Easter Sunday: A Whole New World (Mark 16:1-8)
April 1, 2018 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: The Week that Changed Everything
Topic: Mark Passage: Mark 16:1–8
I. The Week in Review
Over the past month, we've been walking with Jesus through those finals days, through that week leading up to the cross. It's traditionally known as “Holy Week”, but I've called it “the week that changed everything”. I thought it might be helpful to very quickly, very succinctly review each of the days we've studied so far.
On the Sunday before his death, Jesus rode into Jerusalem amidst shouts of “Hosanna!” For the reader, it's a reminder of the worthiness of Jesus and the praise He rightly deserves.
On Monday of that week, Jesus condemned fruitlessness; the fruitlessness of a fig tree, and far worse, the fruitlessness of Israel, the people of God. For us, it was a reminder that all of us stand condemned, for we too have followed our own wisdom and desires, and not God's.
On the Tuesday before his death, Jesus debated opponents and described the end of days. But for his disciples, and for us, the withered fig tree became an opportunity to call them from fruitlessness to faithfulness; to a faith that trusts God for the impossible.
On Wednesday of that week, Jesus experienced acts of both beauty and betrayal. In contrast to Judas, Mary's beautiful act of anointing Jesus was a reminder that he is to be the object of faith; the very faith that can move mountains should move our hearts to surrender to Jesus.
That Thursday, the evening before his death, Jesus took elements from a Passover meal and revealed their deepest symbolism. In the bread and the cup, He gave his followers, including us, powerful reminders of the liberation from slavery he would accomplish by his death.
And on Friday, on that first Good Friday, Jesus took our place before the justice of God. He died for our fruitlessness. But through His death, he secured a new heart for those who believe, a heart of fruitful faith, a heart of affectionate faith, a heart that truly honors the King.
And it is that very idea that leads us to Sunday. Turn over, if you will, to Mark 16.
II. The Passage: “He Has Risen; He is Not Here” (16:1-8)
Mark 16 brings us to the very end of Mark's account, of “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)
Without chapter 16, it may seem like Mark’s record of Jesus’ life and ministry has concluded on a tragic note. Jesus had been delivered over to his enemies, abandoned by his friends, and executed by the Romans. Chapter 15 concludes with an account of the burial of Jesus.
But it’s important to see that the very last verse of chapter 15 tells us how the women described by Mark in 15:40, described as having witnessed Jesus’ death, these women also made sure they witnessed where the body of Jesus was placed. As we begin reading in 16:1, we discover one reason these woman wanted to see where Jesus was laid. Mark 16:1…
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”  And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.  And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
So real quickly, in order to better understand this passage, let's look at four elements we find in these verses.
1. The Spices (v. 1)
Notice first, in verse 1, we learn about something that took place on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We’re told this happened after “the Sabbath was past”, which indicates Saturday evening, sometime after 6:00pm. Remember the Jewish day ended at sundown and a new day began.
Of course, what we’re told here is not very exciting. We’re told that these women who had witnessed the death of Jesus went to buy spices so they could anoint the body of Jesus. You might recall that Jesus had to be buried very quickly on Friday, late afternoon, because the Sabbath was coming when the Jewish people had to cease from activity.
Now, the very fact that these women we’re going to anoint Jesus was simply a confirmation of their great love for him. They were not required to do this. 15:41 tells us they ministered to Him in life. They continue that ministry even now.
2. The Stone (vs. 2-4)
But notice in verse 3 that as they are going to the tomb, they suddenly remember one very large problem. There is a huge round stone that has been rolled in front of the tomb entrance. There’s no way they're moving it by themselves. Of course, such an oversight is understandable when we remember the grief these women were experiencing.
But Mark, in verse 4, makes it clear that this very large stone, as he describes it, has already been rolled back. Now at this point, I have no doubt these women were starting to getting very concerned. Why would this stone be moved?
But as a former chaplain of the US Senate, Peter Marshall, remarked: "The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in."
3. The Stranger
And that’s what we see in verse 5. Look at what we discover when the women enter the tomb. There is no body of Jesus, but there is a very-much alive young man, a stranger wearing white. Mark rightly tells us that these women were “alarmed”. Who was this man? Where was the body of their Lord?
Now, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that, with the some notable exceptions (like the High Priest in Jerusalem), no one at this time, in this culture, ever wore white. Although Mark doesn’t tell us explicitly, from the description this young man appears to be an angel. The other Gospels confirm this fact. But look at what the young man, this angel, tells these distressed women in verses 6 and 7. It’s worthy repeating:
“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
Even though they are quite naturally alarmed at what they’ve seen, the angel is quick to tell them that their alarm should turn to joy and praise. “He has risen.” The cross was not the end. This is not a tragedy. Jesus is alive.
This is incredible news. Even though Jesus had told his inner circle, on several occasions, beginning way back in chapter 8, that he would rise from the dead, these women probably hadn’t heard this announcement. There is nothing that would have prepared them for what they discovered and what they heard.
Notice as well that the angel gives them instructions. This messenger of God commissions them as messengers. They are to go and tell this disciples and Peter that Jesus is alive, and that he is going to meet all of them in their own region of Galilee, just as he shared with his disciples in 14:28 on the night before His death.
