• Introduction: This is a grand and glorious day of the year!  Although we are reading from the Gospel of Mark on today, all four Gospels have a unique account of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  They provide different perspectives, all inspired by the Holy Spirit, on the same event much like if there were four witnesses to a car collision.  Each of the four would report facts and details that were important to them. However, a collection of all the facts and details when merged together would tell a complete story about the collision.
    • Let’s spend the next few moments going through facts and details each of the Gospel writers provided about the day Jesus was raised from the dead. We will then see what take-aways come from this greatest story ever told.  Hopefully, after this review of the Gospels, you with have your faith renewed, and not wonder about whether if this is true about Jesus.  May the Holy Spirit guide us to believe and understand everything else Jesus said and did is also true.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks to You for raising Your Son Jesus from the dead.  Eternal death has been swallowed up in victory!  We now can defiantly say by your Spirit, Where O death is your victory?  Where O death is your sting?  Father, send Your Spirit to us as we contemplate the evidence before us about the raising of Jesus from the dead, and what that means for us as Your children. We bring these petitions before You through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: Wasn’t it just last Friday Jesus was hung on a cross?  Did He really die, if already on the third day after His death, we are celebrating His resurrection from the dead?
    • Jesus foretold of His horrific death on a cross Roman-style three times throughout the Gospel of Mark.
      • For instance, in Mark 8:31, just after Jesus asked the disciples, “who do people say that I am?”, Peter responded, “You are the Christ.”.  Jesus then … began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise from the dead[1].
      • Not long after Jesus was transfigured on most likely Mt Hermon with Peter, James, and John looking on, 31 [Jesus] was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.[2]” Despite the disciples being with Jesus for over 2yrs at that point, they did not understand what Jesus meant by this statement.  They were also afraid to ask Him about it.
      • And finally, as Jesus and the disciples were going up the road to Jerusalem, Jesus told them as recorded in Mark Ch#10 - 33  “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him; and three days later He will rise from the dead.[3]
    • With what Jesus foretold at three different times, should there have been any wonder about what happened on Good Friday and why?  I’ve pointed out three places in just the Gospel of Mark, examples you can see on the back of your bulletin, where Jesus clearly spoke of what was to happen when they all got into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover along with other pilgriming Jews.
    • And yet, the disciples and those following Jesus were very mournful after Jesus said, “it is finished”, and breathed His last at around 3PM that day.  Followers of Jesus asked to get His body and provide for a proper burial before sundown when the Sabbath would begin.  It just seemed so senseless to everyone!  Jesus was a great man; a great teacher.  Why murder Him at the demands of a mob?
  • Analysis: Fast forward to the first day of the new week.  A few women go to the tomb.  It’s empty! What happened?  I will spend the next few minutes reviewing portions from all four Gospels to piece together what happened.
    • We find Mary the Magdalene is mentioned in all of the Gospel accounts. However, additional women are mentioned in some of the Gospels (Luke 24:10)
      • For instance, Mary, the mother of James is mentioned in three of the four. (Mat 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10)  The English translation of Mark 16:1 refers to Mary, mother of James.  Just one verse prior, Mark 15:47 refers to Mary, mother of Joses.  So, if this is the same Mary, how is it she is the mother of each of these people? It is accepted this Mary of Mark 16:1 is the same Mary who was mentioned in Mark 15:40 as “…Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses…[4]”.    Put those facts together with recalling the names of Jesus’ step-brothers from Mat 13:55: James; Joseph; Simon; Judas.
        • I believe the Gospel writer, Mark, by mentioning Mary as the mother of Joses and James in consecutive sentences, was telling us this Mary is the mother of Jesus.  The reason I believe this is I think a mother probably would know better than anyone else whether her son died.  We know she was there at the cross on Good Friday. (John 19:25)  It is reasonable to think she would have been at the tomb to give proper respect in burial of her first-born son.
      • Other women at the tomb with these two Mary’s were Salome (Greek: Σαλώμη) mentioned in Mark 16:1, and Joanna mentioned in Luke 24:10.  There could have still been more women than these four, but we can confirm from the four Gospels at least three additional women were witnesses along with Mary Magdelene.
    • On the way to the tomb, these women were wondering about how they would roll the stone away from the mouth of the tomb. How else would they be able to access Jesus’ body to finish the burial preparation?  (Mark 16:3) When they arrived, they found the stone at the entrance to the tomb already rolled away. (Mark 16:4)
