The Lord's Day
July 15, 2007
“What Do You Do With the Body of Jesus?”
Dr. O. Palmer Robertson
When we were here just a little over two and a half years ago, I kept hearing rumors that the sanctuary was going to be changed, and when we returned I stepped in the door with fear and trepidation to say, “What have they done?” And to my amazement, it's the same! It's exactly the same! Even the cornerstone out there that has my name in it…it's still there! I was expecting it to be gone.
I have noticed a couple of changes. I'm here in the center, as over against over there. Now some of you gray-haired people may remember when Dr. Daniel Iverson was preaching here; he was “over there” and he was about 6’7”. He was the pastor of Shenandoah Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida. They over the years sent something like 200 of their members out into the mission field or into the ministry. And when he arrived, he said, “This pulpit should not be over here! The pulpit should be in the center of the church!”
And I'm glad to notice there's another little change. There's not a little button right here…because Dr. Iverson was leaning to kind of get into the center of the church the whole time he was preaching, and he didn't know that there was a master button that turned out all the lights in the sanctuary, right here! In the middle of his sermon, he put everything in the dark during that preaching!
Well, it is wonderful to see that it's the same. And there are a few changes, a few faces that are not the same, but this is the same church, and it is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ and we praise the Lord for the ongoing witness of First Presbyterian Church throughout the world.
You have a very clear witness in Uganda today. The first African Bible College was started in Liberia over thirty years ago, and you have participated in the building of that campus. It's now returning from the ashes, by God's grace, and we praise the Lord that there will be a witness in West Africa to train up servant leaders that know the Scriptures and the centrality of Christ for all of life. One of the graduates of African Bible College of Liberia is now a chief administrative officer, just installed Vice President of the country. So you have a direct witness in Liberia.
The second African Bible College began in Malawi about fifteen years ago, four thousand miles on the other side of Africa, somewhat to the south, and that's where my family first began a ministry with African Bible College. The Lord has blessed that college wonderfully, and for the first year of its opening we had some very fine students coming from Uganda, 1500 miles to the north. They would travel five days on a bus in Africa, leaving their families to come and study for four years to learn God's word, and then return to Uganda. And they kept saying, “We need a university like this in Uganda.” Well, it was a little over ten years ago that I made the first trip up to spy out the land, and everything was very encouraging. Dr. and Mrs. Chinchen then made something like seven trips in five years trying to find property. It was very difficult to find just the right place. And finally that verse “Unto the hills will I lift up mine eyes” awoke them one morning, and they went into the hills again just six miles south of Kampala. Kampala is called “the city of seven hills.” As Rome was the City of Seven Hills, Kampala is the city of seven hills — the capital of the country…about one and a half million people–and just south of that there was one hill that had not been occupied. I like to think that when God created the world, He said, ‘Now there are thirty acres just south of what is going to be the capital of Kampala, which is at the crossroads of Africa, and I don't want anyone to build anything on that until African Bible College comes there.’ So when we arrived, we found this beautiful acreage with only cows grazing. Today, just five or six years later, there the Chinese are building this massive hospital right across the street; there's a shopping center right across the street; there's an international school (from primary to secondary school) right across the street. There is a high-quality housing project right next door to us on the other side of a very impressive building, but not so impressive in what it's doing. It's a Jehovah's Witnesses Center for translating all their literature into all the different East African languages. They are there. We couldn't possibly touch that property today, but God held it for…who knows when? Since the time of creation until we were able to establish the third African Bible College in Uganda.
We have not had two years of operation, and we have a small student body — about thirty students at this point, but they come from Rwanda, where they had the genocide…a survivor of the genocide; we have a refugee from Congo, where they had war for a decade; we have someone from Sudan, and you know all the troubles of Sudan; we have students from Kenya, from Tanzania, and from all parts of Uganda. We have prayed from the beginning that God would send just the right students to African Bible College, and that's what He has done. The Lord in so many ways has shown His providential hand in helping us, and you have been such an encouragement and help. You are participants in the work of God in Africa.
