Good morning church! I’m humbled with every opportunity I get to share from the Word because unlike any other skill set – when we preach we also preach to ourselves as we preach to the church. I know I need these truths from God’s Word like all of you. So it’s humbling! As a church we have been studying the gospel of Mark over the last year.
We are on the last few passages of this gospel and as we arrive at the closing passages of this gospel, we see themes of abandonment – disciples abandoning Jesus, we see betrayal – Judas, we see humiliation in the manner of torture and mocking, we see injustice where Jesus is being chosen as more deserving of death than even a murderer, and finally we see the death of the Son when he is hung on the cross. And we find ourselves today in that in between time – those three days between Jesus’ crucifixion and His Resurrection. Let’s turn to Mark 15:40-47 [Read]
I know for most of us we are probably very excited about the Resurrection story. And we want to jump right to it as quickly because we might wonder “how can a passage like this encourage me?” And so even as I prepared my notes, I kept asking this question “What can the story of burial tell me about Jesus?” Because all of Scripture is talking about Jesus so what can we learn. What is the hope mentioned in this passage? The title of my sermon is 3 Lessons from the Grave.
Christ invites unlikely people to follow Him
V40 & 41 : Mentions the names of Mary Magdalene (Mary from Magdala), Mary the mother of James the younger (the mother of James son of Alphaeus) and Salome (who was the mother of James and John the sons of Zebedee) along with many other women who were followers of Jesus. Now we might think that’s normal but it wasn’t normal for women to have that kind of participation in ancient Jewish culture. It was a patriarchal and oppressive culture.
A woman’s place in society was to be only at home, responsible for bearing children and taking care of them. Men were not greet women in public. Women had very little access to property or inheritance. Whatever a woman earned would go the husband. Men were allowed to legally divorce a woman for any reason by just handing out a written notice of divorce, however a woman couldn’t divorce a man. Even in terms of religious practice – men were encouraged to pray certain prayers daily and study Scripture while women were not permitted to do the same.
In fact so bad was the situation that an unfortunate prayer that men would pray would be on the lines of “Praise God that he has not created me as a woman”. Women were not given the kind of dignity and freedom and opportunities as men. It was very oppressive.
It’s in that context we see Jesus totally flip things around and interact with them with dignity and love. Something that women never experienced in their time and culture. How did these women experience love?
- He showed Compassion: Mary from Magdala was actually a demon possessed woman at one time. Mark 16 and Luke 8 mention that she was cured of evil spirits by Jesus. Seven demons came out of her! She was in a terrible condition when Jesus found her and yet Jesus showed her great compassion by delivering her from the demonic spirits.
- He revealed His Transforming power: Mary – the mother of James son of Alphaeus and Salome mother of James and John were mothers of disciples of Jesus. I really think it was the changed lives that they saw in their children that drew them to Jesus. Parents know about their kids inside out. And if anything changes about them, they are the first to notice that too. Similarly, you can imagine what it would’ve been for them to see their sons change up close.
- He gave them the Privilege to serve: Women had a very low status and place in society. If a group or organization was made, they wouldn’t necessarily approach women to join it. And here we see Jesus inviting them to follow Him, get to know Him and also “minister” to Him! Luke 8 says they provided for Jesus out of their means. They were given an opportunity to serve the Son of God. And it’s not because Jesus couldn’t help Himself. He is the Son of God! But He allowed them to participate in serving Him so that they could experience the joy of fellowship with Him and the privilege to serve Him.
We see how Jesus’ interactions with women was counter-cultural at the time. They were the unlikely ones but they were still invited to follow Him. When I think about my testimony…I grew up in a Christian home and we went to church regularly but it was mostly to satisfy the social norms and my parents. By the time I reached my teens I began questioning if church was really important to me.
I thought I knew the gospel – I thought Jesus died for us in general – I assumed for the good people especially but my life changed when I realized that He died for me! Really? Me? I’m the worst! I’m so unlike what a good Christian should be? I don’t even look like a proper Christian? And He died for me!!! Astonishing. And that’s true of every believer seated here.
How many of us knew that we were going to believe in Jesus someday? How many of expected that to happen? How many of us looked like the perfect person going to church and had the perfect life? None of us could’ve ever imagined but yet Christ invited unlikely people like us to follow Him.
This changes the way we look at the people in our neighborhoods and our colleges and our workplaces. One of the verses that brother reminded us last week on prayer was 1 Tim 2:1 – which tells us to pray for all people! Which means that even the ones that annoy us, hate us, frustrate us…the ones which we consider are “hopeless cases” are the unlikely people who Christ invites to follow Him. Why? Because it’s not their efforts but His grace and power to save them.
For some of here who don’t know Jesus yet because you think that you are an unlikely choice…you think that you don’t look like or behave like a so called Christian, let me tell you that Christ invites and he infact pursues the unlikely people and candidates. You are in the right place to follow Jesus!
Christ produces willing sacrifice by knowing Him
In verses 42-46 we are told of a man named Joseph of Arimathea. What do we know about him? He is a respected member of the Jewish council. He’s a wealthy, high standing, leading member of the council. And it also tells us that he was looking for the kingdom of God.
