“Preparing To Receive Joy”
Christ is always revealing through the presence of His Spirit.
Christ Is Alive
Christ Makes Himself Known
Christ Sends Us Out
Christ Is Alive
Mark 16:1-8, NKJV
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The ladies who were close to Jesus went early in the morning on Sunday to do what they assumed was not done properly by Joseph of Arimathea along with Nicodemus when they buried His body (John 19:38-40). These ladies needed to make sure that Jesus was buried properly, and they were not convinced that was the case. The general thought of most people is nothing can be trusted to be done right unless it is done by them personally. The ladies placed so much emphasis on caring for the body of Jesus they completely dismissed what Jesus had repeatedly said about His rising from the dead on the third day after His death.
It was not until the ladies were heading to the tomb when they wondered how the stone covering the entrance would be moved so they could go about their labor of love for Jesus. There are often things that are remembered too late which present great obstacles to what needs to be accomplished. Much focus is given by people on the end results of their work that the details in being able to accomplish the task are many times overlooked. Yet, God knows what is needed long before people realize they have forgotten something that will prevent them from following through with what they set out to do. In the case of the ladies headed to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, God had already provided for their entrance into the tomb.
Mankind’s intelligence and technical advancements over the centuries are things that people once thought were unbelievable or even impossible. There are those who still cannot bring themselves to the acceptance of certain things that have occurred because they simply refuse to acknowledge what has happened. The ladies standing in the tomb of Jesus speaking with the angel who awaited their arrival was not different than people today who struggle with believing what they see and hear.
The angel told them to not be amazed or astonished to see that Jesus was no longer there as they expected Him to be. The announcement that Jesus had risen was something they could not grasp in that moment. The dead being raised was something that was not outside of what they had heard and seen Jesus do during His ministry, but that did not make it any less difficult to accept. The human mind is a powerful thing. It can cause people to believe something that is not true and refuse to believe other things that are true. The resurrection of Jesus was in dispute from the first time it was announced. Jesus raised others from the dead, that was fact, but how could He possibly raise Himself from the dead?
The ladies had direct confirmation as to Jesus’ resurrection and where He was going to meet the disciples. The incredible news was not shared since they could hardly believe it themselves as they ran from the tomb. This same feeling of amazement grips God’s people still today when God makes Himself known to them in a personal, unbelievable way that defies their logic. “How is this possible?!” is asked of the person who remains faithful to God through the worst of circumstances, imprisonment, and torture. It is asked by the one who walks away from the mangled metal from a car accident and the loved ones of someone who dies without explanation or warning. Whether joy or heartache, there are miraculous things that are happening daily that people’s minds simply cannot comprehend, but the reality remains unchanged in spite of their disbelief.
Sorting all this out can be difficult. What is reality; what is fantasy and figments of the human imagination. There will be those who claim the resurrection of Christ is the imagination of the disciples and those who followed Jesus taken to the extreme. Those who have surrendered their lives to the authority of God over their lives proclaim without hesitation that Christ is alive, well, and living within their hearts today. Many simply do not know what to think because their experience tells them the resurrection is impossible, but the confidence of the believers cannot be dismissed outright because of the change that has taken place in their lives. There will never be evidence that will satisfy all people and remove all doubt this side of heaven.
Faith is the only way a person can come to Jesus as the Messiah of God and Savior of mankind in spite of the lack of evidence to answer all questions that plague the human mind and challenge the sinful nature (Hebrews 11:6). Human intellect will never be able to grasp the wisdom and power of God to accomplish what is beyond the ability of that which He has created. The creature will never be equal to the Creator. But the created can always trust in the faithfulness of the Creator to love and care for His creation. This was especially seen in the death and resurrection of the Son of God for the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation of the created with its Creator.
Accepting that Christ is truly risen from the grave and was not merely stolen away by His disciples as the Pharisees attempted to circulate among the people can be known as fact rather than speculation (Matthew 28:11-15). The living Lord can be seen, heard, and personally experienced by individuals who are willing to step out in faith to live in the reality that Jesus is alive. It is only when a person chooses to do this will they ever come to the understanding that Christ is indeed alive and living in the hearts of His people (Romans 10:6-13; 1 John 5:1-13). Reality is that which is connected and revealed by God rather than what is limited to what people are capable of experiencing or believing is possible. Identifying what is real and that which is simply imagination can be done by examining who or what is being glorified and supported.