If you don't know it, wake up! This is Africa's hour! Already the weight of balance of Christianity has shifted from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere, and if you want to invest in the future of Christianity for the decades that come, then invest in what God is doing wonderfully in Africa. An historian has said that the most unnoticed event of the twentieth century was the growth of Christianity in Africa, in parts of Asia, and in South America. You look at the statistics at the beginning of the twentieth century. A country like Kenya might have had six or seven percent confessing Christians; at the end of the century, eighty-something percent. Other countries like Uganda began the twentieth century with maybe three or four percent confessing Christians; at the end of the century, ninety percent confessing Christians
How did that happen? There has been no teaching of the word of God. We went to a little village way out in the bush just as you imagine it in Africa — a thatched roof hut bush, with a church with no panes in the windows and as many people standing outside as inside, and they said, “Come and teach for us!” So I came and taught for two days — six hours one day, five hours the next day. And they say, “This was too short. Next time you must come for four days to teach. The pastor says we've had so many preachers come and preach, and preach, and preach, but we've had no one to teach us the word of God.” This is Africa's hour, but we need to raise up Africans to lead the way that understand the word of God and all its implications, that the glory of Christ and His kingdom may be manifested.
Now the Scripture for this evening is taken from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 15, beginning to read at verse 42:
“It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that He was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him as to whether Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where He was laid.
“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. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’
“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“‘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. 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.’’
“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
May God bless to our hearts the reading and hearing of this portion of His holy, inspired, infallible, and inerrant word.
What do you do with the body of Jesus? Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for becoming man. Thank You for enduring all the pain and sufferings of the cross, all the abuses that man could heap on You. Thank You now that You have proven that You were indeed the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. Help us to see You in Your glory, to understand what is yet to come, to be astonished, to fear, and to be obedient. We ask in Christ's name. Amen.
What do you do with the body of Jesus? It may sound like a very strange question, but if you had the opportunity — if you should have the opportunity, what would you do with the body of Jesus?
I. You can brutalize the body of
The end of the Gospel presents three ways in which you can respond to Jesus’ body, and the first way is that you can brutalize the body of Jesus. You can brutalize that body. If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, that's what you are going to do with the body of Jesus. You are going to brutalize it from the top of His head to the bottom of His feet; you are going to brutalize Jesus’ body. You press a mocking crown of thorns on his head, pierce His feet with nails; you slap Him in the face, you spit on Him; you take those thongs that have nails and pieces of bone, and you slash His back, pierce His side with a sword or a spear. If you don't believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that's what you do with His body. Either you do it, or you sit back as the crowd did and you watch as others brutalize the body of Jesus.
God the Father sent Jesus into the world of sinners so that His body might be brutalized. There is no other way by which you, who have sinned in the body, can be saved from God's wrath and judgment on you…the consumption of your body for eternity in hell…if Jesus had not had a body that could be abused by men. He took upon Himself human flesh for that one purpose, that He could suffer the punishment that is due to you for your sin. [I think that's The Catechism, isn't it? It seems to be ringing in my ears, that particular phrase.] The theologians call it consequent absolute necessity; that is, there is a necessity if men are to be redeemed. There is an absolute necessity as to how men may be redeemed. There is a consequent absolute necessity: that is, once God had decided that He was going to redeem sinful men, there was only one way, and that was for His Son, Jesus, the eternal Son of God, to be clothed in human flesh. He Himself took upon Himself our flesh–flesh and blood, mortal flesh, flesh that could die–so that He could die in the place of sinners. And that's what sinners who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God will do with His body. They all consent.
Throughout the centuries, the world continues to brutalize the body of Jesus, which is His church. The church is the embodiment, the ongoing embodiment of the Spirit of Jesus. Because the church — like as you, the church — like Jesus have a body, that body can and will be brutalized. So the first generation of Christians were crucified upside down. They fed them to the lions. On one occasion a group of Roman soldiers forced Christians to strip their bodies of every bit of clothing in the dead of winter. They marched them out into the middle of a frozen lake, and then as they were shivering and freezing to death, their feet sticking to the ice, they built this roaring fire and invited the Christians: “All you have to do is deny Jesus to be the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, and you can come and warm yourself by our fire.” One confessing Christian couldn't stand it any longer and headed for the fire to warm himself. A Roman soldier watching, noticing how these Christians were confessing their faith even in the context of the abuse of their bodies, took off his helmet, took off his armor, took off his undergarments, took off his shoes, and himself walked into the middle of that freezing lake, to identify with the body of Jesus.
