Thank you for the brothers who read God’s Word, which is always an encouragement. Thank you for brother Matthew for that special music and for always just showing your heart before the Lord, which challenges me.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, on this resurrection Sunday, we are in different places spiritually. But Lord, You know exactly where we are. We thank You that You’re a Lord that meets us where we are. We pray that You can encourage us, You can strengthen us, You can revive us. Wherever we are, Father, we pray that we can meet You. We give You this time. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
The reason why we don’t say happy Easter is because I don’t think it’s right. Well, first of all, the Easter bunny. That is, bunnies are known for being very reproductive. Within 25 to 28 days, they can have a litter of baby bunnies. And I think it’s not by accident. That is a symbol of Easter. But the deeper spiritual meaning is Ishtar, is the goddess of fertility in biblical times. The Syrians and Babylonians practiced this worship, this goddess of fertility and war. Also there is the Asherah among the Hittites, Canaanites, same goddess. There is the Ashtoreth, the same goddess which was worshiped among the Phoenicians and the Egyptians.
This Ishtar was also known as the Morning Star, which is sacrilegious. In Isaiah 14, Lucifer was a bright angel before he fell. And he is called the Morning Star or the son of the morning in Isaiah 14. Jesus is the bright Morning Star. So it’s a twisting of who Jesus is in Revelation 22. Ishtar was also associated with Venus and a six-pointed star. She is also known as the Queen of Heaven. There are some singers in modern days who call themselves the Queen of Heaven. We know who they’re worshiping. And it’s the goddess of love and war. That’s why on this Sunday we say Happy Resurrection Sunday.
Please turn with me to Mark 9. And we will also read Mark 16. Mark 9, this is a father whose son had a mute spirit causing the boy to have epileptic seizures. And first the father brings the boy to Jesus and then he brings the boy, well first to the disciples and then to Jesus.
22 And often he was thrown both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us, 23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:22-24)
And then flipping to Mark 16:15:
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)
And then in Matthew 28, “11 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 12 And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:16-17)
Today I want to talk about faith or belief. And even in these texts there is a range of belief. And in a, even a church of our size, I’m sure there’s many different nuances of how much we believe, how strong our faith is. We’re all in different places. For some, we have, I mean you’re here and so there’s already some level of faith, just the fact that you show up. Maybe you’re just being obedient to your parents, we’re not sure. But you have some level of obedience / faith which allows you to be here.
And like this father who first brought his son who is suffering from this mute spirit, first he brought him to the disciples; they couldn’t help him, then he brings him to Jesus. And he says, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
And so there’s at least some belief there, but it’s shaky. It’s mixed with doubt. He knows Jesus is capable of doing it but will He do it for me in this situation? That takes faith.
And so Mark 16, which is Mark’s version of the Great Commission, that is the proof of somebody who has strong belief or faith. And that person has certain signs that follow them. It says they will cast out demons in Jesus’ name, they’ll speak with new tongues, they’ll be supernaturally protected from the poison of serpents, they will be bold, they will be vocal, they will be courageous, they will have supernatural events that they will be able to perform in Jesus’ name. And so that is the standard.
And then in Matthew 28’s account when Jesus preached before He ascended, some worshiped so that is strong faith, they worshiped but others oddly enough after even witnessing Jesus they doubted. I want to talk today about different reactions to the resurrection because I think when we look at the story of people’s reactions to seeing the resurrected Christ I think it mirrors the hearts of people even today. And I’m sure you can locate yourself in one of these stories.
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is 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 into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:5-8)
Before I talk about the reaction of the women because it was women who were the first to witness the resurrection of Jesus. We see the heart of God here that He singles out Peter. Is it because he is the leader or is it because Peter in this instance is the weaker brother, that he is on the verge of possibly throwing in the towel and falling away?. I think it’s the latter.
We talked about it on a Good Friday. Peter was so strong in his faith when Jesus was strong in His faith. But when the Shepherd was struck (Zechariah 13:7), he saw the weakness of Jesus and he’s never seen it before. He’s only seen miracles. He’s only seen multiplication of bread and fish and Jesus always having an answer. Jesus having authority. He’s never seen the weakness of Jesus.
