Mark 16:1-8

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 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.’”

Invite you to take your Bibles to Mark chapter 16. This morning, Mark chapter 16. We’re gonna be looking at verses one through eight. Words from the empty tomb. Here’s what we read as we come to Mark chapter 16, verses one through eight. When the Sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices so that they might go and anoint him.

And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb? And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back. It was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.

And he said to them, do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who is crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 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 they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized him.

And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Let’s pray.

Lord, we gather on this beautiful Easter morning. And God, we come to celebrate your Son. Lord Jesus, we come to you. And we desire to see you fresh. The beauty of what you have done the glory of what this day is commemorating That the grave is empty that you are not there that you are the living christ The son of the living god that you are our lord and living savior Lord teach us today from your word in these moments.

We spend together in jesus name. Amen It was march Harold Davis, a missionary of our church who had been a part of our ministry for a whole summer together as he’d been involved in ministries, wilderness camps, hiking camps, various, soccer programs, had returned to Bogota, Colombia and emails had alerted us here in the church office.

That harold was missing he had been on a pastoral visit in downtown bogota columbia He had gone on a thursday evening and he had not returned home It was well into the early morning hours That the missionaries had gone to all the places that they could think of where he might have gone Eventually, Friday morning, the police were pulled in and began a search for him.

By Friday afternoon, the missionaries and people from the church were looking at hospitals, even morgues, trying to find out where he might be. Eventually, late Friday afternoon, and we received an email that explained what happened. Bob Trout, a missionary. on the missions team there had gone into the very, inner city, the, the, the, some of the most difficult areas of Bogota and had gone to a morgue there and had immediately phoned to his wife who passed the word through the missionaries and they then on to people like us here in the States.

And here was his response. I’m at the morgue in downtown Bogota, Colombia. He is here. The word came forth as we had ensuing emails that he had met a tragic, brutal death, that he would not be coming home to his family and friends. He is here. Surely the more, most tragic words possible at the moment. Your loved one has been found in the place of death.

Two thousand years ago, some women gathered at the place of death, a tomb. They had come to visit a grave. When they arrived, they too were greeted with a message, almost an identical message, a three word message. But with one tiny, tiny change, three letters, he is not here. Those three letters changed the entire messaging.

Those three letters changed the entire environment from despair to hope. Those three letters changed the entire lives of these three women. Those three letters not here. Change the entire course course of human history in the place of death. Jesus is not here. Mark records the angels words to these women in Mark 16 and as he does so and as we participate in the words of their message, there are three things we find.

First of all, we find a word of challenge. To our minds their statement in verse six to the women was this he is not here This statement, of course Is pregnant with significance? And also it is something that takes deep intellectual Gymnastics, what do you mean? He’s not here. What do you mean? He’s alive Mark twain famously described faith As believing what you know ain’t so Is that what it is?

Is it true that we look at the data and said, this is not intellectually credible, that one has to turn their mind off to embrace the reality of what these, in these mess, these individual angelic messengers are saying, many would argue that the angels message is not found on data that is credible. It’s a challenge to our minds.

So there’s the attempt to dismiss it. Some claim it is popular legend. This word is a challenge to our mind. But interestingly, in the time of Jesus, during the first century and into the second century, there were, there were a number, some would say dozens, of messianic movements. Invariably, every one of them collapsed quickly after the death of the leader.

This one, after 200 years, it had spread through the entire Roman Empire. It is now, by far, the largest religious faith on the earth. It is preeminently because it is founded on what that message was of the angel. He is not here. There is a living Messiah, a living Christ. That is the foundation now if you look at these verses we’re looking at this morning It talks about mary magdalene mary the mother of james and salome brought spices Bought spices so that they might go and anoint his body three times in eight verses In chapter 15 verse 40 in chapter 15 verse 47 in chapter 16 verse 1 These women are mentioned and you want to say okay.

