Broadcasting now. Watch Live.


Tom Pennington • Mark 16:1-8

  • 2021-04-04 AM
  • Sermons


If you take a comparative religion course in one of our Texas universities, you'll discover that most of the world's religions are based on philosophical propositions. Only four of the great world religions are primarily based on their founders: Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. All four founders of those great world religions died. Abraham died about 2000 B.C. and he was buried in Hebron, where we're told you can visit his tomb even to this day. Buddha died in the fourth or fifth century B.C., tradition says around the age of 80, and his body was cremated and scattered. Mohammad died on June 8, 632 A.D. and his body is buried in Medina, and millions visit his grave every year on their pilgrimage to Mecca. Jesus of Nazareth also died in the year 30 or perhaps 33 A.D. and He was buried as well, in a borrowed grave just outside the city wall of Jerusalem. Don't miss the fact that they all died.

But the Christian faith is unique in that it alone boasts a now empty grave. Only the Christian faith claims that its founder was raised permanently, eternally from the dead and that He is alive forevermore. If Jesus Christ is still dead, then don't make any mistake about it, He was a fraud, a huckster, and Christianity is a joke. But the resurrection happened. It was a historical event that occurred in time and space. And there is real evidence that you can examine and there were hundreds of eyewitnesses of the reality of His resurrection.

Jesus died on Friday and He was alive again on Sunday. This is the foundation of our faith. Martin Luther, the great reformer, wrote. "The greatest importance attaches to this article of faith, for were there no resurrection we shall have neither comfort nor hope and all that Christ has done would be in vain." John Calvin, another of the reformers, writes, "The resurrection of Christ is the most important article of our faith, the chief point of the gospel, the main article of religion." B. B. Warfield, an American theologian of the great Princeton school, writes, "Christ Himself deliberately staked His whole claim upon His resurrection. When asked for a sign, He pointed to this sign as His single and sufficient credential." No article of the Christian faith is as essential as this, Jesus Christ our Lord has risen from the dead.

On Friday at 9 am He was crucified. Six hours later at 3 pm on Friday afternoon, at the time of the sacrifice of the Passover lambs, He died. During the three hours from His death until sunset, about 6 pm on that Friday, there was a flurry of activity. Joseph of Arimathea, one of the prominent members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, requested Jesus' body and Pilate granted him custody. Joseph, along with his fellow council member, a man that we meet early in the gospels by the name of Nicodemus, hastily prepared Jesus' body for burial. And they placed it in Joseph's new tomb there near the site of the crucifixion. The ladies from Galilee who had come with Christ, who were there at the cross, who witnessed His death, also witnessed His burial. They knew where He was buried and they came hoping to prepare spices to continue the preparation of His body. That was Friday.

Beginning at sunset on Friday the Sabbath began, and on that Sabbath, on Saturday during the day, Jesus' disciples rested, as was commanded by Sabbath law. Also on that Saturday the Jewish leaders, you remember, were aware of the fact that Jesus had said He would rise from the dead and so they asked Pilate for a guard they could post at the tomb to ensure that His disciples didn't steal the body. With such a high profile corpse, of course, it's very likely that 12 Roman soldiers were assigned to the detail. That meant that three soldiers were always on duty during each watch of the night while the other nine slept.

That prepares us for early Sunday and the resurrection. We just read it together in Mark's account in Mark 16:1-8. The Christian faith rests on what happened on that Sunday morning. Everything we believe hinges on the reality of the resurrection. That's why all four gospel writers record the historical account. This morning I want us to consider Mark's account. And as we do so, we'll learn from Mark's pen several crucial details about the resurrection. Let's look at it together.

The first detail that we learn from this text we just read has to do with the first witnesses of the resurrection, the first witnesses. As we look at verses 1 and 2, we first learn who these witnesses were, who came to the tomb. Verse 1 says, "When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome." Now, for reasons known only to God, there were no human witnesses of the actual resurrection. That is, no human being saw the moment when Jesus' human soul reunited with His now glorified body. No human beings saw that moment when, literally, the human heart of Jesus, which had laid there in the tomb motionless for 36 hours, suddenly began to beat. No one watched as His human lungs began to fill and expand with air, and oxygen began to course through His body and through His veins and He gasped to life again. No one saw that event. But there were more than 500 witnesses to the reality that He had, in fact, come to life again.