4. The Shock
But look again at verse 8. Look at how the women respond to this incredible announcement...
And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
They step out of the tomb and they bolt. Why? Because, “trembling and astonishment: had seized them. And instead of shouting this incredible news from the rooftops, they remain silent because of fear. But how would you respond? At this point the women did not see Jesus. We have not seen Jesus. Like Mary, Mary, and Salome, we are called to go in faith.
So in light of those four elements and that call to faith, I have three words for you, three words that should drive all of us to the point of decision: Jesus is alive.
He’s alive. He is not simply a fanciful character trapped in the pages of some ancient story. He is not simply an historical figure who has been, like all historical figures, lost in the sands of time. He is not just an abstract idea explained in the Holy Bible. He is alive. Right now, He lives.
III. The First Day
Now, let's stop and think about all this in light of the week that changed everything. But wait a minute, that week is over. In Mark 16, we're no longer in that week. Do you know what that means? It means we are now in the “everything” that week changed. Verse 2 told us this was the “first day of the week”. Now, we know on the surface that just means it was Sunday. But think about what the rest of the NT tells us about the consequences of Christ's resurrection.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep... For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (I Cor. 15:20–23)
The bodies of those who believe will be raised up, as He was raised. But we also know something happens, even now!
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus... (Ephesians 2:4-6)
Somehow, right now, we have been “raised...up with him”. We have a new spiritual position. Another Apostle, Peter, said this about Jesus' resurrection...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... (I Peter 1:3)
Paul expressed that same idea in these terms in II Corinthians 5:17...
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (II Corinthians 5:17)
Finally, James also spoke of what God has done in light of Jesus. He wrote in James 1:18...
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Do you understand what all of that means about this day, about Sunday, about Easter Sunday? 2000 years ago, that day was not simply the “first day of the week”. In light of what the rest of the NT reveals, that day was “the first day” of a whole new world.
The week that changed everything only changed everything because it flowed through the resurrection of Jesus into a brand new week; a week unlike any other...
A week in which real hope is possible; a week in which real change is possible; a week in which real forgiveness, real peace, real belonging, real purpose, real joy is now possible because of the grace of God. Do you understand?
Right now, all over this city and this state, all over this country, today, all over the world, men and women, boys and girls, from every tongue and tribe, every nation and race, are living in a whole new world because Jesus Christ lives; because He beat death, and has become the source of eternal life for all who trust Him. Do you? Do you believe?
But wait a minute. What about Saturday of 'the week that changed everything'? The only thing we learned about Saturday was that the women bought spices. But Matthew's Gospel tells us something else about that Sabbath day after Good Friday. We read in Matthew 27:62–66...
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate  and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’  Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”  Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.”  So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
I want you to notice two very simple features of this story: First, these Jewish leaders had heard the words of Jesus. Even if they didn't accept His claims about rising again, they understood those claims, as verse 63 makes clear. Second, even after the death of Jesus, the fires of opposition within these men continued to rage. See here?! They label Jesus an “imposter”, but clearly they're the ones who have rejected the truth. Not even the fact it's a Sabbath day keeps them from pressing their anti-Jesus agenda.
But what does any of that have to do with us? I think this story is simply a reminder, a very sobering reminder, that even those who have heard and understood the words of Jesus, will continue to fight against him, unless God softens their hearts. The new heart that Jesus died to give us is the only means of surrender; the only way to escape the grip of such a destructive and deceived heart.
Therefore, for us, for you, the question becomes: On which day will you live? Saturday, or Sunday? For you, is Jesus ultimately a “fraud”, or is He the 'real deal'? Can He truly save you, truly make you whole, truly lead you? What does your everyday life reveal about what you believe?
There are billions of people today who are content to live on 'Saturday'. Their hostility to God may not be as explicit as these Jewish leaders, but nevertheless, they are sitting comfortably and firmly on the throne of their own hearts. You see, you will have no interest in a whole new world if you are still comfortable in the old one.
But if you are spiritually, and emotionally, and relationally, and mentally hungry this morning, if you are longing for the newness that only God can bring, if you are tired of the old, if you understand the desperate fate of those without God's grace, then again, cling to those three words: Jesus...is...alive. (2x)
At the end of this Gospel, we are called to the beginning of faith.
My prayer and my longing for you is that you would trust that Jesus is alive, and that He invites you to come to him, to follow him through the forgiveness of the cross. In love, He gave His life for us, so that we could enjoy this new day, this new week, this new world that is unfolding in the hearts of His people.
And one day, that new world will be revealed in all its fulness, as Jesus is revealed in all His fulness. And a new heavens and a new earth will replace this dying, desperate world.
Brothers and sisters, friends, please let this first day of the week be what God meant it to be: an invitation to live, every day, in His “first day”, the first day of a whole new world.
He has risen.
Listen to the words of the 8th century church leader, John of Damascus:
"Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin:
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen
Our joy that hath no end."
More in The Week that Changed Everything
March 25, 2018Thursday: Passover Remixed (Mark 14:12-26)
March 18, 2018Wednesday: It's a Beautiful Thing (Mark 14:1-11)
March 11, 2018Monday/Tuesday: Fruitlessness or Faith-Filled? (Mark 11:12-25)