I mean Mark we get it The women were there. Why keep highlighting these witnesses were there? It’s an interesting practice of ancient history that the primary way of verifying A historical event as opposed to something that moved its way simply into popular legend was eyewitness account. Richard Balcombe, ancient historian, highlights this fact in highlighting that this was how ancient histories were written.

There was more trust in personal testimony than even documentation. If you had witnesses, they could be interviewed and their testimony could be corroborated. When you see these women’s names being written down repeatedly, you have the earmarks not of legend, but of history. They are basically the citations, the footnotes, of saying these women were there, these women would testify to it.

But more than this, there is something unique in the fact that the New Testament and these gospel writers are taking these particular witnesses. Celsus, a Greek pagan, wrote about 80 years after Jesus death. He was one of the most powerful and vociferous voices against the Christian faith. His preeminent argument against the veracity, the credibility of the gospel account of Jesus resurrection was this.

It was women that testified for them. The whole concept was that women would not have the, the, the social standing, the cultural, creds to have their voice heard. This could not be history, but the very fact that the gospel writers emphasized and the very fact that the witnesses to Jesus resurrection were women is argument that this was not falsified.

If you wanted to have credible witness in that day, you would always have men. But they were saying in this time, no, these were women. These were, these were followers of Jesus. The gospel God obviously verified, authenticates and approves of them as his ultimate messengers. But basically this was not popular legend.

It was historical reality. If Christians were making this up, this is not the eyewitnesses they would have chosen. Also, some would argue this is intellectual naivety. Some say, oh, they were ignorant people back then. They were superstitious people. Jesus says, I’ll rise on the third day. Well, okay, fine. But that’s not how it played.

People didn’t say, oh, just fine. Constantly, Jesus said that he would rise from the dead. Not one of his followers Is there and wakes up sunday morning and says huh? By jewish reckoning friday would be the first day saturday would be the second day sunday would be the and nobody woke up and said Huh?

Today’s the third day I wonder if this is gonna if this you know, jesus kept talking about this is the day this the day is going to rise Nobody did that the women are astounded. The guys are astounded. Everybody’s astounded. No one expects this to happen You The angel even says to the women here, he basically says, it happened just like he told you it was going to.

No one anticipated it. No one was expecting this. No one tended to look at this superstitiously. C. S. Lewis says we tend today to have chronological snobbery. What he means by that is we tend to look back and think everybody back then didn’t have the brain power, or the intellectual orientation that we have.

But these individuals let the evidence challenge what they would have expect was possible. It’s interesting, there is historical data for the New Testament in a way that no other ancient writings have, including the resurrection of Jesus Christ. On March 15th, 44 BC, the Ides of March, dozens of Roman senators gathered together and put to death.

Julius Caesar, nearly 77 laters, on or about Sunday, April 5th, A. D., Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. That was authenticated in the New Testament. The death of Julius Caesar was recorded by Plutarch, a Greek writer, in what he called, Plutarch’s lives. It’s come down. It’s even where, when Shakespeare wrote his great play about Caesar’s death, he was actually building it on the ancient records of Plutarch’s lives.

In Plutarch’s lives, we have today fewer than 10 manuscripts. of parts of Plutarch’s lives. And yet no one questions the veracity of it. The New Testament has 23, 986 ancient manuscripts from the first centuries, the same time period. As a matter of fact, if you took all existing manuscripts from antiquity of all classical Greek works, Plutarch, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and you took all the ones that we have from, from antiquity, back in those first couple of centuries, and piled them up, you would have a pile about four feet high.

If you took, The record of manuscripts that we have in that same amount of time of the New Testament, you would have a stack taller than the Empire State Building. There is so much historic data. There is no record. So we can say, well, I don’t, I don’t believe that this happened. Well, that may be, that’s certainly your choice to believe that Jesus is not there.

