He has risen. He is not here.
For the last 97 years the body of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of Marxist-Leninism and the Soviet Union has been scientifically preserved. It is on public display in the center of Moscow, and for no charge you can enter into “Lenin’s Tomb” and behold the man with your own eyes. The continued preservation of Lenin’s body is supposed to be a testament to Communism’s scientific prowess. To keep Lenin’s body in shape shows they are leaders. If they were to let his body finally decay, perhaps that would say something about Communism.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a tomb in Jerusalem where we could go and look at Jesus’ body? How powerful would it be for our faith if for 2,000 years the miracle of science was able to preserve him and prevent him from decaying? How inspiring would it be to read about Jesus in the Gospels, and, then go look at the very guy in the flesh!
It would NOT be awesome! It would mean we are fools. We would be fools because get together and pretend to believe in a Savior who conquered death while at the same time making pilgrimages to see His dead body. How stupid. The body of Jesus on display would be a refutation of everything that is in the Bible.
- “The Son of Man must be crucified and buried and then on the 3rd day he will rise”, would be a lie.
- “He will suffer in his soul” Isaiah 53 says, “and then he will see the light of life” will also be a lie.
Scientifically preserving the corpse of Jesus is not what is meant by Psalm 16 when it says “You will not let your holy one see decay”. It means what Peter said in Acts 2, “You put him to death by nailing him to a cross. But God raised Him from the dead. God raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact.” Produce the body of Jesus and our faith is killed. But you won’t, because He’s not dead. As Pastor Ray so powerfully put it 2 weeks ago: “____________”
Our focus this morning is Mark 16:1-8 and we’ll travel under 3 headings: 1) Arriving at the Tomb, 2) Angel’s Announcement, 3) Away to Jesus
#1: Arriving at the Tomb (v1-4)
These women were on a journey to just outside of Jerusalem. Who are these women? Combining all four Gospels we discover the group included at least 3 women, very possibly more. Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James and Joses (also the wife of Clopas), Joanna, and Salome.
Why are these women going to the grave with spices? Well for one thing Jewish burial customs involved preparing the body with spices. Jews did not practice embalming, and to eliminate or minimize the odor of a decomposing body they applied spices and aloes.
If you’re like me you may be wondering, “Why would the women think that they can get to Jesus’ body? The stone was sealed and there was a guard.” I looked closely at all four Gospels and I don’t think the women were aware that there were guards there. Jesus was buried and the stone rolled in place. Then Joseph and Nicodemus left, and so did the women. After everyone left the grave to go home before the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders went to Pilate and had a guard posted at the tomb. Jesus’ disciples didn’t know about that. The guard went there Friday night after everyone was already gone, and stayed until early Sunday morning when Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the angel scared them so bad they fell unconscious on the ground. Once they got up they left and went to the Jewish leaders. By the time the ladies came back to the tomb early Sunday morning, they had no idea about the guards, which might explain why they didn’t mention anything about the guards on the way to the grave.
Now, why did they wait until Sunday morning? Because Saturday was the Sabbath and there wasn’t enough time on Friday between Jesus’ death at 3pm and the start of the Sabbath sundown. A lot of things had to happen in that remaining time left in the day: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had to hear the news that Jesus was dead so that they could go to Pilate to get permission to take possession of Jesus’ body for burial; Pilate was surprised to hear Jesus died already and dispatched his centurion to find out for sure Jesus was dead (Mk 15:44); this took time to run or ride a horse back and forth – this is not the age of Facebook, Twitter and Texting. Finally Joseph and Nicodemus get permission (Mk. 15:45), they go to take possession of Jesus’ body, transport Him to the tomb Joseph bought for himself (Mt. 27:59-60), prepare His body, and lay Him there.
Regardless, the preparations of Jesus’ body performed by Joseph and Nicodemus could very well have been incomplete due to the shortness of time on Friday, which is why the women were planning on going there. One commentator suggested that the Galilean women didn’t think two Judean men were fit to fully prepare the body of the Savior from Galilee. Another commentator joked that perhaps the women thought the men didn’t do it right and the preparations needed a woman’s touch.
I would say certainly love and devotion to Jesus was a motivator. Have you ever lost someone you loved and felt a strong desire that you had to do something to honor their memory? That your devotion had to be expressed toward them somehow even though they were gone? These women may have displayed the greatest devotion to Jesus out of anyone during His 3 year preaching career. They followed Him everywhere and sacrificed anything to be where He was.
