From Walls to a Way

Sermon Text – 04.07.2019
 
[Mark 4:35-41 and Mark 16:1-8]
 
          Once upon a time, an alcoholic became a believer. He gave up his excessive drinking and turned to a life of following Jesus. His old drinking buddies made fun of him, a lot. They asked him, “how can you possibly believe all that nonsense in the Bible? What about the miracles? You’re a smart guy, you know better than that!” The man chuckled, laughed along with them a little bit. But they pressed, “I mean, you don’t believe that Jesus changed the water into wine do you?” The man paused for a moment and said, “I sure do, I know Jesus can turn water into wine, because in my house Jesus changed whiskey into furniture.”[1]
 

          I want to begin this morning by asking you a very simple question – Do you believe in miracles? Probably not, right? I mean, maybe… but it seems unlikely. With all the advancements in medical technology in our culture, it seems a little silly to believe in something so ridiculous as the supernatural, or the “divine.” We are too smart to believe in miracles, right? The modern man understands the world, I know too much to believe that there could be more. And yet, I look back over history and I realize that every great breakthrough that humanity has ever had came from someone who defied the accepted notions of medical and technological understandings. Every great invention came from someone who was surrounded by people telling them it was impossible. The world is flat, if you sail across that ocean, you will fall off and die. That’s what all the scientists are telling me. Man cannot fly off the ground like a bird. It is impossible. Scientists tell us that if your machine is heavier than the air it cannot be in the air. If I had a time machine, I’d love to take a smart phone back to the 1800s and just blow their minds. The more I think about it, the more I realize that scientific discovery should increase our belief in the unknown, not decrease it. At every stage of history we have learned more about the world, and yet at every stage we are somehow convinced that we know everything. Perhaps science is a tool for discovery, and not a system that imposes limitations on our imagination. You don’t have to throw away science in order to believe in the divine. Quite the opposite. And so I ask, do you believe in miracles?

     
     Today is the first sermon in a brand new series – Breaking Barriers: The Miracles of Jesus. For the month of April we are going to take an in depth look at the miracles that Jesus performed and what they teach us about the God that is actually out there. What we will discover is that God has a habit of breaking barriers. We humans love to throw up rules and systems to explain our world – it makes us feel better, help us feel in control of our lives. But to help us grow, every now and then God tears down those rules, breaks through the barriers we create and shows us something better. Today I want to talk about the freedom that comes when God tears down the walls in your life.

 

    
      So we get started in Mark chapter 4, where it says, [read v.35-36]. So Jesus and his disciples, after a day of teaching the crowds, they hop in a boat and head out onto the water. [v.37-40]. I like to imagine Jesus waking up from his nap a little grumpy, maybe he had some bed-head, all disheveled and he waves his arm and rebukes the wind like a teenager whacking the alarm clock. “Peace. Be Still. Knock it off.” Which would be like the ranting of a crazy person – talking to the wind, except that it works. The wind calms down. He turns to the disciples and says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” I love the word “still” in that sentence. Have you STILL no faith. Which shows us that this is not the first time the disciples have seen Jesus do something amazing.  He’s sort of like, “how do you not get this?”  Verse 41, they are so freaked out, it says, [read v.41]. Who is this guy? I guess that’s the question, isn’t it?
     
     And so we fast forward a couple chapters to our second scripture – and so it begins, [read v.2-3]. They are going to the tomb to put some spices on a dead body, and so their first concern is “hey, how are we going to get in there?” The bible is very clear, nobody thought the resurrection was going to happen. Nobody believed that it was possible [v.4-7]. Just as he told you. Think about this. Jesus told them he was going to die, he was leaving and that he would come back – and yet they still can’t figure it out. Have you STILL no faith?

Verse 8, [read it]. They ran away, trembling – I guess it shakes the world a little it, to witness something that expands what you believe is possible. Everyone assumed that death was the end of the story.  Think about the things that people told Jesus. When he was in custody before the counsel – save yourself, save yourself. When he was being whipped, save yourself. When he was hanging on the cross – common! If you’re really the son of God, save yourself. Get down off the cross, before it’s too late. Before you die. They assumed Jesus could only save himself BEFORE he died. After death, it’s too late. Death is always the end of the story. They viewed death as an immovable wall, a complete limitation. It will be too late if he goes all the way to being dead. But by waiting three days and then coming back, Jesus showed his real power. His focus was not convincing people, not save himself from death, but to overcome death. To show us that death is not the end of the story. God overcame death that day, showing humanity that his authority is complete over all of the earth.   

      
    Now, verse 8 says that they didn’t tell anyone, but eventually word gets out. Jesus starts appearing to people – like Mary Magdalene and the story begins to be told. But the response is pretty predictable. Verse 11, [read it]. Verse 13, [read it]. Nobody believed that Jesus had really done it. A lot of times when I talk about miracles or God or the divine – a lot of people say, “well, if I had evidence, I could believe.” But looking at the actual story, these guys HAD evidence and they STILL couldn’t wrap their minds around who Jesus was. Verse 14, Jesus has to actually show up and scold his followers. [read it]. You can feel his frustration – what do I have to do to convince you of who I am? Have you STILL no faith?