The first witnesses among His disciples were these women. Notice who they were. First of all, there was Mary Magdalene. We know her as the woman that Jesus had cast seven demons from. She had become His faithful and devoted disciple. On the last trip to Israel that a group from our church took, we were able to visit the now recovered remains of the synagogue there in Magdala, perhaps where Mary was redeemed, certainly where she attended after her redemption, where Jesus taught on a number of occasions. She was there.

We're told "Mary the mother of James" was there. Back in chapter 15 verse 40 she's called "the mother of James the less and Joses." In verse 47 of that same chapter, "Mary the mother of Joses," and Matthew simply calls this woman "the other Mary." Thirdly, we're told a woman by the name of Salome was there. Matthew lets us know that this is likely the mother of the sons of Zebedee, that's who he calls her. That means this woman, Salome, was the mother of the disciples James and John. Elsewhere we learn that Salome was probably Jesus' mother Mary's sister. In other words, Jesus' aunt. Luke also adds a woman by name named Joanna in Luke 24. And then Luke adds this expression, "along with the other women." So when you put the four gospel records together, there were at least five women at Jesus' grave that morning and possibly others. In God's providence, these were the women who were the first witnesses.

Secondly, as we continue to see these witnesses, we learn why it was that they came to the tomb that morning. Why they came, verse 1, "When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him." Now you'll notice that verse 1 doesn't happen on Sunday morning. It actually takes us back to Saturday night. The Sabbath, the Jewish Sabbath, was over at sunset on Saturday and here we learn why they came to the grave on Sunday morning. They had bought spices on Saturday night "so that they might come and anoint Him" on Sunday morning.

Now the Jews didn't embalm dead bodies. What they would do is they would take the body, they would wash it, they would wrap it with cloth and include within that cloth spices, and then they would anoint it with aromatic oil. In fact, if you notice the word spices there in verse 1, it's the Greek word from which we get our English word aroma. It refers to anything that's fragrant. In this case, this aromatic oil was likely built on an olive oil base with fragrant spices added into it. And this aromatic oil served a couple of purposes. Obviously it was a simple way to honor the body of the person you love, to express your love to them, but it served a very practical purpose in that culture as well. Without embalming it helped to mask the odor of decay as it began to set in.

These women were there on Friday afternoon when Joseph of Arimathea had supervised the taking of the body of Christ down from the cross. They had watched as two members, prominent members, of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Joseph and Nicodemus, had prepared, hastily, Jesus' body for burial. But these women were from Galilee. They didn't know these rich and influential men. And so, these women, because of their own love and devotion to Christ and because they too wanted to add their own expression of love, they wanted to be involved in the preparation of Jesus' body for burial. And that is why they came to the tomb on Sunday morning. Now why is that important? Because clearly these women came Sunday morning with no hope of the resurrection. They believed that the death of Jesus Christ was real and that it was final, and that they needed to add their preparation for His decay. So that's why they came.

Thirdly, we learned when they came to the tomb, these first witnesses. According to Luke, on Friday evening before sunset, Sabbath began at sunset on Friday evening so they could work prior to that, and before the Sabbath began these women had begun to prepare spices and perfumes to anoint the body of Christ, to finish that anointing. Luke 23:55-56 say,

Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

So from the time Jesus died at 3 pm until sunset around 6 pm, these women were busy preparing themselves to come back on Sunday morning to anoint His body.

