the whole land…" Jesus cries out. According to gospel of Mark, just this one phrase is captured here. We know that there were seven sayings of Christ on the cross, but Mark captures this one. In the moment of being forsaken, in the moment of allowing sin to fall on him, he says, "God why have we been separated? Why have we been torn asunder? Why have I experienced the cup of your wrath in this moment?"
Now a good Jew would understand that what this darkness represented is not necessarily God's absence but the presence of God's judgment. Individuals in that day who were students of the Scriptures, students of that Bible, would have reckoned to Amos, chapter 8, verses 9 and 10, which says, "'It will come about in that day,' declares the Lord God, 'That I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight. Then I will turn your festivals…'"
We are in the Feast of Unleavened Bread which followed immediately the Passover, a time of great celebration for a Jew. He says, "I will take your time of festivity, and I will turn it into mourning, and all your songs will go from songs of celebration to songs of lamentation." "And I will bring sackcloth on everyone's loins and baldness on every head."
He says this metaphorically, pitching at the idea that it will be like a time of mourning for an only son. "You will mourn during that time. You will wonder at the horrors that are going on behind you because of my only Son who is being sacrificed." He says, "…the end of it will be like a bitter day."
Well, it was a bitter day for those who realized in increasing numbers the horror of the mistake they had made, but we found out that, what man intended for evil, God will use for good. The reason there was darkness from noon to 3:00 is God was showing his judgment was being poured out, even as he said it would, but in God's incredible economy of grace, what man intends for evil, he will not turn to bitterness but turn to better. By the grace of God, the reason we make noise this morning is because this is not a bitter day. It's a better day.
When darkness breaks, you have dawn…a dawn of a new age, a dawn of a new time, a dawn of a new era. It's an era when those who have been separated by God because of their sin have now been brought near by the shed blood of this God. Isaiah captured and anticipated this event in chapter 53, when it talks about how he, the Messiah figure the Jews had long looked for, was pierced through and would be pierced through for their transgressions. It says:
"But He [will be] crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for[their]well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging[they would be]healed." **Isaiah goes on to say,"All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity[the sin]of us all to fall on Him. "**
Paul writes it in the New Testament that he made him, the one who our sins have fallen on… "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." The reason there was darkness on that day is because that day was about to end, and a new day was about to begin. What you do with that day, what you do with this God, what you do with this moment in history will determine whether your morrow is bitter or better, and Mark wants you to wrestle with that.
We'll ask ourselves this question: What's the significance of the temple curtain being torn in two? Why is it noted specifically that it was torn from top to bottom?Schizo is the word. When you have a schism in a group, you have a split, a tear in what should be. Why did Mark note in Mark 15, verses 37 and 38, where it says, "And Jesus uttered a loud cry…""Into your hands I commit your Spirit," and now the new day begins when he breathes his last.
It says, when Jesus said, "I've come to complete and do the works you've had me to do. It is finished (tetelestai, which is a word which symboled that the transaction had been made, the debt had been paid, there was no longer a breach in the contract), at that moment, there is a certain veil in a certain temple that was torn into. Notice the verb, was torn. It's a passive verb. It means that the thing did not tear itself. It was an act that was done upon it.
The temple veil was torn in two, and notice how it was torn from top to bottom. Now why is that? You have to understand a little bit about Jewish law, Jewish temple, Jewish worship practices. As God had revealed himself, first to the Jew that the Jew might be a herald of righteousness, a teacher of the blind, a guide to the blind, a teacher of the immature.
The Jews were to proclaim God's holiness to a watching world. When you look at the book of Leviticus, you'll find there's a little phrase again and again that pops up, and the phrase is, "because I am holy…because I am holy." When you read the book of Leviticus, the way you are taught to approach God is a lot like reading a manual on how to handle toxic or radioactive materials. You do it with a lot of care and with a lot of preparation and with a lot of caution because it can kill you.
God had, in his grace, decided to dwell in the midst of the people. The glory of God had come upon this temple they had built, and the security of the nation was that God was in their midst. The ark of the covenant which contained the Ten Commandments was behind the Holy Place in what they called the Holy of Holies, and it was separated by a veil that was 80 feet high and had stars. All the constellations of the zodiac were on it to show that it pictured the heavens, that there is this barrier between us and the heavens.
