Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Unbelief of Easter

Scripture: Mark 16:1-14
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
Three times in our scripture we find the words, "They did not believe."

The events of Easter cannot be reduced to a creed or philosophy. We are not asked to believe the doctrine of the resurrection. We are asked to meet this person raised from the dead.

In faith, we move from belief in a doctrine to a knowledge of a person. Ultimate truth is a person. We met him. He is alive!

Until we have had a living experience with the risen Lord then we will be like the disciples!

Jesus said of them, "He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart."

There are some things on my heart that I want to share with you about the unbelief of Easter.

One cannot believe until he has had a one-on-one meeting with Jesus.

It was not until He met with the followers that they could began to have faith in a Savior who had died right before their eyes.

I can give you a description of Jesus. I can tell you what He has done in my life. I can tell you what He has done for others. I can tell you what the Holy Word says about Jesus. I can read to you the words from the Bible that Jesus said. But until you have met Him one-on-one you cannot know the risen Lord. Until you realize that the tomb is empty you cannot have faith to accept the risen Lord.

Let's look at another part of the Easter story. Go with me to Luke 24:13-31.
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
We have in this scripture two sad travelers who had left the group of disciples on purpose to relieve the tension of anxiety and sorrow by walking and to get a quite time to bring their thoughts into some order. They were like someone who had come through an earthquake; they were stunned and physically done in. Their minds and conversation were filled with "things which had come to pass."

Jesus is never far away from us and He knows our every need. "So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them."

Alexander Maclaren said: "Honest occupation of mind with the truth concerning Him, and a real desire to know it, are not left alone."

What attracts Jesus to us?

In this case He saw their doubting hearts. He saw that their faith was sorely wounded .

Jesus will reveal to us the truth about Himself. Luke 24:25-28:
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
The more we open our hearts to Him, the more truth of Him will we receive!

Paul says in Ephesians 1:12-13:
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Again in verses 17-19:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Luke 24:29-32:
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
Look at some very important statements in this passage!
  1. They wanted Him to stay with them! (We need to invite Him to stay.)
  2. He stayed with them! (He will never leave us nor forsake us.)
  3. He ate with them! (He will always feed us with His Word.)
  4. He opened their eyes. (He revealed Himself.)
  5. He left them.
John 14:3:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Paul sums it up for us in Philippians 3:7-11:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Jesus Christ will certainly leave us if we do not detain Him.

Luke 24: 28-29:
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
He made as if He would leave them and He would have but they "constrained " Him. The Greek word for " constrained" is "to take by force".

Alexander Maclaren said: "He certainly will leave unless His retreating skirts be grasped at by outstretched hands of faith and desire, and the prayer be heard."

"Abide with us for it is toward evening." If there ever was a day when that request and prayer needs to be put forth it is certainly today! I feel that it is toward evening and it getting darker in the world. Time is running out!

Christ will not come into a heart where He isn’t invited! He will go on to someone else that desires Him!

He is infinitely wishful today, as He was on that Easter evening, to draw near to every heart. But He cannot come to us unless we desire Him and He cannot give to us more than we wish.

Matthew 13:58:
And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Because we have met Jesus and accepted Him as the living Savior, He gives us a wonderful promise!

Luke 24:49:
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
The last message that Jesus gave to the church was, "I send the promise of the Father."

Jeremiah 31:
"Behold, the days come," saith the Lord, "that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them," saith the Lord: "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days," saith the Lord, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people , And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord:' for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them," saith the Lord: "for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Joel 2:28-29:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Jesus told the disciples to wait for the fulfillment of these promises. It was to be a further work of God's grace in their hearts. Only one great reality was able to break through the persistent doubt and fear of the disciples to convince them of the Resurrection fact. That was the great reality of the risen Christ himself. Jesus had told them that he was going away!

John 14: 1-3:
“Let not your heart e troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not sop, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you. And If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you are also.”
Now, look at verse 15:
“And if you love Me, keep My commandments.”
How could they do that without Him?

Now, look at verses 16-17:
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever- The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
It is only in the power of the Spirit that the new covenant can be lived out in us. It is only in the promised endowment that we can in fact take up the cross and follow Him. It is only through the Spirit, that the gospel of repentance and forgiveness can be proclaimed with effectual force.

“The disciple's task is the extension of the Servant’s task, for in its fulfillment there is the presence and the power of the Servant’s Spirit.” (Beacon Expositions.)

What is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

He establishes our relationship.

