Mark: Up From the Grave He Arose (Website) Dead and Buried (Bulletin)

Sermon by Derek Thomas on April 16, 2006

Mark 16:1-8 (website) Mark 15:42-47 (Bulletin)

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The Lord’s Day
Evening


Easter Sunday

April 16, 2006

Mark 16:1-8

“Up From the
Grave He Arose”

Dr. Derek W. H.
Thomas

Now I want you, as you open up your Bible or the pew Bible
in front of you, as you open it up to Mark 16, I want you to do something for
me. I want you to take your bulletin and cover over verses 9-20. Just for
tonight! Many of the older manuscripts…you understand, we don’t have a single
copy of an original manuscript of any part of the Bible — not Mark’s Gospel, not
any part of the Bible. All we have are copies of copies of copies — thousands of
them. Some go back to the second century, but we don’t have an original copy of
Mark’s Gospel anywhere…not in the Vatican, not in the Museum in London, not in
the National Museum in Washington. We don’t have them. And truth is that in the
largest of the manuscripts that we have, and in some of the earliest of the
manuscripts that we have, they are given very fanciful names like Vaticanus
and Sinaiticus, and they are two very important sources from which we
glean what the Bible should be. The longer ending of Mark isn’t there, and some
of the earliest of the church fathers, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Origen,
Jerome in his Latin translation of the Bible, a very significant piece of work,
seem to be wholly unaware of verses 9-20.

Now, I know – if you’ve got the King James Version
of the Bible it’s there, and it’s part of the Bible and the cover says “Holy
Bible” and it’s part of Scripture. If you’re not using the King James Version of
the Bible, there’s probably some indication in the text…there might be a line
drawn, there might be something in parentheses in the New American Standard or
the ESV…there’s some explanation that says something like ‘some of the
manuscripts do not contain the following verses.’

Well, that’s a very complex issue, and I don’t have
time to go into all of that tonight, just to say…just to say that as far as
some of the earliest Christians are concerned, Mark’s Gospel (or so we think)
ended at verse 8. And for tonight I want us to take that as fact, so don’t be
peeking on ahead to see what Mark adds or what somebody else adds as an addition
to the Gospel of Mark. Just for tonight go with me that Mark’s Gospel ends at
verse 8. And if it really did end with verse 8…and you know, it’s one of
those fifty questions I want to ask when I get to heaven. Mark, did you really
finish the Gospel at verse 8? Because it’s a very odd way to finish a Gospel.”
But there may well be a reason for it.

Mark had mentioned that there were two women who had
been there on the Friday evening as Jesus had been taken down from the cross and
had been placed in the tomb (Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses), there
in verse 47 of chapter 15. In verse 1 of chapter 16, that Mary mother of
Joses
is now called mother of James. She was, in fact, the mother of James
and Joses, and James was probably the better known in the church.

There are three particular women that emerge here.
One is Mary Magdalene. This is the lady out of whom seven demons had been cast.
She’s not the woman taken in adultery. There are more legends about Mary
Magdalene than you and I have had hot dinners. Gnostic documents, the Gospel
of Mary
, the Gospel of Philip, portray her as an adversary of Peter,
who would become, of course, important to the Catholic Church. And, as we will
be sick to our gills in a few weeks time, Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code, of
course, has Mary Magdalene married to Jesus and bearing children of Him. She is
the beloved disciple of John’s Gospel. Well, away with all of that! Mary
Magdalene is a wonderful, wonderful disciple of Jesus.

And then Mary the mother of James and
Joses…Matthew and Mark refer to her as “the other Mary.” John says that there
was a woman called “the wife of Clopas” there. And if the two are the same,
Clopas is also identified with Alpheus the brother of Joseph, Jesus’ mother’s
husband, and that makes this “other Mary” a sister-in-law of Joses’ mother.

And then we’ll see that there is another lady here
by the name of Salome. And at the cross, according to Matthew, there is a lady
called the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John. John tells us that
she was Jesus’ mother’s sister, and Mark calls her Salome. So now at the tomb on
this Sunday morning you have Mary (Jesus’ mother), Mary’s sister-in-law, Mary’s
sister, and Mary Magdalene, and possibly a few others.

Before we read the passage together, let’s come
before God in prayer.

