Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
We come to the very peak, really, of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Redemptive history certainly has the cross as the pinnacle, but there's nothing greater than then single miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And all four gospel writers write about it. And all of the New Testament writers and all the New Testament preachers made the resurrection central to their message.
When you get to the book of Acts, you find that virtually all of those early sermons focused on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And so it always has to be included when we share the gospel with people. Jesus conquered death. And in some parts of the church historically Jesus has been portrayed as this dying Savior, the crucifix, and the dying Savior on the cross.
Certainly that is true, we celebrate that every time we take communion, but he didn't stay there. He got up from the grave. He died and was buried, and as was already mentioned, he only needed the tomb for the weekend. He was out of it, that's why it was a borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. But we come in this last chapter of the gospel of Mark to the events of that first Resurrection Sunday, the first day of the week we call Easter, Resurrection Day, great celebration, and we see the women getting up early to go to the tomb.
A man by the name of Alexander Maclaren, a great Scottish preacher, I have the set of his sermons. Alexander Maclaren said, "Sorrow awakens early." If you've ever lost someone, you know what that means. When you lose someone and they die, and your heart is filled with sorrow, and your heart is breaking, you don't get great sleep for a while.
Nighttime can be terrifying, very lonely, very isolating. And the person who is bereaving someone that they have lost, a loved one that has died, they get up very early. And they get up many times during the night, and typically don't have great sleep. "Sorrow awakens early." The women who were at the cross, who witnessed Jesus die on the cross get up early in the morning and they come to the tomb.
They're sorrowful. They expect to see a corpse; they do not expect a resurrected Savior. They expect to see a body that has been interred in the traditional Jewish manner. They are bringing spices with them. Their hearts are broken. And I bet they tossed and turned the night before. Their sorrow has awakened them early.
When my brother died in a motorcycle accident, he was twenty-four years of age. It came as such a shock when my father called me and said, "Your brother is dead." It shocked me. And I was in shock it felt like, emotional shock, for a period of time. And I distinctly recall not only waking up in the middle of the night, but having dream after dream after dream for several weeks that my brother was still alive, and that it was a hoax of some kind, that I would find him alive.
He was sort of hiding out somewhere. And all that was a coping mechanism of the human psyche to deal with great tragedy. It was hoping against hope; hoping that he was still alive. Perhaps these women the night before had such a dream. Can you imagine one of them waking up and saying, "I know we were there when he died, we were there just last night, but I had a dream that he was alive." It would be very natural, very normal, only to fall back to sleep realizing it's only a dream.
They're about to discover, if they did dream that, that it wasn't a dream. They're about to be in for the shock of their lives. And in human language, as limited as it is, Mark tries to describe it in vocabulary that is very interesting. Now, just a little bit of a setup: when the Jews buried their dead, they buried their dead immediately. And that is because they did not embalm their dead. They didn't believe in that. They did not believe cremating the dead.
And so when one died, they immediately buried them that day. And there was a process: cloth in strips, in sheets was taken and each appendage, each arm was wrapped, each leg was wrapped, and then the whole body was wrapped up to the neck. In between the folds were packed spices, myrrh, and aloes. The Bible says, concerning Jesus in the gospel of John, there was a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes. So they made sort of a cocoon, an encasement.
The head wasn't wrapped. There was a separate napkin or cloth that covered the head, a turban that was over the head. That's how they treated them, and then they put them into the tomb. The only thing added to that would have been spices that would be poured over the body, spice oils that would be poured over the body---and all of that was a gesture. It didn't do anything.
It wasn't an embalming fluid. It simply was sweet smelling, because the human body decays very rapidly, and so to counteract the horrible odor. And I don't want to describe it to you, but if you've ever smelled a human corpse, you know it is an unmistakable odor. And so to counteract that, spices were put over the body. The problem is Jesus died and was buried by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and these ladies didn't have the opportunity to be able to anoint his body with these oils.
The day before Resurrection Sunday was the Sabbath, so they wouldn't have traveled on Saturday because the law forbade that anybody travel more than two-thirds of a mile, what the Bible calls a "Sabbath day's journey." But now the Sabbath is over, and according to John they got up early in the morning before it was light. By the time they arrive at the tomb, the sun has already arisen, as we will see.
"Now when the Sabbath was past," verse 1, "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, that they might come and anoint him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen." I like that phrase. "When the sun"---S-U-N---"had risen." They are about to discover that the Son had risen. The S-O-N had risen. They come right after the rising of the sun. They're about to make a discovery, as well as the disciples make a discovery that is the fulcrum of human history.
There's three credentials that Jesus Christ has, three basic main credentials. Number one: his impact upon history. If you were to take Encyclopedia Britannica or any major academic work, work of codification, like an Encyclopedia Britannica, and look up great leaders, look up religious leaders, you'll find that Jesus Christ has more written about him than any single individual. He has radically altered human history. His impact upon history is unique; it's singular.
