Last week we read about the way the soldiers mocked the Lord Jesus for claiming to be a king; and then they crucified him for claiming to be a king; and then the people who passed by mocked him for claiming to be a king. And when the time was right, the Lord Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed his last. And so, he died. And when he died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two to signify that he had opened the way for sinners to come into the presence of God.
I’ve said at various times that what happened to the Lord was the fulfilment of the Lord’s parable of the wicked tenants. The Lord told the story of a landowner who planted a vineyard and rented it out to some tenants. But when the landowner sent his servants to collect the rent, the tenants beat some of the servants and even killed some of them. So, the landowner finally sent his son. ‘Surely they’re respect my son?’ he thought. But they did not respect his son; when they saw the son, and recognised him as the son, they decided that they would kill him too, because they knew he would one day inherit the vineyard and rule over them; and they did not want the son to rule over them. In the same way, God sent his prophets to the people of Israel. But the Israelites did not listen to the prophets; they even killed some of them. And so, eventually God the Father sent his Beloved Son into the world. ‘Surely they’ll respect my Son?’ But they did not respect God’s Son; instead they arrested him; and they falsely accused him; and they beat him; and they mocked him; and they crucified him. They killed him because they did not believe in him and they would not submit to him. The death of the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of that parable.
But do you remember how the parable ended? At the end of the parable, the Lord quoted these words from Psalm 118:
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
The Lord was saying that he will become like that stone, which was rejected at first by the builders, but which — in the end — became the cornerstone: the most important stone in the whole building. He was foretelling that he will be rejected and killed by the people; but in the end he will be raised up and exalted to the highest place. So, after his death will come his resurrection and his ascension to heaven from where he will rule as King over all. And though Mark doesn’t record the Lord’s ascension to heaven, he does record for us the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And that’s what today’s passage is about.
Before we turn to the text, you’ll have noticed that I ended the reading at verse 8 of chapter 16. If you’re using the King James Version of the Bible, you’ll see that in that version of the Bible, the chapter ends, not at verse 8, but at verse 20. However, if you’re reading a modern version of Bible like the NIV, you’ll see that there’s a divider between verse 8 and verse 9 and there’s a little note which has been inserted by the editors which says:
The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9–20.
In other words, Bible scholars no longer think — as they did in the days of King James — that verses 9 to 20 are part of Mark’s gospel. Those verses were added after Mark had finished writing his gospel. So, when scribes were copying Mark’s gospel many hundreds of years ago, someone decided to add this longer ending. We don’t know why, but perhaps people in the early church thought that Mark ended his gospel too abruptly. Whatever the reason for it, the Bible experts are generally agreed that verses 9 to 20 were not written by Mark and therefore should not be treated as part of God’s word. We find the same kind of thing in John’s gospel where the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 was not written by John, but was added afterwards.
We believe that God’s word was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that it is infallibly true. And so we believe that God’s word ought to be received, believed and obeyed, because it is the word of God. We believe that. But what the Bible experts are saying is that the longer ending in Mark’s gospel is not part of God’s word; God the Holy Spirit did not inspire Mark to write this longer ending.
Now, the rest of Mark’s gospel is God’s word to us. So, we believe the rest of Mark’s gospel was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We believe the rest of Mark’s gospel is infallibly true. We believe the rest of Mark’s gospel ought to be received, believed and obeyed, because it’s the word of God. We believe all of that. But we don’t believe that the longer ending of Mark’s gospel is part of God’s word. And since it’s not part of God’s word, I’m not going to preach on it. And it’s important for you to know that. When I stand up to preach, I’m duty-bound to preach God’s word and God’s word alone. And I would be disobeying the Lord and I would be dishonouring his word and I would be misleading you — the people of God — if I preached something which was not part of God’s word as if it were part of God’s word.
I want to preach in such a way that you can be confident that whenever you come here, you’re going to hear God’s word; and only God’s word. And when you invite your friends and neighbours along to church, you can be confident that they too will hear only God’s word; and they won’t be exposed to anything other than God’s word when they come here. We want people to hear God’s word and God’s word alone, because God has promised to work through the reading and preaching of his word to convince and convert sinners to faith in Christ and to build up believers. So, that’s why I’ll not be preaching on the longer ending of Mark’s gospel.
And with that, let’s turn to the text.