But we read in verse 1 of Mark's account, "When the Sabbath was over," that's sunset Saturday night, "When the Sabbath was over," these women, notice, "bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him." Apparently on Friday they had begun their preparations, but not anticipating this reality, they ran out of the necessary materials and ingredients. So when Sabbath began at sunset on Friday night they had to stop their efforts and preparations. But when the Sabbath was over, what always happens in Israel, even to this day happens, as soon as the sun sets on Saturday evening, the world comes alive. The markets open, buying and selling begin, family is a part of their life, and that's what happens here. They went, when the markets opened at sunset Saturday night, and bought additional supplies.

Verse 2 brings us now to Sunday morning, "Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen." Now again, if you put the gospel records together, it becomes clear what happened. John tells us that the women left their homes apparently, in the city, "while it was still dark." But here we learn that they arrived at the tomb just outside the city walls, just after sunrise.

But before these women arrived that morning, Matthew tells us that God had already provided powerful testimony to the reality of the resurrection. Turn back to Matthew. Matthew 28:1, "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave." Verse 2, "And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred."

Now that's fascinating because you'll remember at three o'clock Friday afternoon, at the very moment of Jesus' death, there was also an earthquake. Go back to chapter 27 verse 51, "behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split." Matthew tells us that there was another quake now, early Sunday morning, and he says that it was severe and notice, it happened before the women arrived, "a severe earthquake had occurred." Matthew connects the quake to the activity of the angel. Verse 2,

for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

The earthquake, this severe earthquake Sunday morning, accompanied the arrival of this supernatural being sent from the presence of God. It's likely it also accompanied the very moment of Jesus' resurrection. Just as God sent, as a testimony to the death of His Son, an earthquake at the very moment He breathed this last, it appears that God sent an earthquake at the very moment He breathed again, to demonstrate that He had been raised from the dead.

Now this severe earthquake undoubtedly awakened the nine guards who, at that moment, were not on duty but trying to get some sleep after their work during the night. And Matthew tells us what happens to all the soldiers in verse 4, "The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men." Initially, when they saw the angels, they were like in a coma state, they couldn't move, they couldn't respond, and then, based on what we read in the rest of the gospels, they apparently fled the scene. Later, a few of them showed up at the Sanhedrin to explain what had happened and that's when the terrible plot to cover the resurrection was hatched.

So, what we see here in Matthew was the scene into which these women came. It was these faithful, loyal female disciples who became the first real witnesses to the resurrection. And that is truly fascinating. It's interesting that the first witnesses were women. Why do I say that? Because if you had lived in the first century, that would have come as a great surprise to you. Because sadly, in the first century there was a very low view of women. A typical Jewish male prayer included several things, it was prayed every day, and one of the things it included is, "Thank you, Lord, that I am not a woman."

Women were not even allowed to present evidence in court. They weren't allowed to be a witness in court. So not only does this passage and the rest of the New Testament elevate the place of women, but ironically, the fact that the testimony of women was not generally accepted in the first century only underscores the authenticity of this record. Because in the first century, if you wanted to present a fictional resurrection, if you wanted to concoct a story that people would buy into and believe, if this was all legend and imagination and you were going to try to convince people that a real resurrection had occurred, these were the last witnesses in the world you would have ever included. But God does.

I can't prove this to you, but personally I am persuaded that God chose these women as the first witnesses because of their faithfulness and loyalty to Christ even when the rest of the disciples had fled. Think about it, in the garden of Gethsemane, the eleven had fled from Jesus. Peter followed Jesus for a time, even to the house of Caiaphas, but then he denied Christ and cursed, said that he didn't know Him. Only John stayed with Christ through the crucifixion, at the side of Mary, Jesus' mother.

But these faithful women, these women from Galilee, they were there. In the early hours of the crucifixion they were standing right next to the cross, John tells us. They remained at calvary through the entire ordeal. In fact, even during the final three hours of darkness and until His death, Mark tells us. They even watched, late afternoon, to see where and how His body was buried. These women were eyewitnesses of it all. They saw His suffering. They heard what was said on the cross. They saw Him die. They saw all of those realities. They even saw the location of His grave. They could give eyewitness testimony to where He was buried.