Number two, second credential: fulfilled prophecy. We discussed that, I believe it was this last Sunday, though I get my days and nights mixed up. But recently we talked about fulfilled prophecy and three---it was this last weekend---330 arrows that were shot up made by the prophets in the Old Testament. Things that were written about him that he fulfilled, the odds of which I mentioned this weekend are nigh unto impossible were it not for the hand of God.
And the third credential is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There's lots of world religions out there. And did you know that all world religions, except for four, are built upon philosophies, the teachings, the philosophical postulates of the founders. All the world's religions are based upon philosophy; only four are based upon personalities: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. But of all those four there is only one that claims the resurrection of its founder; and that is, Christianity, those who follow Christ.
We follow a risen Savior, not just some guy who taught a bunch of good stuff, who was a good man, and died, and we looked back and go, "Wasn't that a wonderful light." He's still around, he's still alive, he is at the right hand of the Father, and he's working. He's got a job to do. We'll see that as we close this chapter tonight.
I heard a story about a Muslim man in Africa who gave his life to Christ, a radical conversion. If you know anything about converting in that part of the world from Islam to Christianity, you know the stakes are pretty high. Some of his friends who found out that he had made a conversion to Christ asked him why in the world he would do such a thing.
And he said, "Well, if you were walking down the road and the road had a fork in it so that you could go one of two directions, and at that fork in the road there were two men, one dead and one alive, who would you ask directions from, the dead one or the one who's alive?" He said, "I asked directions finally from the one who was alive, and these are the instructions I got. That's why I converted to Christ. He's alive." [applause]
So, the Sabbath is passed. These women that are mentioned in verse 1 are the women that were at the cross. They brought some spices that they might anoint him. What they're doing going to the cemetery is not uncommon; we still do it to this day if you've lost a loved one. I've lost my brother. I've lost my mother. I've lost my father. When I am anywhere close to where they're buried, I will spend time in that cemetery.
And I know they're not there, but the reason people visit cemeteries is simply because that was the last point of earthly contact we had with them. And it brings great comfort to remember the day they were laid to rest, and the people that were around them, even as painful as that was, the kind of support, etcetera. Now in those days, in the days we're reading about, according to one Bible commentary, the Jews had a custom of visiting the graves of loved ones for three days.
After the third day they left. They would not return because the body---the decay had set in by the fourth day. It was unmistakable. It was Jewish superstition---and I'm not saying that these women had it, though they may have been influenced by it in their past. It was the idea that during the first three days the spirit of the departed person was hovering over the grave seeking reentry.
But by day four since decay had well set in, and there was no possibility of reentry, the spirit departed, and so the loved ones departed. Now that's just superstition, it's not any kind of biblical teaching, trust me. You're absent from the body, you're present with the Lord. But it could be that they had been influenced by that. It was certainly the custom of many who would visit graves in those days to have that belief system.
You'll notice in verse 2, "Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen." Now, this is the reason why for the last two thousand years Christians meet on Sunday to worship, and not on Saturday, the Sabbath. I know there is a Sabbatarian movement. There always has been a Sabbatarian movement throughout church history, that you're not really worshiping God unless you worship on Saturday.
You know, and I've had people say, "Well, you guys have Sunday services." I say, "Well, we have Saturday service as well." "You do?" "Sure, come on to Saturday service if you're all into the Sabbath." But the reason Christians meet on Sunday is because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. And that's why you read over and over again in the book of Acts they gather together on the first day of the week, not the seventh day of the week.
Now, some people are sticklers on the first day of the week, and they get down on people who are worshiping on the seventh day of the week. I just love what Paul said, "One man esteems one day of the week over all the others, another man esteems another day above the rest, let each one be persuaded in his own mind." In other words, it's up to you when you want to worship.
Now, I'm persuaded that in my mind that the Lord should be worshiped Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday [applause]; that every single moment should be lived in his presence; that I don't worship God on Sunday and then I live my secular life the rest of week. It's all his, all in the presence and in the sight of God.
Now, as they're going, notice they have an issue, they have a problem. "And they said among themselves, 'Who's going to roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?' "Now, they obviously didn't think about that before they left. But you know what? That's love, isn't it? Love doesn't consider the difficulties; it just goes out to do it. And then as you go, you go, "Oh, we're going to have a problem. There's a stone in front of that tomb."
That's Jewish burial. A stone that weighed about two tons that would be a problem for a few gals but they go; love has driven them. They're not worried about the difficulties; they're just filled with love for Jesus. While I admire these women who are going out to anoint their Savior, did they succeed in their mission or fail in their mission? Will they anoint the dead body of their Savior?