Father, as we turn now to Your word, we pray,
Holy Spirit, that You would come and write it upon our hearts. We would see
Jesus. And we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Let’s pick up the reading in chapter 15 and at verse
46:

“Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the
linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he
rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the
mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid. When the Sabbath was
over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices,
so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the first day of the week,
they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another,
‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ Looking up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.
Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white
robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you are
looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not
here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 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.’’ They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and
astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were
afraid.”

Amen. And may God bless to us the reading of His holy and
inerrant word.

It is Sunday morning, early. The sun has risen…it
may well have still been dark when they left their home in the city of
Jerusalem. And they’ve gone through the quiet streets of Jerusalem — quiet now,
in comparison to Friday morning and afternoon. They’d gone to the place where
they had been, and seen and noticed, and taken note of — the place where the
body of Jesus had been placed in a tomb. In Jewish reckoning, three days have
elapsed — barely a day and a half, 36 hours or so by our reckoning. They had
noted [verse 47 of chapter 15] precisely the place where Jesus had been laid,
where the tomb was…a rock tomb, and over the mouth of it a channel on a slight
incline in which a large circular stone was rolled down…probably a lot easier
to roll it down than to roll it back…it was on an incline. There’s a
manuscript in the Cambridge library called Codex Bezae, which says ‘a
stone which twenty men could not roll away.’ That may be a slight exaggeration.

Matthew tells us that the next day, Saturday, guards
had been placed at the tomb and a Roman seal glued to the tomb itself to ensure
that no one would come and steal away the body and claim a resurrection, as the
Jews feared. And now it’s early on Sunday morning, and the women have come to
the tomb – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and Salome, and maybe, if we piece
together all of the other Gospels, maybe some others — and their whole thought
is consumed by ‘Who is going to roll away the stone? How are we going to get
into the tomb?’ They had purchased some spices.

Now, Joseph of Arimathea had already anointed the
body of Jesus very, very hastily on Friday afternoon. There wasn’t much time;
Sabbath was fast approaching. John tells us that. And now, or so it seems, these
women are coming. In the cool of that tomb the body would not have decayed much.
They come to finish off the anointing, to do it properly. And when they come to
the tomb, the stone is rolled away and Jesus isn’t there.

Christianity rests on this doctrine and the
resurrection. Without it, without the resurrection, we have no basis on which to
be here. We have no basis for explaining anything at all about the cross. It
simply becomes an extravagant gesture on the part of a first century Jew who did
something to try and move others to do something on behalf of others. That’s the
best thing that we could say about the cross. And we are still in our sins.
Without the resurrection, we have no basis for saying that we can come into the
presence of a holy, righteous, God. No basis for justification, no basis for
peace with God, no basis for entry into heaven, no basis for saying there’s
going to be an afterlife, no basis for saying we’re going to play cellos. No
basis whatsoever for a bodily resurrection. All we have are platitudes and
hopeful moral epithets, and no more.

What happened? What happened on that Sunday morning?
Well, three things happened.

I. The first thing that happened
was a surprise. It was a surprise. These women were not expecting the
resurrection.

They did not come from the city to this tomb
expecting that Jesus wouldn’t be there. They’re bringing spices. They’re
worrying about who is going to move the stone away. Mark gives us a little
detail. “Looking up,” he says in verse 4, as though he wants us to see that they
were actually looking down, as you tend to do when you’re miserable and
dejected, and without hope.

Their dear Lord had been taken from them. They had
seen Him. These women…these women had been there at the cross. They had seen
the gory, bloody figure of Jesus. Unimaginable, the sight that they had
witnessed: the brutality of it; the enduring of the 39 lashes that had torn into
His flesh. They’d seen Him on that cross. They’d heard the violence of the mob.

They weren’t expecting a resurrection. What happened
on that Sunday morning was to these women a surprise. A little later when
they’ve entered (we have to piece together the Gospels here), Mary Magdalene
didn’t enter at this point. Obviously, she ran back, according to other Gospels,
to tell the disciples. So it is the other women who now enter into the tomb. And
what do they see? They see a young man sitting, dressed in white, speaking to
them. And they run…and they run! You know, none of them, even when they see
the stone rolled away, they don’t sort of say ‘so it was true after all.’ You
know — ‘Blow me down, it was true after all!’ All the words of Jesus, all the
promises of Jesus, all the prophecies, they were actually true! They didn’t say
that.

