By Dr. Mark Scott
Our celebrations of Easter can be pretty bland. Easter eggs, chocolate, and lilies are not very threatening. But the first Easter was scary. If Jesus was alive, then life could not continue as usual.
The resurrection is a historical fact. Faith in the resurrected Jesus begins with the acceptance of eyewitness testimony. That testimony is collaborated by all four Gospels and literally hundreds of people (1 Corinthians 15:6). Depending on how one counts, Jesus made 13 resurrection appearances.
Judge Herbert Casteel was a judge in Missouri for years. He wrote that if collaborative eyewitness testimonies came into his courtroom similar to the record that we have in the New Testament, he would have to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was alive.
The Witnesses of the Resurrection
The women were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb. They were quicker to believe than the men. Mark mentions three—Mary from Magdala (from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons, Mark 16:9), Mary the mother of James (about whom we know nothing), and Salome (very possibly the mother of James and John).
Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus was, of necessity, done quickly. They only had three hours to prepare Jesus’ body before the Sabbath began. Even though the men used 75 pounds of spices, the women felt compelled (out of love?) to anoint Jesus’ body again. So as soon as the Sabbath was over and the sun began to rise, they scurried off to the tomb. They arrived very early on the first day of the week. (That phrase appears several times in the Gospel of Mark and usually in a positive sense, except in Mark 15:1).
These earliest witnesses of the resurrection began to discuss their obstacle while walking to the tomb. They remembered the rock’s size and the Roman seal across it. What would they do? No worries.
The Announcement of the Resurrection
God’s power took care of the women’s problem. The stone had been rolled away. No doubt rather carefully, they entered the tomb. This was quite a risk and not a little frightening. They saw an angel. Young man is only used in Mark’s Gospel. He was dressed in a white robe. All the women could do was stare and be alarmed (the translation of alarmed is the same word for “marvel”).
The announcement by the angel contains three imperatives, two indicatives, and one promise. The imperatives: 1. Don’t be alarmed. This is the standard line that angels use with humans in the Bible. 2. See the place where they laid him. The resurrection is of such significance that Heaven invites us to investigate it. There is no need to kiss one’s brains good-bye on Easter or have blind faith. 3. Go tell his disciples and Peter. While the disciples would be skeptical at first to accept this announcement, this message would be especially important to Peter (John 20:3-10; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
The two indicatives: 1. You are looking for Jesus . . . who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. What God has done precedes what we do. 2. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. Each of the Gospels has a great commission statement. Galilee is the place of that statement for Matthew and Mark. Jerusalem is the place of that statement in Luke and John.
The promise is singular: There you will see him, just as he told you. In light of the resurrection, that promise is made all the more sure.
The Fear of the Resurrection
Mark’s Gospel ends as abruptly as it began. If the Gospel ends in verse 8 (there is a major textual issue with verses 9-20), Jesus does not even show up in his own resurrection account. The women run from the tomb scared to death—but hoping in faith that it is all true. Mark uses three words for their anxiety: trembling (trauma), bewildered (ecstasy), and afraid (phobia). All of this underscores the mysterious, busy Messiah presented in Mark’s Gospel.
John Ortberg tells about a minister named Skip Viau who, in a children’s sermon, posed this question to the kids: “What were Jesus’ first words to the disciples after he was raised from the dead?” Before Skip could answer the question, a little girl waved her hand. “I know,” she said. “Ta da!” We are the “Ta da!” people. We have resurrection faith.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College and has held preaching ministries in Missouri, Illinois, and Colorado.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
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