August 23, 2020

The Resurrection of Jesus – Mark 16:1-8

Passage: Mark 16:1-8

Good morning! If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark, where we are going to be looking at Mark 16. This past week, we had a great time visiting with family and showing off our little girl, Rayah Joelle. But it’s good to be back with all of you.

We have officially come to the end of our sermon series in Mark, looking at this rich picture of Jesus as the authoritative yet suffering Son of God. This is our 50th sermon in the series, going all the way back to June of last year. And if you want to check out any of the sermons in the series, they are all on our website.

My hope from the beginning of this sermon series has been that we would know Jesus better—not that we would simply know all of these cool facts about Jesus, but that we would know Jesus as our Suffering Saviour and Conquering King, and that we would draw closer to Him as a result.

If you remember from a few weeks ago, we looked at how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified on a cross. He lived the perfect life we were unable to live and yet took the punishment we deserved. As Mark 10:45 says, He came “to give his life as a ransom for many.”

But we left off with Jesus dead and buried in a tomb. And if that was where the story of Jesus ended, then the good news of Jesus would not be good news at all. But thankfully, that’s not where the story ends. And in a minute, I will read our text for us, but I wanted to take a minute to explain why I will be ending at verse 8 and not continuing with verses 9-20.

Depending on the translation of the Bible you are using, you may notice that below verse 8, in brackets, it says, “Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20.” And then, the rest of the book is in double brackets. You see the same thing in John 7:53-8:11, which contains the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery.

It doesn’t mean that these verses aren’t true. In fact, much of what is contained in Mark 16:9-20 is written about elsewhere in the Gospels and in Acts. But the point is simply that most scholars do not believe that verses 9-20 were part of the original Gospel that Mark wrote.

Does this mean that we can no longer trust the Bible? Does this affect our faith? The answer is no. We can still trust the Bible. We can still hold to the inerrancy of Scripture—that the Bible is without error in all its teaching.

And why that is the case is because what you have in front of you is an English translation of the Bible. It is inspired by God. It is accurate. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, it is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” But what we have is a translation of Hebrew and a little bit of Aramaic in the Old Testament, and Greek in the New Testament.

The Bible wasn’t just given to us in the way we have it, now. It was written by holy men moved by the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are written in such a way that their words are God’s words.

Now, we don’t have any of the original manuscripts. We don’t have the original letter that Mark wrote to the church in Rome. But what we do have are copies of those original manuscripts. After the original authors wrote their letters, scribes began to copy them. The printing press wasn’t invented until the 15th century, which meant that every book of the Bible had to be copied by hand. It would sometimes take an entire lifetime for one scribe to make one copy of the Bible.

But what we have as a result of the work of these scribes are thousands of copies of those original manuscripts. There is not a single ancient book that comes close to the Bible in terms of the amount of ancient copies of it. But what is even more remarkable is that, even though there are thousands of copies, there is actually very little disagreement between them. In fact, one of the only major differences among all of these copies is this ending in Mark 16.

The two oldest and most important manuscripts of the Bible—the codex Vaticanus and codex Sinaiticus—omit verses 9-20. Several early translations, including Latin and Syriac and Armenian texts do not include verses 9-20. The early church historian Eusebius and the early church father Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, both attest that verses 9-20 were absent from the majority of the copies of Mark.

All of this has contributed to the conclusion that verses 9-20 were not written by Mark. This is a complex issue, but we also don’t need to be afraid of issues like these. This doesn’t do away with our faith. This doesn’t mean that we can’t trust the Bible. If you have a translation that has verses 9-20 in it, with no explanation, it doesn’t mean that you need to throw it out. If anything, this should increase our faith, as we come to see how God has preserved His Word and has passed it down from the original language in which it was written all the way to us, today. We can be encouraged that we have the very Word of God in our hands.

And so, with that, let us read Mark 16, beginning in verse 1: “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, ‘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. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8 And 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.”

The ending of a book or a movie is very important. That is not to say that the beginning or the middle is not important. For example, I don’t know how many of you have ever seen the movie, Up, but that movie has one of the saddest beginnings of any movie I have ever seen, and yet, it draws you into the story.

