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TEXT: Mark 15:40-16:8
SUBJECT: Mark #33: The Kingdom Has Come!
The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.
With these stirring words, our Lord began His public ministry, and gave us the theme of Mark's Gospel. The Book is about God's Rule coming to earth in and around His Son, Jesus Christ. Was the Kingdom needed? Yes it was. Israel was ruled by a Pagan Empire who mocked at God's Lordship in favor of Caesar's. All Jews knew how bad the Gentiles were, but some of them knew Israel was no better. The priesthood was corrupt and tyrannical; the teachers of the Law were hard and heartless; nobody stood up for orphans and widows; and the voice of God had not been heard in four hundred years. The Kingdom of God was a thin promise, growing thinner by the day.
Till a man showed up in the wilderness of Judea, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sin. When asked if he was Messiah, he said he wasn't, but heads up!-
There is One coming after me, whose
Sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop
Down and loose.
I baptize with water, but He will
Baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Some time later, the One to Come came and submitted to John's baptism. Rising from the waters of the Jordan-
The heavens parted, the Spirit descended on Him like and dove, and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'.
For centuries Israel had prayed for the King to come, bringing God's Rule to earth, and now, when even the strongest men were losing hope-
The time is fulfilled.
The world is under new management! Gentiles and wicked Jews have had their day: now it's God's turn! The Kingdom is at hand, is not time specific, but no one who heard the words would have thought, 'hundreds or thousands of years'. No, they expected to see it in their lifetimes, and most of them did.
What would the Kingdom of God look like? Many thought it would look like Revenge. But those who knew the Word of God knew better. The Kingdom is a world without disease or madness, hunger or death, a world of justice and love, equality and inclusion. This is the Kingdom the prophets foresaw.
With the coming of Christ, the visions came true! Lepers were healed; paralytics walked; demoniacs were freed; the blind saw, the deaf heard, the mute spoke; the hungry were fed, the straying sheep were folded into the flock; and best of all-the dead were raised to life!
The Kingdom is at hand! And everyone who wants in is welcome. No matter who you are or what you've done, when you repent and believe the Gospel, you're in!
For more than three years, the Kingdom came with great power and speed. But then something happened: the King was arrested, tortured, crucified, and buried.
And with Him, the Kingdom.
A DEAD KING
This is where today's story begins: with a dead King and a kingdom in despair. When a loved one dies, we make phone calls. We say things like, 'He died last night at 11:30'. We're likely to say where he died, who was with him when he died, whether he died quietly or in pain, and what the cause of death was. But one thing we don't do: we don't prove he died. We don't bring in witnesses.
This, however, is just what Mark does. In v.37, he told us Jesus died on the cross-
And Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed His last.
This shouldn't surprise us. Rome crucified tens of thousands of people over the years, and-as far as we know-not one of them survived the cross. Some lived two or three days, but even they died. No one got off the cross alive. No one!
So, you'd think Mark would leave it here-
Jesus breathed His last.
But he doesn't. He cites witness after witness to verify His death. The first man he names is the Roman Centurion, v.39-
Now when the Centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this, and breathed His last, he said, 'Truly, this Man was the Son of God!'
The Centurion was no stranger to death. Stationed in Judea, he did little or no fighting; what he did, for the most part, is keep order, and in the Roman system, this means nailing troublemakers to a cross! He had done this many times-and he knew a dead man when he saw one. The Centurion said, Jesus is dead.
He was not the only one to see Jesus die. Some of His oldest friends did too. Three of them are named-
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome.
The ladies were from Galilee, and had followed the Lord's career from start to finish. They were not alone. Mark adds-
Many other women came up with Him to Jerusalem.
They, too, saw Him die.
By bringing women into the story, Mark adds a note of authenticity. Their testimony was not admissible in a court of law. Had Mark made up the story, he would have left them out. But he put them in the story because he was not making it up! There were-
Women looking on from afar!
They saw Him die, and they knew He was dead, because, after He was taken down, they didn't run off to find medicine; they went for spices and fragrant oils-Luke says-and that's what they put on dead men, not sick ones. To be sure there was no mix up, they followed His remains to the cemetery, and carefully-
Observed where He was laid.
The next witness is Joseph of Arimethea. He was a judge who did not consent to Jesus's death. Did he vote against it? Did he abstain? Was he not there? We don't know, but we know three things about him-
He was waiting for the Kingdom of God.
This means, he wanted the Kingdom to come, and believed it was coming in and around Jesus.
He was also afraid of his colleages.
