He Is Risen! Easter 2024

April 1, 2024

Book: Mark

Scripture: Mark 16:1-8

Sermon Summary:

The sermon offers a profound exploration of the Lenten season, beginning with Ash Wednesday and concluding with the joyous celebration of Easter. Through the Psalms of Ascent and the Gospel of Mark, particularly focusing on Mark 16, the congregation is led on a spiritual journey that culminates in the resurrection of Jesus. Special attention is given to the faithful women in Jesus’ ministry, who witnessed the empty tomb and were the first to preach the resurrection.

Despite narratives of Christianity’s decline in the West, the sermon highlights the faith’s global vitality, growth, and influence, with examples of a spiritual renaissance among young Europeans and the courage of believers facing persecution. The discussion extends to the transformative impact of Christianity on Western thought, attributing modern values like human rights and the worth of the poor to Christian principles.

The sermon concludes with a celebration of Easter’s promise, emphasizing the resurrection as a cornerstone of faith that brings hope and renewal. The preacher invites the congregation to embrace the wonder of the resurrection, which offers a promise of a future where everything will be set right.

Key Points:

  • The Lenten journey is marked by reflection, confession, and ultimately celebration, as exemplified in the Psalms of Ascent and the Gospel of Mark.
  • The resurrection of Jesus, particularly as recounted in Mark 16, stands at the center of Christian faith.
  • The women who were followers of Jesus played a crucial role in his ministry and were the first to experience and share the news of the resurrection.
  • Christianity is not diminishing but thriving globally, with significant growth and dynamic expression, especially among youth in Europe.
  • The faith’s resilience is evident in the steadfastness of Christians under persecution in various parts of the world.
  • Christian thought has deeply influenced Western values, such as human rights and compassion for the marginalized, which have become so ingrained they often go unnoticed.
  • The resurrection of Jesus is not a solution to all problems but a transformative event that changes everything, offering a future hope.

Scripture Reference:

  • Mark 16:1-8 is the central scripture reference in the sermon, detailing the discovery of the empty tomb by Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, and their initial response of fear and astonishment.


  • The sermon recounts the story of the faithful women who witnessed the empty tomb, emphasizing their astonishment and initial silence out of fear, but ultimately their role as the first messengers of Jesus’ resurrection.
  • It shares narratives of Christianity’s impact across the globe, including the resurgence of faith among young Europeans and the conversions of influential figures to Christianity.
  • Dr. Wiles draws upon the history of Christianity’s influence on society and its ability to endure and grow despite attempts to suppress it, mentioning Diocletian’s persecution and the resilience of Christians in modern oppressive regimes.


Wow, wow. Thank you so much, worship team, for leading us today in worship. Our Easter journey for us began here in this sanctuary on Ash Wednesday. It just so happened that was Valentine’s Day this year and we gathered for worship that night, and it was a time of confession, repentance, humility, imposition of the ashes. And then we have made our way through this entire season. We have mostly focused on the Psalms of Ascent, as the people of God, historically, when they made their way to Jerusalem for worship, they would read these psalms of ascent in our, in our bibles. But we’ve also used the gospel of Mark to guide us. That’s been our narrative, that’s guided us throughout this entire Lenten season. And so we then gathered here Friday night, on Good Friday, for a very powerful time of worship and reflection upon the crucifixion of Jesus. And now all of that has culminated into today, where we have gathered now to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. It’s been a powerful day of worship already and I praise God for it. So, with that said, let’s look at this last message in this series, together in Ascent, and I’ve entitled the message he has Risen.

The text comes from Mark 16. So if you have your copy of the New Testament. I’ll invite you to turn to that 16th page in the Gospel of Mark. It’s the final page in our shortest Gospel and we’re going to begin in verse 1. It’s our custom at our church to honor the Lord Jesus when the gospel is read by standing. If you’re able, we’d invite you to stand as we hear this reading from the gospel.