No, they're going to fail in their mission. Right? They're going out because they believe they're going to see a dead corpse and perform a nice duty for their dead friend by pouring oils that are spicy and enjoy that time together, weeping, mourning his life. But they will not succeed. They won't be able to anoint his body.
Now, if you remember back a couple chapters, here's the reason why: in Mark 14 when Jesus was eating dinner with his buddy Simon who was a leper, who was cured of leprosy, and Lazarus was there and Mary and Martha, that Mary brought a very costly oil of spikenard in a flask and broke it and anointed Jesus with it.
And Judas complained, and Jesus said, "Let her alone, for she has come beforehand to anoint my body for burial." So, it's been done. It was just done before the fact, not after the fact, anticipating his death, prophetic of his death. But they can't celebrate his death because he rose from the dead. But they ask this question and they went.
Now, again, I mentioned it, but I do want you to notice this, this is important: there was no predisposition in the minds and hearts of disciples, in the minds and hearts of these women, or anybody that Jesus would be found alive. Nobody expected that even though he said, "I'm going to die and rise." They just, the Bible says, did not even grasp that. So there was no predisposition.
Now why do I say that? Because Christians have been accused of making this stuff up beginning with the early church, beginning with the apostles. Jesus never rose, but they say the apostles made this stuff up because it was simply "wish fulfillment." A philosopher many years ago by the name of Ludwig Feuerbach, a good Irish name [laughter]---good German name. Ludwig Feuerbach a philosopher stated that Christianity, but especially the resurrection, is merely make-believe wish fulfillment of people who are trying to explain an afterlife that they want but will never get.
They're looking for an explanation for their existence and they're trying to imagine a way to conquer death. And the way that they have come up with is that Jesus died and rose from the dead, guaranteeing a resurrection for us all---wish fulfillment. But part of his whole postulate is that they were predisposed to a resurrection. No, they weren't. It was the last thing from their minds. That's why they had spices in their hands, because they thought they were going to find at a corpse that they were going the pour these oils on, but they didn't.
They ask about the stone. "But," verse 4, "when they looked up, they saw the stone had been rolled away---for it was very large." Now, "very large" in the Greek means very large, [laughter] two to two and a half tons. Why was the stone rolled away? Well, I tell you what, it wasn't to let Jesus out. Jesus didn't need to have the stone rolled away to get out. If you know anything about the gospel records, he could walk through walls, he could appear in rooms, he could go from one part of the country to another lickety-split. No, the stone wasn't rolled away to let Jesus out, it was rolled away to let them in to see that he wasn't there. That's the whole purpose of the stone being gone.
"And entering the tomb," verse 5, "they saw a young man clothed." Now, we know it's an angel. A "young man" is how this angel appeared to the women who looked at him, but the other gospel records tell us it's indeed an angel. "Clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed." I'm always suspicious when I hear about angel sightings. I believe in angels. I'm suspicious about stories I hear about angel sightings. I'm just a skeptic at heart.
So I can be convinced, but I don't believe every sighting that people---I've heard people say, "Yeah, you know, I heard about this story, and a van parked got stuck on the freeway, and an angel came and change the tire in the rain." And there's been stories of this over the years. I'm not saying it can't happen; I'm just saying angel sightings are a lot like Elvis sightings to me. [laughter] I do believe in angels; it says in Hebrews, "Many have entertained angels unaware."
So, no doubt I have interacted with angels, but I'm unaware, as the Bible says I would be. It's not like there's a sign: "I am an angel." [laughter] They saw this young man. And by the way, angels for the most part are invisible. Daniel didn't even know of the existence of these beings until an angel appeared to him in human form and told him about this battle array that was taking place in heavenly places that he was totally unaware of because it's like a parallel universe, an invisible world to us.
But every now and then God allows angels to assume human form. Abraham invited three beings into his tent, two of which were angels that went down and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. They had a human form. Abraham invited them in his tent. Abraham prepared a meal for them. I don't know what was on the menu, maybe lamb, maybe angel-hair pasta. That would be fitting for the angel. [laughter] But he was entertaining angels unaware. Look at verse 5 what it says toward the end, "And they were alarmed."
If I were translating this, I would say, "They were freaked," because the word "alarmed" is a compound verb in the Greek language. It's a word that is only used here in the entire New Testament. And it's a strong emotion that combines fear with agitation, a heightened sense, a heightened state of fear. Fear and agitation---they were freaked out. Luke tells us that this young man, this angel, described as an angel, the garment, the robe that it had was luminescent, was gleaming, was shining. It just must have been cool to see.
Now, something else, because if you read this you might have this question, so I'll just beat you to the punch. Luke and John say there were two angels. Matthew and Mark mention only one angel. Is that a problem? Not at all. The reason one angel is mentioned is no doubt because the angel is the spokesman for the two angels that were there. Two of them were there, one is there who spoke to them, and the one who is speaking to them is the one that they mention.
