Sermon title: The First Mystery: Why, Where, and What? John 19:41-20:20
Preached UBC 11.13.11 AM service
Intro: Have you officially entered the holiday season? We have at my house! Marian’s got the music going, and she just can’t wait for Thanksgiving! Do you know why? Because the day after Thanksgiving, she puts up the Christmas tree!!! She’s already started watching Christmas movies! She loves Christmas!
The Thanksgiving Day celebrations, for many people, start the holiday season! The stores started it weeks ago! But Thanksgiving is the major event that starts the holiday season.
For what are you thankful? For what are you grateful? We could probably take all day and all week to list all of the things, people, and other blessings that God has given to us over the years! But the greatest gift that God has given to us, the one thing for which we should be more grateful than anything else, is found in these verses--the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
This event is what I call the First Mystery of the Bible! Next week I will tell you the Second Mystery of the Bible. But this week is the First Mystery of the Bible! Take a look!
Over and over during the time that Jesus spent with the disciples, He warned them that He was going to die. But they never believed it. They always thought He was talking in a metaphor. Why? Because they couldn’t conceive of God letting the Messiah die! And certainly not on a cross! Crucified by His enemies? Never!!!!
The First Mystery has three parts:
The disciples: Why did God let Him die?
This was the big question that the bewildered disciples were all asking each other and themselves in the next 30 to 36 hours after the death of Jesus. Why? Why did God let them kill him, the Messiah, the One who had been promised for so long? Why? They just couldn’t believe it! God had let the Jewish rulers and the Romans put Him to death. And not just any death--they had crucified Him! They had given Him the most shameful death that any man could die in their day, and in their minds! Only the worst criminals were put to death on the cross. Only the ones that the Romans wanted to use as an example to keep the Jews in fear were put to death on the cross.
Why did God let Him die, and why on the cross?
Ladies, can you imagine wearing a small electric chair around your neck? Men, can you imagine if we put an electric chair picture on all of our religious literature, on our buildings, and talk about how valuable it is in all our spiritual conversations? That’s what the cross was in Jesus’ day--the most shameful instrument of capital punishment that the world knew!
The disciples were completely bewildered. Why did God let Jesus die, and why did He let Him die on the cross?
But it was the only way that you and I could be forgiven. Only the death of a sinless, perfect man, a man who was also God Himself so that the sins of all the world could be forgiven--only that magnitude of a death would satisfy the demands of the Law against the sins of the world!
God had known from before the creation of the universe and the world that we humans would sin, and that our sins would require the just punishment of death. But He also knew that His love for us was so great that He would not let us go into death and hell without providing a way by which we could be forgiven.
Why did God let the Messiah die on the cross? So you, and I, and all the sinful people of the world would have a substitute die for us, so we could have the possibility of being forgiven!
Mary, the women, John, & Peter: Where is the body?
You need to understand something about that morning to really see the impact of what Mary, the other women, and the disciples experienced that resurrection day. That something is this--absolutely no one expected the resurrection! Not the disciples, not the women, not the Romans, not the Jewish rulers--no one expected the resurrection!
The most that the Jewish rulers thought might happen was that the disciples might steal the body, and then claim that Jesus was risen. But even then they did not expect that Jesus would really conquer death, and rise from the grave!
That’s why on that morning no one went to the grave to see if He had in fact risen from the dead! The women didn’t go there to see if a resurrection had happened--they went there to anoint the body with perfumes and spices after the usual custom of how to show honor to a deceased loved one.
This fact is one of the most important for us to understand, because it is one of the greatest proofs that Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead: No one expected it! But when it happened, no one and nothing could keep the disciples and the other followers of Jesus from telling everyone about it! Not the Sanhedrin, not the Roman government, not the ridicule and persecution that they would suffer for the rest of their lives, not even death itself could keep all of them from telling the truth--Jesus really rose from the grave! Jesus really conquered death! And this proves that Jesus is the Messiah, and that forgiveness can be obtained through His name, and through none other name!
The disciples: What did Mary say?
The fact that no one expected the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave explains why no one believed Mary’s story when she told them that she had seen Jesus! When she first told them the body was gone, John and Peter ran to the grave to see for themselves. But even then perhaps only John believed that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead (v. 20:8). V. 8 says John believed, but it doesn’t tell us what he believed. Did he believe Jesus had risen, or did he just believe that that body was gone, as Mary had told them? Or, did he believe just that some kind of miracle had happened, perhaps that God had taken the body of Jesus as God took the body of Moses, and the archangel and the devil argued about it.
But even if John believed in the resurrection, no one else did. Even when Mary told the ten disciples in the upper room that she had seen and talked with Jesus, they still were hiding that evening for the fear of the Jews. They still doubted Mary. I can see them now: What did Mary say? Did she say that she saw Jesus, that she talked with Him? That’s impossible! She’s overcome with grief; she’s having visions from her grief. She wants to see Jesus so much, she’s imagining things!
Even today, people don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. The only way we can convince them is to point out some things:
Jesus is alive! And because He is alive, we can be grateful for all the things that we can look forward to in the world to come!