And it wasn't an easy grave to miss. You remember, it was the new grave of a member of the Sanhedrin, an extremely wealthy influential man by the name of Joseph of Arimathea. His tomb, prepared for himself, was there near the site of the crucifixion. It was carved into the limestone rock of a former limestone quarry from which many of the stones that were used in the building of Jerusalem had been quarried. It was in a garden and it had a distinctive stone that that rolled to close it. There was no chance of these women showing up at the wrong tomb. When they arrived, God gave these five women, and possibly others, a front row seat to history's greatest event. They were the first witnesses.

That brings us to a second crucial detail that's in our text back in Mark 16. A second crucial detail has to do with the first evidences of the resurrection. In verses 3 through 7, Mark provides us with a series of evidences that Jesus was truly raised from the dead. The first piece of evidence is the displaced stone. Verse 3, as the women were making their way to the grave that morning, "They were saying to one another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?'" They were discussing exactly how it was they were going to gain access to the body of Christ since they knew, they had seen, remember, where He was buried, they had seen the kind of tomb it was, they had seen the massive stone rolled into place. And in their grief and their desire to help they had forgotten this little, small detail. How are we going to gain access to the body of Christ?

You see, there was a stone when it came to truly wealthy graves. Most of the graves that you can see, even to this day, in Israel are not constructed like this. But the graves of those who were truly wealthy and influential, for example, Herod's tomb has a construction like this. This was a stone designed to serve two purposes. It was to keep animals out, predators out, but it was also to keep grave robbers out. To cover the entrance well, this stone would have been somewhere between three and a half and four and a half feet in diameter, and it would have therefore weighed hundreds of pounds. Notice verse 4 calls it "extremely," literally the Greek text says, "mega." It was "extremely mega." This was a huge stone.

Another complication was that this kind of gravestone was designed to roll in a groove in front of the tomb. But that groove was intentionally slanted so that you rolled the stone downhill into place. That made, of course, closing the tomb much easier, because you were rolling that stone, with the force of gravity, downhill. But when you wanted to gain access to the tomb, it required rolling that massive, hundreds of pounds, stone uphill and then there was usually a rock that was used to prop it in place. In fact, in Aramaic there are names for both of those rocks, the huge stone that rolled as well as the little stone that was used to prop it. This is the problem that they were facing.

Now there were at least five women headed to the tomb that morning. But as they're discussing it, they decided that between the five of them there was no way that they could move it alone. But as they're discussing how they're going to do this, when they arrived at the burial plot of Joseph of Arimathea, they discovered that that extremely large stone had already been rolled away. Verse 4, "Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large." Now, rolled away here, it could be a little misleading. That could give you the idea that the stone had simply been rolled in its groove away from the entrance to the tomb. But the wording in both Matthew and John implies something entirely different. It implies that the angels didn't simply roll the stone in its track away from the opening. Instead, they removed it from its track altogether, they left it lying on its side, and initially one of the angels actually sat on it. That's what the Roman soldiers saw, what terrified them, what gave them a panic.

Now, why did the angels move the stone? You understand this, it wasn't to let Jesus out. In His glorified body Jesus could pass through walls. He demonstrated that later that same day in the upper room. After the angels opened the grave, there was no sign of Jesus. He was already gone. He left the tomb while the stone was still in place. The angels opened the grave to let witnesses in, so that we could see, through their testimony, that Jesus was no longer there.

There's a second piece of evidence and that is, the two angels themselves. Verse 5, "Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed." Now, again, if you consider a rendering of what this tomb would have been like, the entrance of the tomb would have been fairly low. And we know that even from the biblical record, because John says that when he went inside the tomb, he had to stoop down to get in it. At most, the entrance would have been about four feet high.

And so, you can picture this happening that morning as one by one these five ladies duck their heads down into the entrance of that grave and come inside. It was a large tomb, as is typical of wealthy tombs of the first century. In fact, if you visit the garden tomb today, it probably was not where Jesus was buried, but it gives you some idea of what the tombs would have been like, large enough for a lot of people to be inside at one time. And so these women enter and once they got inside what they saw frightened them. Verse 5 says, "Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe."