There are many things which people say in times of despair and heartache that are simply not reality even though the appearance and their experience announces otherwise. The ladies and disciples who loved Jesus encountered such despair and heartache emotionally on resurrection morning. The experiential evidence cried out that Jesus was dead and His body was stolen away. This was not reality; it was a lie. Jesus did rise from the grave that Sunday morning and is living in the hearts of those who surrender to Him instead of submitting to the fantasy that mankind is master of their own destiny (Psalm 139:13-16; Acts 17:24-31; Colossians 1:15-17). These facts can only be known as reality when a person seeks out the truth in longing to submit to it in spite of their limitations, fears, and doubts to the contrary. This is why God is constantly revealing Himself to all those who desire to know the truth.
Christ Makes Himself Known
Mark 16:9-14, NKJV
Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
The greatest obstacle to faith is self. Faith means belief in something beyond a person’s ability to completely understand or explain, but responds with total acceptance. The disciples’ lack of faith was revealed in their reaction to the news Jesus had risen from the dead. The information they received was accurate, true, and coming from those who could be trusted. Yet, they would not believe Jesus had indeed arisen from the grave that morning due to the fact they could not bring themselves to believe something they could not explain or understand.
He appeared to Mary Magdalene first according to Mark’s gospel account. In the Gospel of John her presence at the tomb was after Peter and John raced there and only saw the empty tomb and grave clothes (John 20:3-16). Matthew records that Mary Magdalene was with the women who all saw Jesus on their way back to the disciples to report the good news that Jesus was alive (Matthew 28:1-10). Luke records a much more general account of the resurrection morning identifying Mary Magdalene as among the women. Luke adds the detail of Jesus’ appearance to two disciples along the road to Emmaus that is only mentioned in passing here in Mark’s account of the resurrection (Luke 24:1-32).
It is difficult to see how Mary Magdalene could have been first to have the Lord appear to her when all the biblical counts of the resurrection are compared. It must be remembered that the information was coming fast and furious throughout the day. All these events were happening at a fast pace and were astonishing to say the least. Each Gospel writer shared portions of the resurrection which they were inspired to share to show how Jesus revealed Himself to each of these individuals in the way and manner they needed to hear and see Him.
Jesus is still revealing Himself in the same way today as He did on the day of His resurrection. There is only one living God who is revealed in the person of Jesus (John 1:1-14, 10:30-33, 14:6-7). There is no other name under heaven by which mankind can be saved from the wrath of God which is going to be poured out upon the world because of mankind’s sin (Acts 4:8-12). The revelation of God through Christ is always focused on these facts which do not change. It cannot be accepted that Jesus reveals Himself to each individual so uniquely that He somehow provides a personal revelation different from others.
Therefore, it can be known whether God is actually revealing Himself to a person or whether it is nothing more than something someone desires to be true of God but really is not true. Falsehoods about God are presented by a person’s imagination, demonic spiritual influence through other people, or the interpretation of events which happen in a person’s life. Everything that is seen, thought, and heard must be measured against the Bible as the standard of truth and reality so that it can either be verified as true or rejected as a lie. Jesus cannot contradict the Father or the Spirit for they are One in essence, co-equal and co-eternal. So whatever is revealed has to be in agreement with the written Word of God which is the revelation of the living Word of God, Christ Jesus.
There will be certain things that run like a theme in the testimonies heard about how a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. Confession of sin and failure to live up to the righteous and holy standard of the Creator will be heard. Submission to the authority of Christ because He died for their sins and rose again from the grave for their reconciliation with the Father will be proclaimed in some manner. There will be visible changes seen in the person’s life in attitude changes, behavior, and through their ability to love and forgive others as they have been forgiven. It matters not if the testimony is about the moment of conversion, or about how God transformed the person, or revealed Himself to them through a specific event. In each testimony there will be a pointing to the Lordship of Christ and the majesty of God through the working of the Spirit of God.
This theme will be seen since it is the same Lord who is bringing each person to Himself in reconciling them to God the Father who created them. The idea that Jesus is the only way to the Father, but many ways to Jesus is false since they are one in the same. A person cannot come to know Jesus as the Messiah through the teachings of a false religion even though there is truth the false religions stumble upon without realizing it. This is like claiming that counterfeit money will become genuine as long as it is used in the same manner as genuine currency. A lie, no matter how hard someone believes it to be the truth, will never become true.
Jesus has made Himself and the Father known through His death upon the cross and in the resurrection. The person who attempts to bypass the cruelty of the cross or the mystery of the resurrection does not come to Christ by something that is counterfeit and void of the power to forgive and provide atonement for them before a holy, righteous God. It is the Spirit of Christ who convicts the hearts of people of their sin. There is no sacrifice for sin and satisfaction of God’s wrath outside of the sacrifice of Christ regardless of the behavior change that takes place in a person’s life in following religious guidelines for their daily conduct. Outward appearance and language does not make a person justified before Almighty God. Justification only comes through faith in the shed blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Romans 3:21-26).