"They were alarmed. But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed.' "You know, it's just so practical."I know you're freaked out; don't be freaked." "Don't be alarmed." Angels frequently have to say this because they freak people out, [laughter] because there is that fear and agitation. You read this a lot, "Don't be afraid," "Don't be alarmed," "Don't worry."
"Don't be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified." Now, that's important. It's important that you know that Jesus rose from the dead. It was a resurrection, not a resuscitation. He was crucified. That's a historic fact---he died. But notice the next sentence, "He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him." He is risen, three words, actually one word in Greek.
Remember how I've told you that the Greek language can combine English words and make a statement that's just so pregnant with meaning that other languages don't even come close in their description. Another time this is employed is when Jesus hung on the cross and said, "It is finished." Three words in English, one word in Greek---tetelestai: it is finished, paid in full, transaction complete. Tetelestai, one word.
The word "he is risen" is one word in Greek, ēgerthē, which meant he has been raised. It's past tense, it's over, it's done---one single word. That single-word statement is the greatest miracle in all of human history. "He is risen! He is not here." Then notice this, "See the place where they laid him." The word "see" means perceive, experience, encounter. If I were translating this: "The angel said, 'Hey, come here. Check this out!' " [laughter] That's the idea of "see"---"check this out."
The angel wants them to see nothing. The angel is pointing to nothing, the empty slab, the empty stone, the place from which he rose. The launching pad, if you will. See it, look at it, perceive it, encounter this, check this out. What would they see in looking at nothing? Well, they will, first of all, see the humility of Christ. This is the humility of Christ. This is what God would do stooping down from heaven to become a man and suffer and die and get buried here.
That's how far God will go to win you to himself, to bring you to heaven. See it. That's humility. Philippians 2, "Who, being in very nature God, considered it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking on the form of a servant . . . become obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross." So, see the humility of Christ.
Number two, see the sin of man. How is it that God in human flesh could die? Because he took our sin. If you ever wonder, "Well, how bad is my sin anyway? I mean, it's not that bad." It put Jesus in the grave. It put wounds upon him. It put nails in his hands and in his feet, and a spear in his side. That's what my sin did to my Savior. But, finally, look, see, check out the victory over death. Look at nothing, because he who was once dead is dead no longer. He is risen--- ēgerthē. He was raised. (Aorist tense, by the way, for you Greek students.) It's done, it's over with, repercussions lasting on and on.
"As he said to you." Verse 8, "So they went out quickly and they fled from the tomb," again, notice how Mark describes it, "for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." There's a lot of emotion in that verse. "They trembled"---tromos is the Greek word that describes what's happening to their body as adrenaline is rushing, coursing through their bloodstream. They're trembling; they're shaking.
Then it says, "And were amazed," ekstasis is the Greek word. We get ecstatic or ecstasy. That describes what's going on in their minds. We have a description of their physiology as well as their mentality in one verse. Adrenaline is pumping through, they're shaken, they're in this heightened form of ecstasy carried beyond themselves emotionally. They said nothing because they were afraid.
Now, can I just throw something out to you? What if they would have slept in? What if they would have looked at each other and said, "I don't want to go. It's so far, and it's so cold, and it's so dark, and it's so early. I'll go later"? They wouldn't have made the same discovery. But because they sought the Lord early, they made a discovery of a lifetime. They saw the angel sitting there, they heard he was risen, they went out with this message---all because they were seeking the Lord early.
Now, granted, they were seeking a corpse when they found a risen Lord, but they sought the Lord early. Can I suggest to you that there are discoveries for you to enjoy if you seek the Lord early in the day. Let me just challenge you to get up fifteen minutes earlier tomorrow, just fifteen minutes. If you want to go more than that, go ahead, but just try a little bit earlier and seek the Lord.
You know, they tell us that breakfast is the most important meal for your body. I believe it's the most important meal for your heart, a spiritual breakfast, seeking the Lord early. Get up early and have time with the Lord in his Word, in his presence. Seek him. Psalm 63, "O God, you are my God; early will I seek you." The discovery they made---one of a kind.
"Now, when he arose early on first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, of whom he cast out seven demons. And went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept." Now, you need to know something: if you have a---I'm gonna say a modern translation. But there's---not every modern translation has it. But there are certain translations of the Bible that have a footnote in your Bible or a side note that says something like this after verse 8: "The earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not include the following verses."
Now, I'm not seeing anything register, so maybe you don't have a Bible like that. But if you have a New International Version, a New Living Translation, others, it will say, "Earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not include the next twelve verses," verse 9 to the end of the chapter. So what they believe, some believe, that Mark ends with verse 8. That's the end of it. Now, I'll tell you why in a minute. But can I just say, if this is the end of it, it's a weird end.
