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Jesus Has Risen

Date: May. 24, 2020

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Mark 16:1-8

Key Verse: Mark 16:6

"Don’t be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him."

All things in this world have an ending. Books have endings when you get to the last page. Sometimes books are a part of a series and the series, too must end. I remember when the last book of Harry Potter came out. People pre-ordered them to be the first see how the story ends. I even pre-ordered my copy of The Deathly Hallows and picked it up on the first day it was out at Borders, if you remember that store. It’s not just books, though. Even our favorite TV shows have to end at some time. Just about a year ago, it seemed like the whole world was watching when 16.9 million people tuned in for the Game of Thrones finale. That’s a lot of people, but pales in comparison to other finales. In 2004, the finale of Friends had 52.5 million viewers. In 1998, the finale of Seinfeld had 76.3 million views and the king of finales was M*A*S*H with a whopping 105 million viewers or just slightly below half the US population at the time. There are many times where we love to see how things end. After half of all life was snapped out of existence in Avengers: Infinity War, people packed the movie theaters to see how it ends in Avengers: Endgame to bring in nearly $2.8 billion, which also concluded the Infinity Saga. Speaking of ends, it is also fitting many college graduations just happened. It is an ending of that part of life. I’m talking all about these endings because we, too, are approaching an end, the end of Mark’s gospel. With today’s passage, we enter into the last chapter in the book and it has a lot to do to bring things to conclusion.

Since Easter, we have been getting into the nitty-gritty of Jesus’ final hours. After Easter, we saw Jesus arrested and put on trial. We saw Peter deny even knowing Jesus to the lowest of people in society. We saw the religious leaders take Jesus to the Roman authority to have him killed. The Roman governor Pilate couldn’t figure out what crime Jesus had committed, but he caved to pressure and ordered Jesus to be crucified. We saw how Jesus was flogged and mocked, and then led out to be crucified. We saw how Jesus was nailed to the cross and was mocked by all manners of people. We saw the sky darken and Jesus cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” And we saw Jesus breathe his last. Jesus was taken down and placed in a fresh tomb. A large stone was rolled into place as the tomb was sealed. Not long afterwards, at sunset, the Sabbath began, and the Jewish world paused. Everything that happened made it look like the end. There was a sense of finality in the air. Jesus was dead and buried, but there was a little more to the story.

Our passage begins, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.” (1) Jesus death and burial were very abrupt and short and didn’t do justice to the man that Jesus was. These women wanted to do the burial right. In order to do that, they wanted to bring some spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any spices, so they had to buy some, but all the shops and merchants were closed because of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day of rest that started on sundown on Friday and would go until sundown on Saturday. Jewish law required that no Jew was allowed to work on the Sabbath. This meant that no stores were open, and people couldn’t travel very far. The women had to wait until the Sabbath was over after sundown on Saturday. After the sun went down Saturday, the merchants opened up for a little while. It was during this time that the women went to buy the spices. Once they bought the spices, the women couldn’t go to the tomb because it was already late, so they decided to go early the next morning.

Here I want to quickly talk about the love and devotion that these women were showing Jesus at this time. Just before the Sabbath started, Jesus’ body was buried. Now, the Jews do not embalm the body. There is no preservation of the corpse. Burial preparations were not to preserve the body but to help with the smell of the body. What this means is by the time the women would go to the tomb, the women would have expected that the body would have already started to decompose. Jews saw a dead body as unclean, so these women were willing to become unclean and face a decomposing corpse all in order to anoint the body with some spices. They didn’t care about their own well-being. They just wanted to honor Jesus.

“‘Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’” (2-3) They went to the tomb with all their spices, but they had a problem that they discussed on the way. There was a giant stone in front of the tomb. A large round stone was placed in front of the entrance. At the entrance there was a groove cut out of the rock, where the stone would roll into. While it might have only taken one person to put the stone into place, it would take a great effort to remove it. This was intended to deter grave robbers and tomb pirates. Grave robbers were the ones who would break into a tomb to steal what was inside. Tomb pirates would break into a tomb to steal the tomb. These pirates would place another body in an already inhabited tomb. Sometimes, they would even remove the existing body and bones before putting in the dead body. This would probably be done for people who were unable to afford a nice tomb. The stone in front of the entrance of the grave were to deter these nefarious people. So, when these women were on their way to the tomb wondering how they were going to move the stone, it isn’t some knock on those women. It was intentionally hard for anyone to move the stone away. The women going to the tomb with no plan on moving the stone shows just how impromptu the entire endeavor was. They knew what they wanted to do but they didn’t think it through all way.

