Well, happy Easter, everyone!
If you brought a Bible with you today or find one on your device, you can find Mark chapter 16.
Those were great… testimonies, were they not? Amen! And we’re so grateful to God that when He does a work in somebody’s life, when He does a resurrection work in somebody’s life, it’s very difficult to hold that back. The Apostle Paul said,
[in 2 Corinthians 4:13-17] “I believed therefore, I have spoken.”
My wife and I both attend the same gym. But we were not there at the same time when she gave a card to the young man behind the counter. She shared Jesus with him a little bit and in the process told the young man that, (and she doesn’t do this very often) she said, “My husband is the pastor of the church.” The young man said, “Really? I don’t know him. He never talks to me.” It occurred to me that’s the first time I’ve ever been accused of not talking to somebody. [congregation heard laughing]
When the women who witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ did so, they were told, ‘Don’t keep this to yourself.’
Mark chapter 16:1- 4; 1 “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus]. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.”
Matthew tells us an angel did it, and then Matthew says he sat on it, which I always think is kind of funny. But anyway, it was very large. It says,
Mark 16:5-8; “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, 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 that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
So the resurrection of Jesus Christ is true. It actually happened! But what good is the resurrection if we don’t talk to people about it? For the resurrection of Jesus to go forth, it first had to be believed by those who witnessed it and then declared by them to others. The women in this passage we just read who witnessed it told the disciples. The disciples who then witnessed, it told Jesus’s followers, and the followers of which we know later on there were over 500 at that time, would tell the world. This is the reason why we’re told later on the church was turning the world upside down! Something happened to the believers in those early days, and that something is the resurrection of Jesus Christ… wait for it… IN them! It actually happened! I mean, all of these evidences should be verifiable enough… Amen? But maybe not entirely. How about real time, “our time”, verification? Our time verification is what tells the world Jesus has risen.
Just a couple of years after I became a Christian during the Cold War in the early 80s, Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States, was having nuclear disarmament talks with Mikhail Gorbachev. Some of you remember that. In the middle of talks, there was a Russian specialist that worked with President Reagan. She was a specialist in the language and the culture of Russia, and she said, “Mr. President, there’s an expression that Russians use that might be helpful to you in your talks with Mr. Gorbachev.” He said, “I want to know it. I want to memorize it. I want to say it!” Some of you know what that Russian expression was. And he shared it with Gorbachev. He said, “Doveryai, no proveryai”, which meant literally ‘trust but verify.’ In other words, I trust you’re going to take those nuclear arms down, but I’d like to verify it. I want to know, I want to see if you really are willing to do that. It’s a great line, trust but verify. It also has biblical underpinnings. It has biblical roots.
In John 10, when Jesus was being confronted by his enemies, he said these profound words. He said, ‘If you don’t believe me, believe the works that I do.’
[John 10:37-38 “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”]
Have you ever read that? With that expression, Jesus affirmed that, yes, truth needs verification.
We live in a day like none other that truth needs verification. Today, truth is under fire in the most insidious of ways. Not outright denial. People aren’t just outrightly denying the truth like Pilate [who said] “What is truth?” But it’s now relativism. They’re saying, ‘What’s your truth?’ In other words, they’re not denying that there is ‘a’ truth out there. They just denying that there’s The Truth… objective, once and for all, Truth. Some of you may be like that. You may be thinking, ‘Well, you know, to each their own… you believe this… I believe that… whatever. You know, we all have our truth… Right? Amen?’ Please don’t say amen! (congregation laughing)
What about you? If you’re a follower of Jesus, how does a Christian respond to such skepticism… such cynicism? How do you respond to somebody who just says, ‘What’s your truth?’ Hey, how about with The Truth…Amen?! Somebody’s skepticism or disbelief in the truth doesn’t change The Truth. It changes them! So we still go with the truth of God.
On the other hand, what if, beyond the Bible, beyond the truth itself, we could produce real time, verifiable evidence that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead just as he said? I mean, the Bible contains a lot of verification, a lot of evidences that Jesus rose. Many of you know what those are. One’s right here in the text, in verse six; the empty tomb.
[Mark 16:6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.]