Alexander Mackay, one of the great and first missionaries to Uganda from our beloved Scotland, had his greatest success with the pages of the king of Uganda. It was a large kingdom — not just a little village kingdom, but a large kingdom. And there was a large throne where the king sat, and he had a large palace, and many young boys, ages 12, 15, to 20 years of age. And Alexander McKay began to share the message of Christ with him. Every day he would go before the king and debate with the Muslims to prove who was the true and living God. He was an engineer, not a preacher! But he was solid gospel missionary. Those pages, many of them, were converted. They began to be discipled, and their lifestyle began to change, and they could not do what they had done previously. As long as the old king was there, everything was fine. But when the young king took over the throne, he could not stand these young Christian pages, so he took over twenty of them and sent them on a death march. Some of them, he cut off their legs and left in the path for the beasts of the field to eat. He built a large pyre and put these young boys up on that pyre. Some of them, he cut off their arms and legs so they couldn't escape. Not one of them denied Christ. And then he set a blazing fire and burned them alive.
The story is — I cannot verify this, but the story is that Alexander McKay said, “Well, that's the end of Christianity. No one would dare want to identify with Christ after this.” The next morning [knock-knock-knock] a knock at his door. He opens the door, and here's one of these pages. He says, “Tell me about Jesus.”
“Tell you about Jesus? Do you see…do you remember? Don't you understand what this could mean for you?”
“If that Jesus could uphold my brothers like that, I must know about Jesus.”
If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, you join those who brutalize His body while you stand idly watching by. So that's one thing that you can do with the body — you can brutalize it.
The second thing that you can do is that you can treat the body of Jesus with tenderness. You can understand that a human body is a precious thing. Just as the soul, so also the body of man is made to reflect the image of God. John Milton, in his classic Paradise Lost, describes the dignity of the human body in contrast with all the other animals of God's creation. He stands upright; he's kingly in his character and in his bearing. And there he reflects the reality of the image of God.
God cannot die. What then is the meaning of a dead human body? It contradicts everything that makes sense to us. It's not right. Well, there must be respect even for a dead human body. There must be respect even for a dead human body. Joseph of Arimathea, he showed respect for the body of Jesus. Look carefully at the character of the man that would show proper respect for the body of Jesus.
The Gospels take time and space to tell us many things about this Joseph of Arimathea. He was a member of the Jewish Council, a prominent man, respected by his peers–as are many of you here tonight. He's described by Dr. Luke as a “good man.” Maybe there was a little British understatement in what Luke was saying here — “a good man.” He uses interestingly the same description to describe Barnabas — another Joseph. His first name was Joseph; he was later called Barnabas, son of consolation. And it says he was “a good man.” You know, not a great man, not one that everyone will notice, not someone that's proud and puffed up, but just a good man.
He's also described in the Gospels, this Joseph of Arimathea, as a “righteous man.” He was principled. He did not consent with others to the death sentence for Jesus. Among those 72 members of the Sanhedrin was one voice that said “No,” when the vote was taken to crucify the innocent Son of God. His character arose to the hour of challenge, and he said “No.”
He is described as “a disciple of Jesus.” He didn't get to that point that he never could learn anything else. He was willing to be taught, and Jesus was his teacher.
He is also described as “looking for the kingdom of God.” You know, it used to be that many Christians were looking for the kingdom of God. Are you looking for the kingdom of God? Are you anticipating the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, as The Catechism recited said tonight? Are you really looking anxiously for the return of our Lord? Looking for the kingdom of God, as was Joseph of Arimathea? If you’re going to properly care for the body of Jesus, you've got to manifest some of these aspects of the character of Joseph of Arimathea.
The Scripture says he “went boldly” to Pilate. He didn't just come crawling — ‘Oh…sir…would you please consider letting me have the body of Jesus?’ No, he went boldly, it says, before Pilate. Now how is Pilate the politician going to respond to this request? You can imagine Pilate's concerns. No doubt he had heard these rumors — everyone heard these rumors that on the third day Jesus was going to rise from the dead. What chaos it would bring to Pilate's kingdom if this One claiming to be Messiah was taken down from the cross before He was really dead, and everybody thought He was dead, and He starts appearing here and there? It would create total chaos!
