Easter – Raised to Life
Caleb Campbell

Raised to Life” — Sermon by Caleb Campbell, April 17, 2022

(Scripture is Mark 16:1-8. Bible verses on screen are shown in italics.)

Today, we’re going to continue on in a series in the Gospel of Mark. We’re going to be looking at Mark Chapter 16 today. For those who’ve been following along, we’ve been going through the Gospel of Mark. I think we started at the beginning of the year, so we’ve been looking at what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus, what it means to follow Jesus. And because it’s Easter, we thought we’d skip to the end of the Gospel of Mark.

How’s that? You guys don’t sound very excited. It’s a sermon. OK, the least you could do is fake it. So, you guys are excited about this, OK? OK, so we’re looking at the Gospel of Mark, and I’ve got to tell you that what we’ve been noticing about Jesus is that He is frequently disrupting the complacency of His followers. He’s frequently challenging their preconceived notions, their ideas of what it means to have faith. He’s constantly undermining the power dynamics at play, and he’s also simultaneously fostering healing in their spaces of brokenness.

In my life, I find that Jesus is oftentimes simultaneously confronting portions of my life that are complacent — my prejudices, my just kind of backwards thinking — and at the same time fostering healing and spaces in my brokenness. And He wants to do that in all of our lives, and we see that throughout the gospel. And so, today we’re going to cut to the end.

Then next week we’re actually going to pick up where we left off. We’ll go back to the middle of the Gospel of Mark, and we’re going to look at some of the teachings of Jesus as it relates to sex, money and power. So next week’s sermon, if you’re looking for a rated-R sermon next week, you may get one. Today it’ll probably be PG.

This is the end of Mark’s gospel, and I ‘ve got to tell you, I read it yesterday, and I’ve got to tell you there are just some problems with it. OK, some problems with Mark Chapter 16, and maybe you guys can help me today make some sense of it. Can you guys help me?

Also, I’ll put it up on the screen. I know not all of us have brought our Bibles, which is totally fine. If you’ve got a Bible, I encourage you to turn to Mark 16. I’m hoping you can help me figure out a couple of these problems. And we maybe we can help each other figure it out.

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.”

This is this is the ending of Mark’s Gospel. Up until this point in time, here’s kind of what’s happened. As we start in the gospel of Mark, Jesus calls people to follow Him, and they do. He does miracles and teaching, and he’s constantly equipping His disciples to do stuff. And then, about halfway through the Gospel of Mark, He says to His disciples that they were going to go to Jerusalem, and then He was going to get turned over into the hands of His enemies, people who hated Him, and then they were going to kill Him. And then three days later He was going to rise from the dead. He said it multiple times to His followers, and do you know what? His followers thought when they heard Him say that, He was talking crazy. One of the crazy things about the followers of Jesus and their representation in Mark is that when Jesus predicts His death, burial and resurrection, nobody believes Him.

Then we get to this scene in Mark Chapter 15. He’s crucified and turned over in the hands of His enemies. He’s been betrayed and then he’s crucified. I have just a real quick question for you. What usually happens to dead people? They just stay dead

Right, what happens to dead people? They’re dead, right? Isn’t that what normally happens to dead people? They stay dead. OK, watch this, so ready, here we go.

Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’”

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Him. Oh, by the way, TV timeout ***

*** I gotta tell you something

Since I read Mark yesterday, I noticed something I had been in the habit of saying over the years, saying things like Jesus was totally abandoned by His followers at the cross. As I’ve read through the text and actually paid attention, this time I noticed that He wasn’t totally abandoned. Rather, he was abandoned by most of His disciples, but in Mark’s account you get three women who are faithful disciples, and they followed Him all the way to the cross and to the tomb. ***

So, you have these faithful women coming to the tomb. Why did they buy spices? If you’re going to go to a tomb and care for a body that’s been crucified, why would you bring spices? To mask the odor of decay. What are they expecting to see at the tomb? OK, this is normal, right? OK, so very early in the morning. How early? They went to the tomb at sunrise. What are they expecting? Dead, right? They’re expecting dead.