And you need that. Books and movies need a good introduction. But the ending is important for a different reason. When you come to the end, you aren’t bringing in new characters or leaving any loose ends, but rather, you’re wrapping up the story, bringing it all to a conclusion. You can have an amazing story leading up to the end, but if you don’t have a good ending, then it affects the overall story.

And sometimes, the ending of a book or a movie is exactly how it should be, but maybe you don’t necessarily want that particular ending. Maybe you want the story to continue, or maybe you would have wrapped it up another way.

I had this experience as we were driving home from Ontario, last year, around this time. We had been listening to The Chronicles of Narnia Radio Theatre, and I think I enjoyed it as much as, if not more than, the kids. Whenever we got to the end of a disc, I was the first to suggest that we put in the next one, so that we could hear the end of the book.

But we finally get to the last book in the series—The Last Battle. And I’m not quite sure how I was picturing it to end, because we had been on these adventures with Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy and Eustace and Jill and Digory and Polly, but all of that had to come to an end, somehow.

I don’t think I need to warn you of any spoiler alerts, because it’s been many years since the book came out and you have had plenty of time to read it, but just to sum up the end of the book, and really, the end of The Chronicles of Narnia, they all die.

Eustace and Jill, the Pevensie kids minus Susan, Digory and Polly—they are killed in a train accident in the human world, which takes them to Aslan’s country. And once Aslan arrives, he puts an end to Narnia and they live happily ever after in the forever Narnia.

When I heard that ending, I was so upset. You bring us into this world and get us to fall in love with these characters, and then you take it all away. It didn’t seem fair to me. But then, Helena was quick to remind me that this is how it was always supposed to end.

At the end of the book, Aslan sees that Lucy isn’t as happy as he was expecting her to be. And Lucy says to him, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.” And Aslan tells all of them that there is no more fear of that, because now the holidays have begun.

Though this may not have been the ending I was expecting, it was the ending of a series that was exactly the way it was supposed to be. And this is essentially what we are seeing here in Mark’s Gospel. We are seeing the ending of a book that might make us incredibly upset, but only if we fail to see how this is a perfectly fitting end.

The story of Jesus begins with a triumphant introduction: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We don’t have the birth narrative of Luke, or the genealogy of Matthew, or the wonderful prologue of John. But we do have this rich, succinct statement of who this Jesus is—He is the Son of God.

And we see evidences of this Sonship in Jesus’ baptism and in His temptation in the wilderness and at His transfiguration. We see this in His teaching of the kingdom of God—teaching unlike what the scribes taught. We see this in His healing of many of their diseases and demon-oppression and even by raising a dead girl back to life. We see this in His miracles of feeding thousands of people with just some bread and fish, and by walking on water and calming a storm. We see this in His willingness to go to the cross in obedience to the will of His heavenly Father, that by giving His life many would be saved from the penalty of their sin.

But then, after everything we have seen and read about this Jesus, we are told that He is no longer dead but alive. And then, it ends. And we have this feeling that things are unresolved. It’s likely why verses 9-20 were added in the first place. Certain scribes may have felt that the ending was incomplete, so they decided to piece together aspects of the tradition surrounding the resurrection.

But the reality is that what Mark is doing is providing a space for his readers to respond to the risen Christ. You see, the story of Jesus is not one that you can watch or listen to and be unaffected. This is not just any story; this is the story. And the ending of this story is so important. It’s what Christianity hinges on.

The teaching, the healing, the miracles, the crucifixion, the death—without the resurrection, none of it matters. And so, we are left to ponder the resurrection and its implications for us. What is our response going to be to this Jesus that we have read so much about? This is the question that is before us, this morning.

Mark begins by mentioning this group of women for the third time. In Mark 15:40, it says that “there were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.” In Mark 15:47, it says, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” And then, in Mark 16:1, it says that “when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.”

Why does Mark do this? Because he’s establishing that these women are credible witnesses. If you wanted to know what happened, what they saw, you could ask them. These women are witnesses to the crucifixion and death and burial of Jesus, and now they are witnesses to the empty tomb.

And this is not something that just Mark mentions. Matthew 28:1 says that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” Luke 24:10 says that “it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James” who were at the tomb. John 20:1 says that “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.”

