He Isn’t Here!

The tomb is empty! Mary thinks He is the gardener. The two men from Emmaus thought He was a fellow traveler. If you look with your heart, you will find Jesus in places you never expected.

He Isn’t Here! ~ Easter Sunday ~ April 21, 2019 ~ Mark 16:1-8

We are in the gospel of Mark 16:1:

Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.
When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.
(Mark 16:1-8)

May God bless to us the reading and understanding of His holy and inspired word.

You know, I preached a message back in 2015. Did you know that we know when Jesus died? I mean, the exact date and time. I mentioned back in 2015 that based upon the writings of a Greek Historian by the name of Fleggon of Trellis, a report to Tiberius Caesar written by Pontius Pilate himself, as well as astrological data from none other than NASA – because of all of that information, we are able to pinpoint the date of Jesus’ death right back to April 1, AD 33. We even know the time. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that this took place in the original Greek at the third hour. They all use this Jewish system of marking time calling things by the hour. Now, one of the many reasons I love the New Living Translation is because they do the math for us, so instead of reading “at the third hour,” we get to read in Mark 15:25:

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
(Mark 15:25)

So, we know Jesus was put on the cross at nine o’clock in the morning. We also know how long He hung there. Again, according the literal Greek, it says, “When the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” The New Living Translation tells us in verse 33, chapter 15:

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.
(Mark 15:33)

We know from Luke’s gospel that it was at that point, at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. It is finished.” And He died.

Now, does that matter, that we know this information? I think so, because I think it affirms who Jesus is, and His purpose for coming. I’m going to flesh that out a bit, beginning with did you know that Solomon started building the first temple around 966 BC. That’s 1000 years before Jesus was crucified, Solomon built the first temple. Now, what happens at the temple? One of the most important things that happens at the temple are the daily morning and evening sacrifices that take place. They are called the Korban Tamid, and in accordance with the Torah, specifically Exodus 29 and Numbers 28, every day, every morning, a priest would sacrifice on the altar a bull, a sheep, or a lamb, a goat, or a dove at the third hour, nine am. So, Jesus – isn’t that amazing? – Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, was nailed to the cross at the third hour, nine am, when they began the Korban Tamid morning sacrifice in the temple. The evening sacrifice, on the other hand, was offered at – guess when? The Roman historian, Josephus, is very clear that Passover lambs were sacrificed at the ninth hour, three pm. So, on Friday, April 1, AD 33, Jesus died on the cross at the exact same time that the Passover lambs were being killed in the temple. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Well, I think it was, which is why you have to suffer through it. He’s nailed to the cross at the same time they do the morning sacrifice. He dies on the cross at the exact same time the Passover lambs are being sacrificed at the evening sacrifice. Now, besides that being an amazing coincidence, because of the time of day, we know that it didn’t give Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James the younger, or also known as James the son of Alphaeus, one of the twelve apostles, and Salome, Zebedee’s wife and the mother of James and John who were both apostles as well – it didn’t give them enough time before the Sabbath started to prepare the body properly for burial. So, they quickly bring Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimatheas’ tomb and place Him inside.

We know, because we know the story, that Pontius Pilate then seals the tomb so that the disciples can’t sneak in and steal the body and start spreading some crazy story about resurrection. Now, we also know that no work is allowed to be done on the Sabbath. The Sabbath lasts 24 hours, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. As soon as the Sabbath was over, Mark tells us, the women went to purchase some spices with which to anoint Jesus’ body. And then, very early on Sunday morning, it says, they headed for the tomb, fully expecting to find a body! I mean, why would they have purchased spices to anoint the body if they didn’t expect a body to be there. In fact, as we heard, they were talking about who they might get to roll the stone away. They knew the two of them couldn’t handle it. Good news is, when they get there, they discover the stone has already been rolled aside. Now, as far as they’re concerned, that’s great! That’s one less thing we have to worry about. We now have direct access to the tomb, we can go inside, we can anoint the body, and everything will be cool. However, after they enter the tomb, they are met by an angel who says, “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” and they flee, the Bible says, trembling and bewildered. Now, I don’t know about you, but fleeing trembling and bewildered doesn’t sound to me like, “Yay! He is risen!” They were shocked! They didn’t know what to think, which means that tells us they still didn’t understand.

