Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Easter Day celebrates a wonderful unexpected surprise. They had watched Jesus being crucified on the Friday. Late that afternoon they had watched Jesus’s body laid in the tomb. All Saturday they had observed the Sabbath and waited. Early on the Sunday morning they had gone to the grave expecting to anoint a dead body. Instead the women found the stone rolled away – not to let Jesus out but to let the disciples in. They had found the empty tomb and abandoned grave clothes. And the angel brings the amazing message:
Mark 16 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.
Christ is risen. His sacrifice was acceptable to God! Our sins can be forgiven. Death is defeated – we need never fear the grave again. Jesus is alive and men and women can share His glorious resurrection life!
Christ is risen! But the good news is followed by a command.
GO AND TELL HIS DISCIPLES
We can imagine how the disciples felt all through Holy Saturday. Discouraged. Disappointed. Lost. Like sheep without a shepherd. Their leader and teacher and friend had been crucified and his body sealed in a grave. All their expectations and hopes for the future were lying with Jesus in the tomb, dead and buried.
But the angel sent a message to the disciples. What a transformation that Good News would be. The stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty. He is not dead. He is risen!
Here was Good News the disciples needed to hear. Go and tell his disciples – Jesus is alive! Here is Good News everybody needs to hear! Our neighbours and friends. People in all kinds of need and people who don’t realise they have needs. Jesus is alive! Go and tell his disciples. But the sentence did not end there.
Go, tell his disciples, AND PETER
Two precious words. “And Peter.” Including Peter. Even Peter. Since he was the only one mentioned by name we might even say, “Especially Peter.”
I agree with the traditional view that Mark’s Gospel was based on the sermons of the Apostle Peter to the Early Church. So it is no surprise that Mark should include those two words, “And Peter.” Words which Peter really needed to hear.
Remember how just three nights before in the Upper Room Peter more than any of the other apostles had pledged his loyalty to Jesus.
Mark 14 27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
Remember then how Peter denied Jesus.
Mark 14 66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
71 He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
So Peter had failed Jesus. What could he possibly do to make up for his failures? Now there were these fantastic stories that Jesus was not dead but was alive again! But if it were true, what would Jesus say to him, to Peter, to the one who had denied knowing him three times? How could Peter possibly face Jesus again?
Here are those two wonderful words in the message from the angel. “And Peter.” Two very personal words. Showing God’s care for every individual, even for Peter. A very special message of forgiveness. “And Peter.” The Good News that Jesus is alive even applied to Peter.
It is easy to believe other people are sinners. We can even pray words of confession, “God have mercy on us, miserable sinners.” But if somebody comes up to us afterwards and calls us a miserable sinner we are likely to punch them on the nose. It is easy to believe that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not die but have eternal life. It is easy to believe that Jesus died for other people, but not for me. It can be really had to realise and accept and know deep down inside that God loves me. God loved ME so much that He gave His only Son. That Jesus died for MY sins. That Jesus has conquered death so that I, even I, need not fear death. Jesus is alive and I, even I, can share His resurrection life. Peter really needed to hear those wonderful words, “Tell His disciples, AND PETER.” And each of us need to hear that message for ourselves. That Jesus has died and that Jesus is alive FOR US!
Which of the apostles saw Jesus first? We know that Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus alive. Then the Risen Christ appeared to Cleopas and his companion on the Emmaus Road. We may think that the next resurrection appearance was to all of the apostles disciples gathered together that evening in the Upper Room. But when Cleopas and his companion arrived at the Upper Room this is what they were told.
Luke 24 There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
It is clear that some time during that first Easter Day, Jesus appeared especially to Peter. In time the whole of the Early Church knew the story.
1 Corinthians 15 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
That meeting between Jesus and Peter must have been intensely private – so even Mark does not record the details. But Peter treasured in His heart the first words he heard which told him that Jesus still loved him and Jesus forgave him. “Tell his disciples, AND PETER.”
Each of us needs to hear that message for ourselves. Jesus is alive FOR US. And here is the Good News the whole world needs to hear. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event in human history. Jesus IS ALIVE!
GO AND TELL THE WORLD!
Mark probably didn’t write the words in the Longer Ending we find to Mark’s Gospel. But through the centuries the church has believed these were the words of the Risen Christ. Churches today which don’t accept the Longer Ending of Mark as Holy Scripture find them embarrassing and challenging. Churches which do accept these words as Scripture find them fulfilled in their experience.
Mark 16 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Jesus is alive! Go and tell this Good News to the whole of creation! We find a similar command in Matthew’s account of the resurrection.
Matthew 28 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus is alive – go and tell everybody! And here was Jesus’s commission in John’s Gospel. John 20 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.
Everything God sent Jesus to do He now sends the church to do. So the Early Church took the Good News into the world – Jesus is alive! Peter may have denied Jesus three times, but he would never do so again. In front of the crowds on Pentecost, and then after the healing of the lame man at the beautiful gate of the Temple, the message was the same. The Good News translation reads like this.
Acts 4 “Leaders of the people and elders: 9if we are being questioned today about the good deed done to the lame man and how he was healed, 10then you should all know, and all the people of Israel should know, that this man stands here before you completely well through the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth—whom you crucified and whom God raised from death. Jesus is the one of whom the scripture says:
‘The stone that you the builders despised
turned out to be the most important of all.’
12Salvation is to be found through him alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us.”
Jesus is risen from the dead. So Jesus is the only one who can save us! Whoever does not believe will be condemned, Jesus said. Without Him we are doomed! Without His resurrection life we are all left just where Jesus was on Holy Saturday, in the grave, dead and buried! Jesus is our only hope. This was the message the Early Church proclaimed to the world. Jesus is ALIVE!
Remember the reaction of the women who were first told that Jesus was alive, before they had seen Him face to face.
Mark 16 8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Too often Christians are too afraid to speak out. Perhaps we don’t know for sure that Jesus is alive. But then look at the wonderful way Mark’s Gospel ends.
Mark 16 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it
Seeing Jesus alive made all the difference. We may be afraid – but we don’t need to be. And the same command comes to us. “Jesus is risen – go and tell.”
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!