Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 3-31-24  “Easter Sunday”

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Mark 16:1-8

Last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday, and I share with you that on that day people in Jerusalem had the choice of following one of two parades and the two different endings of these parades. The week that began and ended with surprises had one more surprise for those who were in Jerusalem. Let us recap: Jesus came into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week, and he was received with shout of “Hosanna” and chants of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” by Friday the week that began with “Hosana”, ended with “Crucify him.” Surprise, no one thought it was going to end like that.

            On Friday, Jesus was crucified and buried. Those who planned and promoted his death are now confident that they have eliminated the troublemaker, the establishment is safe, their lifestyle is secure; Jerusalem can sleep peacefully because the roman soldiers will remain in their barracks and those causing trouble after his leader was killed, are on the run. Jesus’ followers felt defeated and now they are hidden because everything came to an end. Everything will be like before and they will begin to wait for the real Messiah come. However, there are still more surprises. As Jesus did during his ministry, he will turn one more time everything upside down and those who believed were in control will lose it, and those who felt weak and defeated will receive strength.

            While the religious leaders were celebrating their victory, God was at work preparing his victory. And on Sunday morning, just after Sunday, three women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome -according to Mark- were going to the tomb where they placed Jesus. They were going there expecting to find the tomb blocked with a stone, surprise, the stone was rolled away; they were going to the tomb expecting to find Jesus dead, surprise they found a messenger from heaven; they went expecting to find a body to anoint, surprise, there was no body, Jesus was already ahead of them fulfilling -according to mark- the promise he did to meet them in Galilee.  

            The risen Christ left the young man dressed in white with a message for the women, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” After hearing that. the women did not say nothing to anyone because they were afraid, but Marks continues saying, “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” After this Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples and they believed. All those to whom the risen Christ appeared received the same message the women received with more details, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

            When I was reading this part of the Gospel, I remembered many times I preached and heard sermons about the empty tomb being proof or witness of Jesus’ resurrection. However, according to the gospels, the risen Christ is not interested in the empty tomb.  As awesome as the empty tomb may sound, it is not the central message. The message is that Jesus is alive and the whole creation most know it. The tomb is not a witness of the risen Christ, we do not even know where the tomb is. The message of the risen Christ is not “Come back and dwell at the empty tomb.” The message is “Go, tell.” Mary Magdalene was witness of the risen Christ; Peter and the rest of the disciples were witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection because they saw the Lord.

The empty tomb is a big deal, but its point was that Jesus was alive and there was work to be done in Galilee and the world.

            The central message of the empty tomb is not only “He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” The central message of Jesus’ resurrection is the message Jesus left for the women and later repeated to the disciples: “Go, tell, go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” The Easter message is an accompanying message, “Jesus is ahead of us.” In other words, those disciples who on Friday felt alone and abandoned, those women who were crying are not alone, Jesus is alive, the weak and defeated are now with strength, those crying and grieving are celebrating.

                Easter, therefore, is a celebration of life, life with the risen Christ walking ahead of us leading and preparing our way.

The resurrection is such an important event in history that it not only encouraged the disciples, but it also started the church. It started all this we are part of it, and it continues today. It continues today, because Jesus’ followers were loyal and obedient to the message Jesus left and later repeated, “Go, tell.” You see, the disciples did not just celebrate Resurrection, they responded to it, they dedicated their lives to the risen Lord.

The Resurrection of Jesus is so important that for the Early church, believe in it was a sign of salvation. Romans 10:9 say, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Knowing Resurrection is important, the question this morning is: how will you respond to Jesus’ resurrection? At the beginning of the week, people had two options, two parades to follow. Easter Day also faces us with two options to the question: how will you respond to Jesus’ resurrection? Option number one, will you follow Jesus and meet him in Galilee? Or option number two, will you continue walking alone in your own way? Will you enjoy his company, or will you walk alone?

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