The fact that all four Gospels mention women as the first witnesses to the resurrection is evidence that the resurrection really did happen, because the testimony of women was not accepted in the court of law in that culture. If the disciples were making up this story, they wouldn’t have had women be the first witnesses to the resurrection. In fact, where are the disciples? Mark doesn’t tell us, but we know from John 20 that the men were hiding.

So, the fact that women are the first on the scene is evidence that the resurrection really did happen. But even the women, if you notice, are surprised by what they see when they arrive at the tomb.

Look at verse 1. What are they carrying? It says that they “bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.” In verse 3, it says that they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” The women weren’t coming from the city to this tomb expecting Jesus to be alive; they were coming to this tomb expecting Jesus to be dead.

They had seen Jesus crucified. They had seen Jesus die. They had seen Jesus buried. They’re carrying spices. They’re concerned about who is going to roll away the stone for them. They’re not expecting a resurrection.

Mark points out that they “looked up.” They had been looking down this whole time, dejected and without hope. But they finally lift their gaze and what do they see? Verse 4 says that “they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.”

It’s here where many skeptics will say that the women simply went to the wrong tomb. They claim that Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead, because the women and then the men later on just went to the wrong tomb, and finding that tomb empty, they wrongly concluded that Jesus had risen from the dead.

The only problem with this theory is that the women saw which tomb Jesus was buried in. Mark 15:47 says, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” Matthew 27:61 says, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.”

No, the women went to the right tomb, and what they see when they get there takes them by surprise. They weren’t expecting a resurrection; they were expecting a dead body. But what they see is an empty tomb.

Verse 5 says that they see something else. Upon entering the tomb, “they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.”

If you were here a couple of weeks ago, you would have heard Bill Jackson speak on angels. Angels are referred to, throughout the Bible, at significant moments of redemptive history.

When Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden of Eden, there was an angel with a flaming sword that guarded the way to the tree of life. It was an angel at the birth of Jesus who announced to shepherds that good news of great joy had come for all people. After Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, angels come and minister to Him. When Jesus is suffering in anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, an angel appears and strengthens Him. If you look at Revelation 20:1-2, an angel comes down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain, and he seizes the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and he binds him for a thousand years.

The women are terrified because this is a significant moment in redemptive history. This moment belongs with the fall of man, and the birth of Jesus, and the death of Jesus, and the fall of Satan, and the second coming of Jesus. It identifies who Jesus is—that there is more to Him than flesh and blood, but that He truly is the Son of God.

Look at what the angel says to the women, in verse 6. He says to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.” And you know what? This is exactly who the women had come to the tomb to see. They weren’t looking for the Son of God. They weren’t looking for the resurrected King. They were looking for Jesus of Nazareth. They were looking for a body.

But the good news that the angel has the privilege of announcing to them is that “he has risen; he is not here.” This is such good news, church. This is our foundation. These words are what our faith is built on. Christ is risen; He is risen, indeed. “See the place where they laid him.”

Again, the skeptics try and dismantle the resurrection of Jesus. They claim that Jesus didn’t really die but fainted because of the enormous physical suffering He was under. This is called the Swoon Theory, and it suggests that Jesus regained consciousness in the cold tomb, got out of His grave clothes, somehow managed to move the heavy stone away from the tomb and take care of the guards, and then convinced His followers that He had risen from the dead.

Or how about the Stolen Body Theory. Matthew 28 reveals how the guards went and told the religious leaders all that had taken place about Jesus rising from the dead, and how the religious leaders gave them money to spread around a rumor that Jesus’ disciples had come to the tomb and stolen the body of Jesus while the guards were asleep.

But while all of these alternative explanations try to make sense of what happened, the only reasonable explanation that accounts for all the pieces of evidence is that Jesus really did rise from the dead. But, of course, this means that you would need to believe in the supernatural. This means that you would need to believe in a God who can do things outside of the realm of what we can see and hear and taste and smell and feel.

And this is what keeps many people from embracing the ending of this story. This is what keeps many people from embracing Jesus. But what Mark is inviting his readers to do is to respond. What will you do with the risen Christ?

We see how the women respond. In verse 7, the angel says to the women, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And verse 8 tells us that “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.”

