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Hope from the Empty Tomb, Part 1

April 1, 2018

Mark 16:6 – “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”

 

We live in an extremely broken world.

 

Not too long ago, we had a horrible school shooting in Florida where 17 perished under the sinful intent of a 19 year old boy. Now, this wasn’t the nation’s first tragic school shooting or the worse mass shooting we’ve ever seen (that shooting happened in Vegas not even a year before this one), but it did get enough national attention to prompt protests and some political action. However, this didn’t eliminate the despair created from this tragedy, and it unfortunately won’t completely prevent another one like it; sinful human nature cannot be reformed through physical means.

 

And it’s not just school shootings which steal our hope and optimism for a better society: terrorist attacks do it, deadly illnesses do it, natural disasters do it, and the list goes on and on. It would appear to the astute observer that, although we of the Information Age purport to be more “civilized” and “advanced” than our predecessors of the past, we face the same (or even in some cases, worse) problems they did; we’ll always have problems, no matter how much we “progress”. This conclusion would naturally lead to a lack of hope, and if it’s true, we should all become pessimists. And as we descend to a miserable pessimistic attitude, we should then give up looking for hope, for it appears to be elusive and cannot be found.

 

But hope can be found.

 

Hope can be found because something extraordinary happened about two-thousand years ago, something which does indeed engender hope for a certain group of people. Something which promises a world without the evil found in men and nature. It’s also something which is widely considered to be a “myth”, yet something which provides the foundation of a faith of billions around the world. In fact, they consider it so important that they take more than day to fully celebrate it (the actual day, plus the days surrounding it), and they all receive immense hope from remembering it.

 

This “something” was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, perhaps the greatest event in human history, and the event which promises the resurrection of His own people, which leads to hope for a sinless future of everlasting life.

 

In order to explain this resurrection event, I’m going to analyze Mark 16:1-8. There are three other gospel passages which describe this event (Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-10), but I’m using Mark’s gospel because it’s traditionally believed to be written first, hence this passage would have been the first written testimony of this great event.

 

Mark’s main point of this passage is the revelation of the resurrection of Jesus and I’ve split this story into three sections by the location of the women (introduced in Mark 15:40) in relation to the tomb: outside the tomb, inside the tomb, and outside the tomb after the news of the resurrection:

 

Outside the tomb (Mark 16:1-4). Chapter 16 of Mark’s gospel begins with explaining that three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) purchased spices used for anointing the dead after Sabbath. Since Sabbath began a few hours after Jesus had died on the cross (Friday afternoon), the women didn’t have time to anoint His body and had to wait until after Sabbath (Saturday afternoon) to buy the spices needed. Very early the next morning (Sunday) during sunrise, the women headed to His tomb wondering how they would roll the large, flat, circular stone which covers the entrance (that job usually takes several men to complete). Their worry over that problem disappears as they approach the tomb and discover that…

 

The stone had been rolled back!

 

What did the women think about this? Mark doesn’t say, but we know this narrative is about the news of Jesus’ resurrection, so we know the stone was moved by supernatural means (Matthew 28:2 states that an angel moved it, btdubs). The answer to why the stone was moved was waiting for them inside the tomb.

 

Inside the tomb (Mark 16:5-7). The women enter the tomb and encounter a “young man” dressed in a “bright, white robe” (obviously an angel). They then did what any sane person would do in that situation: they panicked! Between the fact that there was a living person in the tomb of their beloved Lord and that person appeared to be AN ANGEL, they must have been extremely spooked! The angel tells them to not be alarmed and that their Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, was not present. He explains why using only one Greek verb:

 

Egerthe”, which is translated in English as “HE HAS RISEN” 

 

He then further proves his point by stating that “He is not here” and prompts them to “see” the at the spot we Jesus’ body was laid, because the body is now absent (the Greek word Mark used which the ESV translates as “See” is actually an interjection, so there’s more emphasis being used in this command. He’s telling the women to not merely “see” the empty spot, but to “see!” it. He wants them to really "see!" that the Lord has indeed risen). The angel’s focus shifts from the missing body of Christ to where He can be found by commanding the women to tell the disciples (and Peter, since he had previously denied Christ in Mark 14:66-72 and might have believed that he was no longer a disciple. Since this gospel is actually Peter’s testimony, he probably felt gratitude for being included with the disciples in this command when he heard about it) that Jesus was heading towards Galilee.

 

These three verses form the “heart” of this narrative as they reveal Christ’s resurrection, and the last verse of this passage shows how much the women understood the intensity of this event.   

 

Outside the tomb after the news of the resurrection (Mark 16:8). After receiving the command from the angel, they began to be seized by trembling and astonishment, for this was unbelievable and exciting news! Controlled by their ecstatic state of emotion, they quickly ran from the tomb and told no one about what they experienced because they were afraid (I believe this was a “reverent” fear, the type of fear which is engendered by an encounter of God’s holy presence or action. The women were so greatly affected by this news of supernatural activity that they were filled with awe and were physically shaking.)  

 

So, as we see from Mark 16:1-8, Jesus had risen back to life a few days after His crucifixion. The witnesses to this fact saw a hint of this revelation outside the tomb with the stone rolled back, got the full revelation from inside the tomb, and displayed how astonishing the revelation was as they left the tomb. Jesus has risen indeed!

 

This resurrection is proof that Jesus of Nazareth still lives and is indeed the Son of God (along with being the long, awaited Messiah). Surely Mark’s readers realized that as they read this passage, because this event has been celebrated by the church since its inception. They did, however, have another reason to celebrate it, as the resurrection affected their salvation immediately.

 

I’ll explain this in part 2.

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