Now Luke and John tell us there were two angels present. One of those angels was sitting where Jesus' head would have been and the other is sitting where Jesus' feet would have been on the stone slab that was cut there into the limestone. Matthew and Mark don't mention two angels, they simply focus on the one who did all the talking. But the truth is, if we could have been there that morning and the Lord had opened our eyes to see, there were probably thousands of angels watching this moment.

Notice what the angels look like. Verse 5 says, "a young man," "wearing a white robe." The Greek word translated "young man" here is just that someone in his young manhood. And robe describes a long flowing formal robe. As we saw in Matthew 28, the angels' appearance was actually like lightning, like blazing light, and their garments, which Mark simply describes as white, Matthew describes as white as snow. The response of the women, it's the end of verse 5, "and they," the women, "were amazed."

Only Mark uses this word in the New Testament. It refers to strong fear, to emotional distress in response to something that is completely extraordinary. This word only occurs when something out of this world has occurred. They were overwhelmed with real fear and a sense of awe combined with wonder. Verse 6, "he said to them, 'Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen.'" Notice first, the angel's description of Jesus as the one who's been crucified. That makes it clear that Jesus had really died. There's no doubt but what Jesus was certifiably dead.

In fact, if you remember John's record, John tells us that after the death of Christ and after it was clear to the soldiers, the four soldiers who were involved in the crucifixion detail of Jesus, even though they were confident Jesus was dead, one of them took a spear and pierced Jesus' side. Now don't think renaissance paintings with a tiny little prick mark on His side. No, there was a point to the spear. Because if you were a soldier responsible for overseeing a crucifixion and if the person who was supposed to have died, survived, then you were subject to the death penalty. And so, the soldier took his spear, even though he was fully confident Jesus was dead, and he thrust it up into the chest cavity of Jesus, piercing the heart, to make sure that He was, in fact, dead. Jesus was certifiably dead and that was certified to Pilate, and the angel here adds his certification.

But it was equally clear that Jesus had risen from the dead. Verse 6, "'He has risen.'" Literally, "'He has been raised.'" It's a divine passive, the Father raised Him. By the way, and I'm not going to argue this with you, I'll just mention it in passing, Scripture argues that the resurrection was the work of all three members of the trinity. "'He has been raised.'" Just to make sure there's no confusion, here's how the angel is quoted in Matthew 28, "'He has risen from the dead,'" literally, "'He has been raised from among the dead ones.'" Two angels that were witnessed by 12 Roman soldiers and at least five women that morning, these two angels gave their own testimony to the reality of the resurrection. They were among the first evidences of its truth.

There's a third piece of evidence of the resurrection and that is, Jesus' earlier prophecy. In verse 6 the angel talks about the reality of the resurrection, but amazingly the other gospels tell us the angel who was speaking quoted Jesus' own prophecy about His resurrection, a prophecy that He made during His earthly ministry to His disciples, including these women. Matthew 28:6 says, "'He has risen, just as He said.'" Luke, in Luke 24:5-8, quotes the angel saying this, "'He has risen. Remember.'" So here's the angel reminding these women of what Jesus said to them.

"Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." And they remembered His words

The disciples were completely surprised by the resurrection, but they shouldn't have been. Because from the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had predicted His resurrection. And He had begun in recent days to make it completely plain. Go back to Mark 8, Mark 8:31. After Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi that He was the Christ, verse 31,

Jesus began to teach His disciples 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 again. And He was stating the matter plainly.

Jesus made it clear this is what had to happen. And the two angels God sent to the tomb that morning not only added their own testimony, "'He is risen,'" but they also added Jesus' own testimony, reminding these women of what Jesus had earlier taught them and prophesied.

By the way, there's an important point here. If you're here this morning and you struggle in your own heart with whether or not Jesus was really raised from the dead, then you just need to understand that if you're going to reject the resurrection, you have to step over Jesus Christ to do so. You have to basically conclude that He was a liar and a fraud, because He claimed that He would be raised from the dead.

