This weekend’s Easter message …
- Came from Mark 16:1-8;
- Hinged on NINE references to Jesus in the space of a verse and a half;
- Had its origins in my thoughts that many people careen from one life event to another, propelled by nothing more than their newest desire, latest impulse, or most recent outrage;
- Had a French moment involving raison d’etre;
- Landed at this bottom line: Your why is really a who;
- Was preached to this family (Natalie Davis, Riley Davis, Julie Davis, Taylor Davis, and Nate Underwood).
It can be sort of difficult, even on Easter Sunday, when you, as they say lose your way. Lord, I remember as a kid we piled into our car to drive from Dallas TX to Austin TX, which really isn’t very difficult since there are essentially no turns for four hours! But anyway, somehow my mom made a wrong turn in Waco – WACO! – thinking we were taking a new scenic route, and the next thing we knew we were in this strange place called Mineola TX and stuck in a gulch. I was absolutely convinced we would run out of gas and because YOU KNOW the next step after running out of gas is instant death, I’m just balling. We Davises had lost our way. Apparently we neither ran out of gas nor died, because here I am and there my mom still is, going strong at 102.
But you know, even today with GPS systems … they can be wrong or you can mis-hear and then you’ve lost your way and what happens? This: RECORDING OF “Return to the route” or “Recalculating.” Because that THING is convinced you’ve lost your way and its job is to help you find it back. Lost. Your. Way.
But you know as well as I do that people lose their way in all kinds of different … WAYS. A baseball player or tennis player or pro golfer goes into a slump and what do commentators say? “He’s lost his way.” Man, over the last 8-10 years I’ve heard that SO MUCH in golf: “Tiger’s lost his way.” Or a man abandons his family for a moment of pleasure outside it and the fallout is so enormous and what do we say? He lost his way. A woman steps all over her peers to get that promotion and while she may attain the new position she has lost all her friends along the way. The view from the top is a lonely one indeed. What do we say? She lost her way. A preacher suddenly – or gradually? – decides he’s smarter than those who wrote the bible and so invents a whole new understanding of faith and so what do we say? I say? That guy’s lost his way. Used to be on the path and now way off it.
And maybe saddest of all is the people who never find it to begin with. People whose lives meander around without any kind of purpose, any kind of foundation, any kind of what the French call raison d’etre (AV). Seen it first hand. Young man, all kinds of potential, thoroughly loved & claimed by God & yet as much as tells me: “Nope, I’m choosing drugs. I’m chilling. And medicating.” Made me shudder as I literally saw any ambition or motivation go up in a haze of smoke. Lost his way … because he never had one to begin with.
I suspect some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you even found your way IN TO CHURCH to do because you know deep down you’ve LOST YOUR WAY outside of it. You’re personally, professionally, spiritually WANDERING. How does that song go? Wasted & I can’t find my way home. And then others of you, you haven’t thought of it that way or felt it so deeply. Why? Because you are pretty much bopping (hopscotching!) from one disconnected life event to another, propelled by little more than your next impulse or newest desire or even most recent outrage. The thought that all of life might be connected – that there really is a great big WHY at life’s center – has never really occurred to you.
And goodness, all this talk of people who’ve lost their way really lands us at the end of the Gospel of Mark. Throughout A King’s Ransom we have been digging into this briefest, darkest, most compelling of the four Jesus biographies. And here at the very end, I am fascinated by who is NOT THERE on the first Easter Sunday. Look at 16:1:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.
Who is missing? ALL THE KING’S MEN! Why? Look at 14:50:
Then everyone deserted him and fled.
They’re chicken! The answer to their question of why am I here? was to protect their own skin and save their own hide! When the going got tough they were already gone. So it’s up to three women – MM, Mary mother of James, & Salome – to step into the heroic role in the story. Women save the day when the men have lost their way! Can I get a witness?!?!
So look at 16:2:
Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb
These three go to the tomb to do a rudimentary & ancient version of embalming. I love the attention to detail Mark gives – that lets you know this is not made up. ALSO, in the ancient world and mind you’d NEVER choose women to be your first eyewitnesses to something so incredible because they were considered unreliable. Again, it shows this NOT made up, NOT some kind of empty grave conspiracy; this is what happened.
And as the three SUPPOSEDLY UNRELIABLE ladies are walking along, they have an OH SNAP! moment. Look at 16:3:
and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
They realize they could be on a fool’s errand. How in the world can they get TO the body when doing so involves moving this stone that’s so much heavier than the three of them combined. The guys have lost their way & the ladies on on the way but perhaps ill-prepared.
