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He Came Back!

He Came Back!

Mark 16:2-7 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "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. 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.'"

When you woke up this morning you already knew how the story of Passion Week ended. You did not wake up wondering whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was still in the grave. You did not wake up to a world where death and evil seemed to have won the final victory. It is important for us to remember that on Resurrection day so many years ago the disciples of Jesus did not wake up with the same assurance. Whatever they were expecting to face that day, it is clear from the Gospels that resurrection was not on their minds.

Those women, making their way to the grave, were expecting to see a dead body and not a risen Lord. The fact that they were carrying ointments and spices to anoint Jesus’ body proves that they were not expecting the resurrection. In addition, when they arrived at the tomb, found the stone rolled away, and saw that the tomb was empty, none of them said, "He is risen!"

To their alarm, the body of Jesus was not there. A "young man, dressed in a white robe" told them, "You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn't here. He is risen. He is going ahead of you to Galilee."

As they listened to this messenger from God they must have thought, "Gone to Galilee? But He died on Friday. We saw Him die on the cross. We watched Joseph of Arimathea take Him off the cross and wrap Him in a linen cloth. We watched Joseph put Him in this tomb. He's risen? He's gone to Galilee? None of this made sense to them at the time.

I am intrigued as to why Jesus went to Galilee after His Resurrection? Galilee is an out of the way sort of place. It's where Jesus grew up, but that's about its only claim to fame. Jesus spent most of His ministry in Galilee, getting ready to go to Jerusalem. Jesus spent most of His time there getting His disciples prepared to leave Galilee and go to the Capitol City with Him. There, in Jerusalem, lived the people with the power and influence to change the world. But the people of Jerusalem crucified Jesus and moment He rose from the dead, Mark’s gospel says He headed back to Galilee. Why?

You might assume that the first day of His resurrected life, the risen Christ would have gone straight to the palace, to the seat of Roman power, and appeared there, proving He is the King of the Jews and King of kings.

Or you might assume that Jesus would go to the temple and prove He is the Messiah and the Son of God.

However, He didn't go to the places of influence and power to prove anything to those unbelievers. He went back to Galilee. Nobody special lived in Galilee, nobody--except the followers of Jesus. Us. Jesus came back to us.

The resurrected Christ went back to Galilee to appear before the very same rag tag group of people who denied Him, misunderstood Him, forsook Him, and fled into hiding. He returns to His deserters. Jesus especially wanted Peter to know that He wanted him to be there. Peter had denied Jesus three times to save his own life. Jesus knew Peter would be ashamed and would not expect Jesus to ever want to see him again, but Jesus came back for Peter.

Jesus came back for us as well, for there are times when we deny Jesus and forsake Him. Jesus is calling us to return to our “Galilee”, to go back to the place where we fellowshipped with Jesus and begin to follow Him all over again. He will meet us there.

That first Resurrection Day, the disciples did not see Jesus rise from the dead. They saw Him afterwards. It was amazing enough to hear that Christ rose from the dead, but the incredible news was that He came back to us. He could have gone to Pilot, or the Pharisees, or anyone else, but Jesus chose to come back to those who believed in Him and needed to know that He is alive.

The "proof" of the Resurrection is not the absence of Jesus' body from the tomb; it's the presence of Jesus with His followers. The message of the Resurrection is not first, "Though we die, we shall live." That is a wonderful promise and part of it; however, the greater message is, "Though we are still sinners, weak, and faithless, Jesus returned to us."

After His return, Jesus empowered His disciples with the Holy Spirit. The result of the Resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit is the Church -- a community of people with nothing more in common than that the risen Christ came back to us and sealed us for our own resurrection with His Holy Spirit. That's our only claim, our only hope.

Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

The Bible is not a book about how we kept seeking God. It's a record about how God keeps seeking us, despite our lack of faith! If it was difficult to believe that Resurrection morning that Jesus was raised from the dead; it must have been almost impossible to believe that He was returning to us, who denied Him, deserted Him, and doubted Him!

The risen Christ has come back to change us from doubters to ambassadors. To those who have made Him Lord of their lives, He gives His Holy Spirit. He abides in us and we abide in Him. Therefore, we are not alone or powerless. Furthermore, He will never leave us or forsake us.

When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we look up and realize that we're not walking by ourselves. When we come to some dead end in life, to our surprise and delight, there He is, awaiting us.

I used to visit an old widow woman who lived all alone in a run-down house. Unable to read well herself, she loved to hear me read the Bible to her. As I read the Word, tears often ran down her cheeks. I asked her one day what she was feeling. Was she fearful or lonely?

"No," she responded, "I'm not fearful, because I am not alone. Jesus is with me all the time."