There's a fourth piece of evidence here and that's the empty tomb. The empty tomb, verse 6, "'He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.'" You can just see the angel going, look, look, there's an empty spot, this is where He was, He's not there anymore. In Matthew's Gospel, "'Come, see the place where He was lying.'" I love that. Luke 24, "when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." Don't ever underestimate the importance of the empty tomb.

Thirty six hours before this, two members of Israel's Sanhedrin had quickly prepared the body of Jesus and had placed it in this grave which belonged to Joseph. These women had watched, they had watched them put His dead body into that grave. They had watched them roll the stone in front of its entrance. Less than 24 hours before the resurrection, at the prompting of the Jewish leaders, 12 Roman soldiers had arrived at the grave. They had rolled that tombstone back. They had gone inside, certified that the body of Jesus of Nazareth was still there. They had rolled the stone back to close the entrance of the tomb. They had sealed it. They had put a wax seal on it, stamped with the Roman governor's own insignia. And posted around the clock guard. But now, Sunday morning, the tomb was empty.

For 400 years after Jesus' resurrection, no one, not even His enemies, questioned the empty tomb. So where was Jesus' body? There are only three options. You can do all the thinking and research you want, but there are only three options. Jesus' enemies took the body, which makes no sense. If they did so, why didn't they furnish it when Jesus' disciples began to claim that He had been raised from the dead? The most popular explanation by those who reject the resurrection is that Jesus' disciples took the body. But that makes absolutely no sense, because remember, there were 12 Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, three always awake. Besides that, 10 of the 11 remaining disciples ended up, in the years ahead, dying as martyrs for the resurrection they preached. That's not how frauds respond to the threat of death. The only other option is that Jesus was raised from the dead, He was and is alive. Jesus, 65 years later, appeared to the last living apostle, the Apostle John on the island of Patmos, and there He said to him in Revelation 1:18, "'I am the living One; I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and the grave.'"

There's one more piece of evidence found here and that's the evidence of the post resurrection appearances. The angel tells the women, in verse 7, "'But go, tell His disciples and Peter, "He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you."'" Don't miss the amazing grace in that invitation. In spite of their desertion of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, the angel still calls them "'His disciples,'" His followers.

And notice, he adds, "'and Peter.'" Remember, Mark wrote his gospel under the direction of the Apostle Peter. Peter remembered that little detail. He never forgot it. That that morning, in an amazing display of grace, at the direction of Christ Himself, the angel said, tell His disciples to meet Him in Galilee; oh, and by the way, make sure you tell Peter as well. In other words, Christ welcomed Peter to join Him, in spite of his denials and his curses.

They were to go to Galilee, and Jesus would go before them. Verse 7 says, "'there you will see Him, just as He told you.'" Go back to Mark 14, Mark 14:28, on Thursday night of the passion week, at the last supper, verse 28, "'But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.'" The angel says, listen, He told you, He told you, go to Galilee, He's going to meet you there. Two weeks later, Jesus did appear in Galilee to the eleven, and that's also when he appeared to the group that Paul calls in 1 Corinthians 15, "more than five hundred at one time."

After hearing this charge from the angel, the women left the tomb and they went to find the apostles. Now, here's how it unfolded. We know from John's gospel that a few minutes later Jesus appeared for the first time, physically, after His resurrection, to Mary Magdalene who had apparently not gone with the other women, but had stayed there near the grave. And it was there that Jesus appeared to her, according to John 20. Then Jesus intercepted these women while they were still on their way to find the apostles. And Matthew 28:9 and 10 says,

behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshipped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me."

These women were among the first of the post resurrection appearances. But don't misunderstand, there were many, many more. You see, God chose to establish the historical reality of the resurrection through more than 14 different post resurrection appearances. Jesus appeared to more than 500 different people in at least 10 different locations. He appeared to individuals, to groups, and even to a large crowd. He appeared to men and to women. He appeared in public and in private. He appeared at different times of the day. He appeared in Jerusalem and in Galilee. God made it crystal clear through eyewitnesses that Jesus was alive. So, in Mark's text we've discovered the first witnesses and we've seen the first evidences, including the post resurrection appearances.

