Jesus had told his disciples three times what was going to happen. And every time he finished by saying, “Three days later he will rise” (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34). Now everything he had said had come to pass. However, this last comment was different than the others. He has pointed out that this was God’s definite plan since the beginning (Acts 2:22–23). To be able to point out seven different things that will happen to the Son of Man; delivered, condemned, delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, spat on, flogged, and killed. Each of these has come to pass. But one more remained. That he would be raised after the third day. All the other items are things that will happen to the Son of Man. Each of these things shows God’s sovereign plan, and thus the beauty of this prophecy. It is hard to be able to predict the future when you have no control over the events, for example, it was the Sanhedrin’s council that decided to hand Jesus over to Pilate. However, out of all the things listed in the foretelling of Jesus’ death, was the last one. He will rise. This one is the only one which The Son of Man would so himself. All the other verbs are done by others to Jesus. Here it is Jesus who will raise himself. But even more than that the others are somewhat ordinary and regular things. However, the last is an impossible thing (for man). Very few times in the history of the world has someone been resurrected from the dead Elijah raises the young boy (1 Kings 17:17-24). Elishia and the son of the woman from Shumen (2 Kings 4:32-37). The body of the man who was thrown into Elishia’s tomb (2 Kings 13:21). And the times in the New Testament in the Gospels. However, all of these are other people raising the dead. Never in the history of the world has a dead person been raised.
The women go and anoint the body of Jesus (1-2)
Mark turns back to the women (Mark 15:47). The women are sandwiched between Joseph of Arimathea. The ‘Markan Sandwich’ often makes us see a contrast between two people, events, or things. Mark explained the Women watched Jesus’ Crucifixion from a distance (Mark 14:40). They now see Jesus’ body laid in the tomb (Mark 14:47). We briefly talked about the burial practices of the Jews in the first century. But one important piece we need to be reminded of. The body was normally anointed with spices and herbs to cover the smell as the body decayed over the year until they could correctly bury the bones. The problem was that when Jesus was taken down from the cross it was the evening of the day of preparation. The sabbath began at Sunset. So, there was not enough time to correctly anoint the body for burial. Jesus had been anointed for burial by the woman at Bethany (Mary; John 12:3). Mark tells that now the Sabbath had passed and Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices to anoint him (Mark 16:1). Now many people try to refute the resurrection, they do so in two main ways (mentioned before). They state that Jesus didn’t die (swoon theory) or the resurrection didn’t happen. One of the greatest refutations of the latter is the resurrection account told in the gospels. If you are going to make up a story, this is not the story you would make up. Now depending on the audience women might not have been seen as good witnesses. Although the Mosaic law did not forbid women from being witnesses some rabbis interpreted Deuteronomy 19:17 as “The oath of testimony is conducted with men and not women” (Shevout 4:1). Roman law was different and allowed women to be witnesses (Lex Julia ~23BC).
The second aspect that you would explain if this was a made-up story is why no one understands Jesus’ words, “After three days he will rise again.” Clearly, the women are going to the tomb to anoint a dead body. They were not going to take him a new set of clothes, or food. But spices for anointing him. Although told clearly, they were not assuming to see an empty tomb. They had seen Jesus’ body placed in the tomb on Friday (Mark 15:47) now they expect Jesus’ body to be there on Sunday.
The women discover the empty tomb (3-6)
The sun was sitting low on the horizon this Sunday morning as they walked toward the tomb. And as they walked towards the tomb, they talked amongst themselves and find themselves in a bit of a dilemma. That is that both Marys had seen Jesus being laid in the tomb and said Joseph roll the stone in front of the tomb. They ask a practical question, “who will roll the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Mark explains that the stone was ‘very large,’ it was not just. Large stone but one that is exceedingly large. So much that the three women thought they would be unable to physically roll it out of the way. Yet as they arrived at the tomb, the problem was eliminated. The stone had already been rolled away. One commentator highlights, “The removal of the stone suggests that in all respects the resurrection of Jesus is entirely God’s work. The human role in the event is that of a witness, not a worker. For the first time in history, last rites were all wrong.” An earlier commentator, Bede, explained it this way, “[The angel] rolled back the stone not to throw open a way for our Lord to come forth, but to provide evidence to people that he had already come forth.”
As they walk in they see a man in the tomb. They are alarmed. They are alarmed not because they see a man in the tomb, but because they expected to see a man laying down wrapped in cloth as they had seen just three days prior. However, this man was not laying down, but sitting up. This man was not wrapped in a linen shroud, but a white robe. Alarmed is an understatement. However, this messenger gives them all the information that they need to know, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” The place in which Jesus’ lifeless body was laid is now empty. He has risen; he is not here. Here is the glorious good news of the Gospel. Paul explains if Christ was not raised from the dead then all of this is futile and vain.
