INTRODUCTION: USELESS AND FUTILE
1 Corinthians 15:3-7 “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4
he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5
he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7
Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8
and last of all he appeared to me also ”
Paul, in his first letter to the church in Corinth, in chapter 15, declares the gospel. The gospel by which they’re saved. The gospel he preached to them. Christ died. Buried. Raised. Appeared.
Paul doesn’t just state his belief in the resurrection. He honestly outlines the implications of not believing. Chapter 15 verse 14:
1 Corinthians 15:14 “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
Preaching? Useless! Waste of time! And verse 15.
1 Corinthians 15:15 “we are then found to be false witnesses [liars] , for we have testified that [God] raised Christ from the dead.”
And your faith? Useless.Verse 17.
1 Corinthians 15:17 “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; [ empty, worth nothing] you are still in your sins.”
You’re not saved. You’re lost. And, verse 19.
1 Corinthians 15:19 “If we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
The resurrection is pivotal to our Christian Faith. It’s not merely a matter of life and death. It’s a matter of life after death.
So today we look at Mark’s evidence, in his gospel, for Jesus’ resurrection. Which may come as a little surprise. ‘Cos some don’t think Mark gives us evidence. I’ve been reading a very good little book on the resurrection, though it only looks at 3 of the 4 gospels. It ignores Mark. Today we won’t. And we’ll see what Mark has to teach us.
Most people believe Jesus’ resurrection is fake news. That the evidence is flimsy and unreliable.
Richard Carrier, well known author of the Christian delusion, also penned the book why I don’t buy the resurrection story?
He argues that ‘the evidence casts suspicion on the event being a true resurrection’. He raises ‘the odds of [it being] trickery’, and follows up with the comment, ‘it is in the nature of trickery for the evidence to be buried’. In this case, literally!
Perhaps you’ve heard of some of the theories.
The wrong tomb theory. That due to the emotional trauma and that “early in the morning “suggests it was still dark, that the women visited the wrong tomb.
The hallucination theory. That Jesus’ resurrection only occurred in the minds of the women and the disciples.
And then the swoon theory. That Jesus never actually died on the cross. He merely passed out and was mistaken as dead. Then after three days in a cool tomb he came round, exited the tomb, and appeared to his disciples as if He has risen.
And then the stolen body theory. Sometimes called the ‘Soldiers Fell Asleep theory’. Which changes according to who did the stealing. The disciples? Other followers? Jewish authorities? Roman authorities?
So what’s the evidence? Is Jesus risen? Or is our faith futile?
DEAD and BURIED
Now any claim to a resurrection makes no sense, holds no water, unless Jesus was well and truly dead and buried. A real resurrection presupposes a real death. Which is why Mark emphasises that very fact. That Jesus really did die. And he does that by calling witnesses. And laying out evidence.
The first people called to the witness stand are a group of women. Verse 40.
15:40 “Some women were watching from a distance “
Watching what? They’d watched Jesus be crucified, watched two others be crucified with him, watched passers by hurl insults, watched Jewish leaders mock him,
They’d watched darkness descend for 3 hours, watched Jesus cry out in a loud voice, watched him be offered a sponge with wine vinegar, watched Jesus breathe his last,
This group of women witnessed his death. And two of them witnessed His burial. Verse 47.
15:47 “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid. “(c.f. 16:6 “See the place where they laid him.”)
They saw where His body was placed in the tomb. Which is all good evidence! And knocks the theory they went to the wrong tomb. Seems a bit of a stretch since they had seen where he was laid. Would they have forgotten so quickly? Now, chapter 16 verse 1.
The three women – Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome – they go to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. Spices which would have off-set decomposition.
Now they’re on their way to do this. And their big concern is not will He still be there, but how will we get in?
They assume His dead. There’s no expectation He’ll be alive.
These women are eye-witnesses. They’ve watched Jesus die. They’ve seen Him buried. They expect Him to be dead.
