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The Ultimate Victory
The gospel of Mark 16:1 to 8
You love victory, especially when it is hard fought–that football game won by an interception in the last second . . . the basketball game won by the half-court shot at the final buzzer . . . the life and death emergency surgery that impossibly succeeds . . . the crazy acts of God’s providence in providing a desperate need . . . the hero who’s hanging on by a thread, beaten, finished, defeated but overcomes at the very last moment. You love victory! And nothing, nothing in this life or the next comes even close to the ultimate victory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is how Mark ends his gospel in Mark 16:1 to 8—turn there now. We are here friends, the most important moment of history. Jesus needed to die for us, but if He didn’t rise from the dead then it was all for naught. The resurrection is not merely one truth in the Christian story. It’s not merely one feature of Christianity–it’s the main event. If Christ is not raised, says the New Testament, then your faith is worthless and you are still in your sins.
The Church doesn’t meet on Friday, the Church meets on Sunday. We’re thankful for the cross, but we celebrate the resurrection, which makes the cross meaningful. Because the resurrection is so important, all four gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) tell the story of the resurrection. And thankfully, together they give us a clear picture of what happened on the first Easter Sunday. So let’s read Mark 16:1 through 8.
“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. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ 4 Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.
5 “Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 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.”’ 8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
By using all four gospels, let me give you the full picture of this main event. Jesus was placed in the unused tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus just before 7 pm Friday night. He is sealed in the tomb all the while the godly servant women watched from a distance. But the Sabbath begins, preventing the gals from preparing the body of Christ themselves until Sunday morning.
On Saturday, the Sabbath, the religious leaders violate their own Sabbath law by asking Pilate for a Roman guard to protect the tomb so that the disciples won’t steal the body of Christ and say that He is risen. But then Sunday morning, an earthquake rolls the stone open, showing Christ is risen. Angels who roll the stone open cause the Roman guard to faint, then run away.
Then Mary and the other women arrive and meet the angels, who tell them Jesus is risen. Mary runs to tell the disciples, and the women follow her, but more slowly. Mary immediately tells Peter and John. At first they don’t get it, but then they race to the tomb. John wins the race, but Peter enters the tomb first. Hope begins to rise, but they leave not putting it all together yet.
Mary heads back to the tomb for the second time, and the women head back to the tomb also, but more slowly. At the tomb, Mary arrives first and begins to weep—why? Because the Lord’s body is gone. The angels ask her why she is crying. She turns to see the gardener and asks where they put her Lord’s body. He says, “Mary,” and she gasps, “Master”–it is Christ.
Victory! I can have life because Christ is alive. I can live with Christ because He is alive. I can be forgiven because sin is paid for. I can be alive now and forever because Christ lives.
She heads back to the disciples to tell them, “I have seen the Lord.” Then the older, slower, dignified women arrive. To their shock, Christ greets them–and they do what I have always dreamed of doing. They grab His ankles and worship Him in love–adore Him, treasure Him.
About this same time, the Roman guards are telling the religious leaders about the angels they saw, and the empty tomb they witnessed. So what do they do? The religious leaders pay them to lie. They pay them to say the disciples came together, got really brave, and took out a unit of professional soldiers. Peter miraculously now learned how to use a sword, allowing them to open the tomb and steal the body of Christ away. The religious leaders knew the truth and lied about it. The leaders literally buried the truth, ignored it. But you cannot stop the truth.
But what has Christ been doing from Friday at His physical death, to Sunday at His physical resurrection (I was asked by Aaron Wyant yesterday at Dangerous Men)? Turn to two passages—1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 4.
WHAT WAS CHRIST DOING?
First Peter 3:19, “in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient.” What is Peter saying here? Simply this–after Christ died and His body was placed in the grave, His spirit traveled to a special demonic jail called Sheol. There Christ proclaimed His victory over death, over sin and over the power of the devil.
Satan and his army had failed in all their evil efforts to stop Christ. The proclamation caused the demons to realize that all their attempts in the gospels–Christ’s persecution, suffering and ultimate death on the cross had not worked. All their efforts to sabotage our salvation through the cross were nullified. This is a huge encouragement to the original readers of 1 Peter who were currently being persecuted. Christ won even though He suffered and died, and Christ announced His win to His enemies.