You see how God orders everything? God wanted it on the record clearly that Jesus was dead from the cross. So Pilate had to be sure that Jesus was dead, that His body had no more life in it. So history has this testimony: Pilate, the Roman governor, was satisfied that Jesus was dead. He sends for the centurion in charge. The centurion gives his report, and this is his report: ‘At the request of the Jews, because they didn't want anyone hanging on these crosses on the Sabbath Day, we broke their legs.’ Do you understand what that implies? In order to survive while being crucified, you must keep pushing yourself up so you can get breath; otherwise, you are quickly asphyxiated. You lose your ability to get any more oxygen. ‘We broke the legs of the one on the right and the one on the left, but when we got to this man Jesus, He was already dead. But to be absolutely sure, sir, I took my spear and I plunged it into His side, and there wasn't a twitch. I can assure you, Pilate, Jesus was dead.’
But why should Joseph of Arimathea care so much about the body of Jesus? Why should he risk his life? Because Pilate could have concluded, ‘This man, he's in some sort of a plot.’ He could have not investigated the matter at all, and just thrown Joseph of Arimathea into prison. Why did he care? Because Jesus in His body manifested the glory of God more than any person had ever manifested God's glory in the history of the world. Jesus was different from all other human beings, and His body manifested God's glory.
So Joseph went and he spent some money. He was extravagant. It wasn't like the swaddling clothes that were wrapped around Jesus by that other Joseph when Jesus was first born and in the manger. No, not just any kind of cloth that you can find. He went and spent good money on linen, the highest quality linen that could be found. He went to the cross, he tenderly took down the collapsed body of Jesus, he pulled the bloody nails out of His hands and His feet. He felt the cold corpse of His Master. He tenderly wrapped the body of Jesus in linen cloth. He placed a separate cloth over His face, and then he took that dead weight and tenderly carried it down the hill of Golgotha, and then struggled up that other hill where his own private tomb was, and stretched out the body of Jesus in the tomb. Look at how tenderly Joseph of Arimathea treats the body of Jesus.
In this action is a lesson. You, too, should show respect to the body of the dead. You should show respect for the body of the dead. You don't have to overdo it–as Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead. You come and follow Me.” But nonetheless, you should show respect for the body of the dead. But why do you wait? You don't have to wait. While people are still alive, you have a great opportunity to care for bodies as well as for souls.
Back to the original question — that rather strange question: If you should have the opportunity, what would you do with the body of Jesus?
Do you remember the night that Jesus was betrayed? That woman came in with that very costly ointment that perfumed the whole room, and she broke the top off that alabaster…that very costly jar. Why, that was a man's wages! That was worth forty or fifty thousand dollars! And Judas led the charge: “Lord, what is this woman doing wasting all this money pouring perfume over Your body?” And have you ever puzzled about Jesus’ response? You remember what He said? “The poor you always have with you.” Remember that? Ever puzzled over that? That just…you know…the poor. “You've always got the poor with you.” Oh, no! No, no, no! Jesus is saying, ‘You will always have the opportunity…the opportunity will always be there for you to minister to the poor. Me, you do not always have. This is a unique place. She has anointed Me for My burial. And when I'm hanging on the cross tomorrow, that perfume will still be there to give me a little bit of refreshment. But the poor? What an opportunity you have!’
There's a serious side of this question of the feeding of the body of Jesus. Do you remember He said, ‘I was in the last judgment.’ Your last judgment — my last judgment - will be in part on the basis of how we treat the poor.’ You remember? Jesus said on the Last Day this is what it will be like:
“I was hungry [in the body], and you fed Me. I was thirsty [in the body], and you gave Me to drink. I was sick, and I was in prison [in the body], and you visited Me. Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’ On the other hand, ‘I was hungry, and you did not feed Me. I was thirsty, and you did not give me anything to drink. I was sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me. Depart from Me, into everlasting fire [of the body].”
Ah, handling the bodies of people with great tenderness is an important thing. And what a wonderful opportunity you have to minister to the bodies and souls of men today! Yes, God has given you all the pleasures of this life to enjoy. Paul says in writing to his son Timothy some rather strong words here:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain; but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. And this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
I became a member of this church some years ago…how many years ago did I become a member of this church? How many years ago? What would you say? You know how many years ago I became a member of this church? Next month is the time that I will celebrate having become a member of this church seventy years ago. Seventy years ago, I was baptized by Dr. Hutton down in that little brick church just a block from Capitol Street. I became a member of this church seventy years ago.