And when the shepherd was struck, all the sheep scattered including Peter. And Peter was the one who says, “I will never leave you. I’m ready to die for you.” He’s not lying. He pulled out a sword. He struck the high priest’s servant’s ear. He was ready to die. But when Jesus said “put away the sword,” Peter, when he saw the Shepherd being struck, allowing Himself to be struck. And he saw the apparent weakness of Jesus, suddenly, Peter felt weak and he scatters.
And so God’s heart, you’re seeing it here. His heart is for the weaker brother. And so if you feel weak, if you feel like I have nothing to share on a Sunday, I’m not qualified. I’m not worthy. Let it be known that God’s heart is for you. God’s heart is for you. The one who is struggling, the one who didn’t even want to be here. The one who says, we’re supposed to be happy on this day. I don’t feel that happy. I’m not rejoicing in my heart. Everybody else is rejoicing. Everybody else is putting on a smiley face. But for me, I don’t feel it. Know that God’s heart is for you. You could put your name there. Singling out Peter, you could put your name there. God’s heart is for you.
And the reaction of these women is odd. So you have to kind of piece it together. If you just read one of the gospel accounts, you don’t even know who’s there. You see it’s Mary Magdalene. It’s Mary the mother of James. It’s Joanna. It’s other women. But you don’t see it if you just read one account. You have to kind of piece it all together.
And so these multiple women, they’re amazed it says, “but they’re silent for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8)
And that might be some of us here. There is some faith there. You’ve seen some miracles in your life. Maybe it wasn’t even in your life, but you’ve seen it around you. You’re amazed. You’re stunned by the fact that God can raise from the dead, and Jesus might actually be who He says He is. There is amazement. But you’re silent. You rarely talk about Jesus. You rarely take an opportunity to testify when you’re given a chance. There’s some faith there, but for whatever reason, you’re holding back.
And for these women, the reason it says is because they were afraid. And what kind of fear is this? The fear of looking like a fool. The fear of what people might say when they don’t respond favorably to your testimony about Jesus. The fear of rejection, the fear of what people will say of you. You didn’t say it well. You’re not eloquent. Why are you going up there? Why are you sharing? You’re not qualified. You’re not gifted. Just stay silent. And there’s that voice. So instead of Mark 16 in boldness, casting out demons in Jesus’ name, you stay silent because there is fear. That’s one reaction to the resurrection.
9 Now when He arose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him as they mourned and wept. 11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. (Mark 16:9-11)
So first He appears, the angel, some young man who is a messenger of Jesus, appears to the women. Now Jesus is appearing to Mary Magdalene. She was there at the first meeting with the angel. Now she is meeting Jesus Himself. And now Mary Magdalene has overcome her fear and she is going to testify about the risen Lord to the disciples.
And the disciples’ reaction is there is no faith. That’s another reaction to the resurrection Sunday. There’s no faith. And you are in good company. This includes Peter, James, John, the apostles. They had no faith. So if you don’t have any faith, welcome to the club. You’re not on the outskirts. You’re not a misfit. You’re not somebody who shouldn’t be here on a resurrection Sunday. You’re welcome in this place because the apostles had no faith. They heard the testimony from these women and they did not believe.
Another reaction, “8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24:8-11)
12 But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened. (Luke 24:12)
And I want to jump to also Mark John 20. This is Mary Magdalene again telling the disciples, but it adds John also runs to the tomb.
8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. (John 20:8-9)
And so the first reaction of the disciples is this is a fairy tale. So it’s not just they didn’t believe, but now there’s some little mockery there. There’s a little sarcasm. This is made up. These women, they must be drunk. They must have seen something. This is not possible. This is a Dr. Seuss kind of a story. This is unbelievable. And yet Peter and also John, they run to the tomb. So their first response is, I don’t believe, but now they’ve become a seeker of sorts.
There’s some faith there for them to run and see for themselves. And so some of us here, you don’t believe or you’re a seeker and you’re welcome in this place. You have a lot of questions. You don’t believe in the resurrection, but, but for whatever reason you’re here and you’re asking questions, your questions are welcome here before the Lord. The Lord wants to meet you and answer all of your questions.
