Just As He Said
A sermon on Mark 15:40-16:8 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA 10/22/00
40 And there were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. 41 And when He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who had come up with Him to Jerusalem.
42 ¶ And when evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 And 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. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.
1 ¶ And when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 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 away, although it was extremely large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 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. 7 "But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you into 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 gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Why do you believe what someone says? What makes you believe that what a person says is true?
There are certain classes of persons whom we routinely do not believe – presidential candidates, for example. We expect them to exaggerate their accomplishments, and it’s only when they make particularly egregious errors that they pay any penalty at all. And as for their promises – well, it’s amazing how quickly after an election “unforeseen” circumstances arise that change the new president’s mind.
This is our last sermon in our series on the gospel of Mark. In these 26 sermons spread over the last 18 months, we have heard Jesus give commands and promises. Included among them:
Mark 13:31: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
Jesus claims that His words will never fail. He claims that He speaks truth, and that those truths will hold for all time. Do you believe Him? Why should you?
This is perhaps the most important question you have to answer in your life: Are the words Jesus speaks true?
Today we consider the burial and resurrection of Jesus. This topic, I suggest, provides us with the evidence we need to judge Jesus’ claim to be telling the truth. This is the bedrock of our faith – the historical event that is the foundation of everything else we believe. So as Jesus would say, if you have ears, let them hear.
Before we proceed, let me make one note about the ending of the gospel of Mark. As you may have noticed, the passage I read ends abruptly – the tomb is empty, but there are no reports of Jesus’ appearances. Verses 9-20 of Mark 16, as noted in most of your Bibles, do not appear in the oldest manuscripts we have of Mark’s gospel – and stylistically they are quite different from the rest of the book. Although Mark may have written more in his original manuscript, if he did it is now lost to us – so we will end our exposition with verse 8.
Our outline this morning has three major headings:
Recall the terrible events of the crucifixion, which we discussed last time. Jesus is crucified, bearing all the punishment for all the sins all believers have ever committed. While He is on the cross, at noon, as the sun reaches its zenith, darkness falls over the entire land. Jesus cries out, “My God, My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” At 3PM, Jesus cries out in a loud voice, and gives up His Spirit. Seeing all this, the centurion says, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Although we don’t hear about him earlier, among those standing around the cross was Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was a prominent member of the council, the Sanhedrin – the group of leaders who had opposed Jesus for many months, and had sentenced Him to death the night before. Yet Luke tells us that Joseph “had not consented to their action” (Luke 23:51) – probably they did not even summon Joseph (and Nicodemus) to their illegal nighttime trial. John tells us that Joseph was “a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one, for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38). Yet this man who was too fearful during Jesus’ life to proclaim Him publicly as Messiah now “gathers up courage” and asks Pilate for the body. Surely this action did require courage – with the Sanhedrin having condemned Jesus to death, sympathizing with Him will certainly cost Joseph his seat on the council, and could cost him his life. But watching Jesus die motivates Joseph, at long last, to stand up for His beliefs.
So Joseph goes to Pilate immediately after Jesus’ death and asks for the body. (Note that the word translated “evening” in verse 42 can mean the hours between 3PM and 6PM). There is little time to lose – the Sabbath will begin at sunset, only about three and a half hours after Jesus’ death. After that time, Joseph would be violating the Sabbath by burying Him. If Jesus’ body is not to be thrown into a pit by Roman hands, Joseph will have to act quickly.
Pilate is surprised to learn that Jesus is dead already; often men would linger on the cross for days before finally dying. Perhaps suspecting a trick by Jesus’ followers to take Him down from the cross alive, Pilate summons the officer in charge – the centurion – and asks him if Jesus is indeed dead. This centurion, who was so impressed by Jesus mode of dying that he proclaimed Him to be the Son of God, confirms Joseph’s statement: Jesus is really dead.
Can we believe the centurion? Is Jesus’ death a fact?
From shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, opponents of the gospel message have spread rumors that Jesus did not really die. He fainted, or was drugged, was taken down from the cross alive, awoke in the tomb, and want out. Is this a possible interpretation of the facts?
Think about this: The centurion’s life depends upon him being able to judge correctly whether or not someone is dead. All of you have seen movies where two people are fighting, one looks to be dead, the supposed victor turns his back . . . and the downed fighter pulls out a gun and shoots his opponent. Such scenes may make for exciting films, but they don’t happen in real life. Imagine this centurion in battle – if there is any question about an opponent’s death, a quick sword thrust will remove all doubt. Any good Roman officer would have seen many men die, and would be careful not to make mistakes on this score, both to protect his men and to protect himself.
As an executioner, the pressure to judge correctly is even greater. Here the officer in charge would face certain death himself if condemned man were to leave the place of execution alive.
So by bringing in the centurion, Pilate assures that Jesus is dead. Mark does the same for us – Jesus is certified to be dead by a professional killer. There is no question: Jesus is dead.
Early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and other women go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. Certainly they would have preferred to have done this immediately after His death – but perhaps, unlike Joseph, they were too distressed by the events of the crucifixion to think about what need to be done to honor Jesus at that time. The Sabbath intervenes, keeping them from their work until Sunday morning. But they get up as early as possible and make their way to the tomb.
But on the way they realize they have not arranged for any help in moving the stone! How will they get into the tomb? The stone covering the entrance will take many men to move.
Much to their surprise, when they come within sight of the tomb, it is gaping open! The stone is gone! As they enter the tomb, they see the wrappings that had enveloped Jesus’ body simply lying there – and a young man, evidently an angel, sitting at the right. They are amazed – the Greek word can connote fright, and undoubtedly they experience some fear (see verse 8), but I believe their primary response of surprise.
Let’s read again what the angel says:
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. 7 "But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.
The angel says, “Don’t be amazed” – emphasizing that they need not be surprised, for Jesus told them this would happen! (More on this below). Note that the angel, too, states that Jesus was really dead – he has been crucified – but now is risen. He’s no longer lying where Joseph put Him – He is risen!
There’s a wonderful touch to the angel’s statement in verse 7: “Tell the disciples and Peter.” If the angel had just said, “Tell the disciples,” Peter might very well have wondered, “Is this message for me? Even after I denied Jesus three times?” But here Peter is welcomed back into the group – the message is indeed for him, and for all repentant sinners.
But the main point is this: Jesus, who was dead, is risen! He is risen! Let’s look briefly at three implications of this fact:
(1) The penalty was sufficient!
Suppose God had placed all the sins of all believers for all time on to Jesus – but the payment had not been sufficient to cover all our sins. Could God have raised Him from the dead? No! Not without violating His justice! Jesus would have to continue suffering for our sins – He could not be raised. But since God did raise Him from the dead, He most certainly accepted the penalty as sufficient – the price is paid, we are free!
Paul makes this explicit in Romans 4:25:
[He] was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
Our transgressions lead to His death – and our justification leads to His resurrection. It is only because we are right with God that Jesus was raised from the dead. So we can be certain that the penalty has been paid for all of our sins!
(2) He is alive!
Jesus rose from the dead – to life! He is not a distant memory of some good, righteous man; He is not simply a model for us to try to emulate; He is not a martyr for a cause, whom we commemorate. He is living! He is enabling! He is empowering! As the author of Hebrews says, “He always lives to make intercession for us.” He is our brother, our husband, the one with whom we share an intimate relationship. He is alive!
(3) We are alive in Him!
We were dead in our trespasses and sins – but no longer! We were enslaved to sin, unable to act in obedience to His will – but no longer! Our lives were dominated by the fear of death, the fear of missing out on life – but no longer! We are alive in Him!
So Jesus was dead – but He rose! And he rose . . .