I’m not for one minute castigating these women at
this point. The men are not there. The disciples have gone. If the resurrection
claim was merely because of a geographical mistake as to the location of where
the tomb was, as though these women had forgotten where the tomb was… or,
supposing in writing the Gospel of Mark, Mark had, in order to bring
encouragement to the church ten, fifteen years later — how do you think he would
go about doing that? Well, not this way. Not this way. It was a surprise. These
women were taken completely by surprise. Mark is saying to us the sheer power of
unbelief that still resides in the hearts of His closest and dearest and
nearest…they’re afraid. Afraid of what the men now might say about them,
perhaps. You know, if you’re trying to fabricate the story, this would be a
silly thing to do. Unless, of course, it’s true.

II. But in the second place, not
only is this a surprise, it’s supernatural.

Who is this figure dressed in white? The response to
this figure is that they are overwhelmed. They are [in verse 5] “amazed.” It’s
the word rendered distressed in chapter 14 and verse 33, of Jesus in
Gethsemane: the kind of bodily, overwhelming, response to news that engulfs you
and paralyzes you. It’s an angel. It’s one of Good’s ministering spirits. It’s
in the form of a young man.

Now, angels are sexless, but when they appear, they
appear as male. When they take on human form, they have male names. We only know
of two names: Gabriel and Michael. There’s an apocryphal mention of Rafael. They
can take on physical form. They are charged…these angels are charged with
helping the people of God. They have a particular responsibility to bring
encouragement, especially to His little ones in times of distress, and
especially at death. Much of it is shrouded in mystery. God hasn’t told us very
much about angels, but it’ll be one of those glorious discoveries in heaven.

Angels are always present in the Bible at
significant moments of redemptive history: in Eden, with the patriarchs in the
giving of the covenant, at Sinai in the giving of the Law, at the birth of
Jesus, in the temptation of Jesus, in Gethsemane. You remember how Luke
describes at the end of Gethsemane that an angel came and ministered to Him. Oh,
who is that angel who comes and ministers relief and comfort in our Lord’s most
crucial hour?

You remember in the story of the Old Testament in II
Kings 19, you remember one angel slew 185,000 Assyrians in one blow. No wonder
these women are afraid. You see, God is saying here this is a significant moment
in the history of redemption. It belongs with the birth of Jesus. It belongs
with the death of Jesus. It belongs with the ascension of Jesus. It belongs with
the Second Coming of Jesus, which also is surrounded by angels. It identifies
who Jesus is with the story of the life of Jesus; that He had come in a
supernatural way, and that He was engaged in a supernatural battle, and that
there’s more to Him than flesh and blood; that He truly is the Son of God; that
He isn’t just in some supreme way a great Jewish leader, but that He truly is
the Lord of glory and the King of Kings.

What exactly did this angel say? He addressed
their fear, and he said, “Do not be alarmed. You’re looking for Jesus of
Nazareth.” Do you know, that’s exactly what they were looking for? They weren’t
looking for the Son of God. They weren’t looking for a resurrected Lord.

They were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the man who died on the Friday
afternoon and was buried in this tomb. They were looking for a body. He knows
exactly what they’re doing, and he utters those beautiful words that have become
so significant in the church: “He is not here; He has risen.”

In the Eastern church in particular this has become
something of a liturgical form, especially at Easter, the so-called Paschal
Greeting: Christos anesti!; Alithos anesti!. (“He is risen; truly He is
risen.”)

Now think about it for a moment. This dead body has
come to life. Could it possibly have been…could it possibly have been
that they simply went to the wrong tomb? How in the world could that happen? It
was Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. You know, even if they had gone to the wrong
tomb, it would have been a simple thing for the authorities to go to the right
tomb and produce the body. You know, even if they had had a lapse of memory — we
all have lapses of memory — it would have been the simplest thing. They could
have done it in an instant, and gone to the right tomb. And the Roman
authorities (or the Jewish authorities, for that matter) could have pointed out
to them, ‘Look, you silly people. You’ve gone to the wrong tomb!’