Jesus came back to us because He loves us. As I look back over my life, all the mistakes I've made, all the times I've turned away from Jesus, gone my own way, strayed, and each time, He came for me. Jesus found a way to get to me, even when I tried not to believe in Him.

1 Cor 15:3-8   For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

On Resurrection Day and in the days afterward, the risen Christ showed up among us several times. He "appeared to Peter, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, then to James, then to all the apostles. After His Ascension, He appeared to the great persecutor and murderer of the Church, a man named Saul.

After Jesus came back for Saul and changed him into Paul the apostle, Paul had grace from the Holy Spirit to minister to the poor, struggling Corinthians, who were failing badly at being the Church. To those backsliding, sinful, divisive, faithless Christians, Paul preaches The Resurrection. He reminds them, and us, that the risen Christ chose to come to us. That's what a risen Savior does. After denying Him and deserting Him, Jesus seeks us, finds us, appears to us, embraces us, and encourages us to follow Him again! How will we respond to Him this morning?

In life, in death, in life beyond death, Jesus is our hope. The risen Christ came back to us, He sent His Spirit to be in us, and He will come back a second time and take us home with Him.

This Good News should give us much joy and peace. There was sorrow and despair when Jesus hung on that cross and took on our sins. All hope appeared lost. But this morning, we celebrate His Resurrection. His Resurrection declared victory over death, hell, and the grave. Therefore, we have the promise of eternal life with a living God. He is a just, holy, and righteous God, who loves us. A God who sent His only begotten Son to suffer for our sins. Furthermore, this same Son of God, Jesus Christ, has promised to come back for us again.

John 14:1-6 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you have a place reserved in Heaven. Think about what it will be like in Heaven. There will be no pain, no suffering, no sorrows, and no death. It will be a place of beauty with streets of gold and walls of precious gems. Yet, none of this compares with being with Jesus Christ and worshipping Him in person for eternity.

The Bible has many passages promising the return of Christ for His Church. We studied this one recently: Acts 1:5-11 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

It must have been an amazing sight to watch Jesus ascend into the clouds. However, that ascension will not compare to the sight of Christ coming back for His Church.

1Thes 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

If you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, it is an encouragement to know whether we physically die before Christ’s return or whether we are still alive when He returns, we will be with the Lord forever. As Christians we have nothing to fear, not even death.

Even so, when we lose family members or close friends, we are saddened and we mourn. This is right and acceptable. Remember in John chapter 11, when Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, died? Jesus also mourned. John 11:35 Jesus wept.

Jesus wept because He had compassion for Mary, Martha, and all the Jews who were weeping for Lazarus. Jesus cares, so we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is Jesus, who has proven He is the Life and the Resurrection. Just as Jesus physically raised Lazarus from the grave, all those who have died, believing in Christ as their Savior, will also be raised from the dead unto eternal life.

Matt 24:3-14 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

We don’t know when Christ will come back again, but He did tell His disciples that we will know the season. I believe we could be living in that season today. It may be a hundred years before Christ comes back. It may be today. Either way, are you ready? Are you prepared?

Jesus promised that if we repent from our sins, accept Him as our Savior and Lord, die to our old life in baptism, and are born again of His Spirit, we will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. If we don’t, we will spend eternity somewhere else. That somewhere is hell, a place of constant torment.

Some people, who don’t want to make Jesus lord of their life, say that they don’t believe in heaven or hell—when you die, that is it; there’s no life after death. Just because you don’t believe in something you’ve never seen, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’ve never seen gravity, but it exists whether I believe in it or not. What if you are wrong? Do you want to take that chance? Eternity is forever.

Others say they will believe in Jesus if He comes back. But, He did come back! That is what I have been saying about the Resurrection. He has already come back, proving He is the Christ, King of kings, Lord of Lords, Savior, and the Son of God. The Resurrection is His proof.

No, the time to believe is now. Jesus came back and He is coming back again. If you don’t accept Him before His next return, you will spend eternity in hell. You may be saying, “Well, I will accept Him when I see Him in the clouds”. When we see His return in the clouds, it is too late, our choice has already been made and recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

So, if you are here today and you don’t know Jesus as your Savior and Lord, accept and believe in Him now. Repent and be baptized. You may not have another chance. You don’t know when Christ is coming and you don’t know when you will take your last breath.

You may be here today as a Christian, but with all that is going on in the world today; Satan has distracted you. Return to your “Galilee,” recommit your life to Jesus, and follow Him again.

The victory is ours through the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let’s start living that victory today. Rejoice and be thankful for your salvation and for His love. Praise God, love Him with all your heart, and tell others what Jesus has done for you. Be filled with His Spirit and enjoy His Presence in you, everyday, until He comes back again.