From Fear to Faith...from Faith to Action!
Hallelujah, dear Lord Jesus, my risen Lord and Savior in heaven above! As I come before You to worship this day, send Your Spirit to inspire my heart with joy. Do not allow Satan or any evil foe to fill my heart with fear, but rather move my heart in faith to trust in You solely. Do not let my lips be bound in silence, but rather open them in praise of Your redeeming love. Move me, O Lord, to act upon my faith and be ready to proclaim Your salvation to everyone I know and meet. Yes, dear Lord Jesus, be with me this day! Amen.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us that we are at peace with God and possess by faith the gift of everlasting life. Isaiah speaks of the wonderful privilege we have as God’s children to proclaim the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth!
In Paul’s day, as in our own, there are those who deny the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. False teachers claim that such a denial makes no difference, but the apostle begs to differ. The denial of the physical resurrection of Christ undermines the entire Christian faith. Let us be assured—Jesus Christ did arise from the dead!
Our risen Savior deals with our unbelief and hardness of heart!
Text: Mark 16:11-14
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 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. 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.” 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. Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. Later, He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
In Christ Jesus, our risen, living, and powerful Savior, dear fellow redeemed:
When we think of Easter we often think of color, light, joy, celebration, and life! Not so as that first Easter dawned and even as the day progressed as the evangelist Mark so clearly portrays. That first Easter, he reveals, was marked by fear and alarm, by unbelief and hardness of heart. When I began to prepare this Easter service, I reviewed the texts we have used during the past ten years. I discovered that during that time period, we had never used Mark’s Gospel account either as the basis for our Easter meditations or as a Scripture text. I was a bit surprised until I reread Mark’s account of the Easter story. On the surface Mark’s account seems…so negative—everyone was afraid, no one seemed to believe, people remained silent, Jesus—we are told—“rebuked their (the disciples’) unbelief and hardness of heart!” But God has revealed all of His Scripture “for our learning” (Romans 15:4). He had His reasons for moving Mark to record his particular resurrection account. That account, as we will note in our meditations today, takes us FROM FEAR TO FAITH, and then FROM FAITH TO ACTION!
Everything in our lives is not all color and light, not all joy and celebration. We are often confronted by situations which fill our hearts with fear and force us to face death rather than to embrace life. Satan tempts us in many different ways and will always attempt to lead us into unbelief. As we contemplate the meaning of Easter on the basis of Mark’s Gospel account, let us examine howour risen Savior helped overcome the unbelief and hardness of heart of His first century followers, for then we will know how He will help us overcome our own unbelief and hardness of heart!
Mark reveals that Jesus used His message of resurrection and life to dispel fear! As we see from our text, that message was revealed in a variety of ways. As the women made their way to the tomb, they were beset by worries. They left the city while it was still dark, so they would not draw attention to themselves. They wondered who would open the tomb. They were disturbed by the fact that the tomb had already been opened and were alarmed by the presence of a young man. But Jesus sent that young man—His angelic messenger—to share with them His message of resurrection and life: “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. 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.” Jesus was alive! He was no longer dead! Jesus wanted them to leave their fear behind and embrace a risen Savior by faith! He wanted them to become the new messengers to share the good news of His resurrection and everything that it would mean for His believing children. But Mark reports that they initially “fled the tomb” and “said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Mark then reports that Jesus Himself appeared to Mary Magdalene and to the two men on their way to Emmaus. He brought the message of resurrection and life personally, leading those individuals from fear to faith and commissioning them to share the message with His disciples. This they did, but the disciples “did not believe” their report. It took Jesus appearing in person that first Easter night in an upper room, where they were all assembled under lock and key for fear of the Jews, to convince them of the truth of the resurrection. Mark tells us that Jesus personally “rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.”
Before we sit in judgment of Jesus’ disciples, let us examine ourselves. How often do we not find ourselves troubled by the events going on around us, fearful of the situations lying before us, living not by the strength of faith but hindered by our own unbelief in spite of the fact that we know about Jesus’ resurrection? How often do we not find ourselves failing to take comfort as we read the Scriptures and perhaps responding negatively to those who bring us guidance and encouragement from the word? Let us realize that when we read our Scriptures and when individuals come to us with God’s word, Jesus is using His message of resurrection and life to dispel our fear and to remove our unbelief. Let us not harden our hearts! Rather, let us repent of such sins and rejoice in the message of hope that the resurrection of our Lord brings us!
Secondly, note that Jesus comes to us where we are—troubled by fear—and brings us to the point where He wants us to be—filled with faith! Jesus’ angel met the women in the tomb, as they searched for a dead body. Jesus Himself met Mary outside the tomb, as she wept thinking that the dead body was stolen. Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus to address two skeptical disciples. He appeared in the upper room to admonish a group of frightened disciples. Jesus did not give up on those early disciples, whose hearts were filled with fear and whose lives revealed so much unbelief. He did not walk away. Rather, He came to them where they were—physically, spiritually, and emotionally. His living presence restored their hope and gave them confidence. Their faith, which had been shaken so terribly, was renewed. Jesus was alive. He had not been defeated, but rather His death and resurrection proved His ultimate victory!
Jesus comes to us where we are today as well. He comes to us here in His house. He comes to us in our homes. He comes to us wherever we might be staying—in a nursing home or a hospital. He comes to us in the strangest of places—jails, prisons, or even on a battlefield. He comes to us in the midst of our fear and pain and suffering, and He says: “Turn to Me, believe in Me, receive strength and hope and joy through Me!” Jesus is alive! He is the living Son of God—possessing all authority and exercising His power in our lives for our good and His Father’s glory! Let us not turn away in unbelief. Let us not harden our hearts this day when victory is ours through Christ! Yes, our risen Savior wants to bring us FROM FEAR TO FAITH! Hallelujah and amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Our risen Savior moves us to preach the gospel!