It just ends by saying, "They trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing, for they were afraid." Okay, I guess you could end it that way. Now, why do some say this is the end of the gospel of Mark? Well, here's the reason: there are two ancient manuscripts, fourth century manuscripts. They are known as the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus, dated from the fourth century, who do not include verse 9 to the end of the chapter, the end of Mark 16. So they say since those early manuscripts don't have it, that's the end, that's it.
Well, let me say something to you. Number one, just because they are earlier manuscripts, and there's no evidence that they really are the earliest manuscripts, but let's just say they are for argument's sake. Just because something was earlier doesn't mean it's more accurate. You can make mistakes for a longer period of time or a shorter period of time. That in and of itself doesn't validate authenticity.
Number two, though those two manuscripts, the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus end at verse 8, the scribes who wrote them left a considerable amount of blank space afterwards that they didn't include in other gospels, as if suggesting that they knew about a longer ending that they just simply didn't have when they wrote that.
Number three, all of other manuscripts include the rest of the chapter. And another point: the patristic writers, the early church fathers Irenaeus, Tatian, Justin Martyr quote from verses 9 through verse 20 as if it were Scripture. So, all of that to say I don't think verse 8 is the end; I think it still goes on. But I want to bring that up because inevitably, whenever I've taught Mark, somebody will come up and say, "Now, wait a minute, I thought it ended there, because I got this little note in my Bible." I'm glad you do. That's a nice little note. I'm familiar with that idea and that system, and it's a possibility, but we have here the longer ending, which I believe is also inspired by the Holy Spirit.
So, "Now when he rose early," verse 9, "on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they" were so excited. No, now that is a mistranslation. [laughter] It says, "they did not believe." I'm glad that's there. You know why? To me it adds to the validity and authenticity of the Scripture.
Instead of just saying, "Yeah, it was just so amazing. Everybody believed it from the get-go," it shows you, once again, they were not predisposed to a resurrection. So that even when an eyewitness says, "He's not there, he's alive," they said, "We don't believe it." Now, one of the reasons they didn't believe it---okay, I'm not trying to sound male chauvinistic here. This is historical fact. One of the reasons they didn't believe it, because it was the testimony of women.
According to Jewish tradition, not according to Skip Heitzig, the testimony of women two thousand years ago was invalid. Two hundred years later when a pagan by the name of Celsus---if you've ever been with us to Ephesus and you've seen that great library, that's the Library of Celsus. He wrote to Origen from Alexandria speaking of the resurrection. He called it "the gossip of women." Didn't believe it because it was a testimony first of women. So these guys didn't believe it as well.
"After that," verse 12, "he appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country." Now, who would that be? The two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Remember they were walking down the road, their heads were hanging low, they were upset. They were in despair because the one they loved had died. And Jesus comes walking up incognito. They don't know he's alive. They don't even recognize it is Jesus.
He's just, like, come right up to them, and then he asked them a question: "Hey, how come you guys are so bummed out?" [laughter] And they say to him, "Are you, like, a visitor or a stranger around here? Don't you know the things that have happened?" And Jesus said, "What things?" Now, he knew perfectly well, because he was the one they happened to, but he wanted to hear them describe it. "Oh, how Jesus of Nazareth, one that we hoped in, we hoped he had been the one, but he died."
That's when Jesus revealed himself to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered and enter into his glory? Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them all things concerning himself in the Scriptures." It says, "Jesus appeared to them in another form." See what it says in your Bible, "another form." Heteros morphé: a form of another kind.
That could mean, number one, a form differently than the one he had appeared to Mary Magdalene in. It could mean a form differently than the one they had recognized him previously in or it could simply mean he came incognito as a traveler, as a visitor to those two guys on the road to Emmaus. That's simply what I think it means. He appeared to them; they had that conversation.
Look at verse 13. "And when they"---those two disciples who came back from Emmaus. "When they went and told it to the rest, they did not believe them either." So not just the testimony of women, but the testimony of these men, these male disciples they didn't believe. It was just too good to be true; they didn't believe it. "Later he appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table." Remember the eleven apostles after Jesus died locked themselves in that upper room.
They were behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews. They thought, "They killed Jesus---we're next." They were in fear of their lives. They were not brave men. They were hiding. They were in that room, "at the table; and he rebuked their unbelief and their hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him after he had risen." Hardness of heart, a medical term, sklérokardia. It refers to the condition of the heart refusing to believe that eyewitness testimony that said Jesus was alive.