Do you think it’s possible (as Hugh Schonfield in
his Passover Plot brought to life again the dreaded corpse of the “swoon
theory”) that this brutalized body of Jesus, into whose side had been thrust a
Roman spear, in the cool of the tomb on the Saturday afternoon had come to
again? And somehow or other managed to roll away the stone from inside, and
walked out past the guards? It doesn’t even bear thinking about.

Or what about the “stolen body theory”? Who stole
this body? ‘The Jewish authorities stole the body.’ Why would the Jewish
authorities steal the body of Jesus and provide for Christians the very proof
that they were looking for? And if they had stolen the body, or for that matter,
if the Roman authorities had stolen the body, as soon as the first person said
“He is risen”, they would have produced the body of Jesus. And they could
disprove it in an instant.

What takes place here, this angel says, is a
supernatural feat on the part of Almighty God. God has stepped in here. The
power of God is at work here. It breaks asunder all of the constraints of
post-Enlightenment thinking, and says to us that dead bodies do rise again by
the supernatural power of Almighty God.

III. But what happened here was
not only a surprise, and was not only an act of supernatural power, but it was
also, in the third place, something that resulted in several negative responses.

Yes. Look at verse 8: They went out, they
fled, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to
anyone, for they were afraid. And that’s the end of the Gospel. (Now, I know!
You’re hiding verses 9-20!) That’s the way the Gospel ended. They fled. It’s the
same word in the same tense of what the disciples did in chapter 14 when they
abandoned Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He was arrested. The very same
word.

What a way to end the Gospel. No appearance of
Jesus. The women do not do what the angel asks them to do, namely, go and tell
the disciples and go and tell Peter. (Remember, Peter is probably the one
dictating this Gospel to Mark; very significant that Peter should be mentioned
here.) You know, there’s a contrast here, because right at the beginning of
Mark’s Gospel you have the story of the way in which a leper is healed, and he
is commanded, you remember, not to go and tell anyone…and he goes and tells
everyone! And here the women are told to go and tell, and they’re silent. They
tell no one.

Now, Matthew tells us they did go and tell the
disciples later, and the disciples didn’t believe them. You see, Mark is
answering the question, not ‘How do you know that Jesus is risen?’ — (answer:
The tomb is empty); but Mark is answering a different question: ‘How come all
Jerusalem didn’t hear about the resurrection immediately?’ Surely a bunch of
hysterical women rushing through the streets of Jerusalem early in the morning,
screaming about a resurrection…everyone would have known about it in an
instant. And the answer: Because they were afraid…because they were afraid.

Now, why would Mark end the Gospel that way?
Think about it for a minute. When did Mark write his Gospel? Probably A.D. 65,
just at the onset of Roman persecution of Christianity. And do you see what Mark
is saying? That the Christian church began not in a great bang of human power,
but it began by the power of Almighty God.

You know, the church began out of nothing, out of a
small little group of women who, when they saw the empty tomb, ran because they
were afraid. Imagine, twenty, fifteen years later, you’re trying to write this
down and to give some credence to a movement that is now under attack from the
authorities. Would you want to give the church an account of the resurrection
which was the catalyst of the church and say nobody believed it at first?

And you know what? The first person who said “He is
not here, but He is risen” – no one ever saw him except these women. No one was
ever able to interrogate him. He disappeared. And why is Mark saying that?
Because Mark wants us to focus not on the faith of the disciples, because they
didn’t have any; not on the faith of these women, because they didn’t have much,
either. But it wants us to focus entirely on the power of God that is manifested
in that empty tomb. You can imagine it, can’t you? The camera focusing on that
empty tomb and panning out…and there’s the start of it. There’s the genesis of
it. The putting forth of the sovereign, supernatural, power of God in raising
His Son from the dead, and in so doing demonstrates the validity of Jesus’
deity, underscores the validity of everything that Jesus ever said and did,
assures us of the forgiveness of our sins by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone,
promises to us a bodily resurrection in the life to come, and says to us with
absolute certainty — not because it’s based on the faith of some women or the
faith of the disciples, but because it’s based upon the power of God — that all
of this…all of this…is true. May God write it upon our hearts, for His
name’s sake.

Let’s pray together.

Our Father in heaven, as we come this evening to
the end of another Lord’s Day, we thank You from the very bottom of our hearts
for the empty tomb. We thank You for those beautiful words, “He is not here, but
He is risen.” And that He was risen not because of some warm glow within our
hearts, but because He truly was risen….

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