They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” Of course, that’s totally normal, right? Because there’s usually a tomb cut out, and they would put a stone in front of it to make sure that grave robbers and stuff didn’t go through it. OK, so check this out so they’re going to the tomb and what are they expecting? Dead.

“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.”

Looking up, they noticed that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, what were they expecting? Dead. They got their spices and were so sad and were expecting dead. They show up and the rock has been rolled out of the way and they’re like “OK, well that’s cool.” They go in, expecting a corpse. He says, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.” What happens to crucified people? Dead. So what are they looking for — a corpse?

“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.”

And here’s this is a huge problem. “He has risen.”

Wait, wait. Hold on, hold on. Dead people stay dead, dead, dead. If you are dead, you’re dead. There’s nothing else, right? For many modern people, we have this idea that ‘people back then’ believed in spiritual, supernatural things like that. I got to tell you in all this studying done yesterday morning and all this study I’ve done; I understand that the ancients did not believe in resurrection. They believed in the afterlife. They had this idea of Hades or the underworld, like in Egypt. The Greeks thought your soul left after your body, and so that that was cool. You kind of go in the sweet by and by. Resurrection is the idea of the whole body rising. In the Greek it means, “Got up.”

So, the angel says, “You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth.”

“Yes, we are, and He was crucified.”

“He has risen.”

And the thing is that no one is expecting a resurrection, because resurrection doesn’t happen. Dead things stay dead, even in the ancient mind. Everybody knows this, right?

And here’s the deal. Resurrection doesn’t happen — until it does. I’m going to let you guys in on a secret. Can I tell you guys a secret?

If somebody says, “I’m going to die. I’ll be betrayed in the hands of evil people. Then they’re going to kill me. Then I’m going to be buried. Then three days later I’m going to rise from the grave.” And if he pulls it off, do you want to listen to that guy or gal? Yes.

One of the reasons why I follow Jesus is He said, “They’re going to kill me and then I’m going to rise.” And then He did it. That’s cool. That’s terrifying, but also wonderful. And if you can pull it off, I’ll listen to what you say. Jesus so far, to my knowledge, is the only one who’s done it.

Here’s the deal. No one is expecting this, and nobody initially really believed it. It was so unfathomable, I think, for some of us we think, “Well, those primitive people back then, they were all just foolish.” But they know what dead looked like. They were much more acquainted with death than we are because it was in front of their face all the time. They knew what dead things did. They just stayed dead. They stayed dead.

“See, He is risen. He is not here. See the place.” And then he makes a case. He makes an argument. “Look, here is this spot where they laid Him. He’s not here.”

OK, so Jesus is risen. Here’s why this matters. I just want you guys to zoom in on this risen piece. “Jesus rose from the grave. Jesus conquered death.” Why does this matter? Why does this matter?

Death is scary. Yeah, horrifying. There’s nothing more fun than our lived experience, and there’s nothing more final than death. Because what happens to dead things?

OK, and there are some of us recently within our church family and our broader community who have become well acquainted with this reality. For some of you, this Easter is not a happy time, because you are grieving the finality of a relationship or a loved one or someone that you care deeply about, and it just seems like there’s no hope, because we know in our lived experience that death is final. It’s powerful. It takes all of us.

OK, so here’s the deal. Death gets leveraged in our own hearts and by other people to cause us to fear. Why are we so greedy and selfish? Because we’re afraid that we’re not going to get ours. We’re afraid that we’re not going to be taken care of. We’re afraid that we’re not going to have abundant life, and so we think the consequences are not my problem, and other people can deal with this. I need to make sure I get mine. Why do we do that? Because we’re afraid we’re not going to have enough. We’re afraid that there’s only going to be so much to go around, so we’ve got to take. I’ve got to do that because, otherwise, death will encroach upon me.