But we are told that He has risen, he is not here. The Son of God rose from the dead (Rom 1:4). His heart began to pump, his lungs began to expand, his veins began to circulate blood, and his brain started sending signals to his entire body. Christ, who was dead, is alive. Not because of any medical intervention, but he laid it down on his own accord, and he also had the power to take it up again (John 10:18). Once dead but now alive. Once a suffering servant, but now the exalted king. It is the resurrection that set Christ apart from all that had gone before him. He defeated death. He was victorious over Satan. The wages of sin as all have inherited in Adam. Death is paid in full by Christ (1 Cor 15:22). The resurrection is proof of Christ’s payment. That the sacrifice was satisfactory for the divine judgment (Rom 8:34). Death has lost its victory and its sting (1 Cor 15:54-56).
Now for a quick side note. This is the foundation of our hope. Christ was raised (1 Cor 15:12) and our preaching and faith are not in vain. The good news is not only that Christ was raised from the dead, but just as our baptism shows we were buried with him, we also have been raised with him (Rom 6:4). Not only was Christ crucified for us, but he was also raised for us (Rom 4:25). That we were dead in our trespasses and sins and were raised from the dead. We were made alive together with Christ, by grace (Eph 2:1-6). Christ’s resurrection is not only his victory over sin and Satan, but it is ours as well. We have been born again to a living hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our resurrection, like Christ’s, is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Pet 1:3-4). We rejoice that Christ rose from the dead; he crushed the serpent’s head. We rejoice that because he lives, we can live. A hymn written in 1757 by Christian F. Gellert, the hymn is called ‘Jesus Lives, and So Shall I,’ the first stanza speaks of the beauty found in Christ’s and our resurrection.
Jesus lives, and so shall I.
Death! thy sting is gone forever!
He who deigned for me to die,
lives, the bands of death to sever.
He shall raise me from the dust:
Jesus is my hope and trust.
The women were directed to tell others about Jesus’ resurrection (7-8)
The messenger tells the women to go and tell others of this good news. Go and tell the other disciples, and specifically Peter. Who we last saw weeping after the rooster crowed twice (Mark 14:72). The good news was not only for those who had followed Christ perfectly but for his disciples who were scattered and for those who had denied him. Now we need to understand something about this passage. That is many scholars believe that verse 8 is the last in the Gospel of Mark. You might have a footnote or comment to that effect. Many of the early manuscripts end in verse 8. We do not have time to get into the details at this time. But if we see a shorter ending verse 8 as the original ending then we are left with one big question. Throughout the gospel, I have directed you to the question Jesus asked Peter, “who do you say that I am?” Mark shows us that many people have many different reasons for following Jesus. Some want to be made physically well. Others have great faith in him. The religious leaders thought he was a blasphemer. The crowd wanted him as their king. Peter confessed that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The centurion said he is the Son of God. However, mark wants the reader to go further, not only asking who they say that Jesus is, but who do YOU say that Jesus is? However, Mark 16:8 shows that we need to ask another question, “Who do tell people Jesus is?”
The women are told of the good news of the resurrection of Jesus. They are then commanded to go and tell the disciples and Peter of this good news. Yet verse eight ends the original gospel of Mark, “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). They leave the tomb. We are told they leave because trembling and astonishment had seized them. They are in awe and amazed at what has happened. They have an emotional response, and these words are often used with a sense of wonder and bewilderment. They had just heard that Jesus whom they saw crucified and dead, and buried was not in the tomb, but he had risen. However, Mark tells us another emotion. They were afraid. They said nothing. They were silent. Jesus had told people before, “don’t say anything to anyone” (Mark 1:44, 3:12, 5:43) But now they are told to tell the disciples and Peter, but they are silent.
We need to remember this passage. Firstly, this is included in a ‘sandwich.’ The women and Joseph are meant to be seen as showing sus some differences. Remember that Joseph had great boldness and courage. He went and stood before Pilate, risking his reputation and some might say even his life. He was willing to confess Christ before men, but the women were afraid. The second, thing we need to remember is that of Mark’s Audience. Mark’s main audience is written to disciples living in Rome. During this time Christians were persecuted for their faith. Stories are told of Christians being thrown to the lions. We find out in Acts 18:2-3 that Christians are told to leave Rome. To the readers, they would have found themselves in situations like Joseph of Arimathea. To publicly confess to being a Christian would have drastic effects on your job, family, and life. However, the women were silent.
James Edwards points out, “The resurrection does not magically dispel fear and cowardice, transforming fallible human characters into faithful disciples. Faithful discipleship consists of following Jesus, not contemplating doing so; acting courageously on his behalf, not standing on the sidelines, and watching.” The question needs to be asked, “who do we say Jesus is?” Not only quietly in our minds. But are we willing to share that message with others? Even at great risk. Are we willing to stand before those in power and with boldness profess Christ to others? Or are we going to be like the women who remained silent because of fear?
Now the good news is that we have the Gospel of Mark, we have the story of the women. That means that at some point they got the boldness to speak to the disciples and Peter. However, the shorter ending of Mark leaves the ball in our court. Asking us the question who do you say that Jesus is?