Now, you find that exact same condition, because you're sharing the gospel with people, and you're sharing the eyewitness testimony of those who said it and wrote it down, and how many people do you speak to that have sklérokardia---hardness of heart? Their wills become impudent. They don't want to hear. They refuse to listen. So, even as they refuse to listen, they will discover others will refuse to listen to them when they discover Jesus indeed is risen from the dead.
"And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.' "Now before we get into this and close off this chapter, we have the problem of the empty tomb."What do you mean 'problem of the empty tomb'?" Well, most all skeptics, even the most rabid skeptic will not deny that there was an empty tomb. Even the early Jewish polemicists said there was an empty tomb. The real issue is: How do we explain the empty tomb? The tomb is empty, but what was the reason it was empty? So let me tell you what the common explanations are for the empty tomb of Jesus.
Reason number one, most common: the disciples stole Jesus' body and started running around saying, "He's risen! He's risen!" Well, first of all, they were in no mood to do that. The record shows them scared for their lives hiding in an upper room. Doesn't sound like they're all full of courage wanting to go steal a body and go make a story up. And even if they did make up a story, don't you think one of them would break since they all, like, died for that story? They were martyred for that.
Don't you think one of them would say, "Just kidding, it was a hoax"? Not one of them broke though they suffered the most gruesome deaths or isolation. Also, if the disciples stole the body, they had a problem, because the Bible tells us there was a Roman guard, which was between four and sixteen, depending on what history book you look at, Roman soldiers who guarded the tomb. And if the soldiers who guarded the tomb---see, you gotta make up these details as you go along.
"Yeah, the disciples stole the body." "Well, how did they get around the soldiers?" "Oh, the soldiers were asleep." "Really? Well, you know that the penalty of a Roman soldier sleeping on guard is death, right?" "Well, I didn't know that." Okay, well let's just say they were sleeping though, and nobody knows about it. Don't you think if the disciples could move a two-ton stone it would wake up maybe a Roman soldier or the neighborhood? So, the explanation that the disciples stole the body is a poor explanation. It's not adequate. It doesn't satisfy the mind.
Explanation number two: well, the Jews stole the body. Interesting---the Jews stole the body. Well, that doesn't satisfy me intellectually, because in the next few weeks these disciples will be running around Jerusalem saying, "He's alive. He is risen from the dead!" All the Jewish leaders have to do is say, "No, he's not. We have his body. Let us show you. We'll dig it up and show you. Here it is." Didn't happen. so that explanation is also an untenable explanation.
Explanation number three: well, the women who purportedly witnessed this angel in this tomb and said "He's not here," the women went to the wrong tomb. Now, here's how it goes, listen to it: It was early in the morning, the contrast is poor, the shadows are large, Jerusalem is filled with tombs; very easy to go to the wrong tomb. Plus, these women are emotional, there's tears in their eyes, they don't see very well. It would be very easy to go to the wrong tomb.
Okay, suppose they did go to the wrong tomb. That means that later on when they get Peter and John to go check it out, that Peter and John also went to the wrong tomb. It not only means that the women went to the wrong tomb, and Peter went to the wrong tomb, and John went to the wrong tomb, but also the angels who said, "Come, check this out. This is where he laid." The angels were stationed at the wrong tomb. [laughter]
It would further mean, let's say all of them went to the wrong tomb including the angels, don't you think the Jewish Sanhedrin would be able to find out the right tomb? And if they were all confused, including the Jewish Sanhedrin, just ask Joseph of Arimathea. It was his tomb to begin with; he would certainly be able to say, "Let me show you where my tomb is." So, that's not a good explanation.
Fourth explanation: Jesus never died. He came close to dying, but he swooned. He was in shock. He was on the cross, they took him down from the cross, but his heart was still beating. He was barely alive, but alive nonetheless. He just swooned. They put him in the tomb and the dampness of the tomb and the coolness of the air revived him, and he got up. Now think that one through carefully.
Do you mean to tell me somebody who had been beaten with a cat-o'-nine-tails eviscerating his back, a crown of thorns upon his head, being pummeled by the soldiers, carrying a cross and not being able to make it to the place of execution, spikes driven through his wrists, feet, spear in the side---do you think a cool, damp tomb, no medical attention, is going to make him better? That's going to improve his condition, and then somehow he's going to be able to unwind all of those wrappings and go for a walk? You believe that, you have more faith than I do. [laughter]
Fifth explanation: the women hallucinated, and the disciples hallucinated. Of course, the problem with that is the Bible tells us that Jesus appeared to the twelve corporately, and he appeared to five hundred at one time. Psychiatrists tell us hallucinations are not corporate, they're individual. They don't happen to a group; they happen to a person of a certain kind of personality type, high strung individuals typically, those who have a predisposition toward that; the same ones that see angels fixing tires, perhaps. [laughter]
This was no hallucination. This was not resuscitation. This was a resurrection from the dead. And that's the last and best explanation. He indeed rose. "He is risen. He is not here." He got up. That's the best explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. [applause] Now let's finish it up.
"And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach---preach the gospel to every creature,' " that is, throughout all of God's creation." 'He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues.' "And these signs that authenticated the gospel message, you can see and read about in the book of Acts.
"'They will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.' "Do not read into this that you can go and have a service at your church and pass is snake around. [laughter] In parts of the south traditionally, and even in some pockets to this day, they have such services where a snake is passed around or poison is even taken, and "If you really have faith, you'll be okay." "Well, he did it and he died." "Well, he didn't have enough faith." It's a bad way to find out. It's not what it means.
It means in the process of getting the gospel message out of going into all the world, these are the signs that with authenticate your ministry and if you take up a serpent it won't harm you. It happened to Paul on Malta, Acts 28; a viper came out and attached itself to Paul's hand. And all of the people around said, "He's a dead man. He must be a very wicked person. He's going to die any minute." And he just shook it off and had dinner and went to bed and was fine. Nothing happened to him. That's how that was fulfilled.
"'Lay hands on the sick and they will recover.' "Now we have just a few minutes, so I want to touch on something; that's the thing of baptism. People really get hung up on that verse and I want you to notice that verse in verse 16. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." Now, what people typically who believe in a doctrine that I do not believe in, a doctrine called baptismal regeneration, which states that you must be baptized in order to be saved.
They focus on the first part of this verse and they neglect the second part. The first part does indeed say, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." But notice the second part, "He who does not believe will be condemned." In other words, the condemnation is on the basis of unbelief alone, not baptism. Otherwise Jesus would have said, "Whoever doesn't believe and is not baptized."
Why does he even bring up baptism? Because baptism is a work that follows faith; you're saved by faith through God's grace, not of yourselves. Baptism is a work. You're not saved by works. But if you are saved by grace, the work of baptism which comes after, subsequent to salvation, will no doubt be encountered by that one who believes. There is a Scripture in the book of Acts that the proponents of baptismal regeneration love to focus on.
I'll just read it to you; it's in Acts, chapter 2. And I just want to briefly explain it before we close and pray. Listen to Acts 2 beginning in verse 37. "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' "
The people who love the doctrine of baptismal regeneration focus in on that word "for." "Baptized for the remission of sins." And what they mean is that the word for means "in order that." For---in order that you may be saved. I take issue with that. The Greek word "for" is the word eis, which can mean for, "in order that." It can also mean "into," "unto" or "because of." So if I say, "This soldier was awarded for bravery." Do I mean he was given a medal in order that he might be brave?
No, I mean he was given a medal to prove that he was brave, to show that he was brave, because he was brave. If I say, "This boy was given a bigger allowance for his good grades." Do I mean that he was given a bigger allowance so that he would get better grades---"in order that"? No, "because of." You see my point? To be baptized for the remission is because of the remission of sins. Because that person has had his sins or her sins remitted, forgiven, taken away, baptism follows that.
And that's why the William's Translation is most accurate saying, and as an expression of it, "Let every one of you be baptized in his name." Something else, in First Corinthians 1 Paul makes a boast, and he says, "You know, when I was among you, I don't remember baptizing any of you except Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas. Besides that, I can't remember if I baptized anybody else."
Listen to what he says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel." If baptism was a part and equal to that of being saved, he would never have said that. He would never have made the distinction---"Christ didn't send me to baptize, but preach the gospel." If Paul believed in baptismal regeneration, he never would have made that statement. In fact, he would have carried a baptismal tank with him wherever he went, but he didn't.
"For Christ didn't send me to baptize." Baptism doesn't save anybody. It simply is for the remission of sins. It's because your sins have been remitted, because you're saved, you show it. Now, why should we get baptized? Easy, Jesus said to do it. That's all, that's all you need. "If you love me, keep my commandments." It would be very hard to find somebody that goes, "Yeah, I really---no, I love Jesus so much, but I'm never going to get baptized." Really? If you can't even obey that command, how are you going to obey any other command? That's so simple.
Number two, you are identifying with his death, burial, and resurrection. According to Romans 6, that's what baptism is, right? Demonstrating his death, buried, coming up from the water, resurrection. Number three, it's a witness. In many parts of the world they don't get baptized at a church service, they get baptized at the public river. They march through the town so all their friends and family know they have walked out of darkness and come to light. Well, I better finish up the chapter.
"Then, after the Lord had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven, and he sat down at the right hand of God." What's he doing up there? Is he just kind of twiddling his thumbs, like, [yawn] "Boy, I've been doing this a long time. Two thousand years I've been sitting here, man." [laughter] Now, there's a whole sermon I couldn't preach on him sitting down. A priest only sat down when his work of atonement was finished.