Jesus rebuked the disciples for their unbelief of what He had told them before His death and disregarding the reports of the truth they had been hearing all day long. There are people in the church who are as unbelieving as the disciples were and being rebuked here in verse fourteen also. How is there unbelief in the body of Christ when He is confessed? Confessions and testimonies are denied when there is no life change that takes place. Saying Jesus rose from the grave and allowing others to knowingly enter eternal life without challenging the lies and deception of false religions or accepting them as different ways to God is denying the cross and resurrection of Christ.
Confronting these ideas and philosophies held by false religions does not require condemnation of the person, but revelation of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is inviting those who are deceived to watch and listen while the child of God lives alongside them and answer the questions about Jesus, God, and faith. Jesus revealed Himself to people in the manner and by the method they would be able to receive it where they were at physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He did this in His earthly ministry, during the time between His resurrection and ascension into heaven, and is calling His body, the Church, to do the same thing.
Christ Sends Us Out
Mark 16:15-18, NKJV
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Christ has commanded those who follow Him to go and preach the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father through faith in what He has done through His death and resurrection to all creatures. The one who believes that redemption has been granted to them through faith in Christ will desire to follow Him in obedience and make a public proclamation in the waters of baptism to demonstrate their new life in Christ. This has become known among the followers of Christ as the Great Commission.
Those who accept Christ’s sacrifice and authority are free from condemnation before the Father. Those who refuse to believe stand condemned before a holy, righteous, and just God in their sins. Those who believe in the name of Christ will be part of the work of God in this world which defies human logic and even the laws of nature at times. The early disciples cast out demons as people still do today in the world. (Acts 16:16-18). There are people who are able to understand and speak languages they have not studied or learned as the Apostle Paul had done and people still do today (1 Corinthians 14:5-12). There have been times when the children of God have been placed in harm’s way and survived being bitten by poisonous snakes or attempted to be killed but have experienced no ill side effects then as well as now (Acts 28:1-6). Hands were laid upon the sick and they were healed then as well as today (Acts 5:12-16).
These things are astonishing to proclaim in a first world setting where logic and science have become the measure of truth instead of the Word of God and His character. Others have taken these things to the extreme in believing they have somehow been protected to foolishly and willfully put themselves in danger and test God which no one is supposed to do (Deuteronomy 6:16-19; Luke 4:9-12). God grants the ability, gifts, and resources to those as they have need in carrying out His calling upon the lives of His people. These things are for the revelation of Christ to the world. They must be used for reflecting the glory of God, fulfilling the command of God, and for the salvation of those who are dying in their sins.
Proclaiming the resurrection of Christ and denying the reality and truth of the Scriptures in their entirety by attempting to explain why certain gifts were only temporary and no longer applicable presently is a travesty. Spiritual gifts that are abused for personal edification like speaking in tongues, healing, and apostleship is not evidence of their credibility but sin in the hearts of those abusing those particular gifts. These gifts are alive and well in areas where faith is not tempered or stifled by the limitations of unbelief. This is seen in Christ’s ministry in His home town where He did not do the miraculous things He did in other areas because they refused to believe and demonstrate faith (Matthew 13:54-58).
Believing the resurrection also means to believe that God can and will work through His people as He has done in the past and as He does in the present. Many miracles are not heard about because they would not be believed by most in our society, discredited when these accounts are shared, and quietly done to prevent the edification of self. I have had pastors share with me accounts of limbs of children growing back right before their eyes and God glorified in the community because of the healing. Those who read that have already dismissed it as fanciful and impossible, but is that too great for God to actually do? If it is outside of human logic, does that make it impossible?
The Gospel is foolishness to most people and a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). The message we have been given to proclaim to the world is strange, goes against human experience, and is completely opposite of everything those in this world view as desirable. The Gospel is never something that will be intellectually clear enough to argue a person into surrendering their life to Christ. It is beyond understanding and must be accepted by faith. This is more than just believing there is a God or acknowledging His authority; it is willingly submitting to His authority and in total surrender to His will over a person’s own desires (James 2:19-26).
God has sent His people out into the world with a message that changes lives because of the shed blood of Christ and the glory of His resurrection which demonstrates that He has once and for all defeated sin, death, and the grave. Therefore, God’s people must live in complete confidence of the resurrection and the power of God working through His Spirit living within those who place their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Now, go reveal Christ by the power of His Spirit living within you.