Look again at the last phrase of the angel’s statement in verse 7: “Just as He said.” The women should not be surprised to find the tomb empty – because Jesus told His disciples several times that He would die – and that He would rise again on the third day! “Here it is, the third day, and He rose – why are you surprised? You should have believed what He said!”
Jesus predicts His death and resurrection at least three times to all the disciples, in chapters 8, 9, and 10 of Mark. He also refers to His resurrection when talking with James, John, and Peter after the transfiguration, and when speaking with all of the disciples the night He was betrayed. While Peter, at least, hears what Jesus says about dying – and rebukes Him for saying it – neither Peter nor the others seem to hear the prophecy of the resurrection.
Other than exhibiting once again the thickheadedness of the disciples (see sermon), why are Jesus’ predictions of His death and resurrection important? Do you see? They verify His truthfulness! He keeps His promises – so while none of us may believe the promises of presidential candidates, we should all believe the words of Jesus.
Suppose I promise to give you a million dollars Monday at noon, and then a thousand dollars Tuesday at noon. You might have reason to doubt my promise – particularly if you could see my bank balance! But suppose I manage to fulfill the promise on Monday – you get the million dollars! What do you expect to happen on Tuesday? If I fulfilled the promise to give you a million dollars on Monday, surely I’ll give you the thousand dollars on Tuesday! You will have no doubt! I’ve kept the hard promise – surely I’ll keep the easier one.
Think, now: Isn’t the promise to rise from the dead the hardest promise to keep anyone has ever made? Jesus kept the hard promise. He lived up to His word. Shouldn’t we then believe the rest of His words, and trust Him to be speaking truthfully? He’s fulfilled the million-dollar promise – surely He’ll fulfill all the thousand dollar promises He made. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Let’s remind ourselves of some of Jesus’ statements we have studied in the last 18 months in Mark. Some of these are promises, while some are commands. All are true:
· 8:34-35: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it.”
· 9:23: “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
· 10:9: “What God has joined together, let no man separate.”
· 10:14-15: With children standing beside Him, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.”
· 10:29-30: “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
· 12:17: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
· 12:30-31 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
· 13:13: “You will be hated by all on account of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.”
· 14:24: “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
But Jesus also makes promises which are yet future for us. Just as He promised to die and rise from the dead, He promised to come again into this world. And note: since He is already alive, this second promise is easier to keep than the first:
· 13:26-27 “Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven.”
· 14:61-62 The High priest asks Jesus: “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."
Finally, he gives a specific command to us as we live between His resurrection and His second coming:
· 13:33 "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.”
This is our God! Dead, really dead. Then alive, really alive. And coming again – just as He said.
He has fulfilled the hardest promise—and He will fulfill all the rest.
So Christians: Trust Him! Depend on Him! Lean on Him! Take risks for Him! For the one who rose from the dead, the sovereign God of the universe, the one to whom all power and authority has been given – He is the one who has promised never to leave you nor to forsake you. He turns evil to good. He knows the very number of hairs on your head. He has engraved your name on the palms of His hands. And He will know you and watch over you all the days of your life, and then will take you to Himself.
Only believe! Acknowledge that without Him you have no hope! Acknowledge that compared to Him you are worthless, you are despicable, you deserve the flames of Hell for all eternity. But Throw yourself on His mercy! And (Rom 9:33) the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.
But there’s a flip side to this. I have to warn you. He is coming again, with all authority and majesty and power to take His people to Himself for all eternity, so that they might enjoy Him forever, learning more and more of His beauty and majesty and infinite wisdom and goodness, and bringing glory and praise to His name forevermore.
But if you are not His – if you have not received Him, if you do not believe in His name and authority and power – at that point, there is no longer any hope. The same one who said, “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you peace” said, “whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
When you refuse to believe
It’s a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
So turn! Repent! Today is the day of salvation! Let it not pass without your begging Him for mercy! He has risen – just as He said. And He is coming again – just as He said. Praise God!
This sermon was preached at Community Bible Church in Williamstown, MA on 10/22/00.
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