MARK CHAPTER 16.
The Resurrection of Jesus. Mark 16, 1-8.
The women at the sepulcher: V. 1. And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him. V. 2. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. V. 3. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? V. 4. And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away; for it was very great. The weekly Sabbath came to a close at sunset, whereupon the bazaars were quickly thrown open to take advantage of any trade that might happen along before complete darkness set in. The same women that had been present on Calvary, two of whom had been witnesses of Christ's burial, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, the wife of Zebedee, had, even on Friday evening, prepared such ointments and spices as they could find before the Sabbath was announced. They now made further purchases of sweet-smelling spices, in order to have everything ready against the morrow, for they intended to go out to the grave and anoint the body of their Master properly. Note: Here is a bit of evidence that there was no idea or intention in the minds of the disciples to steal the body of Jesus and falsely to allege that He had risen from the dead. The prophecies of Christ concerning this event had apparently been entirely forgotten for the time being. So early did the women start out from the city on the next morning, on the first of the Sabbath-days, the great day of the festival when the sheaves were offered to God in the Temple, that they arrived at the grave when the sun was rising. They seem to have had no knowledge of the presence of the soldiers or else not to have anticipated any difficulty on their account. But one fact was worrying them all the way out to the garden, and they spoke of it again and again -- the matter of the stone that had been rolled before the door of the sepulcher. It had taken at least two men to put it into place, and there was little chance of their removing it with their combined strength, for it was very great. "Rock-cut tombs, whether large or small, were regarded as important possessions.... To close a 'doorway' tomb securely must always have been a matter of difficulty in. Palestine. It was not easy with the kind of locks they had to keep intruders out of tombs. This led to the cutting of a large groove by the side of the doorway into which a rolling-stone was fitted. When it was desired to open the tomb, the stone could be rolled back. The stones were too heavy to be easily disturbed. It was in a new tomb of this type that the body of Jesus was laid, and it was such a stone that the women found rolled away on the resurrection morning." 56) This was the first thing that the women looked for when they came in sight of the tomb, for by this time they could distinguish objects clearly. And the fact that the stone was rolled away from the tomb may have filled them with great fear and consternation, causing them to think, perhaps, of grave robbers. Mary Magdalene, at least, waited for nothing more, but turned at once and brought this version of the happening to the city, John 20, 1. 2. 15.
The message of the risen Lord: V. 5. And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. V. 6. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted; Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified; He is risen; He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him. V. 7. 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. V. 8. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulcher; for they trembled and were amazed; neither said they anything to any man, for they were afraid. While Mary Magdalene was hurrying back to the city, the other Mary and Salome, impelled by interested curiosity, went into the tomb through the open door. But here they received a great surprise, for they saw what appeared to them a young man clothed in a long white garment sitting on the right hand side. The presence of various angels on this Easter morning, at various times and in various positions, need not cause surprise. There must have been multitudes of them present, though only a few of them or a single one may have been visible at anyone time, such as had been specially delegated, as at the birth of Christ, to bring the Lord's message. But the appearance of this angel in the tomb greatly terrified the women. The reflection of the glorious light of heaven shone from the messenger's face and garment, and poor, sinful human beings cannot endure that splendor without flinching and becoming terrified. But the angel's message was intended to allay all fear: Be not terrified! As at the birth of the Savior the first words of the heavenly preacher were: Fear not, so the cheering cry went out at this time. The poor weak heart is inclined always to tremble, feeling the weight and the guilt of its sin. But there is no longer need of such trembling, there is no longer reason for fearing, since full and certain redemption lies before all men in the empty grave. The angel speaks of the Lord by the name which had been given Him to heap shame and reproach upon Him. But Jesus of Nazareth is now the name of which He Himself and all His followers are justly proud. As Jesus of Nazareth He hung on the cross, but as Jesus of Nazareth He also rose from the dead. The place where He lay is still there, the evidences of His having been buried are still to be seen; but He is risen from the dead. Mark the short, vivid method of speaking: He is risen, not is He here; see the place where they laid Him. All is joyful emotion, exultation which struggles for utterance. And the message is not for them alone, the kingdom of God cannot wait, there is work to be done in His interest, the news must be spread. They should tell His disciples and Peter the glorious tidings. And Peter: a direct mention of his name; Peter that had fallen so deeply, but who, as the Lord knew, had deeply repented of his sin; Peter who felt himself so utterly unworthy at this time, but who would yet feel the forgiving love of his resurrected Lord. As Jesus had told them, chapter 14, 28, He was now preparing to go, to precede them into Galilee; for there, at a place which He had designated to them, He wanted to speak to them. The effect of the angel's appearance and message upon the two women was overwhelming; the event was too much for them. They left the tomb, they fled away from the scene of such miracles; trembling and stupor, a kind of ecstasy bordering on hysteria, had taken hold of them. So great was their fear on that morning that for the present they said nothing to anyone. After their fears had been somewhat allayed, after they had heard that others had also received revelations independent of their testimony, they no longer were quiet about the wonderful things they had Been and heard at the tomb.