Historians tell us you could take a team of wild horses and you could put them on either end of that temple veil and you could crack the whip and they could run, and it would not tear that veil because they knew, with the glory of God and the power of God by grace contained away from sinful humanity, if that veil came down, if something happened that broke down that barrier from that radioactive material and us, we would all die.
Only one day a year could the high priest go into the Holy of Holies. When he went in, they tied a rope around his leg with a chain and a bell on it, so as he kept moving… There was never a chair in the Holy of Holies because his work was never done. He would go in there one time of year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. He would take a blood of bulls in order to atone for his own personal sin, and then he would take a lamb, a goat, and he would cut that goat's throat, and he would pour out the blood on what was called the mercy seat.
He would take some of that blood, as we mentioned before, and he would put it on the head of another live goat that they would drive out into the wilderness as one that would bear the sins of the people, and they would scape or they would escape the judgment of God because the wrath of God had, in his grace for this time, been passed over onto this animal that would die isolated and alone in the wilderness, even as now we're going to find there's a Lamb of God being led out of the city to die isolated and alone.
He is the scapegoat who bore the sins of the people that the wrath of God might be satisfied and grace might be available. Notice, when this veil was torn, it was not torn from bottom to top or from top to bottom. In other words, there's no human effort that could've ever allowed sinful humanity to now not fear the barrier that was between them and a holy God. Because there was another temple where God dwelt in the Spirit, in the presence and person of Jesus Christ, the temple of his flesh was now torn. His body was broken. His blood was shed.
God instituted a new relationship. When his temple was surrendered, that temple became no longer functional and no longer necessary because the perfect sacrifice had happened in the perfect temple. That which had kept sinful humanity from the holiness of God was no longer necessary, and provision was made. God said, "We no longer need this barrier because perfect provision has come."
Now who do you think would've been the first people to figure this out? In the book of Acts, Luke writes this. "The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith."
As good Jews who understood what happened in the temple and the holiness of God and the necessity of sacrifice and why the sacrifices were there, they saw, in that moment in a supernatural way, knowing the book of the law, putting together Amos and Isaiah, putting together Leviticus and that moment, what the herald of God said in the beginning, "This is the Lamb of God who will come to take away the sins of the world that judgment might pass over you and you might enter into life and pass out of judgment."
It was a number of the priests who first came to Christ because they saw how God had been working toward this moment from all of history. A man who wrote a book specifically to the Hebrews, a book called Hebrews, put it this way in chapter 10, verses 19-22. "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…"
Why do you enter the Holy Place? By the blood of the Lamb. That's what gives you confidence that you can go. "…by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…" In other words, that curtain has been ripped back, and now God is available to you and me. "…and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."
See, what you have to ask yourself this morning is…Who is your high priest who will allow you to enter into the very presence of God? There is no longer a temple sacrificial system in Jewish society because, even as Christ said, it wouldn't just be made moot by his actions on the cross. It would be made moot in all of history, and an AD 60-70 Titus who succeeded as caesar of that day came and razed that temple to the ground while the other temple was raised to life.
You see there is a high priest who can gain you access before God, and his name is Jesus Christ, and he is the way, the truth, and the life, and there is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved except Jesus Christ. That is why we sing, and that is why we declare what he has done because that which separates us from him, the barrier, has been broken.
Now by the very act of God, not what we could do to earn our way to him but what he has done to tear asunder that which has separated us, he has crashed forth now not in judgment because his judgment has been satisfied because another has drunk the cup of God's wrath for us. He gives us the cup of blessing and the cup of life, if only we'll receive it.
We'll ask ourselves…What did the centurion posted at the cross see that convinced him that Jesus really was who he had claimed to be? This is what it says in Mark 15:39. "When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, 'Truly this man was the Son of God!'"
Now for a Roman centurion (that's a leader of 100)… For him to say that is no small thing. In Rome, they believed that Caesar was the incarnate of God. He was the pontiff of God. He was the one who ruled in place of God, yet the centurion, the servant to Rome, said, "I'm serving the wrong king. I've just seen what real conquering force looks like."