There's a third crucial detail about the resurrection that we learn here, and that is the first responses, the first responses to the resurrection. Verse 8 says, "They went out and fled from the tomb." Why? You say, well, that's easy. What did we just see them encounter? But no, we're told here, "for," here's why, first of all, "physical trembling." Here was the first response, "for trembling had gripped them." This was their physical response. If you've ever been in a traumatic experience you know that adrenaline kicks in and your whole body begins to tremble. That's how they found themselves.

They were also in a state of emotional shock, "for astonishment had gripped them." The Greek word is ekstasis, from which we get our English word, ecstasy. Literally, they were outside of themselves. They were beside themselves. They were out of their minds with emotional shock. There was temporary speechlessness, "they said nothing to anyone." For a time they couldn't even speak. There was overwhelming fear, "they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."

This is likely a combination of real fear as well as awe at the message of resurrection they had just heard. William Lane, in his commentary on Mark's Gospel, writes this, "With his closing comment, Mark wishes to say that the gospel of Jesus the Messiah is an event beyond human comprehension and therefore awesome and frightening. 'For they were afraid' is the phrase most appropriate to the conclusion of this gospel."

Matthew tells us there were a couple of other ways they responded, those first responses to the resurrection. The women responded with overpowering joy. Matthew 28:8, "they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy," mega joy, an obedient faith. Again, Matthew 28:8 continues, "they ran to report it to His disciples," just as the angel had commanded.

There's the event of the resurrection. But that leaves us with a crucial question, and that is, why does it matter? Why is the resurrection so important? Or let me put it a different way, what does the resurrection mean? There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but let me give you three essential significances of the resurrection. Number one, Jesus' claims are true. Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2:24 says, "God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." And then a few verses later, in verse 36, he says, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah – this Jesus whom you crucified."

You see, everything that we believe ultimately goes back to the integrity and credibility of Jesus Christ. But how do we know? How do you know that Jesus' claims are true? Well, you don't have to wonder, because Jesus told us that. He staked His own credibility on one great reality, everything He did and everything He taught and all of His claims, ultimately, He based on a single event, and that was His resurrection. In John 2, at the beginning of His ministry, He cleansed the temple and His enemies ask Him, by what authority do you do these things? John 2:19, "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'" Two verses later, in John 2:21, John the apostle writes, "He was speaking of the temple of His body."

You see, if there is a grave in the Middle East, with the body of Jesus of Nazareth still in it, then our faith is absolutely worthless. Even the Apostle Paul said this. In 1 Corinthians 15:17, he says, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins." You see why the resurrection is so important? Because it's all about the credibility of Jesus Christ, it's all about His integrity, it's all about His believability. If Jesus Christ was not raised, then He was a fraud and a liar, turn from Christianity as fast as you can and run away. But if on the other hand, Jesus was raised from the dead, as the evidence is clear that He was, then you should believe as God's truth everything Jesus said about Himself, about God, about man, about heaven, about hell, about salvation – the way for us to be right with God. That's why the resurrection is so central to the Christian faith. It is literally the foundation on which everything else is built.

The resurrection also means that the Father has accepted Jesus' death for sins. In Luke 24, our Lord Himself said this. Luke 24:46, this is after the resurrection,

He said to His disciples, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and [in light of that resurrection, in light of His death and resurrection] that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

You see, the resurrection was God's stamp of approval on the death of Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon used to say that during those hours when Jesus was in the tomb, all heaven stood on its tiptoes waiting to see whether or not the Father would accept the sacrifice of the Son. But early on Sunday morning when He raised Him from the dead, it's as if God the Father put His own seal on the great magna carta of our redemption and said, I accept it for the forgiveness of sins. If you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, I can tell you on the authority of Christ Himself that because He died for sins and because the Father raised Him, showing that He had accepted that sacrifice for sin, that if you will repent and turn to Christ, then you will be forgiven your sins, because of the resurrection.

