Yesterday I preached the end of Mark (15:42-16:8). It was the end of a two year study as a church including nearly 70 sermons. As John Mark brings his Gospel to a close, the climax is focused upon the resurrection and then he simply ends with a look at the fearful women who discovered the empty tomb and were informed by an angel that Jesus had risen from the dead. For more on why I believe that Mark ends at 16:8, you can read my article on that subject. The Gospel of Mark ends with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Good news for wretched sinners!
Why Does the Death of Jesus Matter?
Many people throughout history have tried to disprove the resurrection of Christ by rejecting the death of Christ. The false religion of Islam teaches that Jesus ascended, but they reject the idea of Jesus’ death. Many Muslims believe the death of Jesus is merely an illustration and not actual. However, we must remember that the Romans had perfected the crucifixion by the time of Jesus’ death on the cross, and it was impossible for anyone to leave a Roman cross alive once they had been crucified. The death of Jesus matters because of the following reasons:
- Prophecy Must be Fulfilled
- Propitiation Must be Made
- Atonement Must be Purchased
- Justice Must be Satisfied
Faith Concealed Becomes Faith Revealed
Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man (Matt. 27:57) emerged from the shadows as a man who was “looking for the kingdom of God.” He made a request for the body of Jesus and Pilate handed over the corpse to him. Joseph was a respected member of the council and a prominent Jew. Apparently he had become a secret disciple of Jesus, but one cannot remain an undercover disciple for long. Jesus never called anyone into secret service. The time came for Joseph to make his faith known, and in a bold move, he identified himself with Jesus at the cross. Jesus’ body was taken, prepared for burial, and buried in a rock tomb owned by the wealthy Joseph.
The Fearful Disciples
On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome approached the tomb of Jesus in order to anoint the body with spices. This was a Jewish custom to show respect and honor for the loved one and to counter the smell of a dead corpse. As they approached the tomb, they noticed the large rock was moved aside. They went inside and found an angel there and they were stunned. The angel encouraged them to not be afraid, and then made a shocking announcement – “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).
The women were afraid. The word used by Mark to explain their condition is astonishment = ἔκστασις – meaning amazement, astonishment, to be beside oneself, bewilderment, profoundly shocked. In one way, it seems odd that Mark would end his Gospel here. However, as we place ourselves in the shoes of these women for a brief moment, we would be astonished too. In the shadow of the looming Roman cross, their Savior has been raised from the dead. What does this mean? Will this lead to more executions? In another way, they were certainly overwhelmed with joy and excitement that Jesus was alive. But, this was almost too much to handle.
Although Mark ends with the fearful women at the tomb, they didn’t remain afraid. Their fear was replaced by bold witness as they would work alongside the apostles to spread the good news to the ends of the earth. From this small handful of Jesus followers, the world was turned upside down. Have you experienced the good news of Jesus Christ? He was put to death in the place of guilty sinners (Mark 10:45; Isaiah 53), buried in a borrowed tomb, and raised from the dead on the third day. Jesus proved to be the Savior of the world. Have you placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins? Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of hope. Come to Him and trust Him with your entire life and eternal destiny.