The Good News of Love

Mark 14:62-16:8

On Easter Eve we share the story of the Good News of Love.  The LOVE Jesus came to redefine and reclaim. A love that overcame darkness, defeated death and died to bring us new life.

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Good evening.  Thank you for being here.  Happy Easter. 

Welcome to our first ever, Refuge Church Easter Eve Service.  We’re glad that you’re here in this moment.

Tonight is a celebration.  A celebration of the most amazing moment in the history of the world.

4-months ago, we gathered on Christmas Eve to tell the story of a baby; a story of LIGHT entering a dark world.

Tonight, it is our hope through music, media, the message, and God’s word, to tell another story.

As a Church we’ve been studying the Gospel of Mark.  Mark completely skips the Christmas story.  There’s no mention of Shepherds or Wisemen.  No mention of Bethlehem or mangers.

Mark doesn’t deny these events; he’s just focused on a single message …   The one he began with.

“This is the Good News, about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. ” Mark 1:1

Good News about a Messiah. The Christ.  The anointed one.  The one and only son of God.  A King who would change everything.

The GOOD NEWS of LOVE.

Love that overcame darkness.  Love that defeated death. Love that died to bring life.

Tonight, we’re going to share a story, or more appropriately we’re going to share the GOOD NEWS of LOVE.

And that love has a name.  A beautiful, wonderful and powerful name … and that name is Jesus.

Won’t you stand as we give praise to that name.


Love.   That’s the theme of our story tonight.

That word.  It can mean a lot of things can’t it?  It’s kind of lost it’s meaning.  We say it so flippantly.  Love itLove ya. 

We love Starbucks coffee.  We love that new outfit.  We love pizza, donuts, and being thin, all at the same time.

We love our wives, but also our dogs.

Isn’t it amazing how many things we love?  And we use the same word for all of them.

I feel like half the songs ever written contain the word love.  Let’s have a little fun …

(VIDEO-LOVE SONG GAME)

Why do we use that word so much???

Is it possible … it’s because we have so little of it???

Jesus came into the world to redefine and reclaim the word LOVE.

When asked what the most important commandment was … 10 to pick from, 600 more laws/rules/regulations … he says …. Love!  (are you a Beatle?)

Mark 12:28-31

… love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength … and to love your neighbor as yourself. 

He doesn’t negate the other commandments.  It’s still very helpful when we don’t kill each other.  When we don’t lie to each other.  When we don’t steal each others iPhones …  or wives …

But he’s showing us at the root of all the commands is LOVE.  That’s the motivation for everything.

John 15:12–13

 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  

Jesus knows the real meaning of love.  Real love is sacrificial.  It’s costly.  You can’t truly love someone, or something without there being a cost.  Even, as Jesus says, to the point of being willing to lay down one’s life …

If I truly love my friends, then when things get tough, I can’t just walk away.  I may have to sacrifice temporary happiness to get through dark days.

If I love my kids, I may have to sacrifice my sanity on some days.

If I love my wife, I may have to swallow my pride, and admit she is right 99% of the time.

If I love having a ripped body with 8% body fat, it would cost me ice cream.  I don’t love that.  I just love the idea of abs of steel.

But Jesus knows what real love is.  He’s been in a relationship of true love for all time and eternity.

Have you ever stopped to process that?  (30-minutes on treadmill).  There is no beginning to God, or his love within the trinity … Father, Son, Spirit.

We all have a beginning.  There is a point in time, if we stop and think back, where we just can’t go back any further.

God hasn’t been in a relationship of love, as long as he can remember, not a billion years, not a trillion years … but forever in reverse.  3-persons giving love, and receiving love … perfectly.

On Good Friday, 2000 years ago, Jesus gave up the love he’d known for eternity, and became separated from God, the source love … And he did that for us!

I’ve been posting to Facebook this week the events of the final weeks of Jesus life …

  • Sunday // Triumphant Entry
  • Monday // Temple Cleansing (den of thieves, plot)
  • Tuesday // Final day of public ministry (teaching, authority)
  • Wednesday // Begins to slow down. Has dinner with close friends.  Pours into them.
  • Thursday // Upper Room, Washes Disciples Feet (lowest household job, did it with love), Last Supper.

After which he hoes to the Gethsemane to pray the most honest and raw prayer ever.  After which he is arrested.  Beaten.

The trials (if we can call them that) last through the night.  They put Jesus on the witness stand, many speak against him.  Liberal Priests/Conservatives/Scribes.  Jesus stays silent, until the high priest finally asks him the question everything Mark has been leading to … “Are you the Messiah?”

Mark 14:62

 Jesus said, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Making this statement … by saying … I AM … Jesus is not only claiming to be the Messiah, but literally divine.  That he is God in the flesh.

And that was enough.  To these faithful Jews these words were blasphemy.

Mark 14:63-65

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses?  You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”

“Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!”

Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away.

It’s no longer a trial.  It’s a riot.  The judge and jury goes absolutely crazy, spitting on him, beating him.  He has been convicted of blasphemy, a crime worthy of death.

But the Sanhedrim did not have the power in the Roman empire to pass a death sentence.  It had to be confirmed by the Roman governing official.

And so Jesus, very early Friday morning, is handed over to Pilate.

Pilate has no desire to try this case.  He stalls and maneuvers, trying to find a way out.  He tries a time honored tradition of releasing a prisoner during the Passover celebration.  But the religious leaders continue to stir up the blood thirsty crowd, and convinces them to ask for the release of Barabbas (a notorious criminal who had committed robbery & murder).

Mk 15:12–19

Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”  “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?  But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!

So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

  The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head.  Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship.

This scene is a parody of the crime …

Why hello there king.  (salute) 

Wait, what’s this?  A king without a crown?  Oh, that will never do.  We’ll fix you a crown (crunch). It looks a little crooked, let me straighten it for you, your highness (crunch). 

You need a robe to cover up that bloody mess on your back.  Did his majesty have a little tumble? 

Mark 15:20

When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.  

Crucifixion was designed to be the most humiliating method of execution.  The Roman’s reserved it for the worst offenders.  It was designed to be a public spectacle, of extreme pain, that normally ended in a horrible death by suffocation.   It was excruciating, a word which comes from the same word as Crucifixion.

Notice, Mark doesn’t give us many of the gory details.  He’s more focused on the deeper meaning of the death of Jesus.

Mark 15:22-23

And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”).  They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.

This was a pain killer.  A narcotic.  But Jesus would have none of it.  He was going to die in full mental control as he suffered.

Mark 15:22-24

Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece.

Can we imagine what Jesus’s followers felt as they watched this scene unfold?  As they watched the man they had followed for years being humiliated and crucified. Here was a man who calmed storms; healed leapers; brought people back from the dead. Here was a man who less than a week before was given a king’s welcome to Jerusalem. Here was the Messiah. How could this be happening?

Mark 15:25-33

 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”  

The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself!  Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.

As Jesus was dying the sky went black.  I don’t know if it was heavy storm clouds, a solar eclipse, a desert sand storm … but it was dark.  And in the OT, darkness during the day represented God’s judgment.  But who was God judging?

The mockers?  The disciples?  Pharisees?  No.  He’s pouring his judgment out onto his son.   For our sin.

Mark 15:34

Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (Jesus everyday Aramaic language) which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

He doesn’t say “My friends, my friends why aren’t you here with me” or “My head, my head.  My hands my hands”.  He says … My God, my God why have you forsaken me. 

If after the service tonight, one of you comes up to me and says Brian, I never want to see or talk to you again.  Well, that’d be a bummer.  But I’ll get over it quickly.

But if Karen comes up to me and says, I never want to see or talk to you again, I’d be devastated.  The longer the love, the deeper the love, the greater the loss

This loss on the cross, this abandonment, is between a Father and Son … who have loved each other, perfectly, infinitely, for all eternity.  That is the cost of love.

No theologian that I’ve read can adequately explain what took place within the trinity that day.   It’s a sacrifice for love beyond our anything we can wildly imagine …

My God, my God why have you abandoned me?

It’s a rhetorical question, because Jesus knows the answer.

He knows that God has forsaken Him … for us.

Jesus was abandoned and separated from God, so that we would never have to be.

Mark 15:37-38

Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The curtain kept anything that was unclean, from polluting its inner most sanctuary (Holy of Holies).  Only the holiest of the holy, the high priest could enter this area of the temple, and only on the holiest day of the year … Yom Kippur, and only with a blood sacrifice.

The curtain said very clearly that it was impossible for anyone who was sinful to come into God’s presence.

At the moment Jesus died, the temple veil was torn in two.  Ripped wide open.  God’s way of saying this is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  The curtain is now wide open for all to approach me.

The barrier between mankind and God was gone … because of love.

The love of Jesus, who bled and died on the cross.  And the love of a God, who gave his on and only Son, so that the world might be saved.

I often marvel at the restraint Jesus showed, by not using his power to remove himself from the cross.  And I marvel just as much at the restraint it must have taken for God to allow His Son to be beaten and murdered.

Mark 15:39

 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

Remember how Mark opened this Gospel.  This is the Good News, about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.

Up to this point, no human had figured it out.  Peter called Jesus the Christ.  But he didn’t really know what that meant.  He didn’t know it meant Jesus was God.

Now we have the answer.  This man Jesus truly is the son of God. 

And we get it from the most unlikely of people … a hardened, enlisted, Roman soldier, who had seen death many times before, who had likely inflicted death many times before in ways we probably can’t even imagine … and yet something penetrates this soldier’s heart.  He becomes the first person to confess the deity of Jesus.

Why wasn’t it the disciples who had been taught this day would come?  Why wasn’t it the religious leaders who should have known how Jesus was fulfilling God’s words?  Why this soldier?

Because he saw how Jesus died.  He saw something about Jesus’ death that was unlike any other.  The tenderness of Jesus, despite the terror, and that penetrated this mans hard outer shell.  He saw love.

If you listen closely to that cry—My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? —you can see the same beauty.

When you see Jesus, losing the infinite love of his Father on the cross, out of his infinite love for you, it will melt your hardness.   It will begin to change you.

He sacrificed everything … he paid it all on Calvary … for LOVE.   For me.  For you.

God wrote “good” on the single worst day in the history of the world. And there is not one day — or week, month, year, or lifetime of suffering — not one trauma, not one loss, not one pain, momentary or chronic, over which God cannot write “good” for you in Christ Jesus.

If that doesn’t deserve our praise, then nothing ever will.

Won’t you stand as we continue to worship Jesus.


On this side the resurrection, we often forget how difficult the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter must have been for the friends and disciples of Jesus.

Sure, we can now stand here, and boldly proclaim … O Praise the one who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead.  We can celebrate.

But I’m not sure we really understand the end-of-the-world feeling.  The DOUBT/PAIN/ANGER/DISBELIEF that Saturday.

How is it possible for that Jesus just died?  He was innocent.  Was Jesus really the messiah?  How exactly is new life and freedom going to come now? 

The Gospels don’t really give us much about this day between.

We know that it was the Jewish Sabbath.  We know Jesus’ disciples were hiding behind locked doors.  Afraid.   Jesus had just been brutally murdered by an angry mob, and they were expecting to be next.

They were even too afraid to attend Jesus’ burial, and left it up to a couple of ladies to care for his body.

Yet I also have to think, as they huddled there together in mourning, they did much like we do when we’ve lost someone we love, all these memories came rushing back.

It’s what we all do right. We begin to tell stories and remember.

John // Do you guys remember that wedding we were at when Jesus turned water into wine?

Yeah, I remember John, and I remember you having a little too much of that wine. 

And they have these light moments of laughter that breaks the tension.

Peter // Remember when he came walking to us on the water and you all thought he was a ghost?  I knew it was Jesus the whole time … I walked right out to him …

Andrew // his brother pipes in … That is until you started sinking and yelling … save me save me … Oh Ye of little faith. 

Man, I remember that day we were all out fishing, and we saw Jesus coming.  There was just something about him.  We knew, we felt compelled to follow him, even though that guy confused the heck out of us.   

Remember, when Jesus reached out and touched the leper.  That blew my mind.  I had always felt compassion for those people, but was told we couldn’t touch them. 

We sure had some wild dinner parties didn’t we?  Prostitutes.  Tax collectors.  Jesus would invite just about anyone.  

Remember that day when Jesus wouldn’t shut up teaching.  How many were there, like 20,000 or so?  He just kept going and going.  We had no food to feed them, but Jesus told us to take what we have and give it to the people anyway, and he made it more than enough.  WE ate that bread for days.  

Jesus sure disrupted our lives didn’t he?!?!? 

And they continue on, and remember all the funny stories, and amazing miracles, and wild teachings … and before long, someway says …

Remember that stuff Jesus was saying on Thursday while we were having Passover?  Wasn’t it something like “take this bread, this is my body, eat it and remember me?

Yeah, yeah, then he took the cup of wine, and said “drink it this is my blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins”

Someone goes and gets some bread, and another some wine, and they remember Jesus, their friend, as they have this meal together.

They’re scared.  Confused.  Doubt floods their mind.

How can it be that Jesus, the one we thought was the Messiah, the one who would save us, be gone?   How is this a part of the plan?  How is this good. 

Perhaps you’re wondering the same things.  How can it be that God loved a messed up person like me?  How can it be, that life exists after death?  How can it be that the way my life has turned out makes any sense at all?  

Yet, even amidst our doubts and struggles, we can still share that same meal, that the disciples did that evening, as we remember our friend, Jesus.

Go ahead and make your way to the table.  Eat the bread.  Hold the cup as we sing.  I’ll come back and pray, and then we will drink this cup together tonight as a church.


Mk 16:1–8

Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body.  Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb.  On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!

Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”  

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.

The two oldest manuscripts available of the Gospel of Mark end at this point.  It’s a bit of a cliffhanger.  The other verses we have now, were added at a later time to give it a conclusion.

But I believe this is where Mark meant to end his story.  This is the conclusion.  We now know the story … that this is the Good News, about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.    

The tomb is empty.  Jesus is alive. That’s the Good News.  He is the Messiah.  Now go and tell others …

I think Mark ended with a cliffhanger, because he’s inviting us to join and continue writing the story.

Easter is celebration of the most astonishing true love story in history.

A love story with no conditions.  No strings attached.  A love that suffered shame, ridicule, abandonment and death.  All for us.

In these next moments.  Lean into this love.  Take hold of it.  Claim it.  Because we are loved more than we will ever be able to grasp.

Death has been beaten.  What was once irreversible, has now been reversed.    That’s the HOPE Easter gives.

Hope, that what God did in a graveyard in Jerusalem, God will repeat on a grand scale.

Hope, that those who have died before us that we love, that when we die we will be reunited with them.

Hope, that the tears we shed, the blows we receive, the pain, the heartache, someday will be distant memories..

Good Friday reminds us …  of the cost of love.

Saturday reminds us … love is still there, even when we can see it.  Even when we doubt.

But Easter proclaims that love has won.  Hope has been restored, freedom is ours, victory is secure!

That even on days when you feeling like life has gotten the best of you, we have victory because on Easter … LOVE WON.

Please stand one last time, as we celebrate and proclaim victory.


I used to think that people who believed in God were simpletons.  Naïve.  Gullible.

I mean sure, when we’re kids we have imaginary friends, but when we become adults we outgrow that kind of silliness.

It’s hard to believe in a God we can’t see, hear or touch.  It’s perhaps even harder to believe in love, in a world that is so lacking of that commodity.

My prayer tonight is, if you’re not there yet, that you’d ask Jesus to help get you there.  To give you the faith to believe this story of love.

If you’re still doubting, or a little cynical and jaded … you’re in good company .. Email/Text/Talk.  I’d love to be a resource.

Early followers of Jesus had a tradition.

One would say “He is risen” … and the other would respond “He is risen indeed” … (3 kisses on cheek)

He is risen … (He is risen indeed) (3x)

What a beautiful declaration ….

Misfits, go change the world.  (Go Misfits)

Happy Easter.

 

Written by Brian Culbertson

Sinner turned Saint because of Jesus.

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