We lived in a little house over that way — 1212 Lyncrest Street — little small three-bedroom house. There were four boys in one bedroom, father and mother in the corner bedroom, and I don't know how this happened, but my sister in the master bedroom! It just happens that way sometimes. On a hot summer night like this, I can remember lying in my sweat hanging half way out the window trying to get a little bit of cool. And the day that we got an attic fan and started drawing a little bit of cool air from outside, that was like paradise! You would pull the window down — do you remember this, some of you? — where you would pull the window down where it's just about this much, and then you’d get that breeze coming through. That made all the difference in the world. And do you remember those little gas space heaters? Little heater like this…you’d strike a match and turn on the gas, and - phlip! - there would be the fire right there in the room, and you’d sit there in front of the fire. And it was called a “space heater” because it heated the space right in front of you, so your face was burning and your back was freezing, and you were smelling that gas all the time. And today you set you thermostat at 72, 75, whatever you like. Your house is so cool, all during the Mississippi summer. Don't’ forget that when it comes to fall time, you've got to go up to the wall and switch that dial from cooling to heating! That's a big job, you know, that you've got to do every year, so you get heat instead of cool.
I know — some of you know — that we are the wealthiest people that have ever lived in the history of the world. We right here live better than the ancient monarchs of the past. And I have just been given the charge to charge you: I charge you who are rich [and that includes myself] in this present world, don't be arrogant; don't think for a minute you are any way better than the poorest person that lives on the face of the earth.
We had a worker that just wanted us to come to his house so badly. So we went to his house. And there it was. Dirt floor. House no bigger than about a quarter of this first part up here. A little curtain separating the front part from the back part. Not one stick of furniture. No air conditioning. No attic fan. No gas for cooking or heating or anything else. No bathroom facilities. Not one stick of furniture. And he was so happy to have us into his house! And when his mother came to visit, “You mean those people, they came into your house?” She couldn't believe it!
“Charge those who are rich in this world that they be not arrogant.” Don't think that in any way you are better than anyone else in this world. “Nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.”
When I came to Union Seminary in Virginia, there was a road that went north of the seminary. It's a beautiful old campus there, and these large — I don't think they were antebellum homes. I don't think Sherman went through that part of the South, but I doubt there were many antebellum homes there, but they looked like it. They were set way back in these beautiful yards in the front, this street going up this way…it was called Suicide Row. Why was it called Suicide Row? It was called Suicide Row because during the Depression one after another of the owners of those houses committed suicide, because they had put their trust in uncertain riches. You know that China is on the way up, and who knows what that's going to do to our economy? Here today, gone tomorrow! “Do not trust in uncertain riches, but trust in the living God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” God wants you to have air conditioning; that's fine. He wants you to enjoy your life in this world.
Now, I can't remember one time that we as a family when I was growing up went out to dinner. I can't remember one time that we ever went out to dinner, except maybe once or twice we sent for chicken when we were on a holiday. But we never went out for dinner. Is there a family here that doesn't go out once or twice in the week for dinner anymore? I remember when the first McDonald's came to Jackson, and they said they were going to serve people breakfast. I said, “Yeah! Somebody's going to go out and eat breakfast at a restaurant! Never!” Well, times, they are a’changin.’ For the few dollars that you spend just taking your family out to dinner once a week, you could put a student through African Bible College and raise up someone who could minister to the needs of the poor.
In the north of Uganda, there are hundreds of traumatized children. Talk about abuse of bodies! The LRA — have you heard of them, the Lord's Liberation Army? What a terrible blasphemous name that is, the Lord's Liberation Army…the Lord's Resistance Army. They come into a village (this has been going on for 25 good years)…they come into a village, they kill all the adults, and then they take the children — eight, twelve, fifteen years of age. They impregnate the girls, and they take the little boys out and they brainwash them, and then they force them to terrorize other villages: to cut off ears, to cut off noses, to cut off lips [which seems like the worst to me!], they cut off breasts. They force them to kill their relatives so they can't come back to their own villages, and then they teach them how to use AK-47's to carry on their big projects.