- Remember the woman who crashed the Pharisee party to worship Jesus and wash His feet?
- Remember Mary, Lazarus’ sister, who without hesitation poured an expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus?
- Remember that it was women like Mary Magdelene, Joanna the wife of Cuza (who managed Herod’s household), Suzanna and many others who made up a large part of the funding of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:2-3).
- Remember that the women were at the cross, but none of the men who followed Jesus – except John (Lk. 23:49; John 19:26-27).
- And here they are again, the women, devotedly going to the grave to honor Jesus in His death.
Of course, it is possible to be devoted and misguided at the same time. The heart may pound with the best affections while the mind is foggy. What do I mean by this? Well, certainly not to criticize the women, but, their devotion lacked belief. They were going to the grave expecting a dead Jesus – a Jesus who was going to stay dead….Hence the spices. Hence the question: “Who will roll the stone away?” If they believed His words spoken only days earlier that He was going to rise they would not be prepping His body for decay. They would have stopped by Wesco on their way and grabbed a big soda and popcorn, plopped down on some camp chairs to watch and wait for the big moment when Jesus came out of the grave. But they didn’t. They weren’t expecting Jesus to be alive. They were expecting Jesus to be dead.
So there they were on their way: sandals crunching the gravel, dew glistening in the early light, heavy breathing from carrying all the spices. Then arriving they see the stone rolled away. And confusion begins.
There are no guards and no Jesus. Instead they find an angel sitting on a giant stone.
Now we got a story.
#2: The Angelic Announcement (v5-7)
The women are no doubt afraid and bewildered all at once. Who is this angel? We aren’t given his name. But what a privilege for him among all the angels that he would be the one announcing the resurrection.
He comes down and an earthquake happens with his arrival. An earthquake occurred at the moment of Jesus’ death (Mt. 27:51), and now 3 days later one occurs at His resurrection. Is there anyone else in history whose life has so shaken this world – literally or figuratively?
So the stone is rolled away, and, the tomb is opened. Of course the angel didn’t open the tomb so Jesus could get out – He was already out. He didn’t escape death just to get stuck in the tomb. Nothing can hold Him. The tomb was opened so that people could go in. And after going inside wondering they would walk out witnesses of His resurrection.
But the angel isn’t there simply to point towards the tomb. He has a message to preach. Remember Hebrews 1:14: “Angels are God’s ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.” All throughout Scripture they are dispatched by God to bring messages. On that day God sent them to announce the Resurrection. The angel, or angels, have a 3 part message (which is why preachers preach 3-point sermons).
The first is the Reassurance. Read verse 6, “Do not be alarmed” he said, “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified” “Do not be afraid” seems to be the first words out of every supernatural beings’ mouth when they appear to humans. Matthew says that Jesus tells the women “Do not be afraid”when He encounters them. He told the disciples not to be afraid when they saw him walking on the water and thought He was a ghost (Mk 6:50). The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to marry Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus (Mt. 1:20). The angel Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid when he told her the news that she was pregnant with Jesus (Lk. 1:30).
Notice the angel confirms the death of Jesus, “He was crucified” The death of Jesus was a historical fact. He really existed, and, He really died. This is fundamental to the Gospel message and cannot be given up. There are about a dozen different theories that skeptics put forth to explain away the alleged resurrection.
One is the Swoon Theory, which says Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, he just passed out, or swooned. He only looked like He was dead – but He wasn’t really. To believe this you have to check your brain at the door. This theory has no evidence and even worse flies in the face of all evidence. The enemies and executioners of Jesus all said Jesus was dead. The Romans had crucifixion down to a science. Some people go to work to sell things, others go to work to build things, Roman soldiers went to work every day to kill people. They knew when someone was dead. They didn’t break his legs because he was already dead, then to be sure they shoved a spear through his chest. You don’t come back from that one. Furthermore, Jesus was embalmed with 75lbs of bandages and spices. If they guys embalming couldn’t tell you were still alive you would have died from the embalming. After flogging (which kills most people), exhaustion, shock, crucifixion, a spear through the chest, and embalming you are then laying in a tomb bleeding, injured for 36 hours and you’re supposed to get up and go all Incredible Hulk on the 2 ton stone blocking your tomb and then pull a Jason Bourne all the elite Roman Guards at your grave? The Swoon Theory, that Jesus didn’t actually die, is weak. Just like the other theories that try to explain away the empty tomb and appearances of Jesus.