Which meant that he was looking forward God bringing His heavenly reign on people’s hearts and minds. He believed that God was going to do something to bring His rule and reign over all of us. In a similar account in Matt 27, it refers to him as a disciple of Jesus. And we see him do something that the other famous disciples of Jesus didn’t do…
- He took courage and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now we might think – oh, because he was an influential man he could talk to Pilate and exert some influence. But we forget that the death of Jesus was a public event that was seen and promoted by all of the Jewish leaders. Joseph was risking his reputation by asking for Jesus’ body. Not just that but he was also risking his life…because he was declaring his allegiance and friendship to the man they killed. It’s with reason that the writer mentions that “Joseph took courage”. It was a big deal.
- We also see him wrapping Jesus in an expensive linen shroud and then placing Jesus in a newly cut tomb. What I also read was that rock cut tombs were quite expensive in those days – people would purchase that for themselves and their family and he uses that very same tomb to bury Jesus. Why? Because I think he knew Jesus as much more than a Teacher or Leader…he knew him as family! Jesus knew him and had close fellowship with Joseph. Jesus had invited him into a familial relationship – way deeper than just friendship or acquaintance. Because if he knew Jesus only superficially, he would never willingly sacrifice his reputation, his expensive shroud, or his expensive tomb or even his life. It was that relationship that mattered at that point.
I was reading the story of CT Studd yesterday. In the 1800’s, he came from a very wealthy family with a huge empire and at the same time he was a budding English cricketer. Some people compared him as the Andrew Flintoff of that time. He got saved when a visiting preacher came home one day and shared the gospel. Right then “peace and joy entered his soul….the Bible which he thought was very dry to him before became everything”.
A few years after he got saved, his brother George became seriously ill. And it was at that time that he was confronted with this question “What is all the fame and flattery worth…when a man comes to face eternity?” He actually admitted that the last six years of his salvation was in a backslidden state. It’s at that point where he said he knew cricket and honor would not last, and nothing in the world would last but it was worthwhile living for the world to come”.
So he gives up his cricketing career and becomes a missionary to China. After his father died, he sold off his inheritance worth 24K pounds at that time and gave it to various charities and mission organizations. Some people might see this and be like “Are you crazy? Why are you wasting your life? Why are you wasting your inheritance?” His famous quote was “If Christ be God and He died for me, then there’s no sacrifice too great for me to make for Him”.
Those are the words of a man who knew Jesus up close. Sometimes we get into this zone thinking…oh – but if I need Jesus, then I’ll need to give this up and it’s so hard. And we always think in terms of what we are going to lose instead of who we are to gain. The reason why we struggle to give up is because we don’t enjoy close fellowship with Jesus. Let this truth stir up our hearts once again…unless we know Jesus and love him and enjoy obedience, we will always struggle to give up stuff…we will always think about what we are to lose.
Christ enables holiness when we die with Him
V44-45 tells us that after enduring 6 hours on the cross, Jesus breathed his last and died. He didn’t faint on the cross neither was his body exchanged at the last moment before his crucifixion – two worldly theories out there…Jesus died and his corpse was given to Joseph on his request.
What is the significance of Jesus’ burial for us as believers? Jesus’ death on the cross meant that he bore the full wrath of God and the full payment was made for your sins and mine. But what his burial means is that the position of your sin and your old life in the sight of God is “Buried”! Who get buried? A dead person. That burial tomb is a reminder of where your sin & your old way of life lies.
That famous verse in Romans 6 asks this question “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Our baptism is a picture of our union with Christ) 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For those people who think that grace is an excuse to continue in sin, how does Paul remind them of the gospel? He points to the fact that when they believed in Jesus, they were united to his death and burial – which means that your old life and my old life has been buried! That’s the position. That’s where it remains.
Christian, you are no longer the same person! You may be in the same body but if you’ve believed and surrendered your life, that old person has been buried and now you have a new life in Christ. And so the picture of the tomb for a believer isn’t a discouragement but rather an enablement – enabling you to live a holy life unto God. God’s grace enables us to live in holiness. We aren’t living in holiness for God’s grace rather we experience God’s grace which results in holiness.
It’s like a thief who stole a huge sum of money and got caught and landed up in jail. Due to the enormous amount he stole, he deserves lifetime imprisonment. Now there’s a really kind wealthy businessman in the city who hears about this thief and has compassion on him. He decides to pay the full penalty of the thief and release him out of jail. Now he’s no longer viewed as a thief or because he has been set free.
The wealthy businessman takes him in and gives him a new life. The man sometimes comes to the businessman and tells him how he has temptations of stealing again and other times it’s the guilt of the past. Guess what the businessman does? He pulls out the receipt of the payment that was made on his behalf with the seal that says “Penalty is fully paid. He is Free”. Will that discourage him or enables him to live honestly? It enables him to live honestly.
Brothers and sisters, our time with the Word – especially gospel passage like Romans 6 and others. Being part of a Gospel Community where other believers are telling you this is vitally important. Why because we tend to forget that we are not thieves anymore and so we need to be reminded “Penalty is fully paid. You are free”…Here is the receipt. And that will bolster our spiritual lives and our walk!