April 3, 1994
Message Text: Mark 16:1-8
Message Theme: He Left The Light On For Ya
1. A Light That Frightens Us
2. A Light That Eliminates Shadows
Mark 16:1-8 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. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 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. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 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.'” 8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
I think all of us are familiar with the Motel 6 radio commercials and accompanying slogan. We hear some rather hokey music in the background while the spokesman shares with us the “down home” qualities of the Motel 6 chain. And then at the very end of the commercial, “We’ll leave the light on for ya!” Why do they say that? Why is it an effective slogan? How does it make you feel? Well, they are hoping that you will look at Motel 6’s with a feeling of comfort and relaxation. That there would be no apprehension as you drive in the driveway, like when you were in your teen years and mom and dad left the front porch light on for you. A nice thing to come home to.
Jesus, in a way has also “left the light on for ya.” The darkness of Good Friday was the darkest our world has ever been. It was pitch black, not only in the sky, but in the hearts of all people. The cross, a universal sign of death, proclaimed to the universe that God’s Son was dead. It would take a miracle, an absolute miracle to turn this terrible injustice and tragic event around — to remove this darkness.
But as dark as Good Friday was, that is how bright Easter is, almost a blinding brilliance! So in that sense let’s look at the Easter experience of three ladies on Easter morning and see how Jesus brightened not only their morning but their life. And in so doing learn what Easter morning 1994 means for you and me. We’ll use the theme He Left The Light On For Ya – A Light That Frightens Us and A Light That Eliminates Shadows.
You may have noticed by now that Mark’s recording of the Easter story takes a little different tone than do Matthew, Luke and John. It almost seems as if it ends too abruptly. Mark doesn’t record for us Jesus’ post- resurrection appearances. He simply ends the narrative by telling us, “trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” There was fear, real fear, and any attempts to explain why would only be conjecture. Perhaps it was the sight of an angelic being. Perhaps it was finding an empty tomb instead of an occupied one. Fear had been a way of life for the followers of Jesus. It was fear that caused the disciples to hide in an upper room after the crucifixion. It was fear that caused Joseph of Arimathea to be a disciple secretly. It was fear that caused Peter to deny Jesus three times. But perhaps more than anything else, the greatest fear causer of all is death, the consequence of sin.
To be a true follower of Christ, as these women were, and as Peter and Joseph and Nicodemus and all the rest were, you were painfully aware of your need for rescue. Surely they remembered the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 90:8 says, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” The light that pierces all of our souls like a laser is a light that illuminates even our “secret sins,” shot out from the cross. Even in the darkest hour of the universe there was a light that penetrated each one of us and brought out into the open the kind of people we really are. The light of God’s Law pays no attention to status or position or color or ancestry. I’m sure the sins of even Jesus’ mother were laid bare and she felt their shame as her earthly son hung on a tree to pay for her sins. The light that shot out from the cross with every gasping breath that Jesus took drove a stake right through our hearts as well because it turn the spotlight on our sin-stained souls. Which shouldn’t just cause us to say “Woe is me,”but that my sin put my Savior through unbelievable torment. That crown of thorns should have been mine. Those palm piercing spikes should have been mine. That spear thrust into Jesus’ side should have been mine. And that light makes it very clear to me that my sins only mean one thing death. And that should scare the (excuse the expression) “hell” out of us. Because that is what our sins deserve, eternal hell!
You bet those ladies were scared. We should be scared too as God shines down on us his Holy Word that says “the wages of sin is death.” David calls our daily walk a “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” I’m reminded of Dorothy and Toto’s walk through the evil forest on the way to the Wizard of Oz. I can remember clinging to my mom every time I watched that part. Is it any different for us as we make our way through a world where the devil is hiding behind every tree and is called the prince of DARKNESS. Indeed a valley of the shadow of death. We need to be saved! We need to be rescued. We need not only the light that frightens us, we need a light that drives out the darkness.
Those of you who know Psalm 23 know that David had the answer to the valley of the shadow of death. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Even through the light of God’s Holy light frightens me because it shows who I really am, a helpless, sin-stained sinner, I will not fear death because Jesus has left the light on for me.