The great High Priest sat down---it's done, it's over. No more work has to be done on earth, but he's still doing work in heaven. Do you know he's doing work in heaven? Do you know what he's doing for you right now? Hebrews 7, "He ever liveth to make intercession for you." He's praying for you. Jesus your Savior is talking to the Father about you, getting you through those problem areas. Wow! That's another whole message. "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through accompanying signs. Amen."
Some years ago we were in Israel and we were baptizing our group in the Jordan River. We take an afternoon, we go to the site of baptism, and we explain it, and we baptize people in the Jordan River. It's a great time. Whenever we do, you have people who stand around and watch who are on the outside of the walls, not inside, and they're looking around just scoping it out.
So, I had baptized our group and I'm leaving, and this young girl from South America named Olga said, "Excuse me, sir. What are you doing?" I said, "Well, we were baptizing people." And she said, "Well, what is that?" And I tried to explain to her. So she goes, "So, why do you do it? And tell me---" And she just wanted me to tell her the gospel because it was a witness. That was that last point---a baptism is a witness, public witness.
So I explained what we were doing, and she goes, "Would you mind if I came in? Would you baptize me?" And I said, "I would be willing if you believe in Jesus with all of your heart." And I explained who he was, and we prayed, and she received Christ. She was dressed in her clothes. She wasn't in any baptismal garb or bathing suit. She goes, "I believe."
So this previous unbeliever who was witnessing believers getting baptized, she came around and we baptized her in front of her friends, in front of her group, and with our group. Beautiful witness. [applause] Your life is a witness. It's a testimony. And you're commissioned. You're sent out. And the Lord is in heaven interceding for you, your advocate before the Father, your intercessor with the Father. You're in a win-win situation. You can't lose. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you for the many weeks we've had to study this incredible gospel, twenty weeks of a diet in the book of Mark looking at the life of Jesus Christ, told to the Roman audience, mostly a Gentile audience, an audience that we can most relate to. Lord, we look at how you change lives, and especially when these women and these men made the discovery that the One that they thought was dead would prove them wrong, would be alive.
Would be alive and then ascend into heaven where he is ever living, always living, continually living to intercede for us. Even as we discussed Sunday the angels of heaven marveling at salvation and Jesus the Son in heaven desiring that all men be saved and all women be saved, I wonder if there's anyone here tonight, Lord, that you might want to bring into your kingdom.
And as we close this service, if you are here tonight and you have never personally asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, I don't mean just a nice person, or have a religious bent, but you don't remember a time where you consciously invited Christ into your life to be your Lord, your Savior. Or maybe you remember some religious experience of the past, but honestly, wherever you're at now, you're not walking with the Lord and you need to come to him.
You need to come home to him. You need to come back to him. If that describes you, if you desire to come to him, to have your sins forgiven, to walk in newness of life, to have purpose in life, to have the joy, the "peace that passes understanding," as the Bible describes it, because of a relationship with him. If you want that, as we're praying right now, I want you to raise your hand up in the air. Raise it up so I can see it.
Just raise it up for a moment. Just keep it up. God bless you right up in the front; and a couple of you in the middle; on my left. Anyone else? Raise your hand up. Raise your hand up in the air---to my right, God bless you; on the side. Who else? Yes, ma'am, toward the back; on my left. Father, we thank you and we pray for these who are with us. Do a transformation in these hearts, in Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Would you stand with me, please. We're going to close this service in a song. I'm going to ask those of you who raised your hand to do something that you probably didn't think you were going to do when you came in, but I'm going to ask you to do it. As we sing this song, I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing and find the nearest aisle and come stand right up here where I'm going to lead you in a prayer publicly to receive Christ.
Jesus called people publicly to follow him. And I think there's a joy that happens and a relief that happens in a heart of a person who is willing to make that stand, that step. So as we sing this song, you come up from where you are standing now and you stand right up here in the front. I'm going to have my counselors just come and show you where to stand. Just come now as we sing this song.
[worship music plays]
Beautiful, beautiful. We're about to pray; is there anybody else? You've seen people make decisions like this and make a walk like this before, maybe God has been working on your heart of late. And you think, "What am I missing? Could it ever get better?" Oh, yeah, it could get a lot better. [applause] That's it. Awesome! Anybody else, anyone else? You that have walked forward, I'm going to ask you to pray with me. I'm going to pray out loud and I'm going to ask you to pray out loud after me. Say this from your heart. You're saying this to the Lord. You're inviting him in. That's all this is a prayer of. Let's pray.
Lord, I give you my life. I know I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe that Jesus died, that he shed his blood for my sin and that he rose to life again. I turn from my sin; I turn to you as my Savior. I trust you with my life. Help me to live for you as my Lord, in Jesus' name, amen.
Give the Lord a big hand for that. [applause]