The Resurrection of our Lord · Mark 16:1-8 · April 12, 2009
By Robert Kolb
Introductory thoughts: These women appear to be bewildered, to be sure, and somewhat befuddled and bungling. They apparently had just not thought of how they would get to the body, behind that massive stone that blocked the entrance, behind those Roman guards. They could not know, of course, that theirs was a mission in vain because the body had come to life again and was not in need of their spices. And then they encountered the angel—always an encounter that makes for trouble and change (just ask Zechariah or Mary). They fled the scene, filled with fear that stopped their mouths.
I. The fact remains: the tomb had no body (the documentary evidence for this is stronger than for many events of ancient times: the event is, to be sure, more unusual than most)… Jesus had really risen from the dead. Fear or no fear, their Lord had left the grave, had reclaimed life, for them and for all who trust in him. What might their reaction have been had they been there when he rolled the stone away and started walking toward Jerusalem? His resurrection has determined the new reality of human possibilities. No more limited by our sinfulness and by the veil of death it brings, we can enjoy the fullness of life because he has set us free from fears and placed us securely in the kingdom and family of our God. He is truly risen— indeed!
II. The fact remains: Jesus had risen, even though they did not have the courage to do the most natural thing to do when there is good news: tell someone. The angel told them to tell others, but they were filled with fear. We know the feeling, precisely in the situation where we know we should be telling someone of the Lord’s resurrection and the reality of new life in him.
III. The fact remains: Jesus, who had bled on the cross and died with the words of Psalm 22 on his lips, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (the most mystery-filled words in all Scripture), had reclaimed life, for himself and for all others under its oppression. That is the way a gospel writer prepared his readers for the end of his recital of God’s delivery of sinners from their bondage and guilt.
We do not know for sure how Mark ended his gospel. Even if the earliest manuscripts we have do not have our traditional verses 9-20, even earlier manuscripts might have contained them. Whatever the origin of these verses, ending a gospel with the natural fears of those who had no idea what kind of future God was unrolling for them seems not quite right. The church early on resolved that the gospel had to end in another way. The custodians of the manuscripts knew that the angel had given the commission (v. 7); they knew that Jesus had completed his activity on earth by sending his disciples to tell the message and baptize those the Holy Spirit was drawing into God’s family (w. 15-16). They knew that Christ propelled them into the world with the message of his resurrection (v. 20).
IV. Jesus is risen, and he has given us both the comfort and power of living life apart from the fear of death and all other fears that cast their shadows over our lives. Against every kind of discouragement and despair that causes us to stumble, the angel’s reminder that Jesus lives protects us, so that we may truly live freed from all fears, free to carry out Jesus’ commands for our lives.
Vital to living in the fresh breezes that descend from heaven through Christ’s empty tomb is the joy we have when we carry out the command of the angel to go and to tell the good news of the resurrection. That is doing what comes naturally, e.g. to children, who cannot keep a secret but must tell good news to all within shouting distance. We have to overcome excuses and fears to give witness to our Lord’s resurrection. But we are messengers αγγελοι), who also disrupt people’s lives with the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, which does sound so strange—and is, for sinners, so threatening to their old way of life—that people resist our message. No matter: we cannot help ourselves. We cannot do other than to let them know: the fact is, Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed.