April 1, 2018 – He Came Back … For Us (Easter)


Mark 16:1-8 NIV 

     1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought

spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after

sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away

from the entrance of the tomb?” 

     4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.

 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. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter,

‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” 

     8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to

anyone, because they were afraid. 


The women fled in the morning light and told no one because they were afraid. Who can blame them? They came

to a place that they were expecting to find the body of the one whom they loved more than anyone else in the

whole world, grieving, ready to complete a task that would be onerous unless it was someone you loved or it was

your profession. They were there to complete the task of the first century version of embalming a body.  


Dawn Chesser shares the story of when she started to care for her mother who has developed Alzheimer’s

disease. She had moved away from her parents when she was eighteen, and except for a few visits, she never

returned home. Then, she had to learn to care for her mother. A level of intimacy and vulnerability grew. She

now is seeing her mother’s naked body as a beautiful thing as she learns to help her bathe. She fixes her

mother’s hair the way her mother likes, so her mom knows the person that she sees in the mirror. Dawn

reassures her mother when the Alzheimer’s starts to take over more during certain times of the day. 


The women going to the tomb have a difficult task, but they are doing it for someone they love. They are thinking

of the practicalities. Who is going to move the stone? Then, they receive the surprise of their lives. The stone

has been rolled away, and inside is not the dead Jesus but a live young man dressed in white. He is reminiscent

of the way that Jesus, Moses, and Elijah looked on the mountain during the transfiguration, and he has a

message. A messenger from God? Read angel. 


People talk about wanting to see an angel. From what I read in the Bible, I’ll pass. (Like I get a choice.) The people

are always terrified. The first thing angels almost always have to say is don’t be alarmed or don’t be afraid before

they can deliver their primary message.  


So true to form this angel says, “Don’t be alarmed. [Are you kidding me?!] You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,

who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.” He’s already on his way to Galilee. You’ve just missed him. Go

and tell the disciples he’ll see all of you there, just as he said (Mark 16:6-7).  


In the narrative here, it says that in their fear, the women don’t tell anyone … at least at first. They must have told

someone eventually, or we wouldn’t have the story here.  


Easter, Resurrection Day, is a great victory. God has resurrected Jesus from the dead. However great the

implications of that are, the message of Easter is even greater and more dramatic than that. 


Another one of the gospels tells of Mary Magdalene going to the tomb and encountering a man that she takes as

the gardener. He calls her by name, and she recognizes Jesus raised right in front of her. Why doesn’t Mary

recognize Jesus initially? She had been with him for a long time, but she didn’t expect Jesus, the risen Jesus, to

return … for her. The Easter morning stories are not eyewitness accounts of people watching Jesus walk out of

the tomb. No one saw that. No, the Easter stories are about Jesus appearing to individuals, the very people who

had betrayed and deserted him in his crucifixion. 


In today’s narrative, we hear the angel tell the frightened women that Jesus has gone on ahead to Galilee. Why

Galilee? It was an out of the way place in a backwater part of the Roman Empire. You would think that the Risen

Christ would go to a place of power like Jerusalem and appear to a terrified Pontius Pilate and say, “Mister, you

made a big mistake by killing me. It’s payback time.” Or how about the Sanhedrin who turned Jesus over to Pilate

in the first place? Or how about going all the way to Rome to show up in front of Caesar saying, “You call yourself

the son of god. You see before you the real thing. I won, and you lost.” 


But that’s not what Jesus did. The New Testament records that Jesus appeared to his disciples first, not anyone

important or powerful from a worldly perspective. It was for his disciples. He showed up for those who took a

chance and followed him. In this we see a great truth. The Easter truth is not only that Christ is risen. That would

have been incredible enough. The great truth is that the risen Christ came back … for us. He came back to sinners

like us. 


John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said it’s one thing to say that God is Love, but true Christian faith occurs

when someone is able to say God is Love for me. That is what we remember on Easter. God is the Lord of love,

and that is a love that is moving toward us. Jesus coming back from the dead is amazing enough, but on this day

we celebrate that he came back … for us. 


Will Willimon tells a story of when he was a bishop. He went to glum little church in Alabama on a Wednesday

night to explain to a group of farmers that with the way that they had treated their previous pastor, they weren’t

going to be assigned a new pastor. He says, “I threw the book at them. I said, ‘This is the worst church in the

conference! Let me tell you, there’s not a single Methodist preacher in Alabama that wants to serve this church

.’ And I went on like that, hammered them about that.  


“When I got finished, one of the farmers said, ‘Well Bishop, if what you say is true, I guess it makes all the more

amazing why Jesus Christ manages to show up here just about every Sunday.'” 