Our fear of death is not unlike a little child’s fear of a dark basement. “Daddy,” he says, “would you go down in the basement with me? . . . Daddy, would you go first and turn on the light for me?” That is exactly what happened at Easter. Jesus visited the grave, defeated it and left the door open. My children won’t go to sleep without their doors open. Jesus left the door open. Perhaps just so those ladies could see that it is true, that he is risen and there is nothing to be afraid of. What a powerful illustration for those gals. The angel says to them, “He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” My dad would often come into our room late at night when we had had a particulary bad dream, turn the light on and then get down on his hands and knees with us to look under the bed to prove to us there was no monster there. Jesus also flicked the light on to calm our fears and prove to us there is nothing to be afraid of if you believe in Jesus Christ, if you put your trust, faith and confidence in him. Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Let me share with you some of my favorite Bible passages that speak of light. May they on this Easter morning lift your hearts in joyful thanks and praise. Listen to what God has done:
Psalm 18:28 You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?
Micah 7:8-9 Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. 9 Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.
John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
What incredible news those ladies received that first Easter morning, that their darkness had been turned into light. Rather than annointing a dead body as they had planned, they could worship a living Savior.. In fact, it was so incredible that at first they were in a state of shock. It was just too good to be true. Their hearts must have been pounding. What a beautiful ending to the book of Mark. Hearts pounding and feet moving to tell others about the miracle.
Thomas Jefferson was a great man, nevertheless he could not accept the miraculous elements in Scripture. He edited his own version of the Bible in which all references to the supernatural were deleted. Jefferson, in editing the Gospels, confined himself solely to the moral teachings of Jesus. The closing words of Jefferson’s Bible are these: “There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulchre and departed.” What a sad book the Bible would be. I praise my God that today, here in the light of his love we can say HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED. In a few minutes we will sing I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES. Notice it’s not I hope that he might rise, or I think he rose, or it would have been nice if he had. But I KNOW.. I KNOW!
How are you doing? My heart is pounding. To think that on a morning, perhaps very much like this one, our eternal destiny made a U-Turn, a miracle, a change from darkness to light. As Jesus emerged from that tomb he illuminated our lives. Now when we look to the cross we have joy. Now when we open up our Bibles we can rejoice, because we don’t sit in darkness, we sit in SON LIGHT. S O N Light. Thus the artwork on the front cover of our service folders this morning. Only a Savior like Jesus could turn a symbol of death into one of life. Only a Savior like Jesus could turn a dark place like a graveyard into a place of victory and celebration. Only a Savior like Jesus could turn the darkness of our sin into the brightness of his righteousness. Only a Savior like Jesus could change our eternal address from hell to heaven. He did it on the cross, when he died for you. He did it at the empty tomb when he did something we could not, defeat death. HE IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED!
That news can’t help but lighten your step and put a little zing in your drive to work or your time with the vacuum. The power of the good news lights our life. An elderly woman was filling out an application for residency in a retirement village. She was a bit nervous answering all the questions about her health, fearing she might be refused admission. But, she finally finished the form and then signed her name and filled in the place where it asked for her current address. After “zip” she printed firmly: “Normal for my age.” What do you put in the blank marked zip. As Christians we might write, “see Easter.” Easter is what gives me the will to live. It is the most life-changing, invigorating event the world has ever known.
As we close let me make two more comments directly to two different groups that might be here this morning. First let me speak to those of you who perhaps haven’t made a habit of attending church services. Maybe you haven’t been in church for some time until today. Let me just tell you that I am overjoyed that you are here. I am overjoyed that you decided to join us and worship with us. Let me also tell you that the joy that I have in my heart, and the joy that perhaps those around you have in their heart and maybe even the joy you have in your own heart as you listened to the Easter story doesn’t have to be a once a year thing. We rejoice every single Sunday morning. We’re going to rejoice next Sunday and would welcome you to rejoice with us. This joy that I pray you feel comes directly from God, and it only gets better. Just believe the good news you have just heard.
My last comment I’d like to make to all of you who have experienced many Easters and are already intergrated into the family of God. Those people that I see every Sunday. My prayer for you is that when you hear the words HE IS RISEN, it means as much if not more than it did the very first time you heard it. HE IS RISEN, means you will rise. It means that someday you and I will be with the God who loved us so much he took our sin to the cross, who went to the tomb and left the light on for us. AMEN.