But to say, well, it’s just because it was just a bunch of superstitious people who, who would have believed anything. It’s just a bunch of, of, of, of hearsay that we don’t really have any historical data is utterly intellectually ignorant. Of the of the reality and of course when plutoc wrote his lives about Julius ceasar He wrote nothing controversial or politically dangerous that would harm his reputation or social standing as a matter of fact He had little to lose and much to gain by putting his historical claims in writing Gaining the ancient equivalent of a sweet book deal,

but the author of the new testament had no such benefit You The earliest disciples of Jesus inciting the resurrection of Christ and recording it in their writings and in their teachings were making audacious claims that were controversial and politically dangerous and for their eyewitness account, many of them lost status, wealth, freedom, and for some their lives, they didn’t testify to the resurrection because it was profitable.

They testified to the resurrection. Because they were utterly convinced it was true. There is a a challenge to our minds when we reflect upon the resurrection of christ

There is secondly it challenges it speaks a word of grace to our hearts.

I’m, sorry I just okay Sorry, I put my paper in upside down And that’s why i’m sounding like i’m standing upside down up here Okay, it’s a word of grace to your heart. The angel said to these women, don’t be alarmed. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. It’s a word of grace to people with fears.

These women in these verses in Mark 16, 1 through 8 are recorded in a variety of ways. It says they’re anxious. In verse one and two, who will roll in the stone away? They’re alarmed. When they got there, they found that the stone was rolled away, and they encounter the angel. And the result is, in verse five, they were alarmed.

They’re afraid. The angel tells them, don’t be afraid, for I know that you’re looking for Jesus who is crucified. He’s not here. He’s risen, just as he said. Verse eight, trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. And verse eight adds, So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to his disciples.

There are strong emotions going on here. And it is on the emotional level of life, Jesus continually makes himself known. In this passage, it is speaking to people with fear. Jesus conquers death. He leaves the tomb. And he never goes back.

And it is because of the living Christ that these women Will find peace in the midst of their anxiety and fear that he brings word of grace These angels bring a word of grace in the context of resurrection But they also bring a word of grace to people Who have failed tell his disciples and peter that jesus is going into galilee ahead of you It would have been so easy For the angels to pass on this messaging from jesus to these guys You Look, you tell these faithless backstabbing cowards that if they can adequately grovel in penance and mourning for leaving me high and dry with the Sanhedrin and the Romans, I might be willing to meet with them at some point to consider allowing them to be back in the movement.

But the whole tenor is a tenor of grace. He’s forgiving them before they even repent. He’s forgiving them so they can repent. And then he makes the statement, go tell his disciples and Peter, if you know the story, you know, that Peter was the primary screw up in this whole thing. He’s the one that denied him three times after with great braggadocio saying that, you know, he defend him to the death.

He’s the one that had the sword, tried to swipe the Malchus, the, high priest servants head off missed and just got his ear. And yet in every way, he was the ultimate denier. If a general invitation was given to the disciples to join Jesus in Galilee, there’s every reason to believe that at this moment that Peter would have said something like this.

You guys go, I’m, I’m good. I got no place. I I’m out. I’m a failure. I’m a denier. I’m unworthy, but Jesus makes sure the angels pass on this messaging to the women. through the women to Peter. Tell the disciples and highlight Peter by name to meet me in Galilee. If you’ve embraced Jesus Christ as your Savior, you saw yourself the way Peter came to see himself.

We failed in our own attempts to measure up to God’s righteousness. We’ve seen ourselves as screw ups. The amazing thing in the Christian life as we journey with Jesus is the more you go on in the Christian life, the more you see how much a screw up you really are. The more you see the self centeredness of your own heart, the more it becomes about grace.

The more you really do embrace, with Samuel Rutherford who said, I see the seed of every known sin in my own heart. It’s grace. It’s the sense that this is all of God. The more you come to realize the astounding work that Jesus did in dying for us and suffering for us, and then ultimately affirming the freedom that has been purchased by rising for us.

This past Monday night, we were, we had a board meeting and Doug Linda, our chairman. showed, as he often does to start our meeting, a worship video. And, and this was, he taken a video clip of the passion Mel Gibson’s movie and the brutality of the depiction of Jesus being beaten and lashed and scourged by the Roman soldiers.