Look at verse 19, “in which also He went and made proclamation.” Just like we are made up of body and spirit, material and immaterial, Christ the God man also had body and spirit. While Christ’s body was in the grave between His death and resurrection, Christ’s spirit went, meaning He went from one place to another.
“And made proclamation”–the Greek word is kerusso, heralding an announcement. In the ancient world, heralds would come to town as representatives of their rulers to make public announcements, or to precede their generals and kings in their processions, celebrating military triumphs, announcing victories won in battle. Christ went to proclaim His victory to the enemy by announcing His triumph over sin, death, Hell, demons and Satan.
Ephesians 4:8, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” Another part of Sheol was believed to be a place of happiness and bliss, inhabited by the righteous dead who had believed in God. “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22 to 23) and “Paradise” (Luke 23:43) apparently were common designations for Sheol at the time of Christ. Early Church dogma taught the righteous dead of the Old Testament could not be taken into the fullness of God’s presence until Christ had purchased their redemption on the cross, and that they had waited in this place for His victory on that day.
After announcing His triumph over demons in one part of Sheol, He then opened the doors of another part of Sheol to release those godly captives. Like the victorious kings of old, He recaptured the captives and liberated them, and henceforth they would live in Heaven as eternally free sons of God. Christ has been busy, and the truth cannot be stopped–you can’t stop the truth.
Peter meets the resurrected Christ next on Sunday afternoon, then the Emmaus disciples, named Cleopas and Unknownicus. Then that very night, Jesus met ten of the disciples in the Upper Room. A week later on the next Sunday night, He met eleven disciples in the Upper Room. And soon after that, He met all his followers when they finally got to Galilee where they were supposed to go.
Matthew 28 and John 21 tell us in Galilee Jesus confronts Peter and asks him if he loves Him, then recommissions him. In Galilee, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15, 500 people saw Christ at one time. According to Acts 1, Jesus spent forty days with them, speaking to them of things pertaining to the Kingdom of God–forty days of intimate fellowship, teaching and instruction. All of it was a massive eyewitness testimony to the risen Christ.
Which is one of the main points of Mark 16:1 to 8—turn there now. Mark’s gospel actually ends at verse 8. Verses 9 to 20 were added later, but were not a part of the original text. The abrupt ending of Mark left some people with the idea they needed to complete the story, and so they added to the Scripture. There should be a note in your Bible indicating verses 9 to 20 are additional and do not appear in the early manuscripts. Mark actually ends with verse 8, so let’s read them from His gospel. Mark briefly spells out the resurrection in three major ways in verses 1 through 8:
#1 The HISTORIC fact of the EMPTY Tomb Verses 1 to 4
#2 The Heavenly REVELATIONS of the ANGELS Verses 5 to 6
#3 The personal EYEWITNESS of the WOMEN Verses 7 to 8
Never forget, Jesus said He’d rise from the dead at least three times before He died–in Mark 8, 9 and 10. In addition, in John 2 Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, in three days I’ll build it again, I’ll raise it up.” Jesus also said in Matthew chapter 12 that as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, so the Son of Man will be in the earth for three days. Jesus told us repeatedly throughout His entire ministry that He would die, then He would rise on the third day. And now that is what we read in Mark 16, with . . .
#1 The HISTORIC fact of the EMPTY Tomb Verses 1 to 4
The testimony of the empty tomb is found in verse 1, “When the Sabbath was over.” Sabbath is Friday at 6 pm till Saturday at 6 pm. Jewish days were counted from sunset to sunset. We count days from midnight to midnight. They counted them from sunset to sunset. When you don’t have clocks or watches, that’s a better way. One day is counted sundown to sundown–around 7 pm at this time.
So when the Sabbath day ended on Saturday at 7 pm, it was dark and too late to do anything at the tomb, so they waited till Sunday morning. Luke 24:1 says it is the first day of the week (Sunday) at early dawn (just before 6 am). They didn’t have names for days. There’s no equivalent for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.–they simply spoke of numbers with reference to Sabbath. The third day before Sabbath, the second day after Sabbath–that’s how they identified their days.
