9 “Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.” ~ Mark 16:9-11
THE RISEN CHRIST
Faith in God; faith in Jesus is all to often determined by what we see, instead of what we do not see. Blind faith is often ridiculed and is put down as something we should never do, but it is exactly that which our Lord Jesus Christ asks us to have and to exhibit in accordance to Him. Faith, absolute, unshakable, undaunted faith is what God bestowed upon Jesus and Jesus taught to all of us. I find it very interesting and revealing of Jesus how he places this faith into Mary Magdalene and how she returns this with her instant obedience and belief in the idea that our Lord had risen. After all Mary was present at the trial of Jesus, she saw first hand the brutality bestowed upon Him, she watched him suffer while being led up the vast hill to Golgotha, she watched him be nailed to the cross, heard his cries of pain and anguish as they lifted him up to be displayed only to suffer more while trying to breathe. Mary saw her beloved teacher forgive those who taunted Him and even witnessed the promise of salvation to one of the criminals guilty of his crimes but confessed to Jesus His faith. In fact Mary watched in horror as Jesus breathed his last, she watched as the soldiers pierced his side, and she was there when they laid him in the tomb. Out of everyone Mary Magdalene had even less of a reason to believe Jesus could have survived such a punishing death. Yet she was the first to proclaim Jesus had risen despite the fear that had gripped everyone around her and which pierced her very heart!
The question that Mark brings to the table in this telling of Easter is simple, “How do you believe when faced with such overwhelming evidence that something isn’t true but in reality it is true… how do you have faith in the impossible?” Thus, to not have such faith as described by Jesus is to be condemned with sin. No one had faith because the scourging of Jesus was so replete that no one could have survived it. No man could have ever beared such a punishment and not confess even if they where innocent, just like Jesus. The pain of each individual steel ball at the end of each leather strap would have forced anyone to surrender within the first strike, but Jesus took twenty lashes times two. Two soldiers or lectors, (as they where known then), adept at this kind of torture, each man had one cat-of-nine-tails, and each ball had tiny spikes at its ends. The lectors stripped Jesus nude, tide his hands to an upright post exposing his bare back, buttocks, and legs. Each lector took turns as they swung the cat-of-nine-tails as hard as they could, striking Jesus all up and down his body taking pleasure with each ounce of pain they delivered. Blood and bone, clung to the ends of the balls, some flesh fell to the ground while other bits and pieces of tiny tissue was slung all about the area of this horrific scourging. From a biblical sense forty lashes is all a mortal man can take before collapsing in shock and then later dying of his wounds, so the sentence would be thirty nine lashes. In truth the severity of the scourging depended upon the disposition of those who where delivering it, so with Jesus they made him an example, thus it would be fair to say that his lashing was harsher, with more cruelty than what would be given to the run-of-the-mill criminal. So this question of Mark, “How do you believe in the face of such evidence?” is truly the question at the core of our faith, it is at the center of everyones heart and mind who has ever lived, who witnessed the birth, life, and death of Christ. How to believe in something so impossible and yet unseen is what we all wrestle with when building our faith, our believing in Jesus Christ, and when we read about His resurrection and His ascension. Blind faith is at the very core of Christ from start to finish. For Mary Magdalene there was no question because she instantly believed.
14 “Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” ~ Mark 16: 14-18
Imagine if you will, the shock upon their faces, the absolute stupor they all where in. They had been told to assemble but for what reason? They where told Christ had risen but yet they did not believe for they had not seen him nor would have recognized him if they had. In fact the bible tells us that they did not believe partly out of fear, but mainly they had dismissed what He told them before His death. Had they truly believed Jesus was the son of man, to which He had openly claimed in their hearing many times perhaps their fear would have turned to wonder and excitement in the possibility that he could have been a live just as they where being told. To some degree for Peter, James, and John it was their actions after witnessing the death of Christ that is most telling, for it was these three who had more of a cause to believe than all the the rest, Mary included. For Peter, James, and John had witnessed Jesus transfigured before their very eyes and had they understood what they saw they all three would have instantly believed in what Mary was telling them. Ironically, none of the chosen disciples believed in Jesus’s resurrection because of the circumstances and fear surrounding His death especially Peter, James, and John. Moreover, Peter, James, and John had a second reason to have had more faith than what they were exhibiting because after the transfiguration Jesus told them to not to tell anyone about this until after He had risen from the dead, but they all three had failed to do this, they all three failed to have absolute, unshakeable faith in the power and might of Jesus. Instead they all chose to cower in their fear and be caught up in their grief and so Mary’s words made no sense to them. Their disbelief was so great because logically it was impossible. Their viewpoint was based upon a limited frame of reference which dictated that after the brutal death Jesus had suffered His mortal body was to damaged, beaten, and torn that He could not have been resurrected. Therefore, to look for Him ran counter to what was physically possible, (once discounting the transfiguration and after inputting the type of resurrection others like Lazarus experienced at the hand of Jesus), so what Mary was telling them they took as being absolute nonsense;
This element of fear was so great and had penetrated their hearts to the degree over the course of the three days after Jesus had passed that each one of them was ready and willing to give up on what Jesus had taught them and disassemble as the Romans and Pharisees had hoped. Fear had gripped them so completely they even locked the door to their dwelling for safety and rarely ventured out. They all thought the world would hate them, so the hid. The fear was real and each one of them had cause to be afraid for Jesus had warned them what their plight would be if they followed in his footsteps and it became even more real once seeing it for themselves up-close and personal;
18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. 25 This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.” ~ John 15:18-25
Therefore, the disbelief was based upon facts of the world, and not of the spirit. With God anything is possible and everything is in your reach. Mary’s belief was in some regard based upon her personal experience as a witness to Jesus’s resurrection, and it was her ears in hearing his voice that convinced her that her teacher was indeed alive. It would be this same personal experience that would finally convince a group of scared, timid, bewildered, and even frightened men to become the great men of faith they would later become. It would take the voice of Jesus to bring them out of their collective shell’s and build them up into an unstoppable force for Christ.
HAPPY EASTER… AND GO AND SPREAD THE WORD… OUR LORD AND SAVIOR LIVES!
God Bless and have a wonderful Easter,
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