He watched the way Jesus died. He saw the way he was about his purpose and not about his self-preservation and the way he didn't surrender to fear and he didn't cower before his marching enemy and the way he died and the way he gave himself up in the midst of this faithful obedience unto death, not through a bunch of wonderous works but faithful obedience to the end. That alone brought about power to convert the executioner's heart. What happened in this moment is he saw the greatness of God, and he saw what real power and love was like.
A number of years later, a guy by the name of Napoleon who was known for his success as a conquering king said, "I know leaders, and I know kings, and I will tell you there is really only one King." I'm paraphrasing. He said, "Charlemagne, Alexander, myself…we have suppressed men by war and fear, but there is one King who, to this day, has subjects that have been won by nothing but love, and he alone deserves the title of Conqueror," speaking of Jesus Christ.
What this Frenchman saw centuries later is what the centurion saw in that particular moment. He saw the greatness of God. He saw something on that cross that was so otherworldly that he knew, "Now that's true power. To be as powerful as I've heard this man is, to be able to raise people from the grave and yet to die in such peace, to offer himself for those who he loves, that speaks of something that is so otherworldly. That," he says, "is my view of God."
This is what Paul said a few years later. "God demonstrates eternal power. God demonstrates love, not in anything other than in giving his life for those like you and me who are sinners." What brought this man to a point of conversion was the love he saw hold Christ to his purpose. He said, "That's otherworldly. That's what God looks like."
We're going to ask ourselves this question in Mark: Why did the women go to the tomb on Sunday? This is something that, I frankly, have learned myself. The women probably went to the tomb that Sunday because they were the only ones who believed. They were the only ones who hung around to watch him die, right? They were the only ones who had the courage to not run away and hide like the rest of the disciples did, so maybe they believed and listened to him, and they knew that, on the third day, he said he would raise himself from the grave, right?
That's not why the women went to the tomb. Look at Mark, chapter 15, verse 44. This is why they went to the tomb. We find out here that Pilate wondered if Jesus was dead by the ninth hour, at 3 o'clock, which is unusual. Men were usually on the cross for a long time, often three days. It was an excruciating death. Often, they would leave them there for a number of days to die.
After they had died, after many days had passed, they would decay in public. They would be eaten by predatory animals and birds as a form of judgment, that all that came by would see the horror of mocking Rome. Word got out that Jesus gave up his last breath just six hours after he was put on that cross.
Word got to Pilate, so he sent word to the executioner who law said that, if the executioner did not execute his act well… In other words, if he did not kill the man in the way he was to kill the man, then that executioner was going to have to die by the very means by which he failed to kill the man he was supposed to execute. Suffice it to say that not many executioners took people off the cross till they were pretty sure they were dead. Pilate sent word.
"…summoning the centurion. summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid."
The two women knew where to go. It says then in verse 1 of chapter 16, "When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him." Why did they go to the tomb? It wasn't because they expected to see it empty as he had said it would be. It was because they wanted to anoint the body. Jews did not believe in embalming. They would just anoint the body to somehow cover up the stench that would be there until God came back, in their view, eventually in time and would resurrect the body.
Christ died on the day of preparation. To a Jewish mind, that's the day before the Sabbath, when you're getting everything in order so, on the Sabbath, you can experience shâbath. You can experience rest. Nobody did commerce, and nobody worked on the Sabbath. When Jesus was dead at 3 o'clock and Joseph quickly went and got permission for the body and wrapped the body and took it quickly to his own tomb and the stone was rolled in front of it, all we know is that the women didn't have time to anoint the body like they wanted to anoint the body.
When it came time to go to anoint the body, the sun had already set, and the Sabbath had begun, so they couldn't buy that to anoint Jesus with. As soon as the Sabbath was over, which is sunset on Saturday night, they scurried about and bought those things to anoint him with, and at the crack of dawn, they went to anoint the body of Christ.
Now why does Mark put this in there? I think he's putting this in there to show us that so many of us are still like these women who scurry about and hustle to do what doesn't need to be done, and you're going to find out in just a moment that they fret that they might not be able to do what has already been done for them.
Why did the women go to the tomb on Sunday? We know they went to that tomb because they wanted to anoint the body of Jesus, not to celebrate his resurrection. Then the question comes…Why does Mark present the women as preoccupied with the stone in front of Jesus' tomb? This is what it says in Mark, chapter 16, verse 3.
"They [the two Marys] were saying to one another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?' Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed."
They wanted to do (anoint his body) what did not need to be done because the body was not rotting. It was resurrected, and they were worried about what had already been done for them. How like them are we? If you ask most folks in this room who have not been, by grace, taught by the Scriptures what it is God wants for you, we would give an answer that is tied in, in some form or fashion, to works.
In other words, we're going to say, "What God wants is me to do certain things, and I'm not sure I can get them done, but I have to do all I can do in order to get done what I fear must be done before God." What God is saying is, "No. Listen to me. You don't need to worry and scurry and go about doing all these different things, and you don't need to fret that you may not be able to do them because what is preventing you from doing them has already been done." Let me say it to you this way, very simply. Followers of Christ do not have hope because of what we do.
The next three weeks, I'm going to teach about money, a biblical view of money. We've never done that here, and we're going to talk about what the Bible says about the green. We're going to talk about what the Bible says about how God wants us to hold money and share it with others and with him. That's the gray, because it doesn't tell you a specific number. If you've always thought God wanted 10 percent of what you have to offer, please be here.
We're going to talk about the gold, how the wisdom with which we handle money will affect our eternal destiny in a way Jesus spoke more about than anybody else, but let me tell you what I'm not going to say…that there's anything you can do with your money, like there's nothing you can do with your life, that in any way would move that stone that keeps you from the presence of your Savior.
You think you need to anoint him and come with this fragrant aroma and gift you can put on him that would somehow please God, when God says, "I don't want what you can do, because what you can do can never gain access to who I am…the stone you fret about, these works you're going to present to me to present a fragrant aroma that somehow might make this death and this life of sin acceptable to me, the stone I've moved and death I've dealt with."
Christianity is not what we do do and don't do. It is singularly whathe has done. To believe anything else is to believe in something other than what the Scriptures are screaming forth from beginning to end. This is a gospel. It's clarifying your view of who God is.
If you're here this morning and you are consumed and burdened with works and you've fled from God because you were concerned that you are so far behind the curve that you can never cover up what you have done by your own effort, you are correct, but that is true for the 3-year-old who's just learning how to back-talk Mama, as true as it is of the 93-year-old who has nine decades of disobedience.
It can't be covered except by the one who covers it for you. It's what he has done, so we celebrate that that veil has been torn, that stone has been moved, and we find life where we expected to find judgment and death. I want to ask ourselves this question: Is it significant that the first witnesses of the resurrection were women? The answer is…you bet it was.
By Jewish law, you could have no evidence admitted to court except that was given verification by two male witnesses, so why are the first people on the scene women? Answer: They're not concerned about putting together here some package the world would somehow accept. They're worrying about declaring truth. God isn't concerned that you might not accept the testimony of somebody because it doesn't fit into your tradition. He's saying, "This whole event doesn't fit into your tradition."
If this were the work of men in order to propagate a false view, in no way would you have an ancient document that said, "The women know that the tomb is empty." You would've made every credible person you could be there at that tomb. The reason it says that is because this is a book about truth and not a book that is concerned about what we do with culture and truth. It's very significant.
It says a lot about the authenticity of this book and the confidence of those who wrote it, that this would prevail not because of those who believed. That's why we don't need Shaq to know Jesus Christ for the gospel to go forth. That's why we don't need to see any star celebrity have a miraculous transformation that they might somehow lead our world to believe in Jesus Christ. We just need to be heralds of righteousness no matter who we are and let truth stand on its own.