It’s not like the angel came out of the empty tomb and said to those women, ‘He is risen! He took off a while back! Go and tell everybody about it!’ If you read it more carefully, he says, ‘Come in here. Check it out. He’s gone!’ The empty tomb, witnessed by many, is clear, verifiable evidence Jesus rose from the dead. And, by the way, it’s STILL true! The stone wasn’t rolled away to let Jesus out. It was rolled away to let us in… Amen?!
So to verify that He’d risen from the dead…
There were also multiple witnesses. You’ve got these women, then you’ve got Peter, you’ve got John, you’ve got James, you’ve got all the disciples that are left. Then you’ve got the 500 later on. This is verifiable by multiple witnesses and multiple appearances! Jesus didn’t just raise from the dead and then just ascend right up into heaven. The Bible tells us that he stuck around. He hung out. He went fishing… well, He actually just brought the fish in… That’s a different story. But He ate. Jesus hung around for 40 days, a month and a half, to verify that He had risen. Luke puts it like this in Acts 1, ‘He proved it with many infallible or verifiable truths. multiple days that He was with us.’
[Acts 1:3 “He presented Himself alive to them after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”]
But there is one other verifiable evidence, then and now, that we lean on. This verifiable evidence is not old. It’s new. All of those other evidences took place during those first few weeks and months after Jesus rose from the dead. And here it is, this is the last one… multiplied, changed lives. Think about this for a moment. Jesus’ disciples, upon His resurrection, went from snivering, scaredy cats… to fearless lions! They did so because of the resurrection placed in them. They believed it! Christianity is the only religion on earth that claims its leader came back to life! We serve, as the old hymn puts it, “A risen Savior”… Amen?
One of the most radically saved lives of all of those radically saved and changed lives was Peter’s. Of the 12 disciples, two of them became casualties; one eternally and the other temporarily. Judas was the eternal tragedy, having betrayed Jesus. He then sealed his destiny by killing himself. The other was Peter. If you know anything about Peter, he was bold. He was brash. He was boastful. Just hours before Jesus would die… remember what he said? Jesus said, ‘You know, Peter, you’re going to deny me three times before the cock crows.’ [Peter] goes, ‘If everybody else falls away, I’ll never fall away.’ Jesus interrupts him, doubles down, and then Peter doubles down and says he’ll never do it! Peter lived in denial before he ever denied Jesus.
Some of you might be living in denial here this morning. You’re trusting 100 other things, but the resurrected Jesus, Himself, and it’s evident. There’s no resurrection evidence in your life, your life hasn’t been changed. The Bible tells us,
[2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”]
But I can relate to Peter. I’m a lot more like Peter than I am like Jesus. Can I get an ‘Amen’ on that? Not because of me. I’m talking about you. Can you say the same thing about yourself? I can relate to Peter and his boastfulness for sure.
Every so often, someone on staff will say, ‘Pastor, you said _________’ to which I’ll reply, “I never said that!” Two or three others will say, ‘Yes, you did.’ That’s the thing about it. When you make bold claims, people remember what you said.
Peter had some incredibly bold assertions, He even doubled down on them. Then, after all of that, he went out and denied Jesus, repeatedly. When the rooster crowed, just as Jesus said it would, he wept bitterly!
Speaking of roosters, I want to remind you of my old friend, Aussie… no longer with us anymore. Aussie was an Australian rooster. And he, like Peter, was big, bold, brash and boastful. I met Aussie! He crowed all the time. One of the guys in our church who owned Aussie, invited me out to see him one day. Aussie just crowed, strutted… even attacked his owner once when he went to clean out his cage! His owner hated him… but he also loved him because he was so cool! One day, a commotion took place. The owner ran outside as some animal went running off, and he saw piles of black feathers, some over here and some over there. He thought, “He got Aussie!” And he did get him, but Aussie was still alive. He saw him just sort of limping around. I asked Tom, the owner, “So, what happened? He said, “Pastor, that happened over a week ago. And Aussie hasn’t crowed since!” Then Tom said to me, “I think he got the rooster kicked out of him!”
That’s what happened to Peter. He got the rooster kicked out of him… and that’s what needs to happen to some of you! Your pride and your religion, your good works, the nice things you do… If you think those things are going to get you into heaven, why would you believe on Jesus? He came to die for you and rise again, because you couldn’t do that for yourself. So let God kick the rooster out of you this morning.