Thirdly, the resurrection means that God has appointed Jesus to be your judge. This is true in a couple of passages, Acts 17, Paul's sermon on Mars Hill. But here in Acts 10, turn there with me, Acts 10, this is Peter's sermon to the first gentile converts, Cornelius and his household. Acts 10:40. Let's go back a verse or two before that. Verse 36,

"The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus the Messiah (He is Lord of all) – you know what happened there. [Verse 38] You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, He went about doing good, healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. But God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

You see, here the great contrast is made. Everybody in this room, you, have a relationship to Jesus Christ. Everybody here has one or the other relationship to Christ. Either your relationship to Him is as Savior and Lord or your relationship to Him is as future judge. That's it. There are no other categories. And that's what the resurrection proves. That's what Peter says to Cornelius, you will either have Jesus as your Savior from sins, or you will have Him as the judge of your sins.

So how does one become related to Jesus, where He is your Savior and Lord, rather than your future judge and condemner? Well, we just read it in these two passages. Luke 24, "'repentance for the forgiveness of sins.'" Here Acts 10, "'everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.'" You need to repent of your sins and you need to believe in Him.

Now, don't misunderstand, be very careful here, this is Easter and there are a lot of people in churches like ours who have what theologians call a historical faith. That is, you believe in the history of Jesus. You believe that He came. You believe He is who He claimed to be. You believe that He died, that He was raised from the dead. Let me just say it bluntly to you, that faith will not save you. The demons believe that.

Saving faith is something different. It is confessing Jesus as Lord. It's not enough to have prayed a prayer. It's not enough to have walked an aisle when you were a kid. In fact, listen to the words of Jesus. This is from John 8:31, "Jesus was saying to those who had believed Him." Turns out these are people with historical faith, that is, not real saving faith, people who believed that Jesus was who He claimed, that He was the Messiah, but they weren't willing to repent and turn from their sin and follow Him. He said to them, to those who had believed Him, "'If you continue in My word,'" that is, if you hear My words, you pay attention to them, you obey what I've told you to do, "'then you are truly disciples of Mine.'"

So let me just say as plainly as I can to you, if you simply have a historical faith, if you believe the facts about Jesus but it stops there, you're not a Christian, you're not truly His disciple. Jesus says, "'If you continue in My word.'" So here's the question, is your life marked by a continuing pattern of obedience to the words of Jesus Christ? "'Then you are truly My disciples,'" Jesus said. And short of that, you're not. I would plead with you today to acknowledge that reality, to recognize that your faith is not a saving faith, and repent and believe in Christ, humble yourself and seek His forgiveness, and commit yourself to follow Him as evidence of that faith, to continue in His word, then are you truly disciples of His. This is the message of the resurrection. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this simple, unvarnished account of the resurrection of our Lord. Thank You for the powerful lessons that we learn from it. Lord, for all of us who are truly Jesus' disciples, evidenced by a faith that remains, a faith that follows Christ in obedience and shows its reality, Lord, I pray that You would encourage us, help us to see that we have great hope, that because of the resurrection You have accepted Jesus' sacrifice for sins, that You have truly forgiven us once and for all, that we have nothing to fear, even from death itself, because He was dead but He's alive and He has the keys of death and the grave. And Father, I pray You would open our mouths to share that message with others.

But I also pray Lord for those who are here this morning who have a non-saving, dead historical faith. Lord, help them to see the reality. Help them to see that true saving faith is the faith that continues in Jesus' word, that continues to follow Him and obey Him as Lord. And may this be the day when You open their eyes to see it. Lord, again, we acknowledge that only You can accomplish this, only You can bring life to a dead heart, only You can give faith to an unbelieving heart, only You can grant repentance to a hard heart. And I pray that through Your word You would do that even this morning, for the glory of Your Son, so that He may have the prize for which He died, an inheritance of nations. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.