And then everything changes in 16:4:
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
“But.” Thought about how often that little three letter word signifies a major shift in the universe? And in this case what they NEEDED had already been ACCOMPLISHED. Tuck that away … because I do believe that so many times we ask for what is already ours! Check 16:5:
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
OK, instead of dead body there is live angel and the women are understandably confused and fearful. And then look at 16:6, as I just love this:
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.
Now: “the Nazarene” and “was crucified” said all kinds of things in the ancient world that we tend to miss. We’re so familiar with the language we miss the shock factor. Nazarene meant backwater, hickville, disadvantaged, and DISRESPECTED. And crucified? Not just a way to die, but a way to execute someone while totally maximizing the HUMILIATION factor. So this very wording – not accidental! – highlights all the ways Jesus was disrespected and humiliated and all the ways resurrection reverses that. And maybe you, too, come from a place where no one respects you. You’ve had those experiences of humiliation & all in all, that’s why you’ve lost your way. Mark’s contrast here is purposeful & brilliant.
Which paves the way of 16:6, the clarion call of the entire NT, the announcement that quite literally changes everything before and after:
He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.
Followed quickly by 16:7:
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
READ. OK, the guys, especially Chicken Peter, have lost their way. So you ladies go find it. And notice those two words: Go, Tell. Know what that means? They’re the first preachers of the Gospel! That’s what we do! We go and we tell not about a new philosophy but about an invasion of history.
And finally we get to the hard stop of 16:8:
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
They’re bewildered, fearful and in Mark’s way of telling the story we don’t know if or when exactly they stopped trembling and started telling. Mark puts it back on our. They have an assignment: TELL. They have a story: RISEN. They suddenly have a new WHY: Everything you’ve needed and asked for has already been done. Link your life up with that and with him.
And in that moment, on that path, with the outcome a bit uncertain, the wanderers get a reason. The lost their way folks get a way back home. Their lives – OUR LIVES – matter and matter eternally because they’re surrendered to the ONE LIFE that can never die. The fact that you yield to, represent, identify with this crucified, resurrected, and coronated King means you have what the French keep looking for! Raison d’etre!
And then you circle back to 16:6-7 and count up all the references to Jesus: Nazarene, crucified, he, him, his, he him, his … NINE references in a verse and a half and Mark’s answer to our WHY dilemma leaps off the page to anyone paying attention. Here it is: Your why is really a who.
You have all that you need already! A story. An assignment. A king! Why try to discover your WHY in your look, your zip code, your newest, latest love, when your WHY is summed up in your identity as a subject of the King! Your why is really a who.
Because your value & significance & even purpose will never come from your achievements but only from your King. A lot of you know I came to faith, essentially overnight and from absolutely nothing, when I was 17. And it’s so interesting … in Dallas in those days, ppl didn’t talk about “getting saved.” In those early days, I didn’t even have an awareness I was a “sinner.” No one took the time to convince me I was a terrible person … ONLY THAT I NEEDED A NEW IDENTITY. A new king! A reason. So I became a Christian. I was now defined by the ONE to whom I belonged. And all of a sudden, wandering, self-absorbed me, Your why is really a who.
Or it’s like this sand here. Now: you get a scoop of sand from the beach and how much does it cost? Of course. Nothing. But when they bag it up and sell it for use in construction projects, how much? (PRICE). No longer w/o value! And then you take that formerly free sand and use it to make sandpaper (have some up there) and what’s it now worth? (PRICE). And then when manufacturers take that same sand, turn it into (Evans, #121) , and use it to make a computer chip, how much is that formerly free sand worth? A LOT! It’s the same sand! But its value increases because its purpose enlarges! And you, on the beach, wander. But you become a Xn or you REMEMBER your WHY and AHHHH. Value. Meaning. Your why is really a who.
Your WHY has already provided you all the resources you need to reverse humiliation. You’ve felt like a “Nazarene.” You’ve been “crucified.” You had that abortion. Or paid for one. You blew that great job. You lost that great love. You got shamed on social media. Oh, why hopscotch from one meaningless, isolated event after another when instead you can say, “I am united to the resurrected Savior who is now my coronated King & I view everything else in life in light of that.” The most important thing that happened in my life didn’t happen in my life. Then you’ll know the truth of that verse that will be on my marker when my time comes: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
Your why is really a who.
Back in the 90s, a new company started called Alcor Life Extension. For $50k they will put your head into deep freeze after you die, trusting that science will ultimately find a way to bring you back to life. If you want a full body freeze, that costs $120k. It’s really for people whose WHY is wrapped up in as long an earthly life as possible.
Hey – can I save you a bunch of money? Jesus already paid all that and more and what happened to his body – HE IS RISEN! – is gonna happen to yours. And the body that he gives is a whole lot better than the freeze dried version. What better gift, what better assurance, what better hope than to live your life in light of THAT?! Your why is really a who.