But I do wonder as I think about Peter. I wonder if in his guilt that he was experiencing if he felt no difference from Judas. You know… the deceiver or the deny-er. What’s the difference? I mean, ‘I’m not dead’ Peter might have thought, ‘but at least, but I might as well be [dead].’
So that’s what makes the text we just read so precious! When the angel announced to those three women that they were to go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen, here’s what they said. “Go tell his disciples that He’s going before you to Galilee where you’ll see Him just as He told you.” That’s almost exactly the way Matthew puts it. But actually, those of you who know Mark’s gospel know that that’s not quite complete. There are two very precious words in there, and here they are… “and Peter.” This is actually how that verse looks.
Mark 16:7, “Go tell His disciples… and Peter…”
Isn’t that precious?
“That He’s going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.”
Just focus on those two words for a moment…” and Peter”, because on this resurrection morning “and Peter” means you are not forgotten by God.
During World War I, there was an area where Britain and Germany fought each other that was called “No Man’s Land”. It was a desolate area. All it had were dead soldiers and burned up armament. To go out into no man’s land was to risk your life. But every once in a while, soldiers would have to leave their trenches to do so. There is a true story that took place during World War I where one soldier did leave his trench and was shot in no man’s land. He lay there mortally wounded. The superior officer in the trench told the other soldiers to hold back, but one [soldier] couldn’t. He bolted from the trench, ran to the wounded soldier and drug him back. In the process, he was shot and mortally wounded himself. As he made his way to the trenches, his superior officer chastised him… “What did you do?! I told you not to go! Why would you do that?!” As he was dying, he looked at his superior officer and he said to him, “He was my friend, and when I got to him, he He said, “I knew you would come!”
Let me tell you something. Jesus Christ has crossed into “No Man’s Land” for you and for me. He’s taken the mortal wound…Amen? And He has risen again to say to you this morning, ‘You are not forgotten and, Peter… you’re not forgotten!” He’s come for you!
Secondly, “… and Peter” means, you are included by God. Remember the text says, “Go tell his disciples… and Peter.” There were 10 others that did not deny Jesus. They didn’t run from Him… Right? The angel didn’t give any of them a shout out. But here’s the point. Listen carefully. They didn’t need one. Peter did. None of us like to be excluded from anything… Right? … especially when it’s friends or family. We feel bad about that. We can only imagine what Peter was going through. But he needed this word from God. ‘Tell his disciples and, while you’re at it, tell Peter too.’ He’s included. God wants to include you. Would you believe that today?
One more thing… “And Peter” says, ‘You can still be redeemed by God.’ This was not Peter’s first screw up, and it wouldn’t be his last. The resurrection did not make Peter perfect, but it did profoundly change him… just like it’ll do for you. It will change you! Peter went from a truth deny-er to a truth proclaimer, thus verifying Jesus had risen! Wouldn’t you agree with me, it’s hard to argue with a changed life?
You heard those testimonies. Those are changed lives. How does an atheist go from a Christ deny-er to a Christ proclaimer just as you heard? Grace… mercy… Jesus Christ risen from the dead… Amen?! That can be your story. This phrase “and Peter” says God can and will redeem you, as well. These baptisms are the verification that resurrection is still changing people today. And it can change you! Would you join these who have trusted Jesus and verified it through testimony and baptism? Some of you right here, right now would acknowledge, I hope in your heart, there’s never been change. There’s never been conversion. You’ve never even desired it.
One of the things I loved about Luke Hardy’s testimony was, he said, “At some point, I recognize I was a sinner.” And then he said, “I think for the first time, because that’s what I was.” Some of you have heard that your sinner all your life. But you never really recognized it… until just now! And if you would recognize that, you can go from death to life by trusting in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus. Will you trust Him today on Easter morning?
Pray with me, would you please?
Our Father in Heaven, how grateful we are for the resurrected Lord Jesus, and for all of these witnesses, all of these verifications, that He is alive! Not the least of which, Lord, the multiple changed lives from that moment to this present moment. We have witnessed it this morning. You are still changing lives through your resurrected Son! How grateful we are! Oh, God, would You touch some hearts in this room right now or some watching online who’ve never been resurrected spiritually? There’s no evidence of life in them. If that’s you dear friend, would you acknowledge your sin? Believe Christ died for you, and then very simply by faith, trust Him as your Lord and Savior. If you’ll do that, you’ll have the resurrected life. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.