When the Sabbath was over, mary Magdalene, mary the mother, james and Salome bought spices so they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 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’re looking for Jesus, the Nazarene who was crucified. He is risen. He’s not here. See the place where they laid him, but go and tell his disciples and Peter he’s going ahead of you into Galilee and there you will see him, just as he told you. Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. Thank you, you may be seated. So we begin this reflection on the resurrection of Jesus with Mark’s details about the events of that first Easter Sunday. And Mark details how faithful women continued to serve Jesus even in his death.

This is the shortest gospel. It ends curiously. In fact most New Testament scholars would tell you. If you look at your copy of the New Testament, if you have the NIV, as I do, you’ll notice that verses 9 through 20 are in italics. The reason for that is that ending is not actually in the two oldest manuscripts we have of the Greek text. We believe that it was added later by those who are editing the Gospel of Mark, and so the text ends in verse 8. And notice in English the last word is fear. It’s a little interesting in Greek. You know the Greek New Testament. This book was written in Greek. Mark was. It actually ends with a preposition. For Now, some of you English teachers know you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, right? But me, being from Alabama, we can just end a sentence any old way we want to. So I’m perfectly comfortable with Mark, but it ends a little curiously and these women are ministering to Jesus even in his death.

If you still have your Bible open, if you look back at Mark 15, mark’s already told us a little bit about these women. In verse 40 of Mark 15, at the crucifixion, mark says there were some women there watching from a distance, and he names Mary Magdalene, mary Salome, and it’s interesting what he says in verse 41. These women followed Jesus while he was in Galilee. In other words, most of the ministry of Jesus was in Galilee and they cared for his needs. And there were other women who also came and were witnessing the crucifixion and were witnessing the crucifixion Now.

That squares with the other gospel writers in terms of their accounts. For example, in Luke’s gospel, luke 8, luke says that Mary Magdalene, joanna, susanna, and he says other women. He says they actually helped finance the ministry of Jesus and the disciples and they traveled with them. So you have this group of faithful women that have been with Jesus and the disciples since his ministry in Galilee. They’ve provided financial resources and they have cared for the needs of Jesus and his disciples, and so now they witness the crucifixion, they witness the burial. Some of them do they watch Jesus’ body being laid in this hewn out burial chamber, which is hewn out of a rock, if you will the big stone rolled in front of it. And so you come to chapter 16, verse 1.

When the Sabbath ended, in other words words when, early Saturday morning, these ladies went to the market and bought spices, and they held on to those spices, and then on Sunday, they now make their way to the tomb. Now you know the Jews. They did not embalm as the Egyptians did, and so it’s customary to anoint a freshly entombed body with spices. So they were coming to just take care of the body of Jesus. Now they’re grieving, and so they’re not necessarily thinking about all the factors that they’re facing. So along the way, presumably they’re walking in from Bethany and and they begin to talk to each other and they finally say well, what are we going to do when we get to the tomb? Because there’s a massive stone in front of the tomb. Who’s going to move it for us? Which then leads to this shocking discovery.

A shocking discovery was made by these women Jesus the Nazarene is no longer dead. In fact, he’s alive. Can you imagine when they arrive? I want you to notice how Mark words it. If you look at the beginning of verse 4, it’s almost as if they’re looking down. These women are discouraged, they’re in despair, they’re uncertain about the future and I’m sure that everything they had hoped for in Jesus. Now that hope has faded and eroded and they don’t know what to do next. The only thing they know to do is to serve Jesus in death, just like they did in life. So they’re going to take care of his body and look at verse 4. They looked up and when they did, the stone has been moved.

And so, if you look at verse 5, they make their way into the tomb and presumably an angel is there and Mark says they’re alarmed, they are astonished, they’re fearful. And this angel says says, don’t be. They’re amazed, astonished, beside themselves. He says Jesus of Nazarene, the crucified ones. To make sure that they know who he’s talking about, they saw him crucified, the crucified one. He’s no longer here, he’s alive. Go tell his disciples. Did you notice how Mark put it? Go tell his disciples, go tell his disciples. And Peter isn’t that interesting, as if Peter’s not a disciple, I mean duh. However, what had just recently happened, what had Peter done? Denied Jesus. So he’s kind of on the outside now. And so here’s a statement of grace from God through the angel at the tomb. Peter’s going to be restored, so he’s called out by name. This is a beautiful expression of the grace of God, and go tell them. He’ll meet you in Galilee.

Then I want you to notice verse 8. The text says trembling. That word means to physically shake in Greek. And then the next word in Greek is the word ecstasis. In Greek we get our English word ecstasy from that word. It means ecstasis to stand, ex means outside of, so it means to stand outside of yourself.

These ladies were just completely astonished. They were beside themselves. They were amazed. They weren’t sure what to do. They were fearful, they were bewildered, weren’t sure what to do, they were fearful, they were bewildered. And I want you to notice what the text says. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.

Now sometimes people have read that and have been very judgmental. But let me just ask you what would you have done? What if there were Roman soldiers all along the way? What were you going to do? Go out there and start taunting them? Hey y’all, jesus is alive. I know y’all tried to kill him, but hey, hey, y’all.

No, they don’t know what to do. They don’t know the full import of the resurrection yet. They haven’t had that theology built for them yet. All they know is they went to serve Jesus, anoint his body, care for him, and they’ve met an angel and he has told them Jesus is alive. They are, they’re stunned.

Now we know we’ve read the other gospels. They did tell the disciples and Peter. I think what Mark is saying is they just didn’t say anything to anybody along the way. They just left, and presumably because they weren’t even sure what to say just yet. And eventually they will make their way to tell the left. And presumably because they weren’t even sure what to say just yet. And eventually they will make their way to tell the story. And what is the story they tell? They tell the story of the resurrection of Jesus. So the very first Christian preachers are a group of women Mary Magdalene, mary Salome. These are the women who hear or see this miracle and they give testimony to it. Now I want us to just take a few minutes, and it is Easter Sunday and let’s just reflect on the resurrection of Jesus. Here’s what the Bible teaches us.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very heart of Christianity. In fact Paul will develop this for us theologically. Paul wrote the church at Corinth four letters. Two of them are in our scriptures and in 1 Corinthians 15,. Paul understands that the Corinthian church some of them were having doubts about the resurrection and Paul lets them know in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 12 through 19,. Paul says the resurrection of Jesus is at the very heart of Christianity. Listen to what Paul says. I’ll read you just a portion of that text.

Paul says if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say there’s no resurrection from the dead? If there’s no resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised from the dead. How can some of you say there’s no resurrection from the dead? If there’s no resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. So Paul says if this didn’t happen, if the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, our preaching is useless, your faith is useless. In other words, if you take the resurrection out of the Christian story, then it robs the Christian story of its power and its meaning. It is at the very heart of what we believe.

So Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, powerfully proclaims the truth of the resurrection. Paul even says in verse 19, he says if we only have hope in this life, paul says, then we are to be the most miserable people on earth. In other words, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very heart of what we believe. So the New Testament is clear. Jesus Christ lived on this earth. He lived the perfect life. He showed us how to live, he taught us about the kingdom of God. He died by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and he was gloriously raised from the dead on Easter Sunday morning, hallelujah.

Now here’s what I want to tell you all this morning about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let me just put it to you bluntly the resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed everything, everything, not most things, not some things. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed everything. Now let me make sure that you understand what I mean by that, and only hear me carefully about what I’m saying. The resurrection of Jesus Christ does not fix everything. Do y’all hear what I mean? Doesn’t fix everything, but it changes everything, but it doesn’t fix everything. I mean, think about it. As Christians, we still grieve, we still get cancer, we still have problems in our families, we still lose people that we love, we still die, we still lose our jobs, we still face financial challenges, we still have relational brokenness. In other words, the resurrection of Jesus Christ doesn’t fix everything yet, but it does change everything. When Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, nothing will ever be the same. You see, we Christians, we don’t live like everybody else and we don’t die like everybody else. You know why? Because of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has totally changed all of history and I want to encourage y’all this morning because I get it.

I know how some people are feeling right now. Some people have the idea, particularly in the West, that Christianity is waning just a little bit. Any of y’all kind of sense that you read reports and you listen to statistics and you have this sense that Christianity is it’s kind of on the downturn right now, it’s kind of losing its vitality. We read the research, we read about the growth in America of the nuns. You know what I mean the nuns. I’m not talking about the N-U-N nuns. I mean they may be growing too, for all I know. I’m not sure I haven’t researched whether nuns are growing. So y’all can Google that and tell me. But I’m talking about the N-O-N-E-S. The nuns, the people who say I’m just not anything, they’re on the rise. The duns, the people who look at it all and say I’m done, seem to be on the rise. We’ve read about the de-churching of America, where there are people who are leaving the church and so there are some who say, well, we look at the world and it seems like Christianity is just on the decline.

I want to give you some good news this morning, and I want you to know this about Christianity Christianity is not on the decline across the world, and you need to know it. Christianity is thriving in many places across the world, because Christianity is not going to just survive. Christianity is going to thrive in every era, because that’s what it’s done ever since it’s shown up on this earth. And Christianity is going to continue to grow however God calls it to grow. It’s going to reach all the people God calls it to reach, and then one day he’s going to call us all to himself, and so I want you to be encouraged. Christianity continues to be vital and dynamic.

You know, right now the research is showing us people’s lives are changing right now, all over the world, we’re watching some statistics. We’re seeing, particularly among young people in Europe, places like Finland we’re watching where young people, young adults, are beginning to attend churches and express their spirituality in waves. Right now we’re seeing a growth across Great Britain, but it’s young people. It’s young adults who’ve looked at what’s been offered to them by this secularized world and they’ve recognized it as being spiritually bankrupt and they’re beginning to turn to something more meaningful, more powerful, more substantive. They’re turning to Christ. We’re seeing people folks who are very prominent, who have made their name in another setting, who are not Christian, being converted to Christ. You may have read about some of these folks, like the poet, paul Kingsnorth has recently announced his conversion to Christianity. The Somalian Dutch human rights activist, ayaan Hirsi Ali, has just converted to Christianity. The tech genius, jordan Hall has just announced his conversion to Christianity. All of them have pointed to the spiritual bankruptcy that they were being offered in this secularized perspective that has pervaded some part of the world, and these folks are expressing their desire to be more vibrant in their faith because they’ve turned to Christ.

It reminds me of the quote from old GK Chesterton many years ago. Here’s what he said. He says, christianity has died many times and risen again, for it has a God who knows the way out of the grave. I would just tell you today be encouraged, because Christianity continues to grow, it continues to thrive across the world. And what I want you to know is I get it. There’s this sense that perhaps, perhaps, it’s waned just a little bit. But what I want you to know is there are those who’ve already tried to snuff it out. There are those who’ve already tried to stop its growth. You read about the history of our world.

Diocletian, one of the most powerful emperors the Roman Empire ever knew. He did his best to undo Christianity in the Roman Empire. He persecuted Christians, he burned copies of the scripture, he destroyed churches, he killed Roman soldiers who professed Christianity as their faith. He did everything he could do to snuff out Christianity and after his reign was over, just a few years later, constantine becomes the emperor of the Roman Empire and declares Christianity the faith of the entire Roman Empire. And so today, that very thing is happening.

Today, there are those who are trying to thwart the efforts of Christ. We have Islamic theocracies that have their thumbs on the necks of the people and forbidding them to engage in anything. Christian People are persecuted for their faith. They can’t gather as Christians, they can’t worship freely as Christians, they’re not given openness in society. We have autocratic governments, like the one in North Korea, various places across the world where there’s oppression and Christians are not allowed to worship openly, they’re not allowed to freely express their faith in the public marketplace, and you know what’s happening in those places all across the world right now Places like Iran, places like China, places like Syria, places like North Korea. You know what’s happened. Christians have gone underground and they have all these massive house church networks and they’re living faithfully for Christ. They’re being persecuted for their faith. Some of them are losing their lives and they’re gathering and they’re living faithfully for Christ. They’re being persecuted for their faith. Some of them are losing their lives and they’re gathering and they’re worshiping and they’re growing. You know why? Because Christianity is rooted in the truth, and so it’s good news.