And the song was being played in the background, the Via Dolorosa. And the voiceover was just Down the via dolorosa the the way of suffering and you’re just watching and most of us in the room Had tears down our face Doug had us then get into groups of two or three and we’re praying and as we’re praying this this This guy’s crying with cry.

Why? Because when you know christ And you journey with him the more you see your own heart and the more you realize He did that For a guy like me, he rescued me. He brought me into relationship with God. And the more we go grow in our, our understanding of our own hearts, the beauty is that God only shows you your heart.

So you will understand his. The more you see yours, the more you see his for you.

The message of grace at the tomb is

He’s risen. Go tell the disciples and name Peter by name. He names your name. He makes you an object of grace. He says, I did this for you. The work of Friday, the cross, the scourging, all of it. I rose. I left the grave and I’m never going back because I am the risen Christ who’s declared by my resurrection.

That the work that I did on the cross and dying in the place of sinners that they could be forgiven

Will never fail they are eternally forgiven and accepted And so peter the biggest screw up the biggest mess up jesus could say this to him On you i’ll build my church and i’m giving you a new name Your name’s been simon now. It’s peter petra. You’re my rock You That I’m going to build my church on.

Peter, you will have the biggest resurrection of all. It’s a word of grace to our hearts. It’s a word of mission to your life. The angels say to these women, this don’t be alarmed. Go, go to the end of the earth. Go. I am with you to the end of your rope. I’m with you to the end of the age, because I am risen when it looks like it’s over.

It is only the beginning. Circumstances seem like a death, but they are the way to life. There’s purpose in all that comes. There are no dead ends. I want you to think with me about that for a moment. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his presence now in your life, there are no dead ends going on.

Whatever’s going on in your life right now feels like a total dead end. I don’t see where I am. God says, No, I am superintending your life. I am working in your life. There are no dead ends. You may say, Well, this one is. It’s a total rock face. He says, Not for me. There are no dead ends. Death could not hold me.

There’s no places that can hold my work in your life. God will not necessarily protect you from the things that will perfect you. There are things that would say, well, how can this be? Well, God’s using it. How can this hard God will use it. God is changing us. All of it’s being done because he is continually bring being bringing life out of death.

It is so hard for us to face limitations and loss and cost.

First of all, because we don’t believe that there are no dead ends. But second of all, we don’t remember that we are not living with this place as all that we have. Johnny Erickson Tata was a young woman who had a tragic diving accident in her late teens. She became a believer in Jesus Christ. She, afterwards, she was completely paraplegic, has remained that way her entire life, and she tells the story of, of how the hardest part of dealing with her limitation, which was acute from her neck down, that she could, she would go to church and she went to an Episcopalian church where they would kneel down every week.

And she couldn’t kneel down and she said, I am in the place of hope and safety and even here I am confronted with my limitation. And then she said this, then I suddenly realized that when I get to heaven, I’ll get there on glorified legs. And the first thing I’ll get to do is to drop down on them on my knees and kneel quietly before the feet of Jesus.

And then I’m going to get on my feet and I’m going to dance. Can you imagine the hope that the resurrection gives to someone whose spinal cord was injured like me? Can you imagine someone who is manic depressive? No religion, no other philosophy promises us new bodies along with new minds and new hearts.

Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ do people hurting like me find such enormous hope to live. It enables us to go. It enables us to go forward in difficult and overwhelming circumstances. Because there are no dead ends. There is nothing that contains the work of God and the purposes of God, not a grave, not a dead end.

Jesus left the graveyard on Easter Sunday. He left it 2, 000 years ago and he isn’t going back. It’s a word of challenge to your mind. It’s a word of grace to your heart. It’s a word of mission to your life. Lord, I pray you take these simple words. Speak them into our hearts as you see the need. Apply them to us, I pray in Jesus name.