Romans 6: 5-18
April 24, 2011
by Duane Maust

Remembering the Resurrection

This is what the Bible says.

The Burial (Mark 15:42-47, Mt. 27:57-61, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42)

It was a small funeral, a really small funeral. Just four of them at the grave side; Joseph, Nicodemus, Mary and Mary. An unlikely quartet of mourners. Joseph, the wealthy councilman, Nicodemus, (John 3) a Pharisee and Jewish leader, Mary Madeline, who before she encountered Jesus was plagued by seven demons and one of the other Marys. For the record this was a different Joseph and different Marys than we read about in the story of Jesus’ birth. It was almost dark when they went to the garden. What color was the sky that evening?

There wasn’t a funeral service really. It seems that folks were in a bit of a hurry to get Jesus in the ground, it being Preparation Day, and all. But those four that came, showed love and respect.

Pilate gave the body to Joseph who personally took Jesus down from the cross. I wonder if he got Jesus’ blood on his clothes. Nicodemus brought about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to the burial. 75 pounds. How did he get all of that to the garden? Joseph brought some linen cloth. Then according to Jewish custom, the two of them wrapped Jesus’ body with the strips of linen, like swaddling clothes. Spices and linen around and around. The Marys sat there opposite the tomb and watched.

There was a garden at the place where Jesus was crucified. And in this garden was a tomb, it was like a small cave cut out of the rock. The site actually belonged to Joseph. Maybe he thought he would be buried there one day. Most tombs of the time were designed for multiple burials; Jesus was laid to rest in a place where no other body lay.

Joseph closed the front of the tomb, himself, by rolling a very large stone across the opening. How much did it weigh? Then the four of them left. The Marys planning to return, went to prepare more spices for Jesus’ body. It was probably dark as they left the garden that Friday night.

The Guards (Matthew 27:62-66 & 28:11-15)

It would have been completely quiet there in the garden. But some of Jesus’ enemies were still paranoid, even after he was dead. They asked for guards to be posted at the tomb so that none of Jesus’ followers would steal the body. The stone over the front of the tomb was secured with a seal. A guard stood watch. It was Saturday.

Later these guards would report the astounding events that would follow. But they were paid a large amount of hush money. And they never told what they saw the next morning.

The Resurrection (Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-13)

It was early Sunday morning when the women left home. The sun was just beginning to come up. I wonder if they slept at all. They walked through the early morning streets to the garden, to the tomb. They brought along the spices they prepared.

On the way they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But it didn’t matter. They were almost there now. Maybe they would just sit close to the tomb, close to the place…

But wait! What was that? The ground was shaking. No. It was more than a tremor. It was a violent earthquake. It was as if the earth itself were crying out as an angel came down from heaven in a lightening bolt and rolled the stone back from face of that tomb. Then the angel sat there on top of that stone, bright as lightening, dressed in stunning white.

The guards saw all of this and were so terrified that they shook and passed out cold. That blazing angel spoke to the women who were standing there, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who as crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

Risen? Risen! Just as he said. Then they remembered his own words, that in three days he would live again.

Oh, what a morning. The power of God forever conquering the power of death. Jesus coming back to life in an earthquake so astounding that the men who were guarding the tomb fell out as if they were dead. The women, afraid and filled with joy, ran to spread the Good News. The too good but still true good news.

He was alive. What a morning!

A morning that changed forever the human lot. Never again will we mortals be stuck in the graves of our sin and pain and humiliation. Our personal deaths will never have the last word.

The earthquake that shook loose that stone and pounded life back into Jesus was the power of the Holy Spirit that pounds inside our hearts today.

Romans 6:5-18

Turn with me to Romans 6:5-18 and join me in considering the earthquake impact of Jesus’ resurrection in our lives.

Romans 6:5-11

Jesus died and his body was put in the tomb. Jesus died “once and for all” (v 10). Died for sin. Period.

And in a way, we were crucified with him (v 6). In our old lives we were trapped; as if we were slaves (v 6) as if we were dead. We were dead because of sin, those we committed and those committed against us. You know what it’s like to be trapped by the past, by obsessions and additions. Remember those feelings? Well, that old life is completely dead. Because of Jesus’ death we are no longer slaves to sin. The old life has been shaken loose, as if by an earthquake. It is as if our old sin life was surgically removed. We are free.

Paul is writing these words through the power of God to the Roman church. He puts like this in v7, “Look at it this way, people…” Jesus’ death and resurrection makes that old life a past life. It is over. It is dead. There is no more shame.

Romans 6:8-10

We died with Jesus and now we live with him, through the power of his resurrection that is operating inside our spirits. The power of that resurrection (v9) means death doesn’t have the mastery, the last say. Jesus is alive and he lives with God and to God. And so do we.

Romans 6:11-14

He’s alive and we are free. So we don’t behave like we once did. We don’t live like dead people any more! (v12-13)  We don’t obey the old sin habits and we don’t allow bodies to be used “as instruments of wickedness.” Sin will not be our master. Jesus set us free.

Romans 6:15-18

So we are very careful about what we obey. If we continue to obey sin, we’ll become its slave again. If we obey God, we will become the happy slaves of right living. (v17) “Thanks be to God…” we are not slaves to sin anymore. And we refuse to behave as if we are. God set us free. (v18).

Ambrose’s Story 

Lots of you remember Ambrouse. He and his wife, Pok, came to Jubilee from the boarding house across the street. They were with us for a year or two. He said he would be honored for me to share his testimony with you this Easter Sunday. This is what Ambrose said.

“I have to tell them what God has did for me,” Ambrouse said. “I would like to say, God did it for me. There is a living God. Every time that I went to court, The Church on the Rock, The Lighthouse Church, The Jubilee Mennonite Church, they was all praying for me. I was fixing to be sentenced to five years on a drug charge, and God picked me up, and God walked, God walked me out of that court house.”

Do you all remember the day Ambrouse asked for prayer here at Jubilee? Said he was going to turn himself in on some old charges. He did that. Then, awaiting sentencing, Ambrose and Pok moved to the coast about 8 months ago. They’ve attended The Church on the Rock there.

Ambrouse said, “It was my third time in court. I was still waiting to be sentenced. I felt like God told me to get up and walk out into the hall. This attorney who had been going to our church, Mr. Harvey, he saw me there. I didn’t even know he was an attorney. He said, ‘Ambrose, what are you doing here?’ I told him, ‘Mr. Harvey, I’m about to get sentenced today.’

Well, Mr. Harvey, he went to talk to the district attorney, the judge, my public defender… When the court began again, Mr. Harvey spoke for me. He said he didn’t know me back in 2009. But he knows now. That every time the church doors are open, Ambrose and wife is there. Mr. Harvey told the judge, ‘I just want him to be in church on Sunday to be a greeter, him and his wife.’

The judge told me, ‘go sit down’; it was my 3rd time in court.

Then last time I went back to court, my pastor and assistant pastor and Mr. Harvey was there. My pastor spoke on my behalf. ‘God knows I see something in this man and his wife,’ the pastor said. ‘I can use them in my church.’ The judge told me to go and sit back down.

At the end of the 4th court date, the judge called me back up there. (These are Ambrouse’s words) When I went up there to that judge he said, ‘I ain’t seen nobody in 31 years that I didn’t give no time to on a drug charge. You is the only one. I’m going to let you go today.’

Thank you Jesus for blessing me. I am on probation. I get on my knees daily and ask God to let me know what to do today. I say, ‘I’m living for you today, God.’

God has saved me. When that evil tries to step in, I just say, ‘I’m not living like that any more.’ (Ambrouse is dead to sin and alive to God) Ain’t nothing going to stop me. (he is a slave to sin no longer)

God has saved me. I just thank him and give him praise and thank Jubilee Mennonite Church for being by my side.”

He says he remembers you all with love and prayers and kindness. “Nothing but God at that church,” he said. “It ain’t no race or nothing but God. I know one day I’ll be back to Jubilee. I pray for them that God will be there for them the way he was there for me.”

“I got to walk God’s path today. I’m on five years probation. Jesus’ resurrection is near by. We serve a living God!”

Now when we talk about being saved, that’s what we’re talking about. God setting us free. Free from the old life. Free to live a new way.

I’m not going to ask you to do this. But here’s what I see. I see all of us lining up. I see this whole church coming to the mic this morning and say one thing from which God set us free. Ambrose would say, “God set me free from drugs and prison.” What would you say? God set me free from obesity. From what has Jesus set you free?

Can you see the line? Can you see every person in every church in this town lining up saying, on Easter Sunday, “God set me free. God saved me from_______.” To say with Ambrose, we serve a living God. Oh hallelujah. Oh praise God!

And if you still feel trapped by the old ways, this is Easter Sunday. This is the day we celebrate the powerful earthquake of God’s great love and deliverance. On this day God can set you free.

Jesus is alive and we are free.

April sings – I Know my Redeemer Lives!

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