In fact, I would challenge you to do this. Find any movement that you can think of in the history of the world that is more influential than Christianity. I would defy you to do it. Christianity has provided, and it continues to provide, unparalleled influence upon the unfolding history of the world. There’s nothing else like it.

You know, back in 1883, august the 27th to be exact, there was a volcano on the island of Krakatoa in Indonesia that erupted. And you know that that particular volcanic eruption, according to the research I’ve read, do you know that it was the loudest sound ever recorded in human history when that volcano erupted? We have records of what happened over those next few days. You know that there was a British ship 40 miles away where the captain of the ship recorded that over half of the people on his ship had their eardrums ruptured because of the sound of that volcano 40 miles away. As a matter of fact, the sound of that volcano believe it or not, you can Google and read about it was actually recorded 3,000 miles away in Australia. As a matter of fact, those who, once they begin to grasp the reality of it, the waves of that sound, of that volcano, would you believe, circled the earth four times. There were those who were registering the impact of those sound waves and they noticed that those sound waves were registered in their spot on planet earth once every 34 hours, because that’s how long it took for the sound to make its way all the way around the world. It is the loudest sound in the history of the world.

Well, let me tell you this what happened on Easter Sunday is the most powerful, significant event that’s ever happened in the history of the world, and it circles the globe and continues to circle the globe, and the difference between it and a volcanic eruption is, instead of diminishing in power and in intensity, it continues to increase in its power and its intensity and its intensity circles the globe and it encompasses culture after culture. It crosses every boundary ethnic boundaries, political boundaries, geographical boundaries, everything you can think of. Christianity has permeated it all in a way that no other movement ever has before in the history of the world. It’s unparalleled. You may say well, now wait a minute, preacher, you sound like a preacher on Easter. Well, I hope I do, because I am one and I believe it all. But I want you to know I’ve just been researching and looking for evidence and the resurrection of Jesus launched Christianity. It ignited a fire that burns with great intensity to this day, and the world has never been the same.

If you want to read a Christian perspective on it, I would encourage you to read the Air we Breathe by Glenn Scrivener. But if you want to read a little more of a secular take, read the book Dominion how the Christian Revolution Remade the West, by historian Tom Holland. In fact, tom Holland’s work is at the heart of the conversion of some of these people that I mentioned a moment ago. They offer incredible insights into how Christianity has saturated the world with a unique perspective, with unique concepts, with unique insights, with unique values that were foreign to the ancient world. A vision of reality that is unparalleled in history. Ideas like compassion and equality and consent and enlightenment, and the development of science and freedom and the progression of humanity. All of those are unique Christian concepts. They were foreign to the ancient world. They’ve not been produced by any other religion. They’re not at home in any philosophical system. They don’t belong to any ancient worldview. They’re unique Christian concepts and values.

In fact, scrivener says this in his book the extraordinary impact of Christianity is seen in the fact that you don’t notice it. In other words, you are so encased in Christian thought as a Westerner you don’t even recognize it. Things like human rights, equal dignity for every human being on this earth, the value of the poor and the weak and the desire to show compassion and care for them, the unparalleled expression of unconditional love, forgiveness, moral absolutes. None of those emerge from any other ancient worldview, any other philosophical system or any other world religion. They didn’t come from secularism or humanism. They are uniquely Christian in nature. In other words, christianity has so permeated our world that you don’t even acknowledge its existence and yet you depend on it all the time. It reminds me of that old story about the two goldfish that meet up and one of the goldfish says how are you? How’s the water today? And the other goldfish says what water? That’s Christianity.

Even the people who don’t acknowledge Christianity use the basic tenets of Christianity to argue their own position, and the reason is they’re so awash in Christian principles and Christian values they don’t even recognize it. We have many voices today who’ve rejected things like hell, but people on the ultra-liberal end of the spectrum, theologically who reject hell, still believe in evil. They still believe in right and wrong. Well, where does that come from? Well, that comes straight out of the teachings of Christianity, because you see, here’s what Christianity is. Are y’all still with me? Okay, here’s what Christianity is.