Their problem, honestly, seems insurmountable. Three women were not going to be enough to move the stone and they did not elicit help from anyone else either. They were wondering what to do while on the way. While discussing the problem, the women didn’t even know that their problem was already solved. They didn’t need to worry about how to open the tomb, because the stone was already rolled away. “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.” (4) There are many times where we fret over something. We might be worried about what is going to happen, but we fail to realize that the problem had been solved a long time ago and solved in a way that we might not expect. The ultimate example of this is our problem of sin. We can feel burdened and guilty because of our selfish actions. We can never feel good enough and wonder if anything can change us. The answer is that there is something that can change us. Our problem has already been solved. Jesus already died nearly two thousand years ago to forgive us of our sins. Jesus does not need to die every day for each of our sins. His death was enough for all of our sins for all time. We don’t have to carry our guilt anymore because Jesus’ death on the cross already wipes our slate clean and Jesus’ resurrection opens the way for a new life.

When the women arrived at the opened tomb, they went inside to figure out what had happened. Perhaps someone came to steal the body. They had to know, “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.” (5) The women did not see anything that they expected. There was no body. There was no Jesus, but the tomb wasn’t empty either. There was a young man dressed in white sitting on one of the sides. The Bible says that the women were alarmed, and it truly must have been quite disturbing to see this young man sitting in the tomb. White was a sign of purity and a tomb was considered to by spiritually dirty. It made no sense for a person so spiritually pure to be in a place that was so spiritually dirty. The women didn’t know who this man was. Why was he inside the tomb? How did he roll the stone away? It was truly an alarming sight.

But it didn’t need to be, “‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.’” (6) The young man told tried to calm the women. He tells them not to be alarmed. He knows who they were looking for. They were looking for Jesus, who was crucified, but he wasn’t there anymore. He had risen. The place where is body laid was empty. After a Sabbath rest, Jesus got up. The young man, it seems, was no ordinary man. He was an angel sent to share the good news with these women. Jesus may have died on the cross, but he didn’t stay dead. He may have been mocked, shamed, abandoned, beaten and pierced. He may have been raised up for all to see, spat on and ridiculed. He may have cried out and breathed his last, but death could not hold him. Jesus may have died, but it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him (Acts 2:24).

Jesus wasn’t just some dude who died on the cross. He was God who died for our sins. Jesus was the creator of the world, so that even the wind and the waves obeyed him. Jesus knew the hearts of every single person. He healed the sick and drove out demons. He cared for those who were in need and restored all sorts of people. He loved the people of this world and considered himself a doctor for the sick. He cured leprosy and raised the dead. He never disobeyed God the Father. He never once sinned, but in his death took the sin of all humanity for all time. He did not sin but became sin so that the full wrath of God would fall on him. He chose to die for us. He chose to be condemned for us. He chose to take our punishment. He chose to be forsaken by God. He chose to give up his spirit to save our own. But because he was so pure, because Jesus was sinless, because Jesus is God, death could not keep its hold on him. It is the greatest proof of Jesus’ divinity.

To these women, Jesus’ disciples and the whole world, it looked like Jesus’ death on the cross was the end for Jesus. For all of history up to that point, death was the end for all people, but it wasn’t for Jesus. It was just the beginning of the next stage. There is another ending that is to come and that ending is eternity. Jesus’ true end has no end. Jesus has said, as it is recorded in the book of Revelation, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18) Jesus is alive. He is not in some tomb rotting away. He is alive! It looked as if the devil had the last laugh. It looked as if the devil had finally won. The Son of God was dead, but Jesus holds the keys of death. Satan used the power of death to drive fear in our hearts, but Jesus holds the keys of death. Jesus, not Satan, is the master of death because he defeated death.