Sabbath is over—it’s now Sunday morning, just as the sun is rising. So we’re about twelve hours into the first day of the week. Just as Jesus said, on the third day He would rise from the dead. This day changes everything–Sunday is now the Lord’s day. The resurrection is why we meet on Sunday right now. For centuries, the key day of worship was the seventh day, the Sabbath day–Saturday. The key day had been the Sabbath since God rested from His creation.
But from this resurrection Sunday on, no more Sabbath day. Since that weekend, no Sabbath has been necessary. Since the resurrection weekend, no Sabbath has been required. Since this amazing Sunday, no Sabbath is legitimate. That’s why the true Church has been meeting on Sunday. Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread.” First Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside (your giving).”
In fact it’s so standardized by the end of the first century, when John writes Revelation 1:10 he says, “I was in the Spirit,” and for the first time we read this, “on the Lord’s day.” We still call it the Lord’s Day, don’t we? The Sabbath is no longer the legitimate day for the people of God to worship. The Church defines its worship around the celebration of the risen Christ, and that sets it on day one of each week.
Back to verse 1, it’s early on the Lord’s Day, “When the Sabbath was over,” the very day Jesus said He’d rise from the dead. “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.” These are the women (and others) who ministered to Christ and His team since the ministry in Galilee, by preparing meals, mending clothes, possibly ministering to women–strong followers of Christ.
They continued to minister to Christ as He came down to Jerusalem. They were present at the triumphal entry on Monday, the cleaning out of the Temple on Tuesday, and watched the stumping of the religious leaders on Wednesday. Some may even have helped prepare the Passover meal on Thursday. Even though all His disciples fled except for John, they were standing at a distance while Christ was on the cross on Friday from 9 to 3.
No matter the danger, it was the women who remained loyal to Christ–and in spite of the horrors of crucifixion, they didn’t flee. They believed Him, they loved Him, and they served Him as true disciples of Christ. And Mark 15:46 tells us a few of the ladies followed Joseph as he took the body of Christ to his brand new, unused family tomb around 6 pm on Friday.
They watched Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus apply about 65 pounds (according to our weight system) of powdered aloes on His body to cover up the horrible stench of a decaying body as a way to honor Him. Incidentally, it was enough spice to honor a king. They sat at a distance until the super heavy stone, which rolled in a stone trough, was rolled in front of the tomb.
So now on Sunday the women go back to the tomb to prepare His body. Verse 1 says “anoint”, like oil over His body–they will get His body ready to decompose on its own. The Jews didn’t embalm, but they did keep the body from smelling. And these ladies weren’t going to be outdone by those men. This was their tribute to their Master and Lord.
Verse 2, “Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.” So sometime around the crack of dawn Sunday morning, resurrection day, they came to the tomb—and Mary arrives first. Mary, probably the youngest, very zealous and eager, arrives first–sees the tomb is open, then runs back with one thing in mind, to tell Peter, John and the disciples the body is gone.
The other women know nothing of Mary, or the guards, or the resurrection, or the tomb being open. In fact verse 3 tells us the women are concerned—look, “They were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’” They don’t have any capability of moving such a great stone. Who will do that?
They know the stone is there, because they were watching when the stone was placed there by Joseph and Nicodemus and anybody else they may have had helping them. They can’t push that big stone door–but they keep walking, and then they arrive, look up the Golgotha knoll and see. Verse 4, “Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.”
The stone is already moved, so the tomb is open. They didn’t know how. They didn’t know there’d been a Roman guard. They didn’t know there had been a Roman seal on the tomb. They didn’t know there’d been an earthquake. They didn’t know the stone had been rolled away. They didn’t know an angel had appeared there. They didn’t know the Romans had fled. All they saw was an open tomb. It is so cool that we know what happened because we have God’s Word–but they didn’t know as yet.
Never forget, Christian, never forget–the tomb wasn’t opened to let Jesus out. It was opened to let the witnesses in. Since Jesus did appear by going through a door later that day, He certainly could have gone through a stone.
There is no Roman guard. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is open. So verse 5, what did the women do? “Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.” Luke 24:3 adds, “When they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”
The body was there on Friday. The tomb was sealed with a large stone. The Roman guard with all of its authority was placed there. No one who followed Christ even believed He’d rise from the dead, so they had no motive to fake a resurrection. There is nobody to steal the body, but the body’s not there. And that’s the testimony of the empty tomb–the historic fact of the empty tomb.
“What a minute, Chris–when Mary runs back to the disciples, she assumed someone stole the Lord’s body. Maybe she was right. Somebody came and took His body, eh?” So did the disciples take Christ’s body to fake a resurrection? Hey, what is the point of all this testimony, except to convince you that the tomb was empty and the body was not stolen.
We know the Jewish leaders didn’t steal His body, because they were afraid the disciples would steal His body. We know the disciples didn’t steal His body, because they didn’t know where the body went. We know the women didn’t steal His body, because they didn’t know where His body went either. We know it wasn’t grave robbers, because there was a Roman guard there to prevent any such action.
We know the Roman guards didn’t steal His body, because that was a breach of duty that would cost them dearly. In fact, after the guard told the religious leaders about the earthquake, the shining angel–they too didn’t tell them anybody stole the body, because nobody did. The religious leaders actually had to bribe them so they’d say the disciples stole the body. That lie become known. Everyone is giving testimony to the empty tomb–Mary, the women, fast Peter and speedster John, the Sanhedrin. Everyone affirms there is an empty tomb, leading next to . . .
#2 The Heavenly REVELATIONS of the ANGELS Verses 5 to 6
The angels themselves give testimony. Luke and John tell us there were actually two angels, but Mark mentions only the speaker in verse 5. “Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.”
The angel looks like a young man–he’s sitting on the right side. The silent angel is sitting on the left side—the one where Christ’s head would have been. And one where His feet would have been is described as wearing a white robe. White is actually a Greek word describing reflected light. Wow–which is why the ladies were amazed. The Greek word means to be awestruck in a kind of terrified way–not a happy amazement, but a frightening alarm, a kind of panic you see in Scripture when people face an angel. They freeze.
Luke says the ladies were so terrified they bowed their faces to the ground. In fact, he uses a compound word in Greek that contains the word phobos, from which we get phobia. They were literally speechless, face-draining terrified.
Then the angel speaks in verse 6. “And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. [Here is the first shout of victory!] He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.’” I love it–two angels make up two witnesses (just like the law in Deuteronomy 19:15 demands), but only one angel speaks.
He probably says a lot more than is recorded here. Matthew 28:5 to 7, “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.’”
After the arrest, trial, mocking, scourging, and crucifixion, they had no idea what to expect. Then there is an empty tomb and then this shocking presence. They’re terrified. So the angel tells them in verse 5 . . .
COMMAND #1 “Do not be terrified; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified.” You and I would be tempted to think, “Whoa–I’m in the wrong place. I just came to prepare a body. Gotta run, this is too scary!”
So the angel affirms they’re in the right place, looking for the right person, Jesus the Nazarene who has been crucified. Luke 24:5 tells us the angel adds, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” Then the first shout of victory in verse 6, the first declaration of the physical, literal, conquering death, resurrection, “He has risen.”
Literally, He has risen is passive–“He has been raised.” Romans 6:4 says Jesus was raised by the Father. Verse 6, “He is not here . . . see the place where He was lying.” There is the testimony of the empty tomb—but now you have the testimony of holy angels who cannot lie. They are flat-out declaring to all that Jesus is alive!
No body prepping today, friends. No need for de-stink spices. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. Our Lord has conquered death. He is victorious over death. The only plausible explanation for this empty tomb is Christ is alive. He’s been raised, so now Heaven gives testimony to the resurrection.
#3 The personal EYEWITNESS of the WOMEN Verses 7 to 8
Here is the third witness–a third testimony 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.’” The angel gives the next two firm commands . . .
COMMANDS #2 and #3 “GO” and “TELL”
The same two commands we’ve been given, go and tell what Jesus has done. What are the two things we can do on Earth that we can’t do in Heaven? Sin and share Christ–which one do you think He wants us to do? Go and tell.
This is awesome! Ladies, “go tell His disciples.” Then the angel, a messenger/servant of God, speaks two of the greatest words ever spoken to a broken heart–do you see them? “And Peter” . . . the one who failed, the one who denied Christ three times, the one who would be hurting the most, struggling the most–Peter who would wonder if he was still a believer, still a disciple. Can you imagine what those words meant to Peter when he heard them? “Tell His disciples, and Peter.” You’re still mine, Peter–you are my son, and I will use you mightily. We have some things to get straight, but I will use you.
