Wednesday, April 19, 2017

“Follow Me”...Because I Live For You

Many will recognize the name Joni Eareckson Tada, affectionately known as Joni. When Joni was 17, she dove into Chesapeake Bay and became paralyzed having broken her back because the water was too shallow. This accident caused her all sorts of physical and emotional pain, as one might imagine. It also brought her to question her faith.

However, by the grace of God, Joni did not abandon her faith. Rather, she has inspired millions over the past fifty years because she learned to overcome her physical limitations to the best of her ability. She played herself in a film about her accident and recorded music albums. However, she might be better known for learning to paint and to write with a brush between her teeth. Yet, despite these aspects of her life, she is likely best known for her organization Joni and Friends. This organization helps those who are disabled throughout the world. Thousands of lives each year are touched by this ministry. For all of her determination and perseverance, Joni and Friends will almost certainly be her legacy.

Why is this important? Because what Joni cannot do has not stopped her from what she can do. I am sure Joni still has days when she is envious of those who can walk to the refrigerator to get a drink. Or to open a cabinet to get a snack. All of us have abilities and all of us have limitations, but for Joni the fact she cannot walk or feed herself or do most anything else has not prevented her from helping others. Why? Because she knows this life is not all there is, but she knows that we are to make the most of what we can in this life. Why? Because she knows the Savior who has given us life.

In fact, Joni has said one of the things she wants to do is to kneel. She has been to countless conferences and churches where everyone is asked to kneel and she can’t. But she knows one day, she will be given a new body and she will be able to kneel before Jesus. And not only will she kneel, but she can dance and walk and move around in all the ways that she has been unable to do for the past fifty years. And she can do so knowing that although this life has been difficult, she has lived as best she could on this earth because of what, and more importantly Who, awaits her in eternity.

As we move into the meat of the message today, we may know that Jesus is risen, but the question for us today is what will we do with that message? Do we believe and leave it at that, or like Joni, do we let it transform who we are?

Jesus lives for us that we may serve Him. (Mark 16.1-3)

The women were on their way to anoint Jesus with spices. They did not have time to do this before the Sabbath, and in the heat in that region, a body would stink shortly after it was buried. So these women were set to perform a sacred duty. Their devotion did not lead to good decision-making, however, because they were prepared to anoint Jesus body but had not considered how they would get into the tomb (v. 3).

What we must consider here is that they were prepared to serve Jesus. They did not think through all that was necessary, and they actually didn’t get to serve Him in the way they expected, but they bought what was necessary, brought what they had, and then got what was needed (the rock over the tomb had been removed).

I am a planner and do not like to leave much to chance. But even with the best plans, all of us often overlook something. This happened to me last Wednesday night at a Seder Meal. I forgot the salt water. It was a simple something, but it was an important part of the service. But despite my oversight, a quick adaptation allowed us to proceed with minimal delay.

Likewise, the women set out with good intentions, but realized at some point that they would not be able to move the stone. But their intentions were more than merely intentions, they were ready to act. They were prepared to serve and thus God honored them – in a very unexpected way. What they soon learned was that Jesus was alive. They would still be able to serve Him...not in His death, but through His resurrection.

PRINCIPLE: When we are prepared to serve God with our hearts, we will find Him working on our behalf.

QUESTION: What good intentions do you need to turn into action for the risen Lord today?

Jesus lives for us that we may know Him. (vv. 4-6)

We must not overlook that God wants to be known. But to know Him requires knowing about Him. And that is what is truly amazing about the resurrection. Imagine if Jesus was like any other person who has ever lived and already died. Here is a conversation that could have taken place in Jerusalem in the week after His crucifixion.

Person 1: “Did you hear about Jesus?”
Person 2: “Yes, I thought maybe, just maybe, He might be messiah. But if the Romans could kill him, some good that does us. Another false hope.”
Person 1: “I know what you mean. Another false hope.”

But then Person 3 shows up.

Person 3: “Hey, I heard Jesus rose from the dead.”
Person 1: “Yeah, right. I am not going to be fooled by that hoax.”
Person 2: “I remember he did say something about that. We have to walk that direction. Let’s go check.”
They walk to the tomb.
Person 2: “Well that confirms it. The rock is still there. Nothing happened.”
Person 1: “See. I told you. Well, at least we are closer to our destination.”

OK, this is a very simple story. And please remember, I prefaced this story with the words “If Jesus was like any other person.” That is, if He had not raised from the dead. The focus for us is on the resurrection of Jesus, but consider the importance of the rock (stone) being removed for the women that day and for the men who would soon follow.

Notice in these three verses, they “saw” the stone removed, they “entered” the tomb, they “saw” a young man dressed in white, and they “heard” that Jesus was risen. It wasn’t just that they saw or heard, it was that they also went in. They investigated and God gave them an answer – even if it was unexpected. Jesus lives for those who seek Him, and wish to know Him (better). But none of this would have been possible if the rock had not been removed. That one important piece allowed them to know and understand so much more.

PRINCIPLE: Jesus did not need the rock moved to be resurrected. We needed the rock moved to prove the tomb was empty!

QUESTION: Is something preventing you from having or deepening your faith in God? If so, ask Him to provide the evidence you need.