Verses 42 to 47
In verses 42 to 47 of chapter 15 Mark records for us the Lord’s burial. He tells us in verse 42 that it was the Day of Preparation; and then he helpfully explains that the Day of Preparation was the day before the Sabbath. So, it’s the day when you prepared for the Sabbath, so that you wouldn’t have to do any work on that holy day. And this man — Joseph of Arimathea — came and asked Pilate for the Lord’s body. He wanted to ensure that the Lord’s remains were properly buried. Mark tells us that this Joseph was a member of the Council, that is, the Sanhedrin; and that he was waiting for the kingdom of God. So, he believed all of God’s promises in the Old Testament that the time was coming when God would establish his kingdom on the earth, a kingdom that will never end, but which will endure for ever. And since he was willing to take care of the Lord’s remains, that tells us that he presumably disagreed with the rest of his colleagues in the Sanhedrin who condemned the Lord Jesus as being worthy of death; presumably he believed that the Lord Jesus was the Christ, God’s Anointed King.
Pilate was surprised to hear that the Lord had already died, because often those who were crucified would survive for two or three days before finally dying. Now, I mentioned last week that the way the Lord died is an indication that he gave his life: others who were crucified were exhausted at the end or even unconscious; but the Lord was strong enough to let out a loud cry before he breathed his last. That suggests that he gave up his life; it wasn’t taken from him. And Pilate’s surprise in verse 44 is perhaps another indication of the same thing: the Lord’s life did not ebb away slowly over two or three days, as it did when others were crucified. On the contrary, he gave up his life to death whenever the time was right.
In any case, Pilate checked with the centurion who confirmed that the Lord had died already. And so, Pilate agreed to let Joseph take the body for burial. That’s perhaps a sign for us that Pilate believed the Lord was innocent. In those days, those who were convicted of treason were normally denied a burial. But on this occasion, Pilate agreed to the request, presumably because he wasn’t convinced the Lord was guilty as charged.
And so, we read how Joseph — and presumably he had servants to help him — took the Lord’s body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in the tomb. The tomb was like a cave, with a small opening at the front. And Mark tells us that the opening was covered with a stone which was rolled into place.
And Mark adds at the end of the chapter that these two Marys saw where he was laid. When it was reported that the tomb was empty, some might claim they had looked in the wrong tomb. But there was no mistaking the tomb, because these two Marys were there to see where the tomb was located.
And so, after the Lord’s crucifixion, there came his burial. What’s the significance of his burial? Well, it’s so that we might not doubt his death. Those who were there at the time and saw his body were convinced that he had definitely died. And since he had definitely died, he was therefore buried.
Verses 1 to 8
In the following verses — verses 1 to 8 — Mark tells us what happened after that. Normally when someone dies, they’re buried; and that’s that. There is no ‘after that’. But on this occasion, there was at ‘after that’, because the Lord who had died and who was buried, was raised from the dead. And so, Mark tells us that when the Sabbath was over — and remember the Sabbath Day began on Friday evening and ended on Saturday evening — these three woman went out and bought spices, so that they might anoint the Lord’s body. It was the custom in those days to anoint a dead body with perfume. And by that little detail about purchasing perfume, Mark makes clear that the women were not expecting the resurrection. They were expecting to find the Lord’s remains in the tomb. Although the Lord had foretold that he would suffer and die and rise again, they either did not believe or they’d forgotten what he said.
Having purchased the perfumes, they got up the next morning — Sunday morning — and made their way to the tomb. On the way, they began to think about what they needed to do and how they would need to move the large stone, blocking the entrance to the tomb. But when they arrived at the tomb, they saw that the stone had already been moved. Whenever they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in white. This is an angel, sent from the Lord with a message from them. And this was the message:
You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.
And no doubt the angel pointed to the place in the tomb where the Lord’s body had once lain; but now, it’s empty. And then the angel commanded the woman to go and tell the Lord’s disciples and Peter that the Lord is going ahead of them to Galilee, where they will see him, just as he said he would. The angel was referring to the Lord’s words back in verse 28 of chapter 14. At that time — when the Lord predicted that Peter would deny knowing him three times — the Lord said that after he had been killed, he would rise and go ahead of them to Galilee.
And so, the angel instructed the women to tell the disciples that they would see the Lord in Galilee. And Mark concludes his gospel by telling us that the women — trembling and bewildered — fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, we’re told. It’s not clear exactly what that means. It could mean they didn’t tell the disciples the message. Of course, they eventually did tell the disciples, because the other gospels record how the woman reported what had happened at the tomb. However, when Mark wrote that they said nothing to anyone, he might mean that the woman didn’t stop to tell anyone else the news until they had told the disciples. In any case, the reason for their silence — Mark tells us — is that they were afraid.
In some ways it’s a strange way to end the gospel, isn’t it? The other gospels go on to record for us the various people who saw the Lord after his resurrection. The other gospels give us eye-witness accounts of the Lord’s resurrection appearances. And so, we can see why believers in the early church thought it was necessary to add a few more verses after verse 8.
We could speculate on why Mark ended his gospel at this point. However, to do so would be to miss the main point, the big point, which is that the Lord Jesus who died and who was buried was also raised. After his death and burial there came the announcement of his resurrection. And the great hope of the gospel is that everyone who repents and who believes all that God has declared to us about Jesus Christ his Son will also be raised to everlasting life in the presence of the Lord.
In the little tract we delivered around the district this past week, I made the point that without the resurrection, the story of the Lord Jesus would be the same as the story of every other person, because without the resurrection, the story of the Lord Jesus would be the story of someone who was born and who lived and who died. But that’s not the Lord’s story. The Lord’s story is the story of someone who was born and who lived and who died, and who was raised from the dead. Though he died and his body was buried in the ground, he did not remain under the power of death. You can’t go to Jerusalem and dig his bones up, because his bones are not there to dig up. Unlike everyone else who has ever died, the Lord was raised from the dead. And after his resurrection, he ascended to heaven where he now rules and reigns as King over all.
When he was on the earth, he demonstrated again and again by the things he said and by the things he did that he was indeed the Christ, God’s Anointed King, who had come to deliver his people from their sin and misery and to give them everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom. And yet, the people did not believe in him or submit to him. Nevertheless, following his death, he was raised from the dead and he ascended to heaven where he was installed as King over all. And whoever turns from their sin in repentance and trusts in him as the only Saviour of the world is added to his kingdom and receives the hope of everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom. And so, though we die and our bodies are laid in the ground, we know that when Christ the King comes again — and he has promised to come again — he will raise our bodies from the ground so that we will live with him and reign with him for ever and for ever in the new creation that is coming.
Without the resurrection, the story of the Lord Jesus would be the same as everyone else’s story: he was born, he lived and he died. But the Lord was raised from the dead to live for ever. And whoever believes in him and submits to him as their King, will likewise be raised from the dead to live with him for ever.
And do you remember what we’ve seen before? Throughout this gospel, Mark has recorded some of the times when the Lord healed the sick and he gave sight to the blind and he even brought the dead back to life. And he performed those miracles as signs of what he will do for all who believe in him when he comes again, because when he comes again he will raise and restore our broken bodies and make them like his own glorious body.
But do you also remember how he cast out demons and sent them away? And he performed those miracles as signs of what he will do with all those who do not believe in him when he comes again, because when he comes again, he will raise them from their graves. But he will then send them away from his presence because they never believed in him and they remained on the side of the Devil. He will send them away to be punished for ever for their unbelief and sin.
And so, there’s going to be this great separation when he comes again. Some will be raised to face everlasting punishment, away from the presence of the Lord. Others will be raised to enjoy everlasting life in the presence of the Lord. And so, will you repent and believe? Will you turn from your sins and trust in Christ the only Saviour of the world? Will you turn to God and ask him to pardon you for the sake of Christ who died for sinners? And will you promise to obey him from now on? Whoever does not repent and believe will be raised to face eternal punishment, away from the presence of the Lord. Because whoever repents and believes will be raised from the dead to live for ever and for ever in the presence of the Lord in glory. So, believe in him as the only Saviour, and you will live him with and reign with him in the life to come.
But so many people do not believe and they doubt the resurrection. They say the dead cannot rise. They say Jesus Christ did not rise. ‘It’s impossible’, they claim.
So, why is it that they don’t believe? Why do men and women refuse to believe in the resurrection? Well, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with God’s word. God’s word is true; and everyone ought to receive it and believe it and obey it, because it is the word of God, written under the inspiration of his Spirit.
So, why do men and women not believe? Well, it’s because we’re sinners. We’re sinners. And the essence of sin is our refusal to submit our lives, and what we do, and what we think about the resurrection and about everything else to the Lord God Almighty and to Christ the King and to God’s word. God has given us his word, which we’re duty-bound to receive and to believe and to obey. But because we’re sinners, men and women have said:
No! We will not accept what you have said about the resurrection or about anything else.
And so, instead of accepting what God has said about the resurrection and about everything else, men and women have decided that they know best: they know best what happened in the past on that first Easter Sunday; and they know best about what to believe about God and the world; and they know best about what to do and how to live our lives; and they know best about what to think. Because we’re sinners, men and women by nature say ‘no!’ to God and his word; and they will not believe what God has said.
That’s why men and women refuse to believe in the resurrection. It’s because of sin, so that instead of bowing to God and his word, they say that they themselves will decide what is true. Their sinfulness has blinded them to the truth of God’s word and to the truth about the resurrection and to the hope of everlasting life in the presence of God.
But the good news is that Christ came into the world to save sinners. The good news is that Christ died for sinners. The good news is that sinners who repent of their unbelief and trust in Christ for forgiveness are pardoned by God; and they receive from him the hope of the resurrection of their bodies and everlasting life in the presence of God in glory. And we, you’re to turn from your unbelief and you’re to trust in Christ the Lord for salvation.