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Confounding our Expectations

Confounding our Expectations

Mark 16:1-8

We’ve gathered together in this place, this sanctuary, on Easter Sunday morning with expectations. We came here expecting something, didn’t we?

I mean: we expect to hear the grand hymns of the faith today: “Up from the grave he arose...” - “Christ the Lord is Risen today...” - “He Lives!”

We came expecting to see our confirmands become covenant partners, full members of our church.

We came expecting to hear the story of the Resurrection... read from the pages of God’s Word.

We gathered expecting to see beautiful flowers, and see if others are wearing new dresses and ties.

We may even be expecting the preacher to “knock it out of the park!” To preach the best sermon we’ve ever heard. I hate to disappoint you.

Having expectations is a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with having pre-conceived ideas about what will or should take place. But... God has a way of confounding our expectations.

Because the truth of the matter is, the Resurrection requires no expectations. Our expectations hold no bearing what-so-ever on the story. Our expectations add nothing, nor can they remove anything from the event.

What the Resurrection of Jesus Christ does, and what it requires... is it demands a response. It always requires a response... and no matter how many times you and I encounter the Gospel, no matter how many times we read or hear the Good News... one thing always remains. It’s impossible to truly confront this Good News and walk away unchanged.

Notice... none of the expectations of that first Lord’s Day... that first Easter Sunday, were met.

The women, nor the disciples expected or anticipated Jesus’ resurrection. They weren’t expecting Him to rise from the dead. They were expecting to find him in the tomb...

After the Sabbath, three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body with spices (vv. 1-2). And they were pre-occupied and/or concerned with a practical matter as they made their way to the tomb: “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” (v. 3). They expected to find the tomb sealed. And since none of the disciples were present (the men... they were all hiding out in fear that what had happened to Jesus would happen to them, too!) the women were obviously concerned about their inability to physically roll the stone away from the entrance.

Clearly, these women were expecting to find a sealed tomb and the lifeless body of Jesus - right where he’d been placed. They were not anticipating the resurrection.

The question for me... is: why not? Jesus had told them several times exactly what was going to happen. Why weren’t all of His followers gathered outside the tomb, anticipating Jesus resurrection? Why weren’t they at least thinking it might happen?

Well, probably for the same reason we wouldn’t. The notion of someone dying and coming back to life after three days defies belief! It’s beyond acceptable expectation! People don’t just rise from the dead after being executed and buried!

So the women had every rational reason to think Jesus would still be dead when they approached the tomb, just like we would. They were getting ready to put Jesus behind them and move on with their lives.

But, what happened next changed everything.

In verses 4-5, the women saw that the stone had been rolled away and Jesus’ body was gone. And there was a mysterious, angel-like person inside who told the women two things: 1) “[Jesus] is not here,” and 2) “tell his disciples” to go to Galilee to continue the mission (vv. 6-8).

The resurrection is a big deal! It’s the most life changing news the world has every received! But this messenger/the angel... whomever it was... didn’t dwell on it much. He’s like a sticky note left for those who showed up first. The point was that Jesus was alive and there was work to be done.

God’s purposes, God’ will, God’s plan... was in no way thwarted by the cross or the tomb! God’s plan was fulfilled by the cross AND propelled by the empty tomb! And once the disciples realized the genuine reality of the Resurrection... they had no choice but to move forward in their calling to serve Christ!

The awesome power of the Resurrection - that Jesus was/is alive is what empowered the disciples to move out of their grief filled LACK of expectation... and to “go” into the world for which Christ died, and now lived!

The un-realized expectations of the cross and empty tomb stimulated the disciples to actually do what Jesus had called and equipped them to do!

Listen: Disciples make Disciples! And as Jesus’ disciples actually got up, and went about sharing the Good News, they made more disciples! And eventually those “new” disciples would do the same thing... over and over and over again... until US! We’re now the disciples! And it’s all because Jesus is alive.

The Resurrection is such an transformative event in history that it not only emboldened the disciples, but it also started the church. It started all this and it continues today. The message of the resurrection isn’t “Come back and dwell at the empty tomb and keep watch in grief and despair until Jesus shows back up” it’s “Onward! Go and be the people Christ has called you to be!” Go share the Good News! Jesus lives!

We must not merely celebrate the resurrection – we must respond to it. Do not memorialize Jesus – trust and follow Him. Do not commemorate His sacrifice – we dedicate our lives to Him as the living Lord.

Listen to me: knowing about the resurrection isn’t the important thing. Knowledge is useless unless it’s put into action! It’s how you respond to it that’s important. At first the women were afraid - and didn’t tell anyone what they’d witnessed at the tomb. But that fear gave way to joy - a joy that had to be shared! And when joy overcame shock, the women did as the messenger instructed... and that told the disciples!

And the disciples then responded (after their initial shock) by obeying Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). To go and tell the good to all the world... Jesus lives!

If you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, the ONLY valid response is total surrender to Him. None of us get to ignore the Resurrection. Either you reject it completely or completely give yourself over to it – apathy is not an option.

So the question is: how will you respond? In fear, shock, disbelief... or... will we go and tell? Will we share the Good News with a world that needs to hear?

It’s what Christ expects us to do.

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