      • Additionally, they discover a young man was sitting in the tomb (Mark 16:5)
        • Is this in conflict with the other Gospels?
          • Initially it seemed only one angel appeared as part of a great earthquake that rolled the stone away from the tomb.  This angel then sat on the stone.  (Mat 28:2) We learn from the Matthew text, this event scared the soldiers on guard almost to the point of death. (Mat 28:3)
          • After discovering the stone was rolled away from the opening of the tomb, two angels appear before the women.  (Mat 28: 5-7; Luke 24:4-7) We can get into this another time on the significance of two witnesses, and how these number of witnesses appear in the OT and elsewhere in the NT.  But what Mary Magdalene reported to the disciples was what the one on the right had said. (Mark 16:6-7)
            • This is not strange if you think about it.  If two are speaking, even if the same thing, our minds are such that we will focus on one of the two speakers, even though we will hear both.
    • Two groups of people ran into town to tell people what they witnessed.
      • Mary Magdalene and the others ran to town to tell the disciples the Lord was taken. (John 20:2)  However, before she and the others with her got very far into the trip back, Jesus appeared to the women at the tomb. (Mat 28:9-10)  Mary is recorded as saying something specifically about what Jesus said to her, but this does not preclude other things having been said. (John 20:14-17)
      • Members of the guard (Greek: κουστωδίας) Pilate authorized (Mat 27:65) left the tomb about the same time as the women. (Mat 28:11)  However, they were going to see those who hired them.  Regardless of the motivation for their leaving the tomb, they nonetheless were also witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection.  They were there to witness the same things the women saw and heard.  We know this, because they reported as written in the Greek, “… all that came to pass.” (Mat 28:11 ending - ἅπαντα τὰ γενόμενα)
    • Mary and the others arrive back in town to tell the disciples about what they experienced. (Luke 24:9-10, 22-23) Additionally, the Gospel writers mentioned specific things Mary recalled of their experience at the tomb. (John 20:13-18)
      • The disciples were probably overwhelmed with the things the women were telling them. Everyone had their impression of the situation, but all were in agreement of their testimony that they saw the Lord Jesus!  (Mat 28:9-10) Upon hearing this testimony, two of the disciples, Peter and John, went to the tomb.  They saw only an empty tomb (Luke 24:12,24; John 20:3-9)
      • Soldiers (Greek: στρατιώταις) of the guard were paid a sufficient amount of silver to become false witnesses.  They were paid to tell people, “His disciples came at night and stole Him while we were asleep.” (Mat 28:13)
        • Let’s analyze this for a moment: Roman soldiers would have been threatened with death if they did not stay awake during their watch, regardless of the time of day they were on watch duty.  Dereliction of duty like that could get an entire cohort of soldiers killed in an ambush. It must have taken a lot of money to change their story from what they originally witnessed.  Their false story also apparently didn’t hold up, because we would still be hearing about it to this day, wouldn’t we?  Fact checkers of what politicians and government officials say are always ready and waiting to seize upon something false – especially if it doesn’t go with their narrative.  Additionally, Pilate, Caesar Tiberius, everyone in the Roman government, were not interested in who Jesus was and what He had done for them.  The Roman government eventually made it a crime to be a Christian.  Don’t you think the false witness of the soldiers of the guard at Jesus tomb would have been a lie repeated and repeated until people believed it to be true?
  • Application: Hopefully, you are convinced on the evidence presented before you there were several credible witnesses present at the tomb of Jesus that first Easter morning.  Jesus was indeed raised from the dead!  However, is that where the story ends?
    • The reality is at the end of the chapter of our Epistle reading for today, the Apostle Paul wrote - 50 Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ[5].
      • There is no way us sinful beings have any place in heaven – apart from us somehow being cleansed of our sins.  We were conceived in sin that we inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve.  And we have done a fine job of continuing in their tradition of rebellion against God.  If God had not done something to save us from our own rebellion, we would have no hope in life.  We would be born, live a tough life, and die.  The sins we committed throughout our life would determine just how bad the torture of hell would be for us.  Particularly evil people will get a much harsher sentence of eternal death.
        • However, no one in hell is going to be enjoying it.  The despair of regret for not turning from one’s sinful ways will be on the minds of everyone in hell.  It’ll be like an intense worry you probably had once in your life, when every waking moment was spent thinking about some threat or problem or regret you just could not shake.  That’s what people in hell experience eternally in hell; it never goes away.
