This is the end—the end of Mark’s rendering of the life and death of Jesus. But if the story ended here, life would be hopeless and futile.
While Matthew, Luke and John also give an account of Jesus after the cross, we again find Mark brief and to the point. Jesus dies on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea takes his body, wraps it in linen swaths and lays Jesus to rest in his tomb. Peace, finally! At least for Jesus, but not for his followers. Having given up everything to follow the Messiah, their hopes are dashed, their futures uncertain.
Mark writes, “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. Then they briefly reported all this to Peter and his companions.1
The Sabbath day was over, and the women were first to the tomb early on Sunday morning. [note: this fact about the women speaks to the veracity of the Bible. Women meant little in the first century, and what they said meant even less—their testimony could not even be introduced in a court of law. Yet the gospel writers record women last at the cross and first to the tomb.] They found Jesus’ grave clothes, the linen cloths Joseph2 had wrapped around the Lord… they encountered an angel who gave them the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus did what he told them he would do--nothing short of amazing.
Why? What if Jesus had just been a great teacher, prophet, and miracle worker—wouldn’t that have been enough? Certainly not. First, he would have been a liar; he would not have done what he said he would do. Nothing else he said or did would matter. If Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead, neither would we. In all candor, it is difficult to overstate the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christian faith would not have gone forward if Jesus had been killed, and never heard from again. The disciples would have remained hopeless, died in shame, and that would have been the end of Christianity. Alas, it was not, and we are evidence of that. The Jewish-Christian church started in Jerusalem, and soon spread to Mediterranean lands and beyond--which assures us that these young believers, enduring great persecution, saw and believed in the risen Lord.
The apostle Paul wrote succinctly on the greatest event in history, “I delivered to you that... Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, (Peter) then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also.3 These verses formed a creed that was recited in early Christian churches, dated to within two to eight years of Jesus' resurrection.
The most valuable evidence in any matter or event being analyzed, of that which is introduced in a court of law is eyewitness testimony. Five hundred and fifteen eyewitnesses, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote most certainly would have refuted what has been recorded about Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, but they did not.
The world needs hope, I am certain you have noticed. The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest hope today and the evidence for it is incontrovertible. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we serve a living God! Combined with our faith is the HOPE that there is a new world to come, and in that world, God will set the record straight. The resurrection is one more testament that God keeps his promises.
Interestingly, devotees can visit the tomb of Muhammed in Saudi Arabia and the tomb of Abraham in Hebron; Buddhists can go to places in India and China where the Buddha's ashes were enshrined . . . I can go to the gravesides of my parents at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. But no grave, no tomb, no ossuary or mausoleum contains any part of our Lord Jesus Christ. He went into a borrowed tomb dead and walked out fully alive. (Ha! Why not use a borrowed tomb when you weren't going to be there very long?)
"The Resurrection is the epicenter of belief. It is not a belief that grew up within the church; it is the belief around which the church itself grew up, and the 'given' upon which its faith was based."3
I grew up hearing and reading about, fully believing the biblical accounts of Jesus. The first time I heard the evidence for the truth of Christianity, specifically the death and resurrection of Jesus, was in 1979 at the University of Minnesota—a young Josh McDowell, took the stage and laid out the evidence that demands a verdict. I was riveted. For greater explanation on the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, more in-depth than this briefing can provide, take a look at these:
1) Sean McDowell, Josh’s son (3 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy_xTGRZ9Kg
2) Gary Habermas, (11.45): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nmp5iqrSCc8
3) Lee Strobel, (56 minutes—really like this one!!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDgu3jXeCTM&t=2033s
4) N. T. Wright, (7.03): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz201Od_Xe4
5) William Lane Craig, (8.53) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od8U-Z_NVFA.
In less than 90 minutes, you too could see the evidence for the resurrection, Hakim, Lisa Nowak, Jamal, Joe, and Madhava... And then you must render a verdict yourself. The resurrection cannot be of minor importance—no, it is of the greatest significance and once you look closer, you cannot remain neutral. Your verdict on the truth of the resurrection is for all the marbles—life eternal with the risen Lord or separation from him forever.
For those courageous enough to see and believe, Hope does indeed spring eternal! We serve a risen Lord who reigns victorious now and forever. Amen.
In response: Hallelujah! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9glxzl-s5c
last in the footsteps of Jesus, gospel of Mark, #54.
1 - Mark 16.1-8
2 – Joseph of Arimathea
3 - 1 Corinthians 15.4-8
4 - C.H. Dodd.