The Message Cannot Be Contained

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04/12/2009 The Message Cannot Be Contained Knox 16 PC

243/252/250 Psalm 118:14-24 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Mark 16:1-8

OOPS! A certain man wanted to destroy Christianity and replace it with his own religious system. When he failed to interest anyone in following him, he went to the French statesman Tallyrand for advice. Talleyrand replied, "Go and be crucified, and then raise yourself from the grave the third day."  
  UGH! Are we failing to tell people today about the risen Jesus Christ because we are afraid that people will not believe us? Will we be looked at as though we had two heads or perhaps a third eye in our forehead?
Women were not a very credible commodity in the days of the Bible. The men were superior in almost any way that meant anything in their society. Who would believe their story. It appears here that Jesus did not appear before the aristocrats of the nation. But he appeared before his followers who represented the lowest of the low classes in almost every situation. Where is the credibility?  
  Although the word of women lacks credibility among the Jews, the corroboration of the three cannot be disclaimed, particularly when they come to the tomb with doubt and leave with fear, telling no one what they have seen.
When something exciting happens you cannot hold it in. If it's for real it cannot be contained. A measure of our faith in Jesus Christ will be indicated by the kind of excitement and joy that we have even in the face of great opposition.  
  Several years ago when I had watched my left leg grow almost a full inch in front of me in a house church meeting where people had laid their hands on me and prayed, there was great excitement. I had walked around with his liability for my whole life and now it was gone. I decided that I had better not tell my wife because she would think I was nuts. She was out of town on a course for a few days with a girlfriend. And knowing that her girlfriend was more sceptical than my wife it convinced me not to say anything.
As we talked on the telephone however my wife said to me there's something going on, what's been going on. I said nothing, everything is okay. She didn't believe me because she could sense an excitement bubbling up in me. And so I told her. She thought I was nuts. But the more I told her, the more she seemed to be convinced that may be something had happened. When you get home I'll show you everything. That is only an example of an encounter with the risen Christ. What about those who saw him for real, those first Christians? They were filled with an excitement that they couldn't keep in.  
  AHA! "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. You are approaching the tomb where your loved one has been laid. You are not sure that anyone has looked after embalming him. They did not use undertakers in those days. And then you meet an angel at the tomb.
WHEE! It has been a tough week. Your teacher and close friend has descended from the height of popularity to the depths degradation, being beaten within an inch of his life, and then taken out and publicly executed with a criminal’s form of execution. Then there was a time out to worship God. It was the Sabbath, everything stop. What was there to celebrate. Everything He had told about this has happened. You are not sure if the last part of His prediction has come true. Then you meet an angel. Who will believe you? You flee the scene and you cannot say anything.  
  Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. The Greek word used for that verb trembling is a word we use in measuring earthquakes. How many Richters on the scale were there at the tomb. How in the world is the word going to get out that Jesus Christ is risen, if no one's going to go and tell anybody?
A judge in Yugoslavia had an unfortunate accident. He was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. His wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor. He was pronounced dead and, as was the custom in that particular town, he was placed in a room under a crypt in the town cemetery for 24 hours before burial. In the middle of the night, the judge came to, realized where he was, and rushed over to alert the guard, who promptly ran off terrified. "Fortunately, he returned with a friend, and they released the newly revived judge, whose first thought was to phone his wife and reassure her. He got no farther than, 'Darling, it's me--' when she screamed and fainted. Next he went to the houses of several friends, who were sure he was a ghost. In a last desperate measure, he called a friend in a distant city, who had not heard of his death, and who interceded for him with his family and friends."  
  It obviously took a number of meetings with Jesus and a select group of people to get the message out. It says here that he was crucified; he died. But then he was raised from the dead! In the Gospel of John we are told that Mary Magdalene met Jesus at the tomb. She went and told the disciples who were not too sure her message was credible.
  Nevertheless, Peter and another apostle went to the tomb to check it out. The tomb was empty. This is a great problem with which other religions try to deal with and which they cannot deal with indeed. The tomb was empty. His body was not to be found anywhere.
There was a select group of about 500 plus people who saw Jesus. We note that the apostle makes no mention of the women at the tomb. There were a number of men and women who met together in a great revival meeting when Jesus showed up for them all. It must've been quite a revival.  
