- Nothing But the Blood
- The Power Of The Cross
- Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)
- Good morning and welcome to Dishman Baptist Church on this blessed Easter morning. Please take your Bibles and turn with me to Mark 16, Mark 16.In the church tradition that I grew up in there was a hymn that we would always sing on Easter. It can be found in many different church hymnals - in fact our Baptist hymnal has it as number 160 in the book. But the thing I remember most about the churches I grew up in was the brass band and how during this song there would always be a resounding crescendo during the chorus. The chorus went something like this - Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose, He arose. Hallelujah! Christ arose!What beautiful words for us to dwell on as we begin this Easter morning looking into His Word. He arose. He is risen. The darkness of Friday afternoon has been dispelled, no obliterated, by the vibrant beautiful light of Sunday morning. There is something striking about the resurrection. There are no eyewitness accounts of this miracle. The greatest miracle that Christ performs and there is no one there to see it. There is no moment where the ice cold body of Anna melts back into flesh to the astonished joy of those around her. There is no moment where this One they presumed was dead stands up, dusts Himself off and the disciples are shocked and dismayed. There was more eyewitness testimony for the resurrection of Lazarus than there was for Christ.In his commentary on this passage R.T. Francis says this“ None of [the Gospels] includes an account of the actual rising of Jesus from death, and all assume that this has taken place at some time prior to the discovery of the empty tomb. The setting for the discovery is remarkably down-to-earth.… This is not the stuff of a heroic epic, still less a story of magic and wonder, and yet what underlies it is an event beyond human comprehension: the Jesus they had watched dying and being buried some forty hours earlier is no longer dead but risen.… It is in this incongruous combination of the everyday with the incomprehensible that many have found one of the most powerful and compelling aspects of the NT accounts not of Jesus’ resurrection (for there are none) but of how the first disciples discovered that he had risen.”Yet even this lack of eyewitness accounts doesn’t diminish the irrefutable truth of the resurrection. Charles Spurgeon said thisThe resurrection is a fact better attested than any event recorded in any history, whether ancient or modern.This does not mean that there are no witnesses or testimonies to the resurrection only that there are no eyewitnesses to the greatest miracle in history. In fact, as we look at Mark’s telling of the resurrection we are going to find three witnesses after the fact to the truth of the resurrection. Let’s read Mark 16:1-8 and then see what this passage has to say to us this Easter morningWhen the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they could go and anoint him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” Looking up, they noticed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you.’ ” They went out and ran from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid. [Some of the earliest conclude with .]Mark relates the story of the resurrection to us in the same terse, quick manner that he did the crucifixion. Yet as he does so he reveals three witnesses to the veracity of this most foundational of Christian events. As we look in to this passage today, we will see the silent witness, the heavenly witness and the human witness. First the silent witness.The Silent WitnessMark tells us that when the Sabbath observance was over, the Saturday following Christ’s crucifixion, that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome went to purchase spices so that they might anoint Christ’s body. In his Gospel John tells us that Nicodemus had gone along with Joseph of Arimathea to bury Christ and that he had brought 75 pounds of spices to anoint Christ but they may have run out of time as it was late in the day. Or these women were so devoted to Christ that they desired to go and anoint Him again. The Jewish practice of anointing the dead was not about embalming the body the way the Egyptians did but instead it was about keeping the stench of a decomposing body down. You will remember that when Jesus requested that the tomb of Lazarus be opened that the protest that was given was that he would stink as he had been in the grave for several days, four days in fact. Out of an abundant love for Christ these women were willing to go and anoint Him again.Their biggest concern approaching the tomb early that Sunday morning, the first day of the Jewish week, was what to do about the stone that they had seen rolled into place on Friday evening. Mark is picking right up from where he left us at the end of chapter 15 where Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where Jesus was laid to rest. The women know nothing of the intervening time during which the Pharisees and chief priests had requested and been granted a guard to watch over the tomb. Nor does it seem that they are aware of the earthquake that Matthew tells us about in his Gospel. Their only concern approaching the tomb was how they would handle the stone that had been put into place.Yet this had already been handled for them. Mark says “Looking up, they noticed that the stone - which was very large - had been rolled away.” That the stone was large was a typical Markan understatement. This stone would have been around 2000 pounds in weight. If it were indeed round (which rolling the stone away seems to suggest that it was) it would’ve been set into a depression in the ground outside of the tomb which would help to keep it in place. It would have been no easy accomplishment to move the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. And yet it has been moved - and in so doing the stone becomes a silent witness to the resurrection of Christ in two ways.First is the way that Mark phrases the removal of the stone. The CSB says that the stone had been rolled away. The passive sense of this phrase points to the supernatural act of God rolling away the stone. Having been satisfied and having all things fulfilled God now opens the tomb. Matthew’s Gospel attributes the movement of the stone to an angel but Mark’s use of the passive tense, as we’ve seen before this is called a divine passive meaning that God is the primary actor responsible for the action, points to the truth that the One who was instrumental in the handing over of Christ to be crucified is also instrumental in the demonstration that His purpose had been complete and that salvation is now available. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was nothing less than the sovereign act of God as He moved and orchestrated events to provide not only redemption from the penalty of sin but also the removal of the curse that sin had brought about. The reason for this points to the second way in which the stone becomes a witness to the resurrection.The stone was not removed to let Christ out of the tomb - He had no need of that as later in the Gospels He will pass through walls and appear in locked rooms as He desires. Rather the stone was removed to allow access to a world that needed to see the empty tomb to believe that Christ had risen from the dead. He was indisputably alive. It was rolled away so that first these women, then the disciples and even the chief priests would not be able to dispute the emptiness of the tomb. In fact, the chief priests never attempted to dispute the empty tomb. Instead they sought to use misdirection saying that the disciples had come and stolen His body and that was why the tomb was empty.Even though it is an inanimate object and cannot speak, the rolling away of the stone from Christ’s tomb allows access to the world to see that He is not there. The empty tomb and the stone that stands beside it provides the first, silent witness to the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Next Mark tells us that the women encounter a heavenly witness to the resurrection.The Heavenly WitnessMark tells us that when they entered the tomb - by now this is only Mary the mother of James and Salome. John’s Gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene had arrived ahead of the other two women and when she saw that the tomb was open, that the stone had been removed that she went running to tell Peter and the other disciples. John tells us that Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb while it was still dark, while Mark says that the women arrived at sunrise. These two women bent to enter the open tomb and are met by a scene they did not expect.Mark tells us that a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side greets them. The women are terrified. It is interesting that in modern accounts of angelic observations people never seem to be afraid. Yet in the biblical accounts the first reaction at the sight of an angel is utter terror. The Bible often describes angels as appearing as young men and the white robe - Matthew describes him as one whose appearance was like lighting and his clothing was white as snow, Luke tells us of two men who appeared wearing dazzling clothes. Mark tells us of this one angel sitting on the right side of the tomb near where Jesus had been laid.He tells them not to be alarmed and then gives them the news which he had been dispatched to deliver. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen!” What joyful news. What amazing news. What unexpected news. It is safe to say that these women were not expecting to find the stone rolled away (as their discussion approaching the tomb confirms) nor were they expecting Jesus to have risen from the dead as they are bringing spices to anoint a dead man. A corpse. The body that they had witnessed being placed in the tomb a mere two days before.This also doesn’t lend itself to the postulation that this was all a trauma induced hallucination as the concept that Christ could have risen from the dead was not a concept these women were entertaining. Nor is the idea of group hallucinations where both parties see the same thing existent. That the angel tells them that they were there looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified demonstrates that they were in the right tomb.This angel was there to testify on behalf of God, to carry the message that he had been given, that Christ had indeed been raised from the dead. He says He is not here. Look, see the place where they put Him. John tells us that the burial clothes that Jesus had been wrapped in were still there folded with the clothes that had been placed over His face folded neatly to the side. Having risen from the dead Jesus no longer needed the trappings that accompanied death. He left them behind. The stone rolled away pointed to the fact that the tomb was empty but it is the angels words that give us the first testimony to the glorious event that had taken place. He has risen! Luke’s Gospel asks the question “why are you looking for the living among the dead?”And even in this proclamation we see the hand of God at work. Our translation reads He has risen but a more precise rendering is He was raised. The hand of God the Father is seen throughout the crucifixion and now here at the resurrection as the agent who causes all of these things to happen. His divine plan and His action to carry it out are on full display.The angel proclaims the resurrection as a sure fact even reminding them of Christ’s words saying “He is going to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.” He also provides us great hope in this proclamation to the women. Not only that resurrection is true but that redemption is possible - even for us. Look at his words here - But go, tell His disciples and Peter.Now that seems odd - why is Peter singled out? Because of all of the betrayals and desertions that