Text: Mark 16:15-20
And [Jesus] said to [His disciples], “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 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.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen
In Christ, our living Savior, dear fellow-celebrators this Easter morning!
During the past week we’ve seen Jesus die and heard Him declare “It is finished!” The work of redemption was complete. This morning we’ve heard the resurrection story and it has confirmed for us that the tomb is empty and Jesus lives! The Apostle Paul has instructed us (cf. Scripture reading) and assured us that if Christ is not risen our faith is futile, but now Christ is risen from the dead so we have the confidence of the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
The story of God’s love for sinners and His plan of salvation doesn’t end with these facts, though they are the heart of salvation and what is best known. As a radio commentator would say, now comes “the rest of the story.”
As we consider the story of God’s love and His plan of salvation, the rest of the story is sitting next to you, in front of you, behind you, and in your seat. You, your fellow Christians, and the unbelievers in the world are the rest of the story. Make no mistake, we are not the rest of the story because there is something else we must do to accomplish the forgiveness of sins. That work is completed and sealed. The work in the rest of the story is still God’s doing just as much as in every other part, but that work is accomplished through us—His children. It is through us, His children, that the Word is spread and sinners hear about the empty tomb and what it means. We are given a commission, He equips us, and enables us “both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
In the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Jesus was equipping His disciples to work in the rest of the story. Jesus gave a commission to the disciples then and to every disciple thereafter: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” [v.15] The commission and the rest of the story is to go and preach the Gospel. We are commissioned to share the good news of the empty tomb and all that it means.
Our commission and role in the rest of the story have tremendous implication. Jesus goes on, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” [v. 16] The rest of the story is the difference between Heaven and Hell for sinners in each new generation after the first Easter. Go and preach the Gospel because through that preaching comes faith and through faith comes the forgiveness of sins. If you don’t preach that Gospel the Easter story stops right there. Imagine how empty our lives would be and how un-celebratory Easter would be if it were just “Easter for me” – “Oh yeah, Jesus is alive, I have the forgiveness of sins,” and that that’s where it would stop. The rest of the story involves the Word going out to announce that salvation for souls in need.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “…by grace you are saved through faith…” (Ephesians 2:9). All who put their faith in Jesus will receive the forgiveness of sins through that faith, but without that faith there is only eternal condemnation. It is the preaching of the Gospel that creates this saving faith. Paul tells us, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), so then how can one hear and believe if the word is not preached? (cf. Romans10:14). That’s the rest of the story—to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls. God who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ Jesus has given us the message of reconciliation to preach and to share for the salvation of other souls (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Jesus went on to say that signs would follow those who believe: “In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 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.” [vv.17-18] Read through early New Testament history we see the Apostle Paul casting a demon out of a girl in Philippi (Acts 16:16ff). We see the Apostle Paul traveling and experiencing all kinds of dangers along the way, but his life was preserved because God was using him to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls (2 Corinthians 11:22ff). Paul was bitten by a poisonous viper but he shook it off into the fire and was unharmed (Acts 28:1ff). Peter and John healed a man who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:1ff). These signs accompanied the apostles in their early ministry of the Gospel to confirm that they were sent by God, just as Jesus’ miracles had confirmed that He is the Son of God. “They went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” [v. 20]
We have those signs recorded for us in Scripture to also confirm the Word of God. No, we don’t have healings here today and I haven’t been bitten by a snake and survived, but those signs have been recorded by the eye-witnesses. What the apostles did and were inspired to write for us confirms this Gospel and equips us to take that same Word of God out into the world to work in the rest of the story bringing the saving Word to lost sinners. “We have the prophetic Word confirmed, which [we] do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
When Jesus’ instruction for the disciples was complete “He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” [v.19] Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (cf. Matthew 28:18). He is in the exalted position of glory with our Heavenly Father ruling and guiding all things in order to accomplish the rest of the story. He is the one who orders world affairs to provide opportunities to share the Gospel. He is the one who orders your lives to give you personally the opportunities to preach the Gospel to every creature you meet and thereby be an active part in the rest of the story. Jesus our ascended Lord is at the right hand of God preparing a place for us so that when our time of service is done on the earth, He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant, inherit the kingdom prepared for you,” and welcome us home.
As you read through the book of Acts and hear how the New Testament church grew, as you hear of the amazing grace of God that has called soul upon soul to faith in Jesus, as you consider Christian history leading to our day—God’s Word being shared and many being brought to faith from generation to generation—none of that would be possible without Easter. We exist as Christians and children of God because we are part of the rest of the Easter story. If Christ is not raised your faith is in futile, you are still in your sins, but Christ is raised…therefore preach the Gospel to every creature!
We are beneficiaries of the apostles’ writing in Scripture. We are the beneficiaries of each new generation passing the Gospel message down through the ages to 2007. Likewise you are the instrument of God’s grace in the rest of the story to bring that Gospel message to our children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren down to the end of the time. God with His grace will use you to share the saving news of Easter and assure that each new generation will hear that message and be brought to faith in our Savior.
Mark closes his Gospel account with the word, Amen. It is an Amen of triumph at the end—not just the end of the Easter story, but of the whole Gospel account and the whole plan of salvation.Amen means “Yes, absolutely, indeed, it is 100% true and accomplished!”
Jesus died on the cross. Amen! It is true!
Jesus died on the cross and all of our sins are paid. Amen! It is true!
Jesus rose from death to give us life. Amen! That is true!
Jesus has given us the commission to preach His Gospel. He has given us His grace and opportunities to share that message. Amen! That is true!
Rejoice! Be glad in the salvation God has provided. Rejoice! Speak, share with others the things you have heard and seen. Rejoice and thank God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)! Amen!
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt