Sermon: “Beyond Reason”

 

Text:  Mark 16:1-8

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

I’ve just finished reading a very interesting book by Francis Schaeffer entitled, “Escape From Reason.” In this book he attempts to explain the evolution of how society sees Jesus. Up until the 1800’s, Jesus was a very rational thought to most people. He was a real person who loved us in a very personal way. Our prayers were directed to someone who actually heard them and cared enough to answer them. God’s love was real and His chastisement was to be feared in a way that we fear our earthly fathers when we have misbehaved.

Then we made the mistake of trying to figure God and His Son Jesus Christ out, separate from their relationship with man. Soon, God to the researchers, became little more than an irrational concept that people held on to for comfort.

As society caught on to this new way of thinking, Jesus became just a word that elicited an emotion. They had taken His own humanity away. Reason was no longer valid when talking about things of the church.

Now, Schaeffer surmises, many people who claim Christianity merely look for the emotion of it all. Jesus is just a word that brings a spiritual high. There is little relationship involved past what ecstasy we can churn out of the experience.

He writes, “I have come to the point where, when I hear “Jesus” – which means so much to me because of the person of the historic Jesus and His work – I listen carefully because I have with sorrow become more afraid of the word “Jesus” than almost any other word in the modern world. The word is used as a contentless banner, and our generation is invited to follow it. But there is no rational, scriptural content by which to test it, and thus the word is being used to teach the very opposite things from those which Jesus taught.”

I surmise that when we take the person of Jesus away so much that we relegate Him to be just a word that brings about a certain experience we might get from other things like drugs or sex or alcohol, we also lose the hope that is inherit in our faith. We lose the Easter message of new life, at least in its truest form.

Well, I want your full attention. Are you listening? People of Redeemer, friends and relatives, Jesus is alive! Hope is alive! He’s more than just a word to elicit a response. He is real! He loves us in a very personal way with a God-sized love too large for us to even imagine. His Word is true, His promises never waiver, His love for us never lessens. His relationship with man partly defines Him because we are His creation molded in His image. To separate man from His being is to relegate Him to obscurity in the world. He is not a concept, He is our own, very personal Savior.

He didn’t come to lead a movement or to start an uprising. He didn’t come because He wanted to impress us with His mighty works. He didn’t force His way into people’s lives like a dictator might. He simply came to save us from ourselves.

You see, the people of Jesus’ time also thought they had God all figured out. They saw Him as a task-master, a rule keeper, someone who could only be reached through the keeping of His law. So, eventually the required law grew from the original Ten Commandments to hundreds. The Pharisees held everyone by a heavy yoke of requirements. Don’t eat that, stay away from this, don’t associate with him. God, then as in many cases today, had lost His personal relationship because man thought they had Him all figured out.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have a God I can figure out. If I could, he would no longer be a God because He would be no bigger than I am. We will never fully understand all of God’s divine attributes, we are just to trust in Him to be able to handle anything we might present to Him. All He asks in return is that we believe in Him and follow Him by being Christ to the world.

Isaiah knew this thousands of years ago. He wrote in chapter 61 of His book

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.”

Jesus Himself quoted those very words from the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4. After which He spoke to the people with authority saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus here is telling all of us that He is our hope. The Scripture written so long ago has been fulfilled in Him.

Jesus Christ is still alive and well providing the hope that Isaiah foresaw. He still bears the marks of the crucifixion he willingly suffered so we might receive that hope. His Word of Hope is still said as strongly as it was to Isaiah. His promises still remain for all those who put their trust in Him. He is the very definition of hope in a troubled world still trying to figure Him out apart from His creation. 

Jesus confirmed this prophecy in every deed and with every Word that He spoke. He reached out to all who were willing to listen and helped all those in need, especially the broken-hearted, the down-trodden, the dejected and the lame. He healed the sick, gave life to the dying and sometimes even the dead, and performed miracles for those in deepest despair. So many acts of Godly mercy in fact that John the Disciple says that, “Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” We marvel at what we do know, but here John say we don’t know the half of it.

Yet, even in His presence there were people who didn’t know Him. Because the Church leaders thought they had figured God Himself out, they couldn’t see what was right before their eyes. How could this be the son of God when He eats with tax-collectors and hangs out with the lowest of the low. How could this be the promised Savior who was raised in a nowhere town like Nazareth. How could a simple carpenter’s son be the long awaited for Messiah.

So, because they thought they knew God better than they actually did, they tried to destroy His one and only Son. They sentenced Him to death, had Him beaten, mocked Him as He hung on the cross, feeling smug that they had done the right thing, because, after all, they thought they knew everything they needed to know to justify their actions.

Yet, it was not they who took His life. He willingly laid it down even for them. The people who figured they had everything settled were no more than an instrument of change towards something that was much more than they ever could have imagined.

We read the Scriptures far removed from the true horror’s that were present the day our Lord died. For many, His death destroyed any shred of hope they had. They had failed to learn the lessons Christ had been teaching them the three years he was with them. They couldn’t understand how His death was all part of a much bigger plan.

The teacher who spoke of future glory was hanging on a cursed cross. The man who had healed others now took no measure to save Himself. The one who led them with promises unending now seemed to have taken them to a dead end, literally.

Now, he is dead. His body is laid in a common grave with no pageantry. The rock is rolled in front of the grave as if it were covering the simplest of people. The Pharisees assembled in all their smugness satisfied that they had put this Jesus movement to rest.

For many this burial was also the burial of hope because their hope now laid wrapped in linen atop a cold rock in the tomb. It was as if the world was falling apart. They mourned what could have been and despair filled their hearts.

But what was to come was the culmination of all of Jesus ministry. The promise given to Adam and Eve at the very dawn of time was soon to be fulfilled. After three days, Jesus would rise and with His rising, our everlasting life would be assured. Soon the world would know.

From our Gospel lesson:

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has 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 to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Could the message of the angel be true? Was hope still alive? The Good News was too much for them to bear.

They left in great mourning only to be greeted in the tomb by an angel bearing the great news of Jesus’ resurrection. This was certainly not what they were expecting. They were prepared to witness their hope still locked inside the grave. They brought spices to prepare a body but now there was no body to prepare. It seemed impossible, yet it was true.

They couldn’t figure it out even after seeing it with their own eyes. They failed to understand what Jesus had been telling them for so long that the Son of Man had to die to save the world from sin and death and be raised after three days. They were confused because they thought they knew what to expect yet Jesus Christ had done the unexpected.

We hear the story every year yet many have doubts. They just can’t figure out why God would do this for us? Doesn’t He have bigger things to do? Why go through all the trouble for sinners like us?

My invitation to you is that you stop trying to make sense of what God did for us. You will never fully understand His love for you because it goes beyond imagination. You will never quite grasp how far Jesus Christ will go to have a personal relationship with you. Just believe and be saved. Trust in the one who would go to any lengths to provide you with eternal life.

The perfect sacrifice had been given to cover every sin with the Son’s righteousness. Now God could look at us through the prism of Christ and be satisfied.

If you came here this morning looking for Hope, He is here for you. Hope is alive because Christ is alive! I know it sounds a little too good to be true. It goes beyond our understanding because God is to glorious to fully understand. Just accept the God-sized gift you have been given and rejoice that you have been saved. Surrender your need to know it all because God is bigger than your understanding. All we need to know has been given to us in His Holy Word. The rest we will learn in due time and we will have an eternity to study it.

Jesus is alive!! Hope is alive!! Grab it!! It’s yours for the taking even if you don’t fully understand why. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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