Why do all the kingdoms of this world use death to threaten you — use death to threaten people into behaving and cooperating according to what they desire? Because we’re afraid to die. We are like the people who are dealing death. They leverage it for oftentimes their own evil gain,

Why does it seem like the death bringers keep winning? Because death is powerful, right? And if it just seems that our lived experience, if death is going to get us — which it will — if that’s the case, then I’m going to live selfishly. I’m going to take. I’m going to take advantage. I’m going to always reach out my hand, and I’m going to take.

But you see, Jesus shows up on the scene. This does crazy stuff. He says things like this: If you want to be a leader, be a servant to all. He put the last first. Don’t try to clamor for a seat at the head of the table. Rather, elevate others ahead of yourself. Use every gift that you have in the service and in grace and love for others. And we say, “Jesus, that sounds wonderful. Jesus, that sounds awesome. But don’t you know that death is knocking at my door? Don’t you know that? I need to take.”

And here’s what Jesus does in the resurrection. Here’s why this matters. You guys ready for this? You guys ever seen those martial arts movies like Jackie Chan, where someone won’t use a gun? You know, it’s like their thing, and when someone brandishes a firearm, they take the gun to pieces.

And then it’s like — you guys familiar with this trope in the movies? (pantomime of a judo move). OK, so that’s being disarmed, right? The fighter is disarming, right? Notice what Jesus does in the resurrection. He disarms death. He disarms death, which means in Jesus, that thing — that big scary thing that often gets leveraged to cause us to do things that sometimes we don’t want to do, things we talk ourselves into it in the in the corrupt spaces of our own heart — Jesus disarms death and then says, “Follow me.” Which means that there is life and life abundant. Death is not the end.

And here’s the other thing, too. Jesus doesn’t show up on the scene saying, yeah, death is not the end, and one day you’ll say a prayer and you get to go to heaven up in the clouds. You go to heaven when you die, and you get to be kind of this spiritual being.

No, the hope of your Bible, the hope that Jesus proclaims is the hope of a resurrection. All that which is broken is made whole again. The hope of Jesus is a resurrection and restoration of the material cosmos — get ready to make your ears bleed here, this is like Nosebleed theology. The hope of Jesus is the hope that he is the down payment on the ultimate resurrection that will take all of us. Which means that for those of us this Easter who are in mourning and recognizing the power of death, we look death in the eye. And we say, “Yeah, you’re scary. But you don’t get the last word; Jesus does. And one day we will rise.”

That’s why, by the way, we sing things like “wonderful, powerful, mighty promise keeper, miracle worker. Because we see that resurrection does not happen — until it does. And when it does, we’re to pay attention. And so, my encouragement to you is this: Give the resurrection of Jesus its appropriate place. For those of you that have been baptized, you know that baptism is the way, at least how we practice it. We go under the water, signifying going into the grave with Jesus, signifying going into death. But then here at Desert Springs, it’s our 100% policy to come out of the water. We’re batting 1000 on that so far. We come out of the water, connecting ourselves to the resurrection of Jesus that one day, just as Jesus rose, so one day I will rise. Which means that right now, for those of you that have been baptized, here’s my question to you this morning: Why did you take that baptism, and what did it mean to you? How is it shaping you now? What does that mean for you — that one day we will rise?

For those of you that are still trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus, I’m so glad that you’re here. I want to encourage you to just be curious about Jesus. I know that a bunch of His followers are acting like fools. That’s not new. That’s been going on for 2000 years.

It’s actually in the Bible a bunch, and I know that a bunch of people are using Jesus’s name for a political agenda or a military agenda, or to try to get some sort of money out of somebody’s pocket. That’s been going on for 2000 years, too. But put them aside and give Jesus a hearing. That’s my encouragement to you today, as we witness the baptisms here in just a moment.