Jesus lives for us that we may tell others of Him. (v. 7)

The women were told to tell others what they saw and what they heard. As we will see in a second, they did not start out so well in following this command. But we must note that three times in just eight verses, Mark lists the names of these women. Why? I believe it is because Mark wants His readers to believe this message. It almost certainly means these women are still alive because basically Mark is saying, “If you don’t believe what I am writing, go ask these women. Here are their names. Go ask them yourselves.”

We have all heard a joke similar to if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to witness it, did it make a sound? Well, consider this un-joke. If Jesus rose from the dead and nobody ever told anybody else, would it have mattered? In one sense, “Yes” because it proves He was who He said He was. On the other hand, “No” because after the first witnesses, no one else would know – including us!

Take a few seconds to consider what your life would be like if you didn’t know Jesus.

Let me suggest just a couple of thoughts.
  • You might have an entirely different set of friends. This church is far from perfect, but the people here love God and are caring. You could have friends who are much, much worse.
  • You would have far less hope. What gets you through the toughest of days? Friends, yes. But, really, isn’t it God?

I could add more, but instead let me say that billions of people living at this very moment do not know Jesus because no one has ever told them about Him. Worldwide, over 100 people die every second! The most generous statistics of Christianity say that 70 of those are destined for hell. And in the time it took you to read that last sentence 350 more people just died without Christ.

PRINCIPLE: When we are excited about some piece of news we tell others what is on our minds.

QUESTION: Do you believe Jesus is risen? Do you know someone who doesn’t know this good news? Will you tell them?

Jesus lives for us that we may live for Him. (v. 8, 9-20)

Most of your bibles have a break after v. 8. A great deal of debate exists about how Mark’s writing ends. Did he end after verse 8? Did he include verses 9-20 later? Did someone else add it on later? Etc. The truth is that no one knows, and good arguments can be made for the book ending at verse 8 or verse 20. What is almost certainly true is that the verses we have as 9-20 were not written at the time the rest of this gospel was written.

But what is also true is that everything, except one small statement about drinking poison, is found either in Matthew (Chapter 28) or Luke (Chapter 24) or has an example in the book of Acts. Furthermore, the addendum is largely the Great Commission. So, whatever the truth is regarding verses 9-20, it fits the essence of the Bible because of the content.

That primary content is a charge by Jesus for us to go and tell. Verse 8 tells us that the women responded to the empty tomb and command by keeping quiet – because of fear. Let’s face it, we would probably respond the same way. But as I mentioned in the last point, their job was to tell, and eventually they did or we would not be here. Telling is a part of the process, but truly Jesus wants us to serve Him – to live for Him because He lives for us. If we do that, then whatever verses were lost or added or whatever happened to the original ending of Mark, it doesn’t matter because we will be proving our love for God over just the words, but in deeds as well.

PRINCIPLE: We must be doers of the Word, not just hearers only. Otherwise, we are deceiving ourselves (James 1.22)

QUESTION: What greater works can you begin doing as you live for Jesus (see John 14.12)?

Jesus lives for us that we may live with Him. (John 14.1)

This is a great truth. We need to be active in our life here because of what Jesus had done for us. But the reality is that we may leave a small legacy, but most of us will be forgotten within just a few years or maybe decades.

Tim Keller shares a story of an old preacher telling younger preachers that they would die. The preacher said “They will put you in a box, and put the box in the ground, throw dirt on your face, and then go back to the church and eat potato salad.”

That may seem a bit harsh, but it has some truth to it. But whatever people may forget, the Lord will not. Whatever people may not appreciate, work done in faith to the Lord will be rewarded. And whomever people forget, those who are God’s children will never be forgotten. Because they will be with Him forever.

PRINCIPLE: Living our lives for Jesus is training for our serving Him in eternity.

QUESTION: Jesus left a legacy for us, what will you do to pass on His message to others?


This post has focused less on the resurrection story itself, and more on what it means. What are the implications for me if it is true? We must each determine what the resurrection means to us as we dive deeper into understanding what the resurrection truly means. What it means is Jesus is alive. What it means to each of us is revealed in our response to the truth that He is living.

Jesus was made to pay for a crime even though He did not commit it. His sentence was death and then to be imprisoned in a tomb – presumably forever. However, when the prisoner has met the demands of the sentence as declared by the judge, the prisoner is set free. In the case of Pilate, the judge, Jesus was able to be freed from the cross when He died. In the case of God, the Judge, Jesus rose again, proving that He fulfilled all the demands and that all sins were truly paid.

If Jesus was freed after taking our sins upon Him, then we are free as well. Jesus rose as the firstfruits of the dead, which means that by placing our trust in Him we can not only follow Him in this life, but will follow Him out of death to be with Him eternally. This truth is possible because of our Savior’s blood, through His death, and proven by His resurrection.

JOURNEY: That is why our JOURNEY letter is once again: YYou.

Jesus did His part. But His command today is the same as it was a year ago, when we started this series, which was the same command that He first gave to Andrew and Peter as He walked along the shores of Galilee. The command: “Follow Me.” What is your choice?

OPPORTUNITY: Follow Jesus – wherever He may lead you and in whatever He may ask.

REMEMBRANCE Jesus bled for you. Jesus died for you. But now Jesus lives for you.

NEXT STEP(S): Live:  Live for Jesus because He lives for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment