Rev. Randolph Kesler
Tomb Bound, Cellar Dwelling Christians
Mark 16. 14
“Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after He had risen.”
The Risen One has appeared now to Mary Magdalene and the two on the road to Emmaus who have reported to the Eleven that Jesus has risen from the dead and that they have seen him.
Yet the apostles choose not to believe. They are hard hearted.
Whoever is the author of the long ending of St. Mark’s gospel (16. 9-20), he or she certainly has an affinity for Mark’s theology. All the way through the gospels Mark shows the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples as obtuse and stubborn, downright dense and, yet, these are the ones who will become the apostles sent out to gospelize the world. Mark tells us they are lacking faith and exhibiting a stubborn refusal to believe – (hardness of heart in the Greek) that Jesus has risen from the dead.
The Eleven have remained in seclusion, nursing their wounds; they will not believe; they refuse to believe. This refusal to believe identifies them with two other groups in Jesus’ ministry who are obtuse, stubborn and unwilling to believe this good news. That is the position of the Pharisees who watch the love of God expressed in His Son by healing and exorcism, for proclaiming the truth of God’s love for the world; they looked at Jesus and called him a devil, the chief of devils because all they saw in the goodness of God in Jesus was he didn’t heal on the right day or He wasn’t properly ordained to do what He did.
And, he classifies them with the Nazarenes of his home town who would not believe that He had the power to heal or teach because he was, after all, no one special. He grew up among them. They discounted Jesus and when we discount Jesus or others, they are powerless to make any positive difference in our lives as far as we are concerned.
Some of us live in worlds where we make it impossible for others to please us because they don’t do things our way. That is hardness of heart and refusal to believe. That is where the Eleven are now living. They are tomb bound, cellar dwelling disciples. They believe some but they don’t believe enough; they don’t believe what they must. They don’t believe in miracles and they certainly don’t believe that God has the power to bring about the greatest of miracles- resurrection of a dead man.
Jesus told the Twelve before his arrest and execution that he would be arrested, tortured and killed but on the third day He would rise from the dead. The Twelve are the only ones with whom He shared this information. He did not tell the larger band of followers, not Mary Magdalene and not the two on the road to Emmaus. So the Twelve are more accountable for not believing than are the other followers.
Tomb bound, cellar dwelling folks are hard hearted and unwilling to believe. That is, they are closed off to two things in this world: to the work of God and to new possibilities.
Unlike Mary Magdalene and the Emmaus pair the Eleven did not seek Jesus either by going to the tomb first or by talking about the weekend events starting on Friday. They were simply satisfied with mourning and weeping (v. 10) Tomb bound folks don’t look for Jesus; they are too self-consumed.
Not only do they not seek but they do not accept the testimony of those who do, they suffer from hardness of heart which is the Biblical expression for their thinking, their desires, their understanding, their decision making. Hardness of heart becomes the core of the life of the tomb bound.
What constitutes believing that Jesus is risen from the dead?
When we belong to the Lord as do these Eleven disciples, He will not leave us in our tombs.
The road to believing – that is, knowing the Risen Christ in your heart- (1)is to accept that God is good and in Him is no evil at all. The Eleven saw only the evil that had invaded their world, the defeat of death.
We accept that (2)God’s word is true. This the two on the road to Emmaus learned- learn and trust the Word of God.
We accept that what God promises, He does. God is the God of Amen.
Every time we pray we speak a word of Hebrew. AMEN.
“Amen” is the Hebrew word for “truth” which means steadfastness, trustworthiness, dependability.
Do you think you can depend on God that whatever He tells us and promises us is true?
Is God worthy of your trust?
Each of us must answer this for ourselves.
As for me, I deposit God’s promises in word and deed in my faith bank account.
When your husband or wife or child or parent or brother or sister tells you they love you, you believe it. You believe it not because they necessarily demonstrated it five minutes before they told you. You believe it because you have a history – a personal relationship with them – a succession of honored commitments to them and from them.
That is believing. It is accepting a word or promise because you accept that the One who is saying it or promising it is trustworthy and that He will not lie to you or deceive you. Belief is not intellectual assent but it is the overwhelming conviction that God has come to you in Jesus Christ.
What do you do in all this?
You do nothing. You trust God to give you belief – trust.
Has He not been working all things well for you all the days of your life?
He chose you to be his own. He created you at just the right time and gave you the breath of life. He called you into life. He has been preparing every situation and circumstance in His universe since before the creation of the world so that they will serve His purpose in helping you believe.
He has enlightened your mind to understand the things of God. He has taken away your refusal to believe. He renews your will and He has determined you to do good. Yet He does all this by your permission as you have become willing for Him to do this. (John 6. 35f) (Westminster Confession of Faith)
This is what our Lord has done for you – how can you not believe His presence and power in your life?
Why does God do this?
Because God loves you.
GOD LIVES UNDER THE BED
I envy Kevin. My brother, Kevin, thinks God lives under his bed. At least that’s what I heard him say one night. He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, ‘Are you there, God?’ he said. ‘Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed….’
I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.
He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he’s 6-foot-2). There are few ways in which he is an adult. He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed (that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas) and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.
Someone – some Mary Magdalene or two on the road to Emmaus – someone told Kevin this and he accepted it. That is believing. It is truth to him.
I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life?
Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, returns to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed.
The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child. He does not seem dissatisfied.
He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work.
He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores..And Saturdays – oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. ‘That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go! ‘ Kevin shouts as he claps his hands.
His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.
And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.
He doesn’t know what it means to be discontent.
His life is simple..
He will never know the entanglements of wealth, of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.
His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it.
He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.
He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure.
He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.
Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to the Lord, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God – to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an ‘educated’ person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.
In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my beliefs, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.
It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap.. I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God’s care.
Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God. And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I’ll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.
Kevin won’t be surprised at all.
Kevin accepted what someone told him about God.
He believed what they said.
Kevin believes – Kevin trusts. Kevin does not live in the darkness of the tomb, but in the light of trust.
We must make choices in Christian living- either believe Jesus is alive or remain tomb bound, cellar dwelling beings just scraping by in the arena of eternal life or really beginning to live in Christ as Christ is in you.
Do you believe or don’t you believe?
Believing is only the door by which you become aware that the Risen Christ has entered your life and, delivering you from hardness of heart, brought you life.
There is nothing for you to do but accept and affirm.