And that means tremendous things for us. We are sinners. We have done some terrible things in our rebellion against God. We have been selfish and hurt others. The wages of our sin is death. Each of our sins is deserving death and we should die multiple times over. Our destiny was the grave. Everybody would feel the cold grasp of death and rot in a tomb. Our story would end, but even then, we would never find peace. We would face a second death that would eternally separate us from God for an eternity of torment. It was to be the end of us all. There would be no trick. There would be no last-minute rescue. There would be no mercy. There would be only death and darkness. There would be only pain and suffering. It would be a pitiful end.

However, it would not be our end. The Bible says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—” (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus shared in our humanity to break the power of death. Jesus died so that we may have new life. He took those keys of death from the devil and changed the ending of our story. We were meant for death, but in Jesus we now have life. That’s what it means “from death to life”. We were supposed to die, but because of Jesus, we have an opportunity for life. We are redeemed from death and that pitiful end is not our end. We have a new life, an everlasting life, a life of hope, a life of life and not death. We have a life that overpours our own and brings that very same new life to others.

Without Jesus, think about where your life was going. Were you feeling fulfilled? Were you feeling like you were doing the right thing? Were you feeling like there was meaning? Or, was everything just so empty? No matter what you could do, there never seemed to be any point to it all. It’s like cleaning a house with small kids. Five minutes later it is back in the same state of disarray. The entire exercise is futile. We have depression and loneliness and our hearts ache for something more. But before Jesus, we were slowly, and sometimes quickly, sliding into death. There was so much malaise in our lives that we yearned for anything to break the callous on our hearts. We searched for a thrill and excitement to allow us to feel anything. We want a rush to feel better. Or we might have pain that is too much to bear. Our past haunts us and we just want to forget. In either case, our attempted escapes only draw us closer to the grave because they lead us further and further from God. It is like trying to pull ourselves out of tar. The harder we struggle, the faster we get pulled in.

But because of Jesus, that is not our end anymore. By Jesus’ grace, he rewrote our story. He took the ending that we were supposed to have and gave us a new ending. Our original ending was unsatisfactory. It was a horrible ending that we wrote for ourselves. The showrunners for Game of Thrones no longer could follow the books because they weren’t written yet, so they had to come up with their own ending for the series and the ending that they wrote left some people with a bad taste in their mouths. It wasn’t a good ending. The same can be said for the last Star Warsmovie The Rise of Skywalker. It was intended to not only wrap up the sequel trilogy, but to also wrap up the nine-movie trilogy of trilogies. To many people, it felt rushed and unsatisfying. Speaking of Star Wars, there was an animated Star Wars series called The Clone Wars, which told the story of the war that happened between Episodes II and III. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, they ended the series on a strange note after the fifth season. There were a number of episodes that were already in progress for a sixth season, but they just released them on Netflix. It was a strange ending that didn’t wrap up anything. Recently, however, they finally completed the series and provided a conclusion that fits nicely with where it needed to end up. Jesus takes our miserable ending and turns is around. He gives us a conclusion that is the same as his, a life everlasting. We may enter the grave, but, like Jesus, the grave is not our end.

This redemption is even glimpsed in this passage. The angel did not stop at telling the women that Jesus had risen. He continued, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (7) In this verse, I find it funny that the angel says to the women to tell Jesus’ disciples and Peter something. The angel explicitly mentions Peter separately from the rest of the disciples. Was Peter not a disciple anymore? What is going on? Most likely, the angel is emphasizing Peter because of his denial. By explicitly mentioning Peter, there may be an allusion to his reinstatement that is shown in John’s gospel. Peter blundered hard. He really failed at being a disciple, especially after all of his boasting about never leaving Jesus, but that wasn’t his end. He would be redeemed and become the leader of the apostles and the church.

Our passage today ends with the women still filled with fear and not mentioning what they saw to anyone. They couldn’t believe what they had seen and heard. They were trembling, but again this is not the end. Officially, this is where Mark’s gospel ends, but as we know, there is more to the story. Jesus is alive and death is no longer the end. Our stories have changed because Jesus’ story does not end in death. It is a blessing and an honor that the direction of our lives has changed. Let us thank Jesus for what he has done. Not only has he forgiven us of our sins, he has taken away their punishment. More than that though. He gives us new life because he has risen.

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