Many scholars, though they don’t necessarily ascribe to the longer ending in Mark, have difficulty with Mark ending his Gospel at this point. Why would he end his Gospel with fear? Mark is writing to Christians in Rome who were being persecuted and killed for their faith in Jesus by the evil emperor Nero. They are already living in fear. Why not end on a high note? Why not end with something more encouraging? Perhaps an encounter with the risen Christ?

But it’s because, even though this ending might not be the ending we would expect or want, it is the ending that is most fitting and appropriate. The response to Jesus that you see throughout Mark’s Gospel is one of fear.

In Mark 4:41, after Jesus calmed the storm, it says that “they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”

In Mark 5:15, after Jesus casts out the demons from the demoniac, the townspeople see the man sitting with Jesus, “clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.”

If you scroll down to Mark 5:33, a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years touches Jesus, is healed, and knowing what had happened to her, it says that she “came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.”

If you scroll down even further to Mark 5:42, Jesus has just raised a dead girl back to life, and it says that “immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.”

In Mark 6:50, Jesus is walking on the water, and it says that “they all saw him and were terrified.”

Mark 10:32 says that “they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.”

And then, in Mark 11:18, it says that the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to destroy Jesus, “for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.”

Throughout Mark’s Gospel, fear and astonishment and amazement have been the response to Jesus, so it makes sense that the women and the disciples would respond in fear. That’s why this is a fitting end to Mark’s Gospel. The problem is that there are many today who hear of the miracles and the teaching and the healing of Jesus, and they are amazed by Jesus, but they lack fear. There is no reverence for Jesus. Instead, they try to soften Jesus’ words to make them less fear-inducing.

Going back to The Chronicles of Narnia for a minute. In the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie kids—Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy—are in the magical world of Narnia and find themselves at the house of the Beavers. And the beavers are telling them all about Aslan, and how he is the King of Beasts and Lord of the whole wood. He is a lion—son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea.

And Lucy asks them, “Then he isn’t safe?” And Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe?... Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The Chronicles of Narnia is meant to be an allegory, where Aslan is meant to be Jesus. And C.S. Lewis highlights the problem that many people have when they approach Jesus. They focus on Jesus’ love and care and compassion, and certainly Jesus is all of those things because He is good, but they forget that He isn’t safe. He’s not a tame lion.

It’s not enough to hear the story of Jesus or to read through the account of what Jesus said and did, and to walk away thinking, “That was a good story.” It’s easy to be amazed. I can watch a movie or read a book, and be amazed. But when we come to the Person of Jesus Christ, may we not simply be amazed, but may we be struck with awe and reverence for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

There comes a point at which the women do go and tell the disciples about what happened. And there comes a point at which the disciples do come out of hiding to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. There comes a point at which fear turns to faith—a point at which amazement towards and reverence for Jesus leads to truly following Him.

But this change does not come unless we act on what we have seen and heard. It doesn’t matter how long the women would have stared at that empty tomb, if they did not act on what they saw, then all of their amazement would have been for nothing.

That’s the point of Mark’s ending. Will we remain in fear, or will we respond in faith? Are we going to remain in wonder, or will we move towards worship? Will Jesus be our Suffering Saviour and Conquering King, or will we reject Him?

Maybe you are on the fence with Jesus. Maybe you like what He says and does, but you don’t like how He invades your life. And so, you keep Jesus at a distance, where you can live our life comfortably, but then still have your Jesus on the side when it’s convenient for you.

Maybe you have been going through the motions. Maybe you come to church and sing the songs and pray and read along with the Scriptures and sit under the preaching of the Word, and you feel good when it’s all over, but you aren’t changed. Maybe your heart has been stirred, but your life looks no different.

This Jesus that we have read so much about lived the perfect life, died the death we deserved to die, was raised to life in victory over sin and death, and is seated at the right hand of God as our Saviour and King. How will you respond to Him?

You’ve seen the miracles. You’ve heard the teaching. You’re there at the cross. You’re there when Jesus is buried. But now, the angel says to you, “He has risen; he is not here.” Now what? What is your response to the risen Christ? That’s the question we are left with, as we come to the end of Mark’s Gospel. What you do with it is up to you? Let’s pray…

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