And, what’s more, they’re women! Don’t miss that fact. Using the testimony of women is surprising. It’s crazy to think but, in the first century, a women’s testimony wasn’t permissible in a Jewish court. They weren’t regarded as reliable. That’s not right or fair. But, that was the culture of the day. And Mark uses to strengthen the case. ‘Cos if Mark was fabricating the resurrection he would never have used women as the key witnesses. Using them, ironically, underlines the evidence.
b. Joseph of Arimathea
The women! Though there’s also other witnesses. Chapter 15 verse 42.
15:42 “It was Preparation Day ( the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached “
The Sabbath starts at sunset. So all preparations had to be finished before then. So if Jesus wasn’t buried by then, they’d have to wait another 24 hours.
15:42-43 “So as the evening approached, [verse 43] joseph of arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.”
Joseph is a Jewish leader. A member of the ruling council. The highest Jewish legal authority. The Jewish supreme court. A Jewish leader and one gutsy bloke. He boldly asks Pilate for Jesus’ body. That took guts ‘cos it would clearly identify him with Jesus, and his colleagues, the ruling council, hated Jesus, wanted Him dead, and got their wish. A bold request. And Pilate grants permission.
15:46 “So [verse 46, and note the details] Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he [seals it. He] rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
Details. Details.All which add up to more evidence.
c. Governor and Executioner
But there’s even more. Mark calls another witness. The Roman governor. Verse 44. A Roman governor and a Roman centurion.
Pilate’s surprised that Jesus is already dead. It usually took longer for someone crucified to die, sometimes several days. Jesus took just six hours.
Pilate’s sceptical. He wants to make absolutely sure. So he summons the centurion. A Roman soldier in charge of the death squad. An expert in execution. An expert in certifying death. The centurion is responsible to make sure Jesus is dead And if he didn’t do his job, he’d be dead.
Pilate asks and verse 45. The centurion convinces a sceptical Pilate. And note the three-fold emphasis. Pilate is surprised to hear His dead. He asks to check whether Jesus is dead. And it’s confirmed.
Ok, so Mark records witnesses. A group of women. Joseph, the top Jewish authority. And Pilate, the top Roman authority.
And Mark records evidence. The women see Jesus die, see where His laid. Jospeh asks for the body, takes it down, wraps it up, and buries it in a tomb. Pilate double checks and makes sure His dead.
All this evidence refutes the popular alternatives. The swoon theory. No way that Jesus just fainted on the cross, only to recover in the cool of the tomb. The wrong tomb theory. No way the women went to the wrong place. The stolen body theory. Doesn’t make sense. The disciples ran away scared. The women didn’t expect Him to be alive. No way either of them stole the body. It’s clear. Jesus truly was dead and buried.
ALIVE and WELL
Which means us to the second point. Jesus is risen. He’s alive and well.
a. Told you so!
The foundation for the evidence Mark lays out is Jesus’ own words. Jesus’ told them so. He made predictions. Which up to this point all came true.
Let’s rewind and backtrack. Back to chapter 8 verse 31. Where;
8:31 “[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things [yes, that happened] and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, [yes, that came true] and that he must be killed”
Yes, all that’s come true. Then he adds:
8:31 “and after three days rise again.”
Flip over to chapter 9 verse 31. Where He teaches His disciples;
9:31 “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. [tick] They will kill him [tick], and after three days he will rise.”
Chapter 10 verse 33. Jesus says;
10:33-34 “We are going up to Jerusalem, [yes, that happened] and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. [yes, tick] They will condemn him to death [tick] and will hand him over to the Gentiles [tick], who will mock him and spit on him [tick tick], flog him and kill him. [tick, tick]”
All came true. But then, verse 34.
10:34 “Three days later he will rise.”