I said how many problems were there in this text? Was it one or two? There are a lot of problems in the text, but we said just two today. I have to keep it short because we got all these baptisms.

Is the Bible a big deal? Kind of a big deal. OK, here’s the deal, and you think it’s just as far as literature goes. You think it’s kind of put together. Yeah, they’ve been working on it for a while. So, my expectation reading Mark is that he’s going to really end with a bang right here.

We’ve got this resurrection and this angelic being, and I’m ready to see like the next, like the next 20 minutes of the movie, right? OK, notice how Mark ends it. Watch everyone lean in. Your ticket entitles you to your whole seat, but you’re only going to need the edge of it. Watch this.

“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.”

OK, real quick little TV timeout ***

Notice this. Tell His disciples and whom? The reason that he teased out Peter is because just earlier, when we were reading in the Gospel of Mark, Peter is one of the dudes who said, “Jesus, no matter what comes, I’m always going to stand by your side.” And then adversity came. And Peter said to himself, ”I’m out.” He’s out. Now, here’s the deal. Peter had betrayed Jesus. But notice what this messenger says: “Go tell His disciples. Make sure you tell Peter.” See, Peter had turned His back on the Lord. And here you have specific mention of Peter. It is such a kind and gracious moment. Because even though Peter was unfaithful, Jesus is faithful. ***

And there are some of us here, even, maybe we’re thinking about our baptism. There are some of us here, and we feel like we have turned our backs on God. But I want you to see Peter. I might even encourage you to take Peter’s name out and put yours in. No matter where you’ve been or where you’re going, Jesus loves you so much — more than you can ever imagine. There’s nothing that you’ve ever done that surprises Jesus. He’s like — you know, God. And yet He still longs to be with you. He loves you so much.

So, tell the disciples and Peter He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there just as He told you. Remember, we’re getting ready for this big crescendo, right? Ready?

“They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

They went out and ran from the tomb. Why did they run from the tomb? Because they were faithful, and they were going to go proclaim the good news of the I’ve got to Gospel? Because they were trembling and astonished? What overwhelmed them? They said nothing to anyone. since they were afraid. OK, this is how Mark ends. Did you forget the rest of the story?

Now here’s the problem with Mark. It’s often referred to as the abrupt ending of Mark, and boy, is it abrupt. The last scene is these three women who have so far been faithful now actually being unfaithful to the call to proclaim the Gospel, right? And they’re running away in fear — which, by the way, totally normal. The resurrection overwhelms them now. Why would Mark end the story this way?

In fact, some of the earliest Christians were so struck by this abrupt ending that they actually tried to soften it a little bit by writing in like a cleaner ending. In fact, in your Bible, you might have a longer ending with some brackets, saying something like this isn’t in the earliest manuscripts. But I think what Mark is doing is really fascinating. I think Mark is doing two things simultaneously.

One is He is rattling our cage, and he’s saying you really got to pay attention to this story. Start over. It’s an invitation to further investigation. He’s saying go back to the beginning, read it again, And then –and this is this something I love this about Mark gospel, I think that Mark intentionally does not conclude his gospel. Because while he may have run out of paper, the Gospel never ends. The Gospel continues. The Risen Christ is still at work, right now. The Risen Jesus is still present and active and living and with us. And I think that Mark kind of abruptly cuts off his gospel so that we can see our own lives as a continuation of the story that he started in Mark chapter one.

So, in just a moment, as we witness these baptisms, for those of you who’ve been baptized, my encouragement to you would be to reflect on what that baptism means to you. For those who would like to be baptized, we’d love the opportunity to baptize you today. If you’d like, you can simply visit some of our ministers here at the back door. For those of you that are still trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus, maybe you’re not ready for baptism. Yeah, that’s totally fine, but I would encourage you as you listen to these testimonies. As you listen to the singing today, would you just reflect on the things that you’ve heard? Because I know without a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus invites everyone to follow Him and to continue this good news story in your life For in Jesus, we have life and life abundant.