happened surrounding Christ’s arrest, Peter’s is the most egregious. The one who had self-righteously and boastfully claimed that he would die with his Master had denied him publicly three times. His being singled out here proclaims that the One who had said that after they were scattered that He would go ahead of them to Galilee with the implied promise that He would regather them there extends that to even the worst offenders. Oh Christian, oh unbeliever know that there is no where you can go and nothing you could do that is outside of the reach of the One who was sent to save you.This angel sitting in the tomb that had previously been occupied by Christ was there to point to the redemption that He had purchased first by His blood on the cross and now by the completion of His work in rising from the dead. Now he dispatches the third witnesses that Mark tells us about - the human witnesses.The Human WitnessesWe have said this often but if you were going to sit down to design and write a religious text the Bible is not the book that you would come up with. The disciples would never have been chosen and here at the resurrection the first human witnesses would never have been selected. First century Jewish society did not consider women to be credible witnesses for anything and certainly not in religious matters. Had the early church sought to fabricate the story of the resurrection relying on the testimony of women would not have been the way to go about it. Yet all four Gospels attest to the women being the first ones at the tomb and the early church remained true to the Gospel so much so that two centuries after the Gospels had been written a pagan critic named Celsus could still needle the church father Origen about “the gossip of women about the empty tomb”.But it was to these women that the first proclamations of Christ’s resurrection are given. Again it bears repeating that these women did not head out to the tomb that morning expecting to find the resurrected Christ. They were carrying spices to anoint a dead body and that is exactly what they expected to find. The angel’s testimony confirms that they had gone to the right tomb. And now they are shocked by what they are hearing. So much so that they run from the tomb - trembling and astonishment overwhelming them. And Mark tells us that they say nothing to anyone because they are afraid.But they do not stay that way. They do tell the disciples - and even if met initially with doubt and confusion - their testimony is borne out as Christ appears to the disciples and others during the next 40 days. Their testimony is such that the disciples continue to maintain and hold to the resurrection of Christ even on pain of martyrdom throughout history. These frail, alarmed, scared women went directly to the apostles and told them what they had been told. Matthew enlightens us more to the mindset that they hadSo, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell his disciples the news.Their testimony along with the physical appearances of Christ galvanized the disciples into becoming those who would turn the world upside down. And it is this testimony that has been passed down to us through the ages. It is the most joyous and amazing news ever - that He is risen.It is the most attested to truth in history. It is the cornerstone of our faith. So much so that Paul would writeIf there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.and even more poignantly inAnd if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.Charles Spurgeon said it this way
1213The resurrection of our divine Lord from the dead is the cornerstone of Christian doctrine. Perhaps I might more accurately call it the keystone of the arch of Christianity, for if that fact could be disproved, the whole fabric of the gospel would fall to the groundWe shouldn’t be surprised that the world continues to deny this fact as the Pharisees sought to deny it immediately upon it taking place convincing the Roman soldiers to lie and say that the disciples had stolen the body. We have nothing to fear Christian.In an Easter message to his congregation the great English pastor D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it this way
This morning as I look over this evil, sinful world it does not depress me, because I expect from it nothing better. Whatever may be going against me, whatever may be happening in my own body, this is what I must expect, because of sin. But though I die, I shall rise again. I shall see Him face to face. I shall see Him as He is, and I shall be like Him, like Him in a body glorified, with every power renewed. And I shall be living in a realm that is incorruptible and undefiled, a realm that can never fade away.
That is the living hope of the Resurrection. That is the message of this Easter morning. And that hope is absolutely safe and secure. The Resurrection itself guarantees it all. Every enemy has been destroyed. Christ has conquered them every one.…But have you encountered the resurrected Christ today? We have seen three witnesses that each, in their own way, points to the truth of His resurrection. That He has arisen from the grave, that all of His enemies are footstools for His feet, that He is residing at the right hand of the Father and that one day He will return for those who have put their faith in Him. The truth is indisputable. But have you recognized that? Have you submitted to this truth or are you still holding on to your sins and thinking that there is still a body in a tomb somewhere? Or that He didn’t truly rise from the dead? Dear friend please, this morning, receive the promise of hope that is offered to you. Receive the glorious redemption that has been made possible first by Christ’s death on your behalf to pay the penalty due for your sins and then by His resurrection thereby conquering every enemy that we face.
1 Corinthians 15:13–14CSB
1 Corinthians 15:17CSB
- I Stand Amazed (I Stand Amazed In The Presence)
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