Jesus told you so. Everything Jesus said so far has come true. One final piece remains. For Him to rise again. That’s the final piece of the puzzle. And in chapter 16 we’ve arrived at that moment.
b. Stone Moved
It’s Sunday morning, first day of the week. Just after sunrise, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome, they’re on their way to the tomb. And they’re worried. Verse 3.
16:3 “they [ask] each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?'”
There’s 3 of them. Women. And it’d take many tough soldiers a lot of muscle to move such a large rock. So who will? And then comes the word but
16:4 “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.”
Note. The women who saw Jesus die, who saw His body laid in the tomb, now we’re told, they saw the stone rolled away.
And that’s exhibit ‘A’. large heavy rock, that sealed the tomb, moved aside.
c. Tomb empty
And here’s exhibit ‘B’. The tomb is empty. Well, at least Jesus’ body is gone.
Stoned moved, body gone. And verse 5, a young man sitting there, an angel. It’s not what they were expecting. And it’s all too much. They’re shocked.
d. Told you so!
To which the angel says, ‘don’t be!’. ‘Cos, essentially, Jesus told you so.
We’ve got the evidence. Here’s the explanation. Verse 6. The angel says;
16:6 “Don’t be alarmed, [You’re] looking for Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified.”
Just as He told you so! Well, now.
16:6 “He has risen! [He’s] not here. see the place where they laid Him.”
Look, see, open your eyes. Just as He told you. He’s risen.
So, verse 7.
16:6-7 “go, tell his disciples , ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you.'”
As He told you so. The going to Galilee. Jesus spoke of that in chapter 14. Where He predicted the disciples would fall away – true, they’d strike the shepherd – yes, sheep would scatter – yes, and verse 28.
14:28 “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
There you have it. Another prediction. Just as He ‘told you so!’
e. Fear and Trembling
Which kind of explains their response in verse 8. fear and trembling.
16:8 “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Yes, it may be an abrupt way for Mark to end his gospel. Though it’s also an appropriate way to end.
That’s ‘cos fear throughout Mark’s gospel is the response to Jesus’ miracles. Miracles which prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the king, the Son of God.
For instance, there’s a storm in chapter 4. Disciples in a boat. Fearing for their lives. Jesus speaks the word, ‘Quiet’ and the storm is stilled. And He asks the dicsiples ‘Do you still have no faith?’ And the disciples, they’re terrified. Afraid. Asking, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him!’
Jesus acts like God. ‘Cos He is God. And they fear Him.
And now here is the ultimate event, the ultimate miracle that proves Jesus is God. The resurrection. And so the response is the same. fear and trembling.
Join the dots, make the connection. Jesus is god!
Conclusion: Lessons to Learn
Mark ends the gospel underlining a fact of life. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead.
Now what are the implications of that fact? What are the lessons to learn.
a. Jesus is King
First. Jesus is who he says he is.
The resurrection is the final and conclusive proof of Jesus’ identity. He is the messiah, God’s king. He is the son of god.
b. Jesus Saves
Second. It means Jesus saves. It assures us that His death secures us salvation.
Jesus’ death is not a tragedy. It’s a triumph. A victory.
Jesus’ death pays the penalty for our sin.
Jesus’ death and resurrection? His death is the victory. His resurrection, the declaration of victory, or assurance of victory.
c. Faith and Fear
Thirdly. The right response to Jesus is faith and fear. A fear that is amazed, that is awed, a fear that is beginning of faith. A faith in Jesus that saves. And brings a welcome into God’s new family. adopted into the new people of God.
d. Go and Tell
And fourthly. go and tell.
In verse 7 the angel tells the women to go and tell.
In verse 8 they say nothing. We know from other gospels that didn’t last long. They did in fact go tell the disciples, but initially they’re bewildered and afraid, and said nothing.
Well, we’ve no need to feel bewildered. We ought not to be afraid of others.
We can fear God and tell others.
Good news is news to share. We can’t keep Jesus to ourselves.
Christ died for our sin. Christ is risen. Christ is king. Let’s go. Let’s tell.