He was right. It was amazing. It is amazing. Easter, the Resurrection, didn’t just happen that Sunday morning

over 2000 years ago. It keeps on happening now. Jesus was not just raised for us way back then. He is raised for

us now. The resurrected Jesus keeps doing for us now what he did during his earthly ministry. He shows up,

uninvited, to people who don’t deserve him and may not even want him. He shows up and sends them out with

some incredible tasks.  


That’s you. That’s me. That is the basis of our faith. I will boldly assert that this is why you are here right now.

In one way or another, Jesus showed up … for you. 


In one of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he is chastising one of his new churches, the one in Corinth, and they ask

him, What gives you the right to tell us how we should be the church? 


You might know the story. Paul tells them that Jesus appeared to Peter, to the Twelve, to a larger group of people,

and then, “he [showed up] to me, as if I were born at the wrong time” (1 Cor 15:5-8). That’s the basis of Paul’s

authority. That’s the basis of your authority. The risen Christ has shown up … to you. 


Why are you here this morning, singing these songs, praying these prayers, demonstrating your faith or at least

your curiosity? One way or another, Almighty God decided that God could not be ruling in heaven … without you.

I’m sure that if we had the time many of us could tell stories of faithful parents, an influential Sunday School

teacher, someone in our lives that shared the faith with us. Maybe it was some weird thing that happened to you

on the highway one night or some other incredible experience. Maybe it was a line or two from a hymn or song

on the radio that reached out and grabbed you. Maybe it was a feeling that you’ve had as long as you remember.

In one way or another, the risen Christ came back … for you. 


I have to admit that a lot of us get this wrong. We say things like, “Since I gave my life to Christ…”, “Since I took

Jesus into my heart…”, “Since I accepted Jesus as my personal savior.” The savior part is right, but do you hear

all those I’s? “I”, “I”, “I” Nope, that’s not the way it is in Scripture. As Will Willimon puts it, “You don’t take the

risen Christ anywhere. He takes you places. The astounding thing is not that you make a decision for Christ, but

the astounding thing that we learned at Easter is that God Almighty made a decision for us.”  


Jesus comes to those of us who have no way of coming to him. The Resurrection keeps happening. The same

God that resurrected Christ from the dead refuses to be God without you. He keeps showing up in the most

unexpected times and ways. As one of the early fathers of the church said, “I think even if we had not sinned,

God would have still come for us.”  


A campus minister at Duke University had a young woman walk into his office one day. She told him that she

was a student at the law school, and she was the editor of the law review. She said, “I want to tell you a story. I am

like a lot of people. I went to church some as a kid, but eventually grew up out of that. I didn’t go to church. I went

to Harvard, then got accepted at the law school here on a full scholarship.” 


He thought, Why do I need to hear this? I don’t even like people like this. 


She went on, “I was sort of surprised when my husband suggested that we go to Duke Chapel one Sunday, just for

the music. My husband’s an aficionado of classical music, and we found it quite acceptable. In fact we came back

another Sunday. 


And he thought, Why am I hearing this? 



And she said, “Last Sunday, at the end of the service as the choir was singing a little piece, I just suddenly lost

consciousness, and I fell back to my seat. I was transported. I felt embraced by this soft blue light. It might not

have happened but for a few moments, but it seemed like this wonderful eternity of warm embrace. Everybody

left the chapel, and I just sat there transfixed murmuring to myself, ‘I’m back. I’m back.'” She said, “I just wanted

to tell you about it. I thought it was kind of amazing.” 


And he said, “Wow! That’s really amazing!” 


The risen Christ came back and showed up for this young woman who was so sure that she didn’t need him.

Christ has come back … for you. 


The question is, how are you going to respond? Are you going to run home, hide and stay silent? We know that the

women at the tomb ran, at first, the disciples ran, at first. They had to process this incredible information that they

received. However, we know that they did not remain silent, or we would not be here today. What are you going to



I am going to challenge you to do something in this next week that will help you grow spiritually. Maybe, it is

coming to our Wednesday morning breakfast at the Cheyenne Café and get to know some other followers of Jesus.

You could come to Sunday School next Sunday as we start our new study, A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God:

Spirituality for the Rest of Us. There’s more information about that on the back of your bulletin.  Or, you could

come back to worship next week as we begin our new sermon series, Love Is the Answer. Because Jesus came

back for us through his resurrection, we have opportunity for new life, a new kind of life. Do you feel like you are

livingthe new life, the life with God, the life of the kingdom of heaven? John tells us in his first letter how we can

experience the new life of the new creation now, while still living in this broken world. And there is one overriding

theme. It has to do with Love.  


I invite you to come back next week, and see what this is all about. I might be bold and go so far as to ask you to

commit to come for two weeks. See what God has in store for you, and find out more about the risen Christ who

came back … for you. 



Categorized as Sermon