        • With this in mind, you can see why some people, those who do not have the Lord in their heart, mind, and soul, try to get whatever they can get out of this life. They don’t realize how that logic screws up their eternal life after life in this Age ends.  The Apostle Paul wrote -  If the dead are not raised, let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die[6].  That’s the logic of people who have no hope.
      • That isn’t what God wanted for His people.  The Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit knew even before creating the world that God’s most precious of all creation, mankind – you and me – would someday rebel and turn away from the one person who loved them the most.  Some people ask why would God go ahead and create people knowing they would rebel?  God is a God of love.  In fact, He so loved the world, God the Father sent His one and only Son, so that those who believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  And keep in mind, God did not send His Son to condemn the world.  God sent His only Son so that believers in Him would be saved from that eternal torment of hell I just mentioned.  Believers in Christ are not judged.  It is only the non-believers, especially those who rejected God’s most precious gift of His own Son, who are already judged.
    • Those who heard the word of the Lord and the promise of eternal salvation, but rejected what they heard, have sinned against the Holy Spirit.  It is the sins against the Holy Spirit which *weren’t* nailed to the cross on that first Good Friday.  100% percent of all other types of sins were indeed nailed to the cross, because Jesus took upon Himself those sins.  Those sins nailed to the cross include anything you and I have done which broke one of the Ten Commandments and otherwise rebelled against God and His word.
      • However, the real victory was not accomplished until Jesus rose from the dead that first Easter morning.  The Apostle Paul put it this way a little further down the page from our Epistle reading for today - 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ only in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied[7].
      • I ask you, when was the last time you as a Christian were pitied for believing in Jesus? If people know you are a practicing Christian, either through your words or actions, they are more likely to hate you, because they hate the one who lives in your heart and soul and mind. If you think of it, a Jesus-hater is probably just as much a witness of the resurrection of our Lord as any of the four or more women we discovered were there at the empty tomb on the third day after Jesus died on the cross.  The soldiers of the guard at the tomb were witnesses as well. Jesus-haters and soldiers bearing false witness about what Jesus accomplished for all of us by rising from the dead are those kinds of people who sin against the Holy Spirit.
  • Conclusion: We are not to be pitied as Jesus-lovers.  Jesus did rise from the dead and as we have noted, there were several witnesses.  What Jesus accomplished for believers in Him will ultimately be seen when we sit down at the Lamb’s High Feast[8], a feast God will prepare for all those who come into heaven.
    • The Apostle John spoke of a wedding supper of the Lamb in Rev Ch#19.  Some of the details of that supper were written about in our OT lesson for today.  Indulge me a moment as I reread that - Now the Lord of armies will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. And on this mountain He will destroy the covering which is over all peoples, The veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. And it will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let’s rejoice and be glad in His salvation.[9]
    • The admission ticket to that “lavish banquet” is Jesus.  Jesus worked the work of salvation by cleansing us of our sins.  We get a free pass into heaven because of His innocent suffering and death on the cross, *AND* His rising from the dead to show He has the power over death and its causes.  The ladies at Jesus temporary tomb wondered what all was happening.  But after Jesus ascended into heaven, and then the Holy Spirit came into the souls of believers since Pentecost, a believer’s wonderment is displaced with faith provided by the Holy Spirit to believe that Jesus is Lord and has done all He said He would do.
    • I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could say or sing enough Alleluias today, nor the rest of my life, to thank the Lord sufficiently for that admission ticket to the “lavish banquet”.  I guess we will settle for what we can do in leading a thankful life, doing all to the glory of our Lord, and keeping in mind that every day is a day closer to the time when we get to sit down at the Lamb’s High Feast. Amen!

 


 


[1] Mark 8:31 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+8&version=NASB

[2] Mark 9:31 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%209&version=NASB

[3] Mark 10:33-34 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2010&version=NASB

[4] Mark 15:40 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mar/15/1/t_conc_972040

[5] 1Co 15:50-56 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+15&version=NASB

[6] 1Co 15:32b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2015&version=NASB

[7] 1Co 15:16-19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+15&version=NASB

[8] A reference to Lutheran Service Book Hymn 633, “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing”, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO 2006

[9] Isa 25:6-9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isa+25&version=NASB