Christianity is the full flower, the fullest expression of Judaism, because you see, here’s what happened the Jews when God called them to himself in an ancient world. Think about the ancient world. I don’t know when’s the last time you thought about the ancient world, but the ancient world was thoroughly spiritual and pagan. The ancient world worshiped the natural order. They were very superstitious. They couldn’t explain the natural order, so they worshiped the natural order. They assigned a divine quality to it. Not only that, they worshiped their rulers. They believed that their pharaohs, their kings, were actually gods and they depended upon them to protect them and provide for them and care for them.

And think about what happened when Judaism is introduced. Judaism is introduced into that ancient, pagan, superstitious world, and Judaism is committed to monotheism. There’s only one God, and the God of the Jews is the creator of the universe. He is not in the universe. You don’t worship lightning and thunder and rain. You don’t worship these disastrous expressions of power like earthquakes and famines. No God stands distinct from that. You worship the God who is behind it all.

And so the Jews had this sense of morality that was rooted in a rational God, a God who was good, who was knowable, who’s revealed himself through the law and through creation. And then they began, through their prophets, to prophesy that one day there would be one who would come, who would reveal him even more fully than they had ever known the Messiah. And so when Jesus comes, he is the Messiah to the Jews and he’s the Savior of the world. And when Jesus comes, he takes these teachings, he expands upon them and the theologians, like Paul and Peter and James and John who follow him, they take these teachings and the power and the force of Christianity moves beyond the boundaries of ethnic Judaism, and then it all makes its way. It permeates the Gentile society and the whole world then begins to be influenced by Christian teaching, the full flower of Christianity. And so Christians begin to embrace things like human dignity. Every human being, no matter who they are, are their station in life because they’ve been created in the image of God.

Christians began to teach that these rulers are not gods. As a matter of fact, they’re supposed to be a separation from the church and the state. You go and read the teachings of Augustine in the City of God, where he points out a philosophy of history where we separate the understanding of the role of the church and the role of the state of history, where we separate the understanding of the role of the church and the role of the state. Christians believe in a rational God, a God who makes sense, if you will, the universe can be trusted as a reflection of him. And so guess what? Science explodes in the context of Christian truth and the advancement of medicine and technology and art, all emerging out of that understanding of this consistent God and Christians. They begin to lead people to change their completely worldview.

And guess what happens? It literally changes the world. There is no other movement like Christianity. It has changed everything. And guess what it’s rooted in, guess what it’s connected to, guess where it emerges from. It emerges from an empty tomb, because when Jesus was resurrected from the dead, everything changed. Our worldview changed. These full flower teachings that grow up in Christianity will so permeate the world that all across cultures, across geography, across political boundaries, people will find faith in Christ, and the world will never be the same again. Christianity has so influenced it all. As a matter of fact, today, people who claim to be atheistic and agnostic still very often use the arguments that are rooted in Christian truth to make their point, and they don’t even realize it. That’s how pervasive it is. And the reason is y’all that it has happened again is because it’s the truth. The truth is what sets us free.

And so, what do we celebrate at Easter? I mean, come on y’all, where do I start? I mean, I just gave you a brief tip of the iceberg. What do we celebrate? We celebrate a God who’s changed everything, and he now is calling all things to himself. And sure, the resurrection of Jesus didn’t fix anything I mean didn’t fix everything, rather Yet. But one day, when Jesus returns, he will fix everything. That’s when it will take place.

And so this morning, for me and you, christianity is the air we breathe. If we were goldfish, it would be the water we swim in. And you know why? Because this is a simple but profound truth, and the church has been saying it for 2000,000 years. And it is simply this he is risen. He is risen, indeed, hallelujah. Let’s pray together, father. Today we bow in the face of profound truth and we thank you, lord. We thank you for the power, the message, the hope of the resurrection of Jesus. And we confess today, sometimes, lord, we don’t even recognize its magnificence, its majesty. We nestle so closely up against it that Sometimes we don’t even marvel at it anymore. So today I pray that we’ll be bewildered by it, that we’ll be outside of ourselves. We’ll be astonished by this powerful truth that Jesus, the Nazarene, the crucified one, is alive and we pray in his name. Amen, let’s stand together. We’re going to sing this song of commitment and conviction and invitation. It could be.