Then the speaking angel adds in verse 7, “‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” Here’s the plan. You will have extended time with the resurrected Christ in Galilee. He promised you this–you already forgot? Mark 14:27 and 28, “Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away, because it is written, “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” 28 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’” Christ told them exactly what He would do.
In verse 7, the angel says you will see Christ in Galilee. Happily, Mary is about to see the resurrected Christ. Then after that Jesus will say, “Hey ladies,” to these women as they grab onto His ankles and worship Him. The disciples head to Emmaus, will unknowingly walk with Christ. Peter will see Christ. Ten disciples minus Thomas will be shocked as Christ appears in the locked Upper Room and so on, until they all finally get extended time with Christ in Galilee before He ascends into Heaven.
But at first, these ladies didn’t respond so well, verse 8. “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” As if they’re escaping, the ladies literally run away from the tomb. Shaking, confusion and amazement has possessed them—they are gripped. They were owned by their fear, which resulted in silence.
When people see God or angels, they’re often awestruck and often dumbstruck–silent. The prophets knew this kind of fear. Who can stand when God appears? Who can speak in God’s presence? When it says they were afraid, it means they were so phobic they’re not able to give reasons or explanations as to what happened.
And friends, that is the end of Mark–bewilderment at the announcement of the resurrection. But they didn’t stay that way. Thankfully Matthew 28:8 says, “They left the tomb quickly with fear and [what] great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.” What did they report? That Jesus is resurrected–victory! Their fear melted into joy as it all becomes clear.
I love what happens next in verse 9. “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.” I hope you are worshiping Christ today–the victor! The empty tomb, the heavenly angels, and the witness of the women all prove Jesus’ resurrection. Christ is victorious–Jesus is alive!
A Christ is alive; do you have a RELATIONSHIP with Him?
Christianity is not a bunch of facts about Jesus–it’s knowing Him. It’s knowing Christ personally, relationally, as Savior, Friend and Lord. Jesus is not someone to merely discuss. Jesus is someone to personally meet. The Christian is not someone who knows about Jesus, but someone who knows Jesus.
All of you know who the President is, but you do not know the President personally–and happily, that fact does not affect your United States citizenship. But in order to be a genuine, born again Christian, you can’t merely know about Christ, but you must know Him intimately, personally in order to be a citizen of Heaven. Do you have eternal life? Read John 17:3 aloud with me, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
B Christ is alive; are you broken under His FORGIVENESS?
The most precious two words in our passage today, which occur in no other gospel, are these two words, “and Peter,” from verse 7. “Go, tell His disciples and Peter”–Peter must have been tortured with the memory of his disloyalty, and in the midst of his agony, this message came specifically for him. How that must have comforted and cheered Peter’s heart.
One commentator said it this way. “It was characteristic of Jesus that He thought, not of the wrong Peter had done Him, but of the remorse he was undergoing. Jesus was far more eager to comfort the penitent sinner, than to punish the sin.” Are you hanging onto guilt? Are you punishing yourself for your poor choices and foolish sins? Or are you broken under forgiveness? Are you repentant and fully accepting of His forgiveness? He is alive, and I think sometimes Jesus says, “Tell FBC . . . and you!”
C Christ is alive; are you walking INTIMATELY with Him?
Is Christ first in your life, meaning first in everything in your life. Are you walking with Him? “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Are you filled with His Spirit? Are you learning new truth from His Word?
Can you truly say today, “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21)? For when you walk in Christ, all of life is a wonder, His attributes and providence are constantly alive and working around us, causing us to live in wonder. Christ is alive–how can you live in His creation, under His providence, and not be filled with joy and wonder all the time? We have victory!
D Christ is alive: are you TREASURING His death and resurrection?
Romans 4:25, “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” Christ died for your sins, and was raised so you could be saved. Christ’s death and resurrection alone can make it possible for your sin to be judged on Christ, and His righteousness to be given to you. And that alone makes you ready for Heaven–are you ready? Turn from your sin and depend on Christ alone today. Victory is only found in Christ.