The Empty Tomb, Part II, Mark 16:7-9
In our lesson for this Sunday morning we are witness to another very long ago Sunday morning of faithful and godly women who have come to a tomb carrying spices prepared to anoint the body of their Master and Lord, Jesus the Christ.
But the spices will not be needed for no body rests there for they find the tomb empty except for angels sent by God to tell the women that the body of Jesus Christ is no longer there but has risen.
What astounding and good news that is, but before that good news can be absorbed the angels bring the women face to face with their unbelief.
For they ask the penetrating question, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
Well the answer was they were seeking the dead among the dead because of unbelief.
So the angels bring to their mind one of the many times that Christ himself plainly told them of his death but always included in that instruction was his victory over death by resurrection.
For the angels say as reported in Luke 24:6: Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
The women then remembered that Jesus had told them these very words.
If they would have absorbed and believed his words in Galilee they simply would have come to the tomb without the carrying of spices, knowing that it would be empty for it was the third day.
As far as the angels were concerned the women had no business bringing anointing spices to the tomb for there was no dead body to anoint.
It was not the case that Jesus told of his resurrection only once or in secret for he told it often but unbelief kept their minds closed to such an amazing thing.
Hadnít they heard of his raising of the widowís son at Nain, and the raising from the dead of Jairusí daughter?
Hadnít they witnessed the raising of Lazarus, their friend and brother in Christ?
And didnít they remember what he said about himself at the raising of Lazarus?
For in John 11:25-26, Jesus said unto her (Martha), I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
That is the critical question God asks of you and me and all in the world. Believest thou this?
What does that mean to us in the 21 century?
Do you believe Godís book, the book which is Godís word.
Or do you only believe what comforts you and doesnít cause conflict?
Examine your belief but also critically examine your unbelief.
For all sin can be forgiven except the sin of unbelief.
You can see how important this is to God for even at this greatest of events, the subject is addressed.
Here the women came to do the task of anointing a dead body, a task obviously not needed, for Christ had clearly taught them about this event on many occasions.
Refer back to Lesson 50 of Dr. Hobbs study of Mark 8:31-33, And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
We hear it also when we read Luke 9:22, Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
And Luke 18:31-34, Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
And Matthew 17:22,23, And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
Remember that a few days before, Mary the sister of Lazarus had anointed Jesus, in Jesus words "for the day of my burying" (John 12:7).
In saying this He indicated that she understood that He was soon to die.
So there was an understanding concerning his death but a resurrection understanding had not yet come to them even though Christ plainly told them of his rising from the grave the third day.
Nor did they understand that resurrection is not an action, it is a person, the person of Jesus Christ for he said plainly: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
What a comfort that is when we look into a casket and see the body of a brother or sister in Christ for all we see is their former dwelling place.
They have simply moved from a dwelling place not fit for eternity and have continued on in life to be in the presence of Christ for all eternity.
When Jesus told them He was the resurrection he also told them those that believe in him shall never die.
So it is for this failure to believe that the angels gently rebuked the women
And when this rebuke was received they remembered his words.
There was then an acceptance of what he said to them in Galilee.
How often we do what these women did.
We know what Godís word says but we do not believe it in our actions.
We may read Godís word and joyfully receive it as it warms the heart but in the end it never moves us to the doing of it.
We may rear our children in a way apart from Godís word and then when we and our children suffer because of our disobedience we see that Godís word was true all along and if we had obeyed it we and our children would not have suffered.
Now it is obvious that none of his followers absorbed the knowledge of his resurrection but at least these ladies were there at the tomb to honor their Lord.
And because of this little faith they were given the opportunity to hear from angels what they heard of ear, but not heard of heart, from their Lord.
But not everyone, including the disciples shared in this glorious moment.
So the angels instructed them to go and tell those who were not there in:
Mark 16:7,8, But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Mark includes a special mention by the angels of the disciple Peter.
I imagine when this news got to Peter and he heard this special mention of his name it told him that the Lord had not denied him as Peter did the Lord three times three days earlier.
Remember the women who said of Peter: This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
And another: Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
And the third from whom Jesus said would come: Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
And donít you suppose this misery and distress continued to be the state of Peter, one of the inner disciples, when he heard of the angelís mention of his name.
Jesus knew the despair of Peter especially because of his cowardly acts and donít you suppose Jesus told the angel to make this special mention of Peterí name?
What a wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord who knew of Peterís distress and the simple mention of his name assured Peter that he had been forgiven!
Now the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 28 verses 7-9 provides greater detail to what comes next in this event and adds to it the meeting of the risen Jesus:
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Picture the excitement of the women as they heard from angels the resurrection news running with not only fear but joy and then to add to that joy greater joy for Jesus appeared to them.
What else but worship at his feet could take place?
How long this meeting took we do not know but it was probably short for they were told to go quickly and share the news that Christ is risen today.
So the women quickly continued their return to their dwelling place to tell the men of what they had learned and whom they had seen but their news was not met with rejoicing for the men did not believe them.
We pick on Doubting Thomas but he was not the only one doubting!
How typical for they too had not believed what their Lord had said so many times nor would they believe the women!
Luke reports their response in Luke 24:11 this way: And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
They thought of these women as women who could not face reality.
Hysterical women who could not face up to the fact that Jesus was dead and gone from their presence.
It was, to them, just an irrational refusal to accept things as they were.
But they too were wrong for they remembered not His words.
They had not honored their Lord by receiving his body, they had not honored him by going to the tomb.
It was they who had evidenced a lack of faith, and because of this they did not believe.
The absence of the disciples in all of these events is remarkable and is so noticeable when we contrast it with the presence of the women and Joseph and Nicodemus.
It is not that the preparing of the body was womenís work only for we see Joseph and Nicodemus doing this work themselves.
They made sure the body was carried to the tomb and they had brought 100 pounds of spices for the interment of the body.
But the disciples were not there.
They were not ignorant of what the women planned and purposed to do.
The women had purchased and prepared the spices earlier but were forced to wait until the day after the Sabbath to go out to the tomb.
I suppose that the women may very well have asked the disciples to go out to the burial place of Jesus with them, at least to help remove the stone, which they knew to be a problem.
They went out early in the morning, leaving while it was still dark, not a very safe thing to do leaving without any man with them.
The disciples were visibly absent and thereby forfeited this great announcement of the angels and the actual first meeting with their crucified Lord.
What we miss when we sleep in! God indeed is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.