They hated Jesus with a murderous passion, and if he stood by the Lord, he might suffer the same fate himself. It is easy to condemn people for being scared, but till we face the same dangers ourselves, it is better to simply note his fear, and move on. In Joseph's case, this is a good thing, because, we also know-
He took courage, went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.
This caught Pilate off guard. Jesus died much faster than other men, and we know why. It's because-
I lay down my life;
No man takes it from me.
The Romans and Jews did not take Christ's life-He gave it. Unlike other men, He died when He wanted to, because He's the Lord of life and death. What God told Moses, Jesus demonstrated-
I kill and I make alive.
In any event, Pilate sent word to the Centurion to certify His death, and he got it without delay-
He had been dead for some time.
On hearing this, Pilate released the body. Thus he became another witness to our Lord's death. Caesar would have had his head had he taken a man down from the cross before he died. Especially a man who claimed to be king and who had wide popular support.
Let's tally up what we have: a Centurion, three named women, many unnamed ladies, Joseph, and Pilate. They all say the Lord was dead and buried.
A few days later, the Jews said He wasn't raised from the dead, but nobody disputed His death. They said His body was stolen from the tomb, but nobody said it wasn't buried in the tomb!
The number of witnesses is impressive, and so is the character. Pilate and the Centurion hated the Jews; Joseph hated Pilate and the Centurion; and all the men despised the women. These are not the kind of people to connive at a public lie. What would they have to gain from it but loss? Pilate would lose his job (at least); the Centurion would lose his life; Joseph would lose his place on the Council, and nobody would take the women seriously one way or the other? Why say Jesus died if He didn't?
To many, the death of Jesus was a great personal loss; they loved Him and they didn't know how they go on without Him. As touching as this is, however, it is not what Mark draws our attention to.
It is not the personal loss they're feeling so much as the loss of the Kingdom. The followers of Jesus believed His message and acted on it. To them, the time was fulfilled; the Kingdom of God was at hand. They had quits their jobs, lost their friends, and shelved their plans to get into the Kingdom, and now-the Kingdom is as dead as the King!
Once again, Death has had the last word.
The sun sinks in our story, just as hope sinks in the hearts of all who were-
Hoping that He was going to redeem Israel.
THE EMPTY TOMB
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
Many of us can vouch for this Psalm, but never was it more true than daybreak on the following Sunday. The same women who saw Jesus die and buried on Friday afternoon, are now at the cemetery to honor His body one last time. As the sun peeks over the horizon, they remember something they should have thought of before-
Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?
This tells us something about their grief. These were women of some means; they knew how to run a house and to take care of money, but they were so shaken up by the death of Jesus and the falsifying of their dreams, they forgot to bring a big strong man to open the tomb.
Well, that's life! Maybe someone will show up and do them a favor. But when they arrive, they see they had worried for nothing-
The stone had been rolled away.
They stepped in to spice the Lord's body-and it wasn't the Lord they saw, but-
A young man clothed in a long white robe.
The man not only surprises them, but he scares them. Why? Because he is no mere man; he's an angel, and angels are not the cute cherubs we see on Christmas cards-they're the soldiers of God! Awesome is what they are-not cuddly.
He has come to deliver God's message-
Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who is crucified. He is risen! He is not here! See the place where the laid Him.
At long last, after fifteen plus chapters, the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom has come. Jesus has defeated death and what lies behind it: sin and Satan. His earlier works were partial and temporary: the girl He raised from the dead died again; the people He healed got sick again; of course the people He fed were hungry the next morning.
His previous works were flashes of the Kingdom. Rising from the dead is the Kingdom! Never again will Jesus shed a tear; never again will He groan at a friend's funeral; never again with He spill a drop of blood; He'll never hunger again, never thirst again, never weary again, never fret again; and best of all, never die again. To Jesus, these are-
Former things that have passed away.
Jesus is no miser, enjoying what He has while others do without. No sooner does the angel tell the women He is risen than he issues an order-
Go and tell His disciples-and Peter-that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him as He said to you.
The disciples betrayed Jesus, but He did not betray them! The New Life He entered was for them too, and He would take it to them, in Galilee of all places!
Why there? Because Galilee was a frontier town, and Jesus is no local Savior; He's the Savior of the world-
In Galilee of the Gentiles,
The people who sat in darkness,
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in
The shadow of death;
Upon them a light has shined.
The promise made in chapter 1 has been kept in chapter 16. The Kingdom of God has come, and everyone is welcome to enter it and enjoy its present and future and eternal blessings.
You enter it now the same way you did then: Repent and believe the Gospel.
Jesus has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
Whatever good therapies and programs offer, the Gospel and nothing else remains-
The power of God for salvation,
To everyone who believes.
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