But why is it somehow reassuring that He died? For one thing its important that jesus actually died is because His death was for you. If He didn’t die you’re still on the hook for your sins and you will be the one to die.
Another reason is that there isn’t really any miraculous resurrection if there is no death. There is no demonstration of God’s power to bring someone back from death. It undermines the teaching of a future resurrection. It cancels everything Jesus did and said that He was God and that He is our Hope. So, yes, He needs to die and it is important that He did.
The second part of the angel’s message was the Resurrection. Verse 7, “He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” … “He has risen” ….Those are the most epic words in all of history. He is alive! He had authority to lay His life down and He had authority to take it up again (Jn 10:18). Death could not keep its hold on Him (Acts 2:24). He was dead, but now He is alive forevermore (Rev 1:18). God accepted His payment for man’s sins and raised Him back to life to prove it. God declares Jesus to be His Son by raising Him up from death. The power of death is broken. Purification for sins has been made.
We need to recognize here again that Prophecy is fulfilled. In other Gospels the angel reminds them that Jesus foretold his death and resurrection. “He has risen, just as He said” Matthew 28 says. “Remember how he told you…..” the angel says in Luke 24. What you have is fulfilled prophecy. The word of God happens just like it says it will. You can believe what it says about the future because it has proven itself over and over again in so many prophecies that have already been fulfilled.
Notice the angels invites them to see the emptiness of the tomb, “come see where they laid him”. How do you explain the empty tomb? The angel said “Come check out the facts. He’s not here.” Christianity is more than able to withstand scrutiny. Our faith is not blind and baseless. The angel’s words “come and see” are an offer to you still today. A fascinating study are those theories attempting to explain the empty tomb in any other way but the resurrection.
- The Witnesses went to the wrong tomb. Which they didn’t. Everyone knew where Jesus was laid: the disciples, the women, Nicodemus, Joseph of Aramathea, the Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers, Pilate. Of course, if the disciples went to the wrong tomb then all the Jewish leaders had to do was go to the right tomb and produce His body. But they didn’t. Because the right tomb was empty.
- The disciples stole the body is another one. This was the fake news propogated by the Jewish leaders at the time to explain the empty tomb. Read Mt 28:11-15. But where did the disciples get the courage? How would these bookkeepers and fisherman get past the muscled, deadly elite Roman fighting machines? How do the soldiers know the disciples stole the body if they were all sleeping? What Roman soldier would admit he was asleep on the job knowing they would be executed for it (Acts 12:19)? How does stealing a dead body explain the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus that radically transformed the disciples into courageous preachers? Why would the disciples lie about the resurrection, knowing it was a lie, and be willing to die for that lie? You can die for something that is not true while you mistakenly think its true. But knowing something is false, and, dying for it? It doesn’t happen.
The list goes on. The resurrection is the best and most rational explanation of all the evidence.
The 3rd part of the angel’s message was Run. Verse 7 says, “ But go! Tell his disciples and Peter ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Run to where Jesus is.
That is the heart of the disciple, isn’t it? “Where I am my servant will also be” He said in John 12:26. So off to Galilee they were to go. Galilee was north of Jerusalem and it is important here for several reasons. First, because Jesus was raised in Nazareth, which is in Galilee. Second, because Galilee is the place of beginnings. It is where He began His ministry, and, now it was going to be the place where the Apostles would begin their ministry (Read verses 16-20).
So they would run to Jesus, and then they would run for Jesus, “Let us run”, Hebrews 12:1 says, “with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
They were to go and tell others where they could find Jesus, “Go tell his disciples He is going ahead of you to Galillee and there you will see him.” Tell others, where they can go to find Jesus. That is the purpose of our lives: to run and tell this world where they can find Jesus. Do you notice a progression? The angel has a message for the women. Then the women are dispatched to carry a message.
Application: When someone brings the message to you and you believe it do you see that you are now enlisted in the chain of messengers? That you are now to give to otherscf what others gave to you? If someone told you about Jesus the question today is this: are you telling others about Jesus? Over time, spiritual growth will start stalling out if evangelism is not part of your life. You can read theology, read the Bible, pray, but, what God does inside of you is something that has to come out.
Have you run to Jesus? Have you run to His grave? You can’t go there like you can go to Lenin’s tomb. You can’t go there like the women did. But that’s not what I mean anyway. I mean go to the grave of Jesus by faith. Listen to the message: the grave is empty. Look into it and see that Jesus is alive. You know what that means? Because He’s alive He can make you alive. He is the Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in Him will also live, even though he dies.