We visited one of the places where some of these orphans that had escaped the LRA are living. You know, you give a child a blank sheet of paper and a few crayons and they draw a house or a dog, or an airplane or a car. You know what these children draw? They draw blood. They draw AK-47's. They are traumatized. One of our students, watched his father being killed by the LRA when he was about eight years of age. He wants to go back to that area. He's already on the way back to establish orphanages. Not the traditional kinds of orphanages, but cottages where there will be someone, a couple like a father and a mother, that will not only care for the material needs of these children, but will teach them Christian principles.
We have many street children in Kampala. Max Solley, one of our students, lived part of his growing up days as a street child. They’re coming in from the villages because the parents don't have any money to put them through school. You can put one of these children into a Christian boarding school for about $30 a month…about $30 a month. Max Solley is ministering among these street kids. They have a very nice man who comes around with these little sacks of airplane fuel, so when it's cold at night they can sniff the airplane fuel and not feel the cold so badly. What an open door! What an opportunity you have!
“Command those who are rich in this world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain; but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Take your family out to a meal.
“Command them to do good” — like Joseph of Arimathea, just a good man. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds”–be rich, not just in money, but in good deeds. Now you already are, but we all can do more. Match dollar for dollar what you spend out there for your own for the building of the kingdom of God — not necessarily in Africa, but throughout the world.
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
You’d know that just possessing goods is not truly life.
When I was just a tadpole preacher down in Hattiesburg as a summer assistant, I remember standing on the steps one Sunday morning after church and one of the business men came up to me and he said, “You’re doing something worthwhile with your life. All I've done for my life is make money. All I've done is make money.” Well, you know, you can do some good things if you make money! You can build the kingdom of God. While you have the opportunity, treat the church, the body of Christ, with tenderness.
III. Amazement, fear and
There is another way — one additional way — that we can respond to the body of Jesus. You have the opportunity before you tonight. You have the opportunity to be amazed, to fear, and to be obedient in response to the body of Jesus. Not the presence of the body of Jesus, but the absence of the body of Jesus!
Now I'm not going to take you into the debates about the ending of the Gospel of Mark, but just so you can note it down in your Bibles, you notice that some indicated that the Gospel of Mark ended with verse 8, rather than verse 20. Now just suppose it did end as the oldest manuscripts say, with verse 8. These women…not only Joseph of Arimathea, but three women…they cared for the body of Jesus. They bought ointments to come and anoint the body of Jesus. They came and they found the body was gone! The body was gone! “He is not here!” That is, His body is not here. “He is risen! See the place where they laid His body. It's not here.” What does that mean? What does that imply? That means that there is going to be a new kind of existence for human beings. There is going to be a resurrection not only of the first fruits, but all of us who are in Jesus. Be astonished, as they were:
“Trembling and bewildered, [they] went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
We were at the Kennedy Space Center and we saw the Saturn V rocket, as long as a football field, and our boys said, “That's amazing!” But even more amazing is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What it means is this world as we know it is not going to be the end of things. There is going to be a new life. Be amazed! Be bewildered!
“They went out and fled and said nothing to anyone….” They were being obedient, because the angel gave them very specific instructions: You go to the disciples, to the twelve, and particularly to Peter. They were like people with blinders on! They were going to do exactly what they were told to do. And you have that opportunity. Jesus says, “Go.” One way or another,
“Go to all the world. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
You have the opportunity to put some blinders on and be obedient to what Jesus has told you to do.
And they feared. What a strange way to end the Gospel. And yet, look again. Remember that right now at this point, they’re just where you are. Have you seen the body of Jesus? Anyone here seen the body of Jesus? No. They had not yet seen the body of Jesus, and there was something fearsome about it. There was something fearful about it that they hadn't seen the body, and yet they received a message from heaven that “He is arisen,” and they were awestruck, and feared. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The fear of the Lord is where we learn how to be obedient, to stand in awe that God cares for our bodies. One day we, as He, are going to be raised in the body. For now, you have this great opportunity. If you have the opportunity, which you do, what will you do with the body of Jesus?
Lord our God, we thank You for You patience, Your longsuffering with us. We stumble along with so much inherent weakness, failure, and lack of vision…..
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This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
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