The Appearances and the Ascension of Jesus. Mark 16, 9-20. 57)
The appearance to Mary Magdalene: V. 9. Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils. V. 10. And she went and told them that had been with Him as they mourned and wept. V. 11. And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. Just how highly Jesus thought of the women that had served Him so faithfully, especially during the last year and the closing weeks of His life, is evident from the fact that He appeared to one of these, to Mary Magdalene, first. The evangelist is here evidently summarizing the events of the forty days after the resurrection of Christ in his characteristically brief manner. He therefore does not give a full account of this meeting with Christ, as John did, 20, 14-18, but enumerates this appearance as one of many. And for the sake of the readers that were looking for distinguishing marks, he identifies Mary Magdalene as the woman out of whom Christ had driven seven devils. No sooner had Mary received this evidence of the Lord's resurrection than she hurried to tell it, not only to the apostles, but to all the disciples that were at Jerusalem, who were now in bitter grief over their great loss. So deeply had the Passion and death of their Master affected these people that they simply refused to believe this eye-witness. Their hearts had not yet risen to an understanding of the prophecies of Christ concerning His resurrection, as often as He had tried to impress this fact upon their minds. Another bit of evidence against the theory of the Lord's stolen body.
The appearance to the Emmaus disciples: V. 12. After that He appeared in another form unto two of them as they walked and went into the country. V. 13. And they went and told it unto the residue; neither believed they them. This is undoubtedly a summary of the afternoon's events, as related by Luke, 24, 13-35. In a different form He came to them on the way, as these two were on their way to Emmaus, in an un. usual dress or bearing, as is evident from Luke's remark that their eyes were holden. This second appearance should have convinced all of the disciples, not merely the apostles, though, for that matter, there were some that doubted even among them. But even now most of the rest, of the disciples at large, believed them not. That was the situation on the evening of Easter Day, in spite of an appearance to Peter that took place some time in the course of the day, and in spite of the joyful call of those that had gained the conviction of His having risen.
The appearance to the eleven: V. 14. Afterward He appeared unto the Eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. V. 15. And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. V. 16. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. V. 17. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; V. 18. they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. A still later revelation of Christ toward the end of the forty days. The evangelist is so brief in contracting his account that it is difficult to fix the exact time for every act and every word. It may also be assumed, with out question, that the Lord spoke many more things to His disciples at the various appearances, of which we know nothing. In this case, He appeared while they were reclining, prob. ably at a meal. At that time He spoke to them in a very serious manner, rebuking and chiding them very earnestly on account of their refusal to believe, which resulted from the hardness of their heart, when the message of His resurrection had been brought to them by such as had actually seen Him after He had risen. For all these accounts of credible witnesses, coming after the thorough instruction which He had given them on their private excursions, should have filled them with the most confident faith as to the fact of His resurrection. And here they had been hidden away in mortal fear of their lives, showing about as much trust in the almighty Lord as the average Christian when he is attacked by the unbelievers and seems in danger of persecution. "There was a faith and yet no faith; for they did not yet believe all, though they believed that God made heaven and earth and was the Creator of all. Therefore faith is a thing which always grows. The apostles, then, were not altogether without faith, for they had a piece of faith. It is with faith as with a person that has been sick and is on the way to recovery. Therefore the Lord states wherein they did not believe and what they still lacked; for that was the matter that they did not believe Christ's resurrection from the dead. Though they believed the other, yet this thing they lacked. For I presume they believed also that they had a gracious God; but that was not enough, since it was necessary also to believe the resurrection of Christ from the dead. For this reason the Lord chides them for their unbelief, rebukes them and says: Though they had seen everything, yet they did not believe, since this article of the resurrection was missing." 58)
Still He gave them His great commission. Going out into all the world, they should preach the Gospel to every creature. It is a most comprehensive command, it knows no limit. The Gospel, the message of salvation through the meritorious work, through the bitter suffering of Jesus, the Savior of the whole world is the only proclamation that has any' authority and right in Christian pulpits. All other topics are outside of the pale. Every sermon must serve in building the Church of Jesus Christ. For the test is faith in that Gospel and in nothing else. There may be ever so many creeds and cults in the world to-day, with philosophical systems and schemes for the social amelioration of mankind. Many of these may even have their value for effecting more wholesome conditions and improving the tone of a community. But they all are trash and worse than trash when it comes to the critical question: What must I do to be saved? For this there is only one answer: He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. Faith in Jesus Christ through the medium of the Gospel and a further confirming and accepting of the great benefits of Christ's salvation through the water of salvation, through Baptism, that is the only way to become sure of heaven and its bliss. The former is conceded by most people that profess adherence to the Bible and its truths, but the latter fact, salvation through the Sacrament of Baptism, is denied by many upon so-called reasonable grounds. "But there thou seest no work of men; for Baptism is not mine, but God's work. For he that baptizes me stands there in the stead of God, and does not perform a human work, but it is God's hand and work. Therefore I may and shall say thus: God, my Lord, has baptized me Himself