What did the angel expect the women to do with the information they heard about that empty tomb? You'll find that this book ends with human failure, human dysfunction. It begins talking about what God will do. It ends talking about, through a messenger, what God has done. It begins talking about human need. It ends with an illustration of human failure. This is a book that is uniquely about the power of God. That is what these three days are about. The only thing humans add to the story of these three days is we killed goodness, but you will find that our failure is not fatal to God. In Mark, chapter 16, verses 6-8:
"And he said to them, 'Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, "He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you."' They went out and fled from the tomb…"
Then they told everybody they could, right? No. They failed miserably. It says, "…for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." See, this book ends with catastrophic human failure. Do you know what defines my life? It's the way this book ends…seriously, catastrophic human failure. I do some things that are good. I do a lot that's good, but on the scale against holiness and perfection, my life can only be described as catastrophic holy failure.
What God wants us to understand and what Mark is trying to clarify for us is it's not our failure that's fatal to God. It's our failure to have faith in God's provision that is fatal to us. I love what the angel told the women. He said, "But go, tell His disciples and Peter…" You ought to ask yourself the question…Why is that there? Why were the women instructed to go tell all the disciples, but why did the angel specifically say, "You go tell Peter"?The answer is because our God is desperate for you to know that he is anxious to give you grace where you have experienced failure.
There was no disciple who had failed God as much as this Peter, no disciple so vocal about their commitment to honor him as was this Peter. There are folks in this room today that I want to know something. The angel to God is begging through me for you to know that the resurrection is for you specifically. If you're here today and you feel like, if there is a God, he is so holy and you're so wicked there's nothing he could ever do for you, then you insert your name right there.
You go tell the whole world, and you go tell that ornery, hard-hearted man who's sat in here now for three years and heard every message we've ever preached at Watermark and still in his own arrogance sits like this with his arms crossed, unwilling to die to who Christ is. You tell him this Easter has come and God has not claimed his rightful place yet, so grace still is proclaimed. You tell him that today the tomb is empty. It's not just the angel of God. It's so interesting that, when Paul talks about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, Paul writes:
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…" Then look in verse 4 right there. "…and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."
Guess who that is? It's just the Greek word for Peter. It's as if God is running toward the most notorious failure of the day, and he just grabs him first, and he says, "Peter, you know what? It's not too late, man. You've just cataclysmically failed me, and I want you to be the greatest illustration of grace. I'm running right to you, and I'm so glad the tomb is empty, so you can feel the embrace of love." He is the King of second chances, and I want to tell you something. He is running to you this morning.
He lives so he can run, and he is intimately and personally aware of who you are and what you've done. Are you going to embrace him? We end with this. We ask ourselves this tenth question. What does the fulfillment of Jesus' promise tell us? What does the fulfillment of the promise that he will rise again on the third day suggest to us about other promises this Jesus has made?
Let's just walk back through a few of the promises that, as of this point in the book of Mark, had not yet been accomplished, but what Mark is saying is, "Look, he told you he would rise from the grave. If he did that, maybe you ought to go back and review some of the other promises and have faith they will come." In Mark, chapter 1, John said about this Jesus: "I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
It hadn't yet happened in the book of Mark, but the disciples maybe should have hope that there is going to be a different baptism, a different power that now dwells in us, that there will be a temple that will live, not made with human hands but a temple that God makes. "Do you not know that your body is the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
Mark 13:10 says, "The gospel must first be preached to all the nations." before this Jesus will come back. In other words, God wants a lot of Easters to pass so a lot of people can hear about the grace that's available to them, and I'm going to tell you that we don't know if we'll have another Easter, but we have this one. The gospel is ringing forth around the world today, and it's ringing forth around your world today.
In Mark 14, we found out that Jesus said that those who do exorbitant acts of worship, individuals who will be remembered because of their surrender to him, will live eternally in infamy because of their right adoration of Jesus Christ. "Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her."
We taught here just a few weeks ago, 2,000 years later, that some woman who rightly understood who Jesus was and God's provision did everything she could to express her love and devotion to him, just as he said. Mark 14:25 says, "Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Jesus says he will drink again.
By the way, for you teetotalers in this room, for you who are burdened by legality, you need to prepare yourselves for Christ having a bottle of merlot there one day and figuring out how that's going to fit into your religious system. Now you can be sure he won't have eight glasses and burp and get a little woozy there in your presence, for those of you who love license, but let's not define holiness by the wrong thing. There will be a toast in heaven, and it won't be with grape juice. That's one more promise that can be fulfilled.