Peter and John are struggling with unbelief. They run to the tomb. They don’t quite believe, but they want to find out more. And I find John’s reaction remarkable. It says in verse nine that the scripture had not been revealed. They didn’t know it yet that the dead will rise. Some and all of us who are in Christ, we will all rise from the dead. They did not understand this yet. But John simply by seeing the empty tomb, he believed. Peter saw the same empty tomb. His reaction is not recorded. Did he believe? We’re not sure. John had a simple faith, just the fact that the tomb is empty.
8 He saw and believed.” (John 20:8)
What remarkable faith.
A fourth reaction is John’s faith that’s growing. He hasn’t even seen the resurrected Jesus yet for Himself. The empty tomb is enough evidence for him. His faith is already growing. He believed because he said, let me see for myself. And he got the proof he needed. That’s all he needed. He believed. Peter, we’re not sure yet.
Then in John 20, Jesus appears to all the disciples. And in particular, He’s coming to the disciples. And while He came to all the disciples initially, Thomas wasn’t there. And so He comes again. This time, Thomas is there. And so we pick up the account in John 20, verse 26.
26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29)
There’s a fifth reaction to the resurrection. I won’t believe you, Lord, unless you prove it. You come from a science background, like you need evidence. You need to run an experiment and needs to come out. Then you will believe. There’s room for you here as well. If you’re that kind of person, you just need undeniable evidence. Then you will believe you’re welcome in God’s house. He wants to meet you.
Who here has seen the resurrected Christ in the flesh with your eyes, any one of us? No? Who’s seen Jesus in a dream or vision? One, two, three, I include myself for. Who’s heard Jesus’ voice? Raise your hand. Many more of us. Praise the Lord. You don’t have to see Jesus. You’re resurrected Jesus with your own eyes. You may see it in a dream or a vision. You may hear it whispered to you, Jesus’ voice. You may see His signs and His wonders, healings like Brother Ed. You might see somebody hear a testimony of something supernatural that happened in that person’s life.
But the point is, if you’re the kind of person who needs proof, Jesus will give it to you. Rest assured, He will give it to you. In His time and His way, He will give it to you. We don’t know how Jesus will meet you. He’s met all of us differently, but Jesus will meet you where you are. In His time, His way, if you’re the kind of person that says, I need proof, rest assured, proof is coming. It will come. And you will believe, like Thomas, the sixth reaction, the final one.
13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. (Luke 24:13-16)
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, their reaction is, I’m going home. It’s over. I was a disciple. I was a follower of Jesus. He’s dead now. I’m going home. It’s similar to Peter’s reaction. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.”
3 So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John 21:3)
In John 21, he says, I am going fishing. He says it to Thomas. He says it to Nathaniel. He says it to James and John, the sons of Zebedee. He says it to two other disciples. And when this group of disciples heard Peter say, “I’m going fishing,” their response is, “I’m going with you, Peter.” Why? Because they’re worried for Peter. Peter is in danger. Peter is a fisherman. Him saying, “I’m going back to fishing” is like the people, the two on the road to Emmaus. “I’m going back home.” That’s how discouraged Peter is. His discouragement came from a deep, deep disappointment with himself. And if you are deeply disappointed with yourself, there’s room for you as well. Jesus will meet you.
And you feel like going home for me would be like if I was a single man and I gave Jesus a try. “I’m going back to Philly, California. I gave it a try. I gave Jesus a try. It’s not here. I’m going to root for my sixers. I’m going to watch Eagles games. I’m going back to Philly.” That’s similar to the road to Emmaus. That’s similar to Peter saying, “I am going fishing.” Anyone who’s watched, looked into the eyes of depression in Peter’s eyes, this deep disappointment with himself.
You hear Peter say that you’re worried and you say, “I’m going with you.” If you are in that kind of a case, that kind of a mental state, how blessed it is when you have people who notice it and they say, “I’m going to be with you.” That is the love of God that He surrounds you with people who notice the state that you’re in. And God doesn’t leave you alone. He sends friends. He sends family members. He doesn’t want you to be alone with your thoughts so that you throw in the towel.
