A Fresh Start

Scripture: Mark 16:1-8

Title: Resurrection is a fresh start

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Resurrection is a fresh start
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

Do you ever have that thing where your computer just randomly decides to freeze, for no particular reason?

  • Everything stops so you can’t move the mouse and if you strike a key nothing happens on the screen
  • The only thing I know that fixes this is to hold your finger on the start button until the machine switches off
  • Then press it again and let it reboot
  • For reasons I don’t understand this wipes the slate clean and enables you to make a fresh start

Of course, any work you didn’t save before the computer froze is lost

  • But that’s how life is sometimes – sometimes we have to go backwards before we can go forwards
  • Sometimes we have to wipe the slate clean to make a fresh start

 

Today is Easter Sunday – a day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus

  • Our reading this morning comes from the gospel according to Mark, chapter 16, verses 1-8
  • I will be reading from the Good News Bible, which will appear on the wall shortly, if you wish to follow
  • In this Scripture Mark shows us that resurrection is a fresh start
  • From verse 1 we read…

 

After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint the body of Jesus.2 Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3–4 On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. 5 So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting on the right, wearing a white robe — and they were alarmed.6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here — he has been raised! Look, here is the place where they put him. 7 Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”8 So they went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

 

May the Spirit of God illuminate this reading for us

Resurrection is a fresh start:

Tell me, in three words or less, what is it you think of when you hear the expression ‘a fresh start’?

Wait for people to respond

In Mark 16 resurrection is a fresh start

  • Like the beginning of a new week
  • Like falling in love
  • Like being forgiven
  • Like something you’ve never experienced before
  • Like returning home with a different perspective
  • And like a new chapter in a story you get to write

Our reading this morning (from Mark 16) begins on the first day of a new week

  • If you are anything like me you probably grew up thinking that the first day of the week is Monday because that’s normally when the weekend is over and you go to school or work
  • As a kid Monday’s never felt like a fresh start to me – they always felt more like a stale start because it was a return to the same old routine
  • As I got older though I learned that the first day of the week is Sunday
  • Sunday is a far better day to start the week because it’s a day off for most people – a day of refreshment (a break from stale routines)

And so it was (Mark tells us) on the first day of a new week (a Sunday) that three women discovered an empty tomb & were told that Jesus had been raised from the dead

I think God arranged for Jesus’ resurrection to take place at the beginning of a new week on purpose

  • The beginning of a new week would have reminded a 1st Century Jewish audience of the first week of creation (in Genesis 1) when God made the cosmos
  • The point seems to be; the first light of Jesus’ resurrection is the first day of a new creation
  • In other words, Jesus’ resurrection represents a fresh start for the human race – not a return to stale routines – because what happened for Jesus in beating death will happen for all those who place their faith in Jesus
  • Jesus’ resurrection is our hope of resurrection too – an eternal fresh start

Mark mentions three women…

  • Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome
  • Not much is known about these three women except that they were all followers of Jesus

Luke 8 tells us Jesus had delivered Mary Magdalene from seven demons

  • And that she, along with many other women, used their own resources to help Jesus and the other disciples
  • We also know from Mark 15 that these two Mary’s and Salome stood in faithful vigil by Jesus while he suffered and died on the cross
  • Then they witnessed Jesus’ burial in the cave of Joseph of Arimemathea

Now, as their last act of devotion, they bought some spices with the intention of anointing Jesus’ dead body

  • Jews did not embalm bodies to preserve them (like the Egyptians did) but they did sometimes anoint the corpse of a loved one both as a sign of love and as a way of masking the smell of rotting flesh

The women would have done this sooner but were prevented by the Jewish law which prohibited any activity on the Sabbath – a day when people rested

  • The fact these women got up very early on Sunday morning to go to the tomb and anoint Jesus’ body shows us two things…
  • Firstly, that they cared deeply for Jesus
  • And secondly, that they were not expecting his resurrection
  • They went to the tomb expecting to find a decomposing corpse

On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”(It was a very large stone.)

 

This problem of a large stone needing to be moved reminds us of an ancient love story

  • In Genesis 29 Jacob is forced to flee from his home out of fear of his brother Esau
  • Jacob has been sleeping rough and is looking to make a fresh start when he comes across some shepherds with their flocks gathered around a well
  • The well has a large stone over the opening

When Jacob sees Rachel coming in the distance with her sheep, it is love at first sight

  • He rolls the stone back so the sheep can drink, then he kisses her and begins to cry tears of joy
  • Jacob’s fear gives way to hope as he begins to imagine a better future

When the three women in Mark 16 looked up [they] saw that the stone had already been rolled back.

Resurrection is a fresh start to an ancient love story, where God is the lover and we (humanity) are the beloved

  • God has moved the stone away so that we can drink from the well of life

Now it needs to be acknowledged that a fresh start doesn’t always feel good – like falling in love

  • Sometimes the new experience of a fresh start can be a bit scary
  • Like the first day at school or starting a new job
  • Or like moving out of home for the first time or breaking an old habit
  • From verse 5 we continue…

5 So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting on the right, wearing a white robe — and they were alarmed.6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here — he has been raised! Look, here is the place where they put him.

 

Mary, Mary and Salome had come to anoint Jesus’ body with perfumes and instead of a dead man wrapped in grave clothes they find a young man, very much alive, dressed in a white robe

  • The young man is not Jesus – he is someone they have never seen before
  • Jesus is gone – this is not at all what they were expecting

Probably the young man in the white robe is an angel of heaven

  • If you think about it, it was quite thoughtful of God to send a young man to talk to these women
  • Thoughtful in the sense that God didn’t leave the women wondering on their own – He gave them some information and some next steps
  • But also thoughtful in that God sent a young man
  • He didn’t send a big scary warrior angel – that would just freak the women out even more
  • He sent someone younger than them so they wouldn’t feel so threatened in the situation – God is considerate like that

I remember one time Robyn and I made a fresh start – we had just shifted to Auckland to train for ministry and on our first or second day there we went for a walk

  • Being new to Auckland we got a little bit lost – which would have been okay except Robyn was pregnant and so I was anxious for her
  • Anyway, at just the right moment, we stumbled across an old pastor I knew from when we lived in Hamilton – Walter Lang
  • Walter had retired to Auckland – a city of 1 million people – and we just so happened to find him (someone trusted and familiar) when we were feeling unsettled and a little disoriented
  • God is good like that – he knows just the right person to send to us when we need assurance
  • Perhaps you have been (or will be) that right angel person for someone making a fresh start

Anyway the young angel man says to the women…

  • 7 Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter

Here we have the fresh start of being forgiven

Peter, you may remember, had denied Jesus three times on the night of his trial

  • Jesus had predicted Peter’s denial
  • Peter couldn’t accept Jesus’ prediction
  • But still Peter caved under pressure
  • We shouldn’t be too hard on Peter though – each of us, in our own way, has denied Christ

But denial is the not the end for Peter and it’s not the end for us

  • The risen Jesus offers Peter forgiveness and a fresh start
  • And Peter hasn’t even had the chance to apologise yet

As someone has said…

  • The most precious thing about Jesus is the way in which He trusts us on the field of our defeat. [1]

The message the women are to pass on to the disciples (including Peter) is that Jesus ‘…is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’

  • In other words, you will find Jesus at home
  • Galilee is where Jesus and most of the disciples come from
  • It is also where Jesus began his public ministry
  • Sometimes we have to go backwards before we can go forwards
  • Sometimes we make a fresh start by returning to the beginning – going home and starting again
  • Like in Monopoly when you ‘Advance to Go collect $200’
  • Or at the office when you hold your finger on the start button to reboot the computer

This is not to suggest that going home to start afresh is easy – it can be quite difficult really because it often involves facing our problems

  • It wasn’t easy for the prodigal son to return home to face the father he had disgraced, but in doing so he found forgiveness and restoration
  • Even if we haven’t done anything wrong though, it can still be difficult to return home

There is a scene in the film The Sound of Music where Maria is in the convent talking with the Rev. Mother

  • Maria is scared and bit confused
  • The Rev. Mother wants to know why Maria has returned to the abbey and can’t face going back to the Von Trapp family
  • Maria admits it’s because she can’t face him – Captain Von Trapp
  • Actually it might be more accurate to say Maria can’t face her feelings for the Captain – she loves him and it scares her

The Rev. Mother can see that Maria is hiding in the abbey – trying to avoid her feelings – so she says to Maria…

  • “You must find out and you must go back… These walls were not made to shut out problems – you have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.”

 

The Rev. mother’s words to Maria – to go back to Captain Von Trapp and find out – are a bit like the angel’s words to the women – to return to Galilee to find Jesus

  • You have to live the life you were born to live
  • You have to find out how God wants you to spend your love
  • Just as Maria was born to love the Von Trapp family so the women of Mark 16 were born to love Jesus

Those who have seen The Sound of Music will know that Maria does find the courage to face the Captain – she returns and they are married

  • But what about the women of Mark 16 – what do they choose?

 

Verse 8 says…

  • 8 So they went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

And that is where the gospel of Mark ends

  • Whaaat? – It can’t end like that, with the women scampering off in fear
  • After all they were the only ones brave enough to stay by Jesus’ side during his crucifixion and burial
  • Well, pretty much all the experts agree that it doesn’t end like that
  • We are not sure exactly what happened to the end of Mark’s gospel
  • The best guess is that part of the scroll was lost or damaged
  • Later scribes tried to fix this by writing their own ending (based on the other gospels)  but it’s pretty clear, even in the English, that these alternative endings are a tack on

We know from other gospel accounts (and from the obvious fact that we are here today celebrating Jesus’ resurrection) that the women did eventually find the courage to share the good news with the other disciples

  • Perhaps, like Maria (in The Sound of Music) the two Mary’s and Salome ran away and hid from the world for a brief time before finding the courage to go back and face their fears – to find out for themselves

In some ways though I can’t help thinking that maybe God (in His providence) intended for the end of Mark’s gospel to be lost

  • The other three gospels give a pretty good witness to Jesus’ resurrection
  • Maybe God meant for one of the gospel accounts to be left open, like a door inviting us to walk through
  • Maybe God wanted those of us who are a bit scared (like the two Mary’s & Salome) to know that the story didn’t end with the empty tomb
  • God’s story goes on and we are invited to participate in it – to write our own chapter telling of how the risen Jesus gave us a fresh start

Conclusion:

Resurrection is the fresh start of a new creation – like a new week or a new day, breaking old routines

Resurrection is a fresh start.

  • Like a new experience, it can be a bit scary at first but, as we step out in faith, courage comes to meet us

Resurrection is a fresh start – like when we fall in love and our fear gives way to hope so we are able to imagine a better future

Resurrection is a fresh start – like being forgiven, we are released from our past mistakes and restored to right relationship again

Resurrection is a fresh start – like returning home with a new perspective and a clearer vision to live the life we were born to live

Resurrection is a fresh start – it is not the end of the story, it is an invitation to write your own chapter in God’s book.

[1] Quoted in William Barclay’s commentary on Mark, page 389.

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