 

      
    What we see in the scripture this morning is that God turns our walls into a way. God takes our assumptions, our obstacles, our immovable restraints – that you can’t do anything about, and turns them into a path to freedom. A way of salvation. He uses Jesus’ death as a way to give us life. Think about this, we all have walls in our lives. Obstacles that we have built up in front of us, limitations on what we believe is possible. There are things that hold us back in life, and we built those walls. We put those limitations in place! Let me ask you, what are the bricks in your wall? What are the pieces that you put in place to keep you from living the way God would have you live? I can’t do it, I have too many health concerns. I can’t do it, I don’t have enough money. I can’t do it, I’m not smart enough. I can’t do it, I’m just a kid, just a woman, just one person. We tell ourselves over and over, miracles are not possible, and we take those bricks and we place them in front of ourselves – telling ourselves, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. It’s impossible. We wall ourselves in, and put the leash on our own neck. Miracles are not possible.
       
   And yet…I remember when they said you can’t a female lead in a superhero movie, it just doesn’t work. You can’t have a female superhero be very successful, they’re not as good. And you certainly can’t have a woman director. [put picture of wonder woman on the screen]. Highest grossing superhero origin story of all time, highest grossing superhero movie in the dc extended universe, and highest grossing movie of last summer. Can’t be done. Alright, fine – but she’s white. I remember when they said, you definitely can’t have a black superhero film. Can’t be done. It’s impossible. Black superhero films are always going to make less money, especially if they have a black director. [put black panther on the screen]. Highest rated superhero movie of all time, at over a billion dollars it brought in more than any other solo superhero movie ever. Have you STILL no faith?

 

Alright, those are superhero movies – that’s not real. Who cares about that? What about in the real world? Well, I remember a time when we used to look at wealthy executives and politicians and we would watch them abuse their power to hurt women, do whatever they want and get away with it. Over and over. I’m 30 years old and I remember being told, “that’s just the world we live in.”  There’s always going to be a few bad eggs and we can’t really do anything to stop them. Men treating women poorly is just part of our culture, inequality is the expectation. We don’t talk about it, we brush it under the rug and usually find a way to blame the victim. And then the MeToo movement started – which brought down people we thought were invincible. It cannot be done, and yet – we did it. There’s nothing you can do about it, it’s just the way the world is – and yet, here we are reshaping the world to be a safer place for women. Have you STILL no faith? My point is that we are told over and over, it cannot be done. It is impossible.. And when we believe them, we put one more brick in the wall in front of us. Do you see what I’m trying to show you? We are living in the age of miracles! Have you STILL no faith?

God turns our walls into a way. Take a second and think this morning – what would the resurrection mean for you and your life? What would it look like to tear down your walls, to believe that, whatever your obstacles, to believe that there is a way? There’s an old saying, “Whether you believe you can overcome or not – you will always be right.” If you believe you cannot do it – you are right. If you believe you can – you are right. I guess what I’m trying to point out is that there is a psychological benefit to believing in miracles. The empty tomb opens up a world of possibilities in your life. Faith has an incredible benefit to those who try. If you believe, you can overcome. I’m not saying it will be easy, I’m not saying you’ll get it done on the first try – I’m saying God has a habit of turning our walls into a way.

 
 

          So here’s what we do with that – let the resurrection of Jesus Christ rip a hole in the walls of your life. Whatever is holding you back, whatever obstacle you cannot climb over – roll away the stone. Think about the bricks of your wall. Drugs. Broken relationships. Troublesome kids. Troublesome parents. Trouble at school. Bullying. Financial obstacles. Addictions. National and local controversies. Family Drama. Oh, let me say that one again. Family Drama. And a little more family drama. Think about the moments when you are tempted to live away from God. You built yourself a wall and it is impossible to overcome. And yet this morning we are here to celebrate a God who rolls away the stone, who smashes a hole in the wall and overcomes when that is supposed to be impossible. So this morning take a second, and let the resurrection of Jesus Christ rip a hole in the walls of your life. And then, once you believe you that the God who makes a way is behind you, loving you, giving you a second chance – it’s time to start tearing down that wall.  Brick by brick, give your life to God and watch the walls come crumbling down.

      
    Do you believe in miracles? Jesus Christ, the son of God, came down to earth all those years ago to break barriers. To show us that the limitations of the world are just that – limitations of the world. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you let the resurrection of Jesus rip a hole in the walls of your life. Let it give you hope that another way is possible. May you climb through the wall, climb out of the box and into the light of God’s glory. Go do something impossible today. Amen. 

[1] R. Stedman, Authentic Christianity, p. 36.


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