  We cannot lightly dismiss the body of living testimony to the resurrection. Only three explanations seem possible. One is that they were inventions; the second that they were hallucinations; the third that they were true.
Were they inventions? For one thing the narratives are sober and unadorned; for another they are graphic, and enlivened by the detailed touches which sound like the work of an eye-witness. No one could call them good inventions. We should have been careful to avoid the complicated jigsaw puzzle of events which the four Gospels together produce. We should have eliminated, or at least watered down, the doubts and fears of the apostles.  
  We should have probably included a dramatic account of the resurrection itself, describing the power and glory of the Son of God as He broke the bonds of death and burst from the triumph. It is the obvious fact that the apostles, and so the evangelists and the early church, were sublimely convinced that Jesus had risen. Its writers may have been tragically misled; they were not deliberately misleading.
A hallucination is the apparent perception of an external object when no such object is present, and is associated most frequently with someone who is neurotic, if not actually psychotic.  
  Hallucinations have also been known to occur in quite ordinary and normal people, and in such cases two characteristics may usually be discerned. First, they happen as the climax to a period of exaggerated wishful thinking. Second, the circumstances of time, place and mood are favourable. There must be the strong inward desire and the predisposing outward setting.
When the women first found the tomb empty, they fled in trembling and astonishment and were afraid. When Mary Magdalene and the other women reported that Jesus was alive, the apostles would not believe it, and their words seemed to them an idle tale. When Jesus Himself came and stood in their midst they were startled and frightened, and supposed they saw a spirit, so that Jesus upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.  
  They worshipped Him; but some doubted. The disciples were not gullible, but rather cautious, sceptical and slow of heart to believe. Their faith was grounded upon the hard facts of verifiable experience.
If the appearances had all taken place in one or two particularly sacred places, which had been hallowed by memories of Jesus, and their mood had been expectant, our suspicions might well be aroused.  
  An investigation of the ten appearances reveals an almost studied variety in the circumstances of person, place and mood in which they occurred. If there was a variety in person and place, there was a variety in mood also. If they were neither inventions nor hallucinations, the only alternative left is that they actually happened. The risen Lord was seen.
Anyone who has stood in the presence of God loses the glibness of a smooth and ready tongue. Trembling hands, whirling mind, and faltering heart—these are the after-effects of meeting God face to face. Fear so ties their tongues that Jesus will have to confirm the fact of His Resurrection by personal appearances rather than by spoken word.  
  In A Slow and Certain Light, Elizabeth Elliot told about her father’s experiences with angelic helpers: “My father, when he was a small boy, was climbing on an upper story of a house that was being built. He walked to the end of a board that was not nailed at the other end, and it slowly began to tip. He knew that he was doomed, but inexplicably the board began to tip the other way, as though a hand had pushed it down again. He always wondered if it was an angel’s hand.
Today, I am going to ask you a very important question. How many of you here are truly excited that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead? And that he is in this very sanctuary with us today in the power of his Spirit? If you are not excited now, would you like to be excited? Jesus makes a promise. Jesus keeps the promise.  
  YEAH! Sir John Gardner Wilkinson has been called the first British Egyptologist. In 1824, he began excavations in the royal tombs at Thebes. Many of the antiquities he discovered were sent to the British Museum. In 1844, the librarian at the Museum received a package from Egypt. In the package, Wilkinson had sent a vase that was found closely sealed in a mummy pit. The librarian, hoping to find papyri, was disappointed when the vase only yielded a few old and wrinkled peas. The peas were planted on June 4, 1844 and surprisingly within 30 days the peas had sprouted to life.

INVOCATION Amazing and Surprising God, we come to this mountaintop day to be fed and freed. Show us our salvation in the depth of our beings so we can never again be the same. Roll away the stones that keep us from all that is true and right, that we might live without pretense or fear as followers of Jesus. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION We tremble, Mighty God, before your awesome power to bring good from evil, new life from death. We have done things our own way, putting ourselves first and sometimes trying to be God. We have rejected the way of Jesus, whom you made faith's cornerstone, because self-giving love seems so impractical and dangerous. 0 God, we want to live more faithful lives, for our old behaviour is not fulfilling, and there is no peace inside us or around us. Help us, God, and deliver us from our self. Amen.

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