The Bible clearly declares that man without Christ is separated from God. Our sins create a wall that separates us from the One by whom and for whom we were made.

Salvation is that experience in which we are brought back into a relationship with God. Our sins are removed. The barriers are broken down. The obstacles are swept away. We are reconciled to God. The death of Christ makes this reconciliation possible.

But how do we appropriate this new life? How do we enter into this new relationship? That is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convinces us of our need of Christ and draws us to him. He establishes our relationship with Christ.

He enriches our life.

When the Holy Spirit establishes us in a new relationship with God, he is not through with us. He has only begun. The Holy Spirit dwells in the life of the believer to help us experience the abundant life.

How does the Holy Spirit enrich our lives?

First, by giving us gifts. I Corinthians 12:7:
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
As we develop these gifts and dedicate them to the Lord, our lives will be enriched.

Second, by producing certain fruit within us. Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
When we allow the Holy Spirit to fill, control, and dominate our life, we will enjoy this fruit.

Third, by developing us toward Christlikeness. Ephesians 1:13-14:
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
The Holy Spirit helps our new nature win the victory over the old nature which still resides within us.

He enlightens our minds.

A specific aspect of this enrichment is what the Holy Spirit does to our mind. Jesus told His disciples that there were many things they could not yet understand (v. 12). The Holy Spirit, however, would reveal those things to them and guide them into all truth.

The promise, then, is that we will never be without our divine teacher. Every believer has a Master teacher dwelling within, the Spirit of truth.

He encourages our hearts.

The word "paraclete" which Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit is translated “Comforter” in the King James Version. The Greek word (parakletos) actually means “one called alongside to help.”

Life gets tough sometimes. Someone has suggested that everyone either is a problem, has a problem, or lives with one.

Depression and discouragement are familiar companions to us all. The promise of Jesus is that whenever discouragement and depression set in, the Holy Spirit is not just with us but within us to console us, to fill us with courage, to cheer us on, and to keep us going.

He empowers our spirits.

Jesus commanded his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. Attached to that command was a promise. Acts 1:8:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost. Luke described the scene in Acts 4:31:
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Trace your personal history and you will discover the same truth. Those moments of real power in our life came when we waited upon, yielded to, and were controlled by God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us with supernatural strength, enabling us to put into practice the things that Jesus taught.
Even If It's Dark

He was a strong man facing an enemy beyond his strength. His young wife had become gravely ill, then suddenly passed away, leaving the big man alone with a wide-eyed, flaxen-haired girl, not quite five years old. The service in the village chapel was simple, and heavy with grief. After the burial at the small cemetery, the man’s neighbors gathered around him.

"Please, bring your little girl and stay with us for several days," someone said. "You shouldn’t go back home just yet."

Brokenhearted though he was, the man answered, "Thank you, friends, for the kind offer, but we need to go back home--where she was. My baby and I must face this."

So, they returned, the big man and his little girl, to what now seemed an empty, lifeless house. The man brought his daughter’s little bed into his room so they could face the first dark night together. As the minutes slipped by that night, the young girl was having a dreadful time trying to sleep... and so was her father. What could pierce a man’s heart deeper than a child sobbing for a mother who would never come back? Long into the night, the little one continued to weep. The big man reached down into her bed, and tried to comfort her as best he could. After a while, the little girl managed to stop crying--but only out of sorrow for her father.

Thinking his daughter was asleep, the father looked up and said brokenly, "I trust You, Father, but... it’s dark midnight"

Hearing her dad’s prayer, the little girl began to cry again.

"I thought you were asleep, baby," he said.

"Papa, I did try. I was sorry for you. I did try, but--I couldn’t go to sleep. Papa, did you ever know it could be so dark? Why, Papa, I can’t even see you, it’s so dark." Then, through her tears, the little girl whispered, "But you love me, even if it’s dark--don’t you, Papa? You love me even if I don’t see you, don’t you, Papa?"

For an answer, the big man reached across with his massive hands, lifted his little girl out of her bed, brought her over onto his chest and held her, until at last she fell asleep. When she was finally, quiet, he began to pray. He took his little daughter’s cry to him, and passed it up to God. "Father, it’s dark as midnight. I can’t see You at all, but You love me, even when it’s dark and I can’t see, don’t You?"

From the blackest of hours, the Lord touched him with new strength, enabling him to carry on. He knew that God went on loving him, even in the dark.
- Ron Mehl
This Easter, the risen Christ is with us always if we if we put our faith in Him!

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