In verse 62, I want you to watch this with me. See, if you were there back then, you were not sure that, on Friday, Sunday was coming. Where we live right now is that Christ has paid the wages of sin, which is death, and the free gift of God is available to all who will come. Death has lost its victory. Death has lost its sting, but God has not dealt with sin's presence yet.
He says he will when he comes again with power from heaven, and some of us are filled with scoffing and are going back to our own industry and business in our entire lives the way these men and women in that day did during that long, dark Friday; long, dark Saturday; long, dark early Sunday morning because they did not believe he would accomplish his promise that he would rise again.
Folks, if that tomb is empty, you'd better believe this is a man who can keep his word, and though he has not come yet, he says he will come. You have to ask yourself this question. Does your Redeemer live?Will he return for you in triumph? I want to profess to you as graciously as I can but as clearly as I can that, if you don't think Your Redeemer lives, you will meet the righteous Judge who lives.
It will not be a day of celebration when he returns. It will be a day of darkness and of great mourning for you, but this morning, we offer you great hope. That is that the Redeemer lives, and his name is Jesus Christ. He died for your sins, and he was forsaken that you might live, and he bore your sins on the tree, and he has me here today to tell all his disciples and you that he is risen. Will you believe?
Father, I pray for our guests, our friends, for folks who are in our midst weekly who know your story well, who have heard the legend but have never made you Lord. I pray today, by the grace of your presented Word, that they would know that they know that they know that they know that they have a Redeemer who lives. I pray that this would be the beginning of their faithfulness as now a temple of God in which your Spirit would dwell, that they would begin to bear fruit now Father, not of destruction but of life and love.
For those of us who know you who believe that tomb is empty, may we not leave here this morning awestruck with terror or fear and then filled with failure. May we leave filled with hope and filled with confidence that our Redeemer lives today even in us, that we might live for him. I pray, Father, in ways we have never known, that you would live in and through us as a body that the watching world may hear of your gospel and the good news, that they may come to you who is holy though they are not. We sing of our Redeemer.
Oh my, y'all know you're way too white to deserve that, don't you? I mean that, and I pray that doesn't continue. I pray we increasingly reflect the community God has us in and that we declare his goodness to every man and woman we meet. You know, none of us deserves that. I don't care what color we are. There's only one person worthy of that kind of singing, and we talked all about him today, and in that song, we asked, "What have you done for him lately?"
Now let me explain that to you. Jesus himself when he was here was asked the question, "What must we do that we might do the works of God?" and he said, "…believe in Him whom He has sent." I'm going to ask you, "What you have you done for him?" By that, I mean, "Will you believe in him whom he has sent who alone is worthy of that praise, worthy of that singing?" If you have never done business with God, you need to think about what you're doing right now, not lately.
I encourage you this Easter to make it a pivotal moment when you go into that Holy of Holies and you find that, when you expect to find judgment there, life is where death should be because of what Christ has done and you then become a man or a woman who becomes a herald of righteousness and sings, "Joyful, joyful. Lord, we adore Thee."
You present him your life, and you let us know you've done that with that little perforated section in the Watermark News we gave you, or you come and ask us to walk with you right now, that you might meet the one whose tomb is empty. We have behind me 50 Easter lilies, 50 trumpets declaring that he is risen, and we just want folks who have friends who didn't make it here this morning who won't attend a place of worship today, that you would go to them in love and give them that lily and invite them to join us here to worship that they might hear him proclaimed.
These are yours, that you might already do what the women who went to tomb did not. Find yourself faithful today, lily in hand or not, proclaiming who he is. Find yourself faithful today, you whose sins are red as scarlet that that might be lily white if you trust in him who died for you. Would you let us know how we can talk with you about that? Would you let your Redeemer live in your heart by grace, joyfully, lovingly, peacefully in every way, availing yourself to his Spirit? For his glory and your good may you worship him. Have a great Easter!
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? In this, the last volume of the sermon series devoted to the Gospel of Mark, Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church, looks at the final week of Christ's life and what happened next. You'll see how one man changed the entire course of human history and how He can change the course of every individual life that understands and responds to the events described in Mark 14:1-Mark 16:8.