Remember how Jesus met Peter for the first time? He met him while fishing. How is He going to meet him now? Again, He’s going to meet him through fishing, a full circle. And that just tells me the tenderness of the Lord. If I was fishing, first of all, I don’t fish, but if I were fishing and Jesus met me while I was fishing, it wouldn’t move me. Matthew is a praise leader. And so often God meets him when he sings praise. You saw it.
How the Lord meets you is so tailor made to who you are and where you are. If you’re a fisherman, guess what? And you’re discouraged and you’re going back to fishing, guess what? He’s going to meet you there. He’s going to bring back all the memories. God met me in Berkeley. Maybe someday God will meet me again in Berkeley because I met Him there and maybe God will send me there. Who knows? And so wherever you are, God’s tenderness is He sees you.
If you remember the first time He met you and maybe along the way, you got discouraged. You got deeply disappointed with yourself and you almost threw in the towel. You’re thinking about it maybe even now. And how God will meet you is by bringing things to memory. And when He meets you in that tailor made way, you will say, “God, you really see me. Like Nathaniel under a fig tree. He says, ‘You see me. You saw me under the fig tree. Now you know I have no deceit. How do you know me like this?’ (John 1:48) God knows us this tenderly.
He will meet you in a way that’s only for you. And that’s why no matter where you are, I am confident as long as you hold on to Jesus, He will meet you where you are in His time, His way, and it will fit you. It will fit your way. That’s how tender it is. So if you are weak in your faith, God will meet you so that you become a little bolder to speak up and not care what people think. If you have no faith, you just don’t believe that unbelief. Just bring it to Jesus. He will meet you in your unbelief.
If you have a faith of a seeker, you’re not really here on your own will. He dragged you here, or it’s just a tradition. You just feel like, at least I should show up to a church on a resurrection Sunday. God will meet you with the faith of a seeker as you’re struggling with unbelief as He did Peter and John who ran to an empty tomb. If your faith is growing, but it’s not where it should be, the Lord will meet you right where you are so that it keeps growing until you have absolute faith.
If you’re like Thomas and say, I need proof, this is different than an unbeliever who says, give me a sign. Jesus doesn’t address those kind of people. But if you really have a heart for Jesus, you really want to believe you’re very sincere and genuine and you ask for proof like Thomas guaranteed, He will give it to you. He will give you the proof and you will believe.
And those who are deeply disappointed in Jesus on this Sunday, as He did Thomas, I mean as He did Peter, as He did Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus, Jesus will meet you so that you don’t give up. Just hold on to Jesus and He will meet you where you are in His time, His way, and it will fit your way.
Father, on this Resurrection Sunday, we are in different places in our spiritual journey. Some of us have absolute faith in Jesus. We will not be shaken. Others of us have zero faith in Jesus. Many of us have some amount of faith like the father of the son with a mute spirit. We believe, but on many occasions we do not believe and we say, “help my unbelief.”
Wherever we are, Lord Jesus, we pray that You would meet us exactly where we are. If we need proof, give us proof. If we need correction, correct us. If we need encouragement, encourage us. If we need strength, strengthen us. Wherever we are, we pray that You meet us.
Lord, some of us here have secondhand faith. We just believe because we see other people’s belief. Lord, we pray that on this Sunday, we would begin to have firsthand faith, that we would believe because Jesus, You spoke to us. Jesus, You met us. Jesus, You addressed and came to us in a tailor-made way that we know it’s You.
As we close this service and as we pray to You, we pray that You would meet us. You would speak to us. We thank You that You died on Good Friday. You allowed Your Body to be broken and Your Blood shed. “The Shepherd was struck, all the sheep scattered” (Zechariah 13:7), but on Resurrection Sunday, all the sheep are gathered again with full faith.
Revive us, Lord. Give us a faith where signs will follow us, that we will cast out demons in Jesus’ name. We will heal the sick in Jesus’ name. We’ll be supernaturally protected by serpents and viruses and whatever pestilence that will surround us, that we will be bold and courageous to proclaim Christ wherever You send us.
We pray for that kind of absolute faith in Jesus to be grown in us, but until we get there, Lord, we pray that You will meet us. We trust You will meet us where we are. Thank You, Lord Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.