by 'the hand of a man; of this I may boast and may depend upon it and say: God, who will not and cannot lie, has given me that sign, that I may be certain of His grace and that He wants to save me, having given me all that He has, through His Son. Thus there is on our side nothing but faith, and on His side only the Word and the sign." 59) Through this faith and in this Sacrament God actually gives salvation, assures us of the certainty of the heritage of heaven which is reserved for us. "That is indeed pleasant, friendly, consoling preaching, and is fitly called Gospel. For here hearest thou with one word: He shall be saved, heaven opened, hell closed, the Law and the sentence of God annulled, sin and death buried, and life and salvation placed into the bosom of the whole world, if they would but believe it. O that everyone could learn well but these two words -- 'believe' and 'be saved'! For though they are short and have few letters, yet they are such preaching and power as the world cannot comprehend, that such excellent grace and unspeakable treasure is given through preaching, altogether without our merit, for which we have done nothing, yea, knew nothing thereof." 60) But the other side of the question cannot be passed over in silence, for Christ's words are very impressive. Where there is no faith in the salvation of Jesus, damnation is sure to follow. "As the former sentence in one word opens heaven, closes hell, annuls Moses and the terrors of the Law for all that believe: so this part is a strong sentence and in turn with one word closes heaven, opens hell wide, makes Moses with his Law an unendurable tyrant and the devil a mighty lord to all that do not believe. Nothing will help against it; though thou shouldest be zealous to death for the Law, as the Jews were or Paul before his conversion; though thou become a monk or a nun; though thou permit thyself to be tortured and burned, yet shall the verdict be: If thou believest not in Christ, thou must go into the fire of hell, be eternally damned, and death will be an eternal, almighty dungeon over thee." 61)
It was a responsible commission which the Lord entrusted to His disciples. And therefore He cheers and strengthens them by the assurance of special signs, miracles, or powers, with which He will accompany their work: In His name to cast out devils; to speak with new, that is, unknown languages; to pick up serpents without danger to themselves; to drink poison which might be offered to them to kill them, with no evil effects; to lay their hands upon invalids of all kinds and restore them to health. All these miraculous things actually did take place in the history of the Church. During the early days it was especially necessary that the power of God in the apostles and all Christians be evidenced in such a manner; but the power of God is just as mighty to-day as ever, and there are thousands of miracles being done in His name wherever the Gospel is being proclaimed. "Thus even in our days and always such great signs and wonders upon wonders are being performed in this, that any city or any small body or assembly of Christians still remains in true knowledge of God and in faith; since there are more than a hundred thousand devils directed against her, and the world is full of sects and scoundrels and tyrants; yet the Gospel, Baptism, Eucharist, confession of Christ is retained without their thanks, to make it evident that for the heathen He must have given external signs which people could see before their eyes and grasp them. But the Christians must have much higher heavenly signs than those earthly ones….Therefore we should indeed praise and glorify the great and glorious, wonderful deeds which Christ does daily in Christendom, that they conquer the devil's might and power and tear so many souls out of the mouth of death and hell….Where a heart, therefore, in spite of the terror of death and sin and hell, cheerfully dies in the faith in Christ, there he is truly cast out of his seat and dwelling, and his power and kingdom is weakened and taken from him." 62) The warning which Luther adds in one of his sermons on this text concerning false miracles and such as are done without God's sanction, often with the aid of powers which have nothing in common with Him, is very timely even to-day. Even if it were possible for a person to perform deeds that had all the external marks of true miracles, the promise and command of God is not there. The Gospel and the Sacraments are the means by which the Christian Church is to carry forward the work of the Savior till the end of time.
The ascension of Christ: V. 19. So, then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. V. 20. And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following. Amen. At the end of the time which He had set for Himself, forty days after His resurrection, after He had given His disciples all the instructions which they needed for their work, He was taken up into heaven, He ascended into the glory of the heavens, and He sat down at the right hand of God, He now, according to His human nature, as our brother according to the flesh, occupies the place at God's right hand. He has full dominion over all creatures in heaven and earth and under the earth. With this assurance the disciples went forth. They preached the Gospel everywhere, in all places, throughout the world that was then known. And Christ worked with them; they did not stand alone, but had Him at their side always, in their entire ministry. And wherever a confirmation of the Gospel was necessary in the form of some external sign, such miracle was forthcoming, according to His promise. Christ's presence is with those that preach the pure Gospel to-day as surely as it ever was. If our faith but trust in Him, the great Champion of His Church, who works in and with us, and therefore in and with the Gospel, then the great miracles which He has always performed through His Word will be done to-day as they ever were: Hearts polluted beyond all resemblance to human hearts will be made whiter than snow; souls that were lost and sold into the power of the devil will be redeemed and be given the liberty of the children of God; people whose entire nature is sick with the fearful disease of sin will be made whole and strong to fight the Lord's battles, all through the power of the Gospel. And the Lord's hand has not waxed short with reference to other miracles, which are fully obvious to all that have open eyes.
Summary. The resurrection of Jesus is announced to the women by an angel; Christ appears to several persons and finally to the apostles, to whom He gives the great missionary command, assuring them, incidentally, of His cooperation and support in the preaching of the Gospel until the end of time.