Due to technology challenges this morning at church, we are unable to post a video of the sermon. Below, is a written version of today’s sermon. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding.
Funeral Surprise (Mark 15:37, 42-46)
Surprises can be exciting! Some surprises can be shocking! Here’s a surprising story about the later of these two emotions… A couple had been married for nine years and had three children. The husband fell ill and within a few days died. With support from friends and family, she kept strong. After the funeral services and just before people disbursed, a woman came to the wife with a shocking surprise. The woman claimed she had two children with her late husband, a boy and a girl. The woman addressed the man as “our husband.” Sometime after the funeral, the woman presented birth certificates and pictures of the children with the late husband. The wife could not believe what she saw. The evidence was too strong to be disputed!
The journey to the cross and burial of Jesus holds some surprises. When John the Baptist died, Mark reports his disciples made preparations for John’s body (Mark 6:29). However, after Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples are not around to take care of His body. With bewilderment, they had all quickly dispersed from the man they once held allegiance to. Moreover, Simon the Cyrene was a surprise character as he carried the cross for Christ when His disciples once again were not present (Mark 15:21). In addition, after Christ’s arrests, the disciples were no longer claiming Him as the messiah but what a glorious surprise when the centurion confessed what the disciples could not by stating, “Surely this man was the Son of God! (“Mark15:39).
The surprises do not stop at the crucifixion. Joseph of Arimathea. a member of the council of the Sanhedrin, took it upon himself to take care of Jesus’ crucified body. Why is this so surprising? The Sanhedrin were the religious leaders who sent Jesus to Pontius Pilot to be crucified. The Sanhedrin hated Jesus. Joseph was the exception. Joseph had been responsive to Jesus’ message of love. Jesus touched his life. Requesting Jesus’ body showed Joseph’s bold witness. Furthermore, Joseph demonstrated generosity. Joseph laid the body of Christ in his personal tomb and wrapped Jesus in expensive fine linen. Joseph went out of his way to honor Jesus. Joseph’s courageous witness and kindness displays discipleship. Shockingly, a member of the Sanhedrin gave us one of our first examples, post-crucifixion, of discipleship.
Joseph of Arimathea was demonstrating exactly what Jesus had been teaching, compassion and love. Jesus cared for others; He came, He showed compassion, and He died for us. Out of pure love for humanity, Jesus took our place on the cross to relinquish our sin giving Himself up as a living sacrifice.
The movie, Armageddon, focuses on a burly, oil-mining veteran by the name of Harry Stamper, played by actor Bruce Willis. Stamper had been called upon to take part in a last-ditch mission to save the human race from a massive asteroid on an unstoppable collision course with planet Earth.
Landing a space shuttle on the surface of the deadly rock, Harry and his compatriots drill a hole deep into the asteroid’s core and drop into it a nuclear bomb that might just split the asteroid in two with the hopes of it missing the Earth.
At the movie’s climactic moment when the charge has been set and the shuttle is about to lift off the asteroid, something goes terribly wrong, and it becomes clear that someone will have to stay behind and manually detonate the bomb. Without hesitation, Harry Stamper chooses that job. In the final minutes, Harry speaks by videophone to the command center in Houston and says his last words to his daughter, Grace. With tears streaming down her cheeks, the daughter burbles to her dad: “Everything good I have inside of me, I have from you. I love you so much. I am so proud of you. And I’m so scared.” “There won’t be anything to be scared of soon,” Harry assures her. “I’ll look in on you … I love you, Grace.”
Moments later, Harry kneels on the surface of the asteroid as it violently shakes with volcanic eruptions. Struggling to maintain hold of the detonator, he watches the shuttle safely escape. Then Harry stares … the beautiful blue planet rotating quietly in space. A gentle smile creases his rugged face as he whispers, “We win, Gracie,” and then presses the detonator.
Suddenly, the screen fills with a racing stream of images as seen through the love of this father’s eyes. We see back in time to a sunny day when Harry is pushing his laughing little girl on a backyard swing set. We’re treated to a blur of images reflecting the glorious and grainy moments of miraculous human life. We see a moment out in the future when Gracie will be dressed as a radiant bride on her wedding day. Then, the asteroid erupts in a blinding explosion, fractures in two, and careens clear of our planet, as the surprised, saved humans of the Earth explode in wild cheers!
Just as planet Earth was headed towards destruction in the movie, we were headed towards devastation because of our sin. God took it upon Himself to offer His son as a sacrifice for humanity. The surprise in this part of the journey is God still loves us despite our despicable, selfish ways! Surprise! God loves you despite _ (you fill in the blank here)! The Father and God the Son looked with compassion at the children of this Earth and chose to intervene in a way that required a cataclysmic self-sacrifice. Jesus’ death was for all of humanity. We are loved by God! Thanks be to God! Amen.