When Salome later tells the story to her son John, and he writes it in his gospel, he tells us that when Mary Magdalene first left the tomb, she encounters Jesus, although she didn’t know it was Jesus, because it was the gardener. Jesus appeared as a gardener. Luke’s gospel tells us this story as well, in Luke 24:

That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began talking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”?
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened in the last few days.”
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” They said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people

Did you get that? “He’s a prophet.” “He’s a miracle worker.” “He’s a mighty teacher.” They still didn’t get it either.

“But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures…”

Which is one way of saying, “You find it so hard to believe the Bible?”

“Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

He took the Scriptures and connected the dots for all of them.

By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it.

“Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.”

Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment, he disappeared!
(Luke 24:13-31)

A gardener. A fellow traveler on the road to Emmaus. I don’t know about you, but if I had just come back from the dead, I would do it up bigtime, right? I mean, why not come back like you did at the transfiguration, when Jesus brought Peter, James, and John to the top of the mountain and all of a sudden, His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light! Isn’t that how you’d do it? I mean, it’s not like you’re going to come out of the grave and say, “I’m going to Disneyland!” You should go, “Baboom! I’m here!” But He didn’t do that. He comes back as a gardener. He comes back as a fellow traveler. And I believe God does not do anything by happenstance and by accident. Friends, there is no such thing as coincidence. It just doesn’t happen. God has a purpose and a plan for everything, including you. That’s why He knew you before He formed you in your mother’s womb. He knew He had a plan for each one of you. He does things intentionally. So, why a gardener? Why a traveler?

I believe God is showing us that now, if you look with your heart and not with your eyes, you will find Jesus in places you never expected. Places like a church.

“A church?” some might say. “Of course you will find Jesus at a church!” Sadly, that is not always the case. I know a lot of people who have gone to churches and have not had a positive experience. They were not made to feel welcome. They were even feeling judged or condemned, or not one of the crowd. They didn’t fit in with the clique. They’re made to feel unworthy. They came seeking Jesus and then said to themselves after a while, “He isn’t here.” And sadly, when that happens, it is often a very long time before they try again, if at all. That’s why it is my prayer, my fervent prayer, that South Church be different. That visitors would see this church for what it is: An imperfect Christian community; loving, serving, and equipping an imperfect world. The island of misfit toys. A refuge for fellow travelers who are seeking Jesus; and when they come, they see Him. They find gardeners, they find retail clerks, they find office workers and salesmen and executives; and suddenly discover Jesus! He is here! I believe He is, because I see Him here on a regular basis. I see Him here. I see Him here. I see Him up there. I don’t necessarily see Him over… no just kidding. I see Him there.

Mary Magdalene didn’t see Him at first, because she was looking at the gardener. And then, the lightbulb came on. How she must have said to herself, “Oh my word! It’s true! I brought spices expecting to anoint a body, but He isn’t here! That means He meant it when He said, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He would be killed. But on the third day He would rise again.’ He meant it! He wasn’t just a great teacher, a miracle worker, a prophet; He is the Son of God! And oh my gosh, if He meant that, then He also meant what He said to Martha after He raised Lazarus!” Remember what He said to Martha? He asked Martha in John 11:25-26:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
(John 11:25-26)

He did! He meant that. So, my question for all of you this Easter: Has your light gone on yet? Has that lightbulb switch gone on yet, because that’s what this is all about. That’s what Easter is all about. Jesus is the Lamb of God who died for our sins so that we could be forgiven, so that we could get a clean slate. That’s why they call it being Born Again. All we have to do is confess our sins to Him, and as He said to Martha, believe in Him, and we will never, ever die. Isn’t that awesome? If you haven’t done that yet, why not today? Make today your second birthday! We know when Jesus was crucified (April 1, AD 33), we also know the date He rose from the dead again (April 3, AD 33). Why not make Easter (April 21, AD 2019) a day to remember as well? Today can be the day you were Born Again.

If you’re ready to make that decision, just seek me out after church. I’ll be thrilled to celebrate with you. Today is a great day to do it. If you already have made that decision, today is a great day to celebrate, because today is the day we remember the cross is empty! And so is the tomb! Because the angel was right when he